The race to the bottom

THE RACE TO THE BOTTOM…. Matters of civic pride can focus on unusual qualities. I’ve always been impressed, for example, by the fact that nearly everyone seems to believe the drivers in their area are the worst in the country. (“Wait, you think your drivers are bad? I’m from [fill in the blank].”

This has also proven true this week, as Illinois has staked its claim as the most corrupt state. Oddly enough, many have gone to bat protesting the label, insisting that their state is way worse than the Land of Lincoln. Josh Marshall labeled this “crook envy” a few days ago, as residents of New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New York got annoyed by all the attention that Alaska, Illinois, and Louisiana have been getting. (Jacob Weisberg gives the edge to Illinois over Louisiana.)

For what it’s worth, I was saddened to see Florida, where I was born and raised, get left out of the mix.

Today, the New York Times Bill Marsh tried to quantify matters a bit, using three competing methods to determine the “winner.”

* Number of Guilty Officials: Bigger states often produce bigger numbers in this category. Florida was the clear winner here, followed by New York and Texas.

* Number of Guilty Officials, per Capita: D.C. does surprisingly poorly here (it has a “high concentration of public officials amid a relatively small population”), as does, oddly enough, North Dakota. Alaska and Louisiana, though, are close behind.

* Journalist survey: Apparently, researchers recently asked state house reporters to weigh in on the subject. Rhode Island edged Louisiana for the top spot, followed by New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Delaware.

Let the debate continue….

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.