D. Dowd Muska


The Northeast: Old, Cold, and Increasingly Irrelevant

June 16, 2011

The U.S. Census Bureau continues to release crunched numbers from its 2010 enumeration of Americans. Activists and pols from the big-spending, tax-hiking, land-use-micromanaging, lifestyle-policing community ignore the data, but the census has confirmed that the Northeast shows no sign of halting its slow-but-steady suicide.

Whether it’s population growth, job creation, domestic migration, or age, the Northeast -- the six states of New England, plus New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania -- has been headed in undesirable directions for decades. The census proves that the region has not made public-policy course corrections.

Not a single Northeastern state picked up a seat in the House of Representatives, while New York lost two and Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania each surrendered one. Nationally, all states gained population -- the reapportionment shift was due to explosive enlargement in the South and West. But no state in the Northeast came close to the U.S. rate of 9.7 percent. The average for the region was a measly 3.5 percent. In some areas, loss, not weak growth, is the problem. Two Pennsylvania counties, Cambria and Allegheny, relinquished residents between 2000 and 2010. The same was true for New York’s Erie County and New Jersey’s Essex County.

And the future? Federal demographers predict that the Northeast’s share of the country’s citizenry will drop from 18.1 percent today to 15.9 percent in 2030.

Low birth rates aren’t solely to blame for the trend. Earlier this year, United Van Lines issued its annual study of where Americans are moving. New Jersey “claimed the top spot on the high-outbound traffic list.” In six of the Northeast’s nine states, a majority of United Van Lines customers moved out.

This winter’s brutal snowfall surely encouraged many Boomers to skedaddle, but Generations X and Y appear even more eager to flee the Northeast. A 2007 analysis by the Carsey Institute found that between 1990 and 2004, of New England’s 67 counties, “every one except for tiny Nantucket … experienced some decline in the young adult cohort.” The 2010 census documented the nation’s median age -- half are older, half are younger -- to be 37.2. Maine, at 42.7, took the graybeard award, and the other eight members of the Northeast cohort had higher median ages than the country.

Why do young folks head for other states? Runaway government that drives up the cost of nearly everything -- housing, taxes, transportation, energy, investment, leisure -- hamstrings economic opportunity in the Northeast. In May, Forbes computed its latest “Best Cities for Jobs” list, which examined “employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported from November 1999 to January 2011.” Nearly 400 urbanized areas were scrutinized. Only three of the top 50 cities on the magazine’s list are in the Northeast: Lebanon, Pennsylvania; Ithaca, New York; and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Not surprisingly, five of the 10 best performers are located in right-to-work, no-income-tax Texas.

Yet before the arrival of the new century, the Northeast was a job-creation laggard. Click around on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website and you’ll discover that between 1982 and 2007, a quarter-century of nearly uninterrupted economic progress, the U.S. grew employment by 53.4 percent. In the Northeast, the figure was not impressive -- just 25.8 percent, with Connecticut (18.8 percent) and New York (20.4 percent) landing at the bottom.

Quick -- name a powerful fedpol from the Northeast. John Kerry? He couldn’t beat George W. Bush. Excepting Chuck Schumer, most Democrats prominent on the national stage aren’t from the region -- e.g., Harry Reid (Nevada), Nancy Pelosi (California), and Debbie Wasserman Shultz (Florida). As for the GOP, let’s not waste our time.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan is dead. So is Ted Kennedy. Arlen Specter has retired, as have Chris Shays and Chris Dodd. Joe Lieberman is on his way out. “Representing” fewer citizens and dwindling economic might, the men and women Northeast voters now send to D.C. are less able to secure transportation pork and unneeded (if job-rich) plane, missile, and submarine systems for the military-industrial complex.

Meanwhile, the Northeast’s governors and legislators still think unaffordable “investments” in preschool-to-Ph.D. government schools offer a promising path. Corporatism’s popular, too. Massachusetts is pinning its hopes on videogame developers, while a Connecticut state senator, parroting public-sector groupthink in The Land of Steady Habits, avers that a $864 million expansion of a white-elephant, government-run health center is “the best single economic development initiative that I’ve seen.”

The Lone Star State captured four congressional seats this census. In 2020, after another decade of blundering by the Northeast, perhaps Texas will seize five.

D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.

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