Sunday, December 25, 2011

Xmas Presents for All!!! (...Red States that is)

Despite what I have curmudgeonly been telling my children about the realities of Santa, it appears rather to the contrary that (at least for the Red States) there is indeed a Father Christmas.  This is evidenced by the luscious  and revealing graphic and table provided by an Economist magazine post from Aug 1st entitled America's Fiscal Union. It is germane (and ironic) in several ways: It displays who amongst the States are the net contributors and who are net beneficiaries; it exemplifies a distinctly Euro-like core and periphery, and it exposes an anecdotal counterintuitive correlation between the net beneficiaries over the last decades and their political alignment with al facets of the GOP from wet-Tory-like Mainers to the hardcore  Mormon Utahns (pronounced yew-tawns).  

The flow of funds indeed is consistent. Wealthier urban, productive population centers (despite their large concentrations of poor, and the benefits they inevitably suck) pay more than receive and effectively provide net transfer funding for the sparsely-populated rural lower productivity and poorer states/regions. There are obvious explanations for some of the flows, be they military bases (New Mexico) , true rural poverty (West Virginia, Mississippi, Maine, Alabama), Walmart (Arkansas), farm subsidies (Great and Northern Plains),  or Retirement States (Florida, Arizona). And one can argue about whether the funding states receive like non-accountable benefits in return (national defense, a stable agricultural sector, an independently-living elderly population, highway transit and by-ways enroute to market, etc.) Nonetheless, the fact remains, Federal tax dollars on a net-basis are siphoned from some and directed to others. 

It is likely that these patterns are endemic, and in some ways resemble Europe. Puerto Rico might be Greece, and Alabama, the US's own Portugal (though Lisbonites might take exception to such comparison), California approximates France, NY/PA (complete with Amish) equates to Germany, while Florida and Arizona resembles Spain, and so forth. Such comparisons have their limits of course if only because Oregon, for example,needn't worry as it doesn't have its own currency (unless one considers Green Sinsemilla sufficiently legal-tender). But they do highlight the nature of imbalances and their persistence and the lack of moral judgment heaped upon the deficit generators by surplus states. Maybe the payors should be looking for ways to jettison the the deadbeats, which seems like something the Wall Street Journal's editorial page writers could get behind. 

Despite this, few New Yorkers, Minnesotans or Left-Coasters call for the expulsion of Mississippi, North Dakota or Montana from the union, nor do they vilify their parents or grandparents taking it easy in Sun-City or Tampa. Quite to the contrary, en masse they vote for the party that through the elevation of tax rates, attempts to insure the continuation of these transfers. Yet somewhat counterintuitively, in terms of both hyperbole and demagogic whining, it is the aptly-named red-states who vilify the blue states as lazy undeserving socialist spongers sucking from the great milk-teat of the State. The table, however, displays a dramatic picture of who, in aggregate, is doing the giving who in aggregate are the recipients of some very large Christmas presents indeed. Maybe, for a change, some thanks are in order. Or, if they just cannot bring themselves to utter these two simple words, perhaps they can, for once, just refrain from uttering bile.   

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post - and I fully agree (although the idea of kicking Mississippi out does have a certain appeal...)