The editors of Politico Magazine asked that question recently, wading through the fever swamps of demographics to rank these more-or-less United States from best to worst, with a nod to a similar 1931 effort by H.L. Mencken and Charles Angoff in the American Mercury.
New Hampshire is tops. Guess which states are at the bottom.
For the last-place state (No. 51 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia), it's the same as it ever was -- Mississippi was the hellhole of the nation way back when, too. And for the first runner-up of national suck, things have changed for the worst since Huey P. Long was governor, free textbooks were a new innovation for Louisiana public schools and there were still more dirt roads than paved ones.
EIGHT SPOTS worth of worst, actually. Louisiana was No. 42 in 1931 -- "Bobby, you're doing a heck of a job!" If the Gret Stet's unrelentingly ambitious Gov. Jindal still wants to do for (to?) America what he did to my home state, I have two words on the campaign manager front: Michael Brown.
One thing in the Gret Stet does remain ever constant, though. That would be the age-old Louisiana mantra of "Thank God for Mississippi!"
In a three-part series the magazine called “The Worst American State,” the pair compiled dozens of rankings of population data, largely from the 1930 census, determined to anoint the best and worst of the 48 states (and the District of Columbia), according to various measures of wealth, culture, health and public safety. In the end, Mencken and Angoff declared Connecticut and Massachusetts “the most fortunate American States,” and they deemed Mississippi “without a serious rival to the lamentable preëminence of the Worst American State” (diaeresis credit to Mencken, who, it should be noted, was from Maryland, No. 28 on his list). “The results will probably surprise no one,” they wrote. “Most Americans, asked to name the most generally civilized American State, would probably name Massachusetts at once, and nine out of ten would probably nominate Mississippi as the most backward.”
The methodology behind their exercise might not have been airtight, and the presumed definition of what is a “good” and “bad” state was clearly swayed by the writers’ prejudices and the time period; aside from the fact that many of their rankings had only partial data, consider that representation in the “American Men of Science” directory was factored into each state’s rank for culture, and lynchings for public safety. But the pair was onto something when they wrote that there are some aspects of daily life that most Americans can agree on: Education and health are good things, crime is a bad thing and “any civilization which sees an increase in the general wealth is a civilization going up grade, not down.”BOBBY JINDAL always did think H.L. Mencken was a commerniss.