Last week the GOP assumed control of the U.S. Senate, bringing with it the opportunity to finally showcase the power of conservative ideas. Well, “finally” may have not quite been the right word. Republican governors and legislatures across the country have been implementing conservative reforms to great effect over the last several years.
Recently, the media is starting to take notice that so-called “red” states are doing much better economically than “blue” states. Just last week we presented a compilation of statistics showing that Republican-led states were leading in indicators like the fastest growing economies, the fastest growing wages, the fastest job growth and the best states for business. So leave it to the New York Times to try and present an alternate assessment by seemingly admitting that red state economies are healthier, but asking the question whether life is actually better there.
The answer, at least in the eyes of the New York Times is not just no, but hell no. Richard Florida writes:
“[Blue states] are pioneering the new economic order that will determine our future — one that turns on innovation and knowledge rather than the raw production of goods. . .
But in our increasingly competitive global economy, long-term prosperity turns on knowledge, education and innovation. The idea that the red states can enjoy the benefits provided by the blue states without helping to pay for them (and while poaching their industries with the promise of low taxes and regulations) is as irresponsible and destructive of our national future as it is hypocritical. . .
The allure of cheap growth has handed the red states a distinct political advantage. Their economic system may be outmoded and obsolete, but it is strong enough to blight the future.
The gist of his argument, which is utterly devoid of facts, statistics or data, is that blue states are super smart, super innovative hubs where enlightened people create cool stuff while red states are backwoods, backward places that happened to stumble across shale gas deposits. But unless red states start to pay their fair share, then blue states won’t be able to pay for their nice subways, fund their top notch public schools or keep the ivied walls of their universities from withering.
The article makes it seem like Republican-led states are a caricature resembling the Beverly Hillbillies – a clan of yokels who haphazardly stumbled across life-changing money and yet have no idea what to do with it.
My short response: Give me a break.
My long response: Democrat-led states’ “innovative edge,” which the New York Times argues requires the “high-cost infrastructure of research universities” and “expensive subway and transit systems,” are in a fiscal mess of their own doing and it has nothing to do with smart investments and everything to do with a broken philosophy.
Take, for instance, the State of Illinois, which is attempting to pay off billions of dollars in pension debt (really it’s just handing out IOUs) by slashing government services. To see the impact just look at Chicago, which trimmed its elementary school day to 5-hours and 45-minutes – the shortest in the nation. Or California, which recently passed the largest state tax increases in American history (resulting in the highest sales and personal income-tax rates in the country) while also being forced to cut tens of billions of dollars from its budget—resulting in now having the lowest per pupil spending in the country—and yet the state still manages to find itself mired in enormous deficits. Or New York, which has the costliest Medicaid system in the country, an unsustainable pension system, and spends nearly double the national average per elementary and high school student and as a result faces a structural deficit that may be incurable.
The finances of these blue states bleed red ink because elected official made bad decisions, not because their “knowledge economies” require expensive upkeep. Our future economic strength lies in the minds of great thinkers and brave entrepreneurs, who can live anywhere, not in bloated pensions or government pork, which can happen anywhere, it’s just that red states are actively working to attract the former while blue states are shackled with the latter. Sorry we’re not sorry.