Editors' pick: Originally published Dec. 15.
It's a little known fact that American states are not allowed to declare bankruptcy. Unlike cities such as Detroit, by both law and the Constitution, no state may liquidate its debt. Instead, when the ledger gets too dire, they often have to sell off major assets and slash deeply into important programs.
Case in point, the recent Kansas cutbacks on areas such as education and Medicaid, enacted after Governor Sam Brownback's sweeping tax cuts failed to pay off.
This approach generates its own criticisms however. Finance and policy experts point out the long-term harm when a state sells off major assets, many of which the government will often have to purchase back or which have negative consequences for residents. (For example, the city of Chicago's budget-driven decision to lease out all public parking meters to a private firm, which led to spiraling costs for residents.)
The alternative is aid from the federal government. Unlike the European Union, the other major example of a federated economy, America comes with a built-in spender of last resort. Every state takes money from Washington to pay for programs on a variety of levels, but some depend on this spending more than others. Although currently states don't get direct debt relief, they receive enormous amounts of money for programs that range from social welfare to agricultural subsidies and education.
Some states need the help more than others. For many states with weak economies, or just those with high expenses, federal spending can make a huge difference not just in the statehouse spreadsheets but in real people's day-to-day lives.
While it's a common refrain the folks from red states howl the loudest about government spending while consuming the most of it, behind these slogans are real people who can eat, sleep and go to school with a little more security than they would have otherwise. Here are the 10 states that get the most dollars from Washington: