August 07, 2014
and 2012, leftists waged a ruthlessly relentless and astoundingly successful campaign
to increase state budgets.
Crunching the U.S. Census Bureau’s data
reveals that per capita, and adjusted for inflation, states augmented expenditures
by an average of 45.6 percent. Each of the “laboratories of democracy” spent
more -- i.e., not one boosted efficiency.
development that pleases apologists
for “public investments,” because states devote most of their revenue to goodies
that the unlimited-government
lobby claims make life worth living. In 2012, five categories -- schools
(pre-K to Ph.D.), welfare, health/hospitals, utilities (including “mass
transit”), and roads/highways -- accounted for 68 percent of costs. They
totaled $1.3 trillion, or 8.3 percent of America’s gross domestic product.
counterintuitive it seems, the wildest spenders weren’t consistently blue. With
stagnant populations and sagging entrepreneurship, New
Jersey, New York, Connecticut,
and Rhode Island
lacked the ability to bring in the loot, and thus, clustered toward the bottom
of the roster. At the budget-busting apex were an eclectic five: Mississippi (86.8 percent), Vermont
(80.6 percent), Arkansas (79.2 percent), North Dakota (75.6 percent), and Kansas (63.8 percent).
How did big
spending alter the big spenders? It’s a challenging assessment to make, and
worthy of a lengthy policy paper. But few would argue with the reasonableness
of two broad metrics: social conditions such as crime,
poverty, and educational
attainment; and economic indicators such as unemployment, job creation, and median household income (MHI).
Vermont was affluent, highly educated, and all but violence-free
in 1992. It remained so in 2012. (Its expenditures ballooned due to an
asinine scheme to restructure the funding of school districts.) North Dakota’s spending
was largely driven by the fracking revolution,
a phenomenon that is radically altering the state. (Crime
is rising, as young, unattached males flock to the Bakken. Time will tell
scores stay high.) Mississippi and Arkansas stand out for
their placement in the top five, though, because supernovas of spending did not
produce turnarounds. Achievement by primary- and secondary-school students at
government institutions in both states was well below the national mark in
1992, and nothing had changed two decades later. The same was true for college
completion -- subpar in 1992, equally inferior in 2012. As job-creators, the
two underperformed in the period. Private-sector employment increased by 24.7
percent nationally. In Mississippi, growth was
20.2 percent; in Arkansas,
14.3 percent. The Magnolia
expanded its MHI by 8.1 percent -- significantly exceeding the figure for the
country as a whole -- while its Razorback counterpart saw MHI fall. Both saw poverty rates persist at
abysmally high rates.
What about the
states that spent the least? The stingiest five were Washington
(20.2 percent), Rhode Island (17.5 percent), Hawaii (11.1 percent), Alaska
(10 percent), and Nevada
(5.6 percent). It’s dodgy to lump the non-contiguous states in with the “Lower”
48, since the pair’s economies and cultures are so unique. Let’s look at Washington, which
committed two of liberalism’s mortal sins:
not only did it spend in a miserly fashion, it refused to impose a tax on
By nearly every
barometer, between Bill Clinton’s election and Barack Obama’s reelection, life
in the Evergreen State
got better. Job growth in the accountable sector was prodigious -- almost 30
percent higher than the nation. Washingtonians were an educated lot in 1992,
and stayed that way. The violent-crime rate, which started scant, fell by 44.7
percent, close to the decline posted by the entire U.S. At 10.8 percent, the hike in MHI
Nevada’s results are mixed, but one
conclusion is certain: Paltry spending on “services” did not repel newcomers. Quite
the opposite -- the Silver
population doubled, fed by relocating
retirees and private-sector job creation of just below 80 percent. Nevada’s moonbats whine
about workers’ wages, and it’s a valid gripe. MHI fell by 9.3 percent. Poverty,
once beneath the national rate, rose above it. Student achievement on
standardized tests continued to be lousy, but college completion improved. Robberies,
rapes, murders, and assaults remained far too common.
In February, Gallup released its annual
survey of state-level “well-being,” which examines “life evaluation,
emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and
access to basic necessities.” Woeful high-spenders included Mississippi,
Chipper skinflints included Hawaii, Idaho, Nebraska, and Washington.
consider state capitols rich targets for the marketing of “universal preschool,”
bloated train and bus systems, enhanced subsides to universities, and Medicaid metastasization.
The real-world consequences of these costly measures? Proponents aren’t
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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