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Friday, April 22, 2011

Red State = Welfare Queen

Missouri welcome signYesterday, the Wisconsin State Journal ran a piece comparing two states: Wisconsin and Missouri. For the most part, Missouri didn't come out well in the comparison. In only one category -- small business survival -- did Missouri surpass Wisconsin (at a glance graphic here). On that point, Missouri is 19th in the nation, while Wisconsin is 33rd. On everything else, Wisconsin won.

Why pick Missouri for comparison?

Wisconsin State Journal:

Missouri, perhaps more than any other Midwestern state, provides a long-term prototype of policies championed by Walker: a state government that's less lucrative for public workers but more friendly to businesses and tax-averse citizens. A look into Missouri's past could provide a glimpse into Wisconsin's future.


Some of the predictions being made by Walker's opponents haven't proved true in Missouri. For example, weaker public-employee unions has not led to Republican domination at the polls that some have predicted for Wisconsin.

But Missouri does lag Wisconsin in many quality-of-life indicators that unions and their Democratic allies claim is the trade-off for lower taxes and lower pay for public workers.

In fact, it's not much of a trade-off and proves one cornerstone of Republican economic theory wrong -- a rising tide does not lift all boats. If Missouri has a better climate for business -- including small business -- it hasn't helped the economy any. The median income is lower than the Badger state's by $5,000, the state's life expectancy is 38th in the nation (Wisconsin is 18th), and Missouri's incarceration rate is 509 per 100,000 (Wisconsin's is 369). Good for business is good for you? Sure doesn't look that way.

One measure that WSJ didn't look at was deficit reduction -- which is supposedly a big worry for Republicans. It's a proven fact that, on average, red states take more federal money than they pay in, while blue states pay more and see less return. To put it in Republican terms, red states are the greedy welfare queens getting a free ride, while blue states are the responsible citizens taking up their tax burden.

In this comparison, Missouri performs poorly. While Wisconsin paid a buck for every eighty-six cents returned in federal money in 2005, Missouri paid a buck and got $1.32. The Republican idea of "fiscal responsibility" at the state level is a drain on the federal government. All spending has to come from someplace, so while states like Missouri are cutting taxes -- to very little effect -- they're doing it by depending on federal tax money coming from other states. If liberals are "tax and spend," Republicans are "tax out of state and spend even more."

You see the problem here, right? All of these Republican policies are propped up by blue state money -- which means that, as more states become Republican, fewer tax dollars will be available to make up the shortfall. If Republicans are as successful at the state level as then want to be, then eventually this house of cards will collapse. Cutting spending in Washington, fewer states to make up the difference, deficit hysteria in the media, all line up to a Great Red State Unraveling as federal funds dry up and there's nothing to plug up the budget holes anymore. It has to happen. It's just math. What happens to Missouri when it doesn't have Wisconsin's fourteen percent to play around with anymore?

If Republicans have their way, their own "success stories" will come down around their ears. The gravytrain will stop, because there will be no states left to take up the slack. When the smoke clears and all the mirrors are broken, Republican policies will finally be shown to be failures -- at great cost to economies on both the state and national level.

And all to maintain higher incarceration rates, lower wages, and poorer education. Not the best deal, when you actually sit down and look it.


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