If you’re an economic and/or tax refugee who’s fled New Jersey, Illinois, or Connecticut, here’s some advice.
Don’t go back.
A surge of new research and data confirms that deep-blue states haven’t changed their ways. Unionized government employees still run public policy. The cost of everything from energy to groceries to housing remains steep. Regulatory ratcheting, nannyism and social engineering haven’t ebbed. As a result, the economies and populations of moonbat-infested states are stagnant, or shrinking. And in all likelihood, harsher times lie ahead.
Budgetary horror is a good place to start. The Mercatus Center, a free-market think tank housed at George Mason University, has issued the second edition of “Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition.” The analysis explores the extent to which the laboratories of democracy are “accountable and responsible stewards of public dollars.” Authors Eileen Norcross and Olivia Gonzalez applied “14 basic financial metrics” from “five dimensions of solvency,” including cash on hand, long-term liabilities, and trust-fund health.
The state with the worst finances? Connecticut. New Jersey’s close by, at 48th, followed by Illinois, at 47th. In the Land of Lincoln, the unfunded pension liability alone is equal to 49 percent “of total state personal income.”
The Nutmeg State fares better on the metric, at 36 percent, but throwing in bonded debt and the burden of other postemployment benefits — basically, health care benefits for government retirees — “brings the total to 53 percent of state personal income.”
Head toward the red zone, and the balance sheets improve, often significantly. Idaho, Utah, Tennessee, and the Dakotas rank in the top 15. Oil-rich Alaska grabbed the top spot, but Nebraska, with paltry petroleum production, landed at No. 2. It enjoys “very low levels of debt” and zero other postemployment benefits liabilities.
Fiscal health and economic vibrancy feed off each other. Keep government in its proper place, and an economy booms. Healthy businesses and a growing workforce bring in the revenue to keep states in the black.
When the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently looked at job-creation in the 51 “large metropolitan areas” during the last quarter-century, no-income-tax, right-to-work Texas dominated, with Austin No. 1 (144 percent), San Antonio No. 8 (83 percent), Dallas No. 9 (73 percent), and Houston No. 12 (66 percent). Other star performers included Las Vegas; Orlando, Florida; Phoenix; and Nashville, Tennessee.
The three locales with the lousiest employment expansion: Buffalo, New York (4.3 percent); Cleveland (3.5 percent); and Hartford, Connecticut (1.1 percent).
In May, the U.S. Census Bureau’s tabulation of urban growth between 2014 and 2015 found that “Georgetown, Texas, saw its population rise 7.8 percent … making it the nation’s fastest-growing city with a population of 50,000 or more … . Georgetown is part of the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area, which crossed the 2 million population threshold in 2015 for the first time.
“This metro area is also home to Pflugerville, the nation’s 11th fastest-growing large city. Austin itself added more people over the period (19,000) than all but seven other U.S. cities. Texas was home to five of the 11 fastest-growing cities (New Braunfels, Frisco and Pearland were the others), and five of the eight that added the most people (Houston, San Antonio, Fort Worth and Dallas were the others).”
Commenting on the bureau’s data to The Wall Street Journal, demographer William Frey noted the all-but-unprecedented phenomenon that suburbs in Chicago, Cleveland; Pittsburgh; Rochester, New York; Buffalo; and Hartford are losing residents.
With few exceptions — Massachusetts is doing fairly well — Blue America’s present is unrelentingly bleak. But its future looks downright chilling. The Pew Charitable Trusts, crunching data from the Demographics Research Group of the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, found that the working-age population in many cobalt communes is set to shrink. By 2040, Connecticut’s cohort of 25-to-54-year-olds will decline by 9.3 percent. In Illinois, the drop is projected to be 9.4 percent.
With fewer workers, who’ll be around to pay all those pension and OPEB bills? (Bailouts from D.C. are highly unlikely.)
In sharp contrast, the working-age population of Texas will rise by 51 percent. Utah’s set to grow by 42 percent; Nevada, 40 percent. Florida may be purple, politically, but like the Silver and Lone Star States, it doesn’t tax incomes, and doesn’t compel the payment of tribute to union bosses. Its 25-to-54-year-old community will swell by 41 percent.
The states that embraced unlimited government decades ago have seen the success that flows from following the opposite approach. Stuck on stupid, they won’t change their ways — and won’t be successful in luring back the people and businesses they’ve lost.
Former Nevadan D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. He lives in Corrales, New Mexico. Follow him on Twitter @DowdMuska.