D. Dowd Muska


Massachusetts: Where Moonbattery Works?

January 17, 2013

Scholars, writers, and pundits of the limited-government persuasion have few professional pleasures. But blue states’ policy failures provide a delicious perk.

The tax-and-spend strategy is spectacularly destructive. When government-employee unions, Nanny Statists, and mouthpieces for “public investments” are in charge, jobs vanish, residents flee, and debt accumulates to unsustainable levels.

Every rule has an exception.

In Massachusetts, moonbats infest all levels of government, yet the quality of life is impressive and economic conditions are shockingly strong.

The GOP holds just 33 of 200 seats in the Massachusetts General Court. Every member of the Bay State’s D.C. delegation is a Democrat. Voters haven’t embraced a Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan’s blowout reelection. Massachusetts was the first state to issue “marriage” licenses to same-sex couples. Its gun-control laws are among the most restrictive in the nation. “Smart growth” is popular, and there’s zero public pressure to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

No one questions the state’s liberal bona fides. Yet on many metrics, The Realm of the Kennedys achieves considerable results. U.S. median household income (MHI) -- half earn more, half earn less -- increased by a feeble 3.2 percent, adjusted for inflation, between 1991 and 2011. Three of the five states that border Massachusetts (Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York) saw MHI drop during the period. Low-tax New Hampshire, another neighbor, experienced 13.5 percent growth. The tiny community of aging-hippie households in next-door Vermont got 10.5 percent richer. (Evidently, organic farming is mighty lucrative.) But at 10.1 percent, Massachusetts delivered a solid performance.

Unemployment rates tell a similar story. In the area, New Hampshire and Vermont are stars, at 5.6 percent and 5.2 percent, respectively. Joblessness in stuck-on-stupid Connecticut and Rhode Island is above the national figure of 7.8 percent. In Massachusetts, unemployment is a below-average 6.6 percent. The state has nearly clawed its way back to the number of jobs it had in 2008 -- a claim that not many in the Northeast can make. (Don’t even ask about California.)

For 2012, United Van Lines assigned Massachusetts to the “balanced” category for relocations within America. (Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Maine suffer from “high-outbound migration.”) In the last 50 years, the Bay State’s citizenry has increased by 27.2 percent. Not subpar, after accounting for high population density. Unlike many cities in the region -- Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, Utica, Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, Providence, Burlington -- Boston is neither stagnant nor dying. Its population has grown for four straight censuses.

There are two plausible explanations for why the blue-state blues don’t afflict Massachusetts. First, higher education and healthcare play inordinate roles in its economy. The college bubble has yet to burst, and until it does, parents from around the nation will continue ship their teenagers off to Boston for degrees that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. (Most postsecondary institutions in the city, it’s worth noting, are private.) World-renowned medical facilities are another substantial source of wealth- and job-creation.

Second, while politically and socially, it can’t lean more to the left, “Taxachusetts” isn’t what it used to be. In 1980, voters approved Proposition 2½. In the words of a Federal Reserve Bank of Boston study, the ballot measure “places a cap on the effective property tax rate at 2.5 percent and limits nominal annual growth in property tax revenues to 2.5 percent, unless residents pass a referendum … allowing a greater increase.” In addition, the Bay State’s flat personal-income tax is 5.25 percent -- skimpy, when compared to the regional competition.

According to the Tax Foundation, New Hampshire has the Northeast’s lowest state-local tax burden. Of all income earned by its residents, 8.1 percent is filched by Concord and municipal governments. Massachusetts can’t surpass the state that John Fund dubbed “the Orange County of the East Coast.” But its tax take of 10.4 percent beats Rhode Island (10.9 percent), Connecticut (12.3 percent), and New York (12.8 percent).

The Tax Foundation’s ranking of the lightness of levies imposed on businesses is another positive indicator. Once again, New Hampshire excels at #7. New York (#50), Vermont (#47), Rhode Island (#46), and Connecticut (#40) are predictably hideous. Massachusetts lands at a tolerable #22.

Many of us would be horrified to live in Deval Patrick’s cobalt commonwealth. Fans of SUVs, property rights, the Second Amendment, and reality-based environmentalism are happy to avoid the home of Michael Dukakis and John Kerry. But give moonbats credit. They’ve built a “progressive” paradise -- and for now at least, are making the People’s Republic of Massachusetts a unique success.

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

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