|Red State Revolution|
By Troy Senik
Thursday, February 21 2013
Liberals, who spent the Bush years exalting themselves as the defenders of science and sweet reason, have a bit of a problem on their hands. These paragons of logic, who will supposedly go wherever the evidence takes them, are currently having their most fundamental beliefs in the proper role of government disproved in a nationwide experiment. The name of this experiment: federalism.
Under the terms of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, all powers not explicitly granted to the federal government are retained by either the states or the people. Now, granted, this principle – like virtually every mechanism designed to reduce government power – has taken a bit of a beating in recent years.
The Founding Fathers likely did not anticipate a federal government so sweeping in its powers that it was regulating everything from farm dust to water flow in toilets. Still, the states retain enough autonomy in crucial areas of policymaking to allow for meaningful differences between them. And in this polarized era, the contrasts are enlightening.
Of all the ways of measuring the performance of the states, migration patterns are perhaps the most meaningful. In an age when the temporal and financial barriers to moving are lower than ever before – and when technology has dramatically increased the ability to work remotely – people’s ability to live where they want, shopping states for a salutary mix of policy and culture, is at an all-time high. As a result, the blue states are clearing out.
As per usual, California is offender number one. The Golden State has one of the highest rates of domestic outmigration in the country. It would actually be seeing its population decline outright if it weren’t for foreign immigrants. A policy mix that includes the nation’s highest income and sales taxes, the nation’s worst business environment (driven in part by regulatory and legal systems regularly ranked among the worst in the nation), astronomical energy and property costs (both artificially inflated by government regulation) and unbridled union power has chased the state’s productive class away. According to a 2012 study by the Manhattan Institute, the state has lost nearly 3.4 million residents since 1990.
That was the backdrop for the recent public dustup accompanying Texas Governor Rick Perry’s decision to air radio ads in California inviting businesses to head to the Lone Star State, where taxes, regulation, frivolous lawsuits and unemployment are low and the economy is booming. Pressed for comment on the matter, California Governor Jerry Brown told reporters, with trademark eloquence, that, “It’s not a serious story … It’s not a burp. It’s barely a fart.”
The numbers tell a different story, however. Perhaps one of the most telling figures: the U-Haul index, which looks at the costs of renting a moving truck as a measure of which direction population flows are heading. In November, the cost of taking a U-Haul truck from San Francisco to San Antonio was just under $1,700. Going the other way: Just under $1,000. Translation: The demand to move from California to Texas is dramatically higher than the other way around. U-Haul needs to charge the premium to get empty trucks back to California.
The California-Texas contrast has drawn a lot of attention in the press (Chuck DeVore, a failed 2010 U.S. Senate candidate in California, even went so far as to move to the Lone Star State after the election and write a book extolling the virtues of its approach to public policy), but the same factors obtain in states throughout the nation.
Look at the states near California in terms of outflow and you’ll see a rogue’s gallery of liberalism: Illinois, which is dominated by the insidious politics of Chicago and which recently raised income taxes by 66 percent in an attempt to get out from under a crushing budget crisis; New York, the Holy See of the left; Michigan, economically exhausted from years of union rapaciousness (though the recent adoption of a right-to-work law in the Great Lakes State does give cause for some guarded optimism.)
And where are people heading? Overwhelmingly to low-tax, low-regulation red states where the free market is allowed to function relatively unencumbered and prosperity blooms. In addition to Texas, states like Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and Arizona are increasingly becoming destinations of choice for Americans in the market for opportunity.
If the left is so enamored with empirical testing and results, there are a few key takeaways from these developments that they should take to heart:
Business Environments Matter – It should come as no surprise that the states that are cleaning up in terms of attracting new residents make it as easy as possible to pursue prosperity. In CEO magazine’s annual ratings of states with the best business environments for 2012, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee and Indiana finished in the top five. Michigan, Massachusetts, Illinois, New York and California brought up the rear. It’s no coincidence that the rankings roughly track with population growth.
Labor Wants to Be Free – Another major factor in spurring states’ success is the extent to which they allow employee freedom. During President Obama’s first term, roughly 75 percent of the nation’s job growth came from right-to-work states where employees can’t be forced to join a union as a condition of employment. Unsurprisingly, New York, Michigan, Illinois and California all rank in the nation’s top 10 states for the percentage of employees in unions. Tennessee, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia are all in the bottom 10.
Economics Shapes Politics – Democrats who have been busy citing demographic statistics as proof of the fact that they’re on the cusp of generational dominance ought to trim their sails. If current migration patterns continue apace, the result will be more electoral heft for the red states – and a lot less for the epicenters of liberalism.
Ideas, as the scholar Richard Weaver noted, have consequences. The consequence of progressivism in the states: self-deportation on an industrial scale. You’d think that the party of science and sweet reason might deduce that that’s symptomatic of a deeper problem.
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