How can you tell it’s election time, and Big Labor candidates’ prospects are less than stellar? When bitter diatribes against “red” state voters such as New Republic Senior Editor Jonathan Cohn’s recent screed (see the first link above) achieve currency in the mainstream media.
In Cohn’s view, residents of 2o states that voted against union officials’ favorite candidate in the last three fall presidential elections simply don’t know what’s good for them. The benighted red states are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia. (Cohn mysteriously exempts Alaska and Wyoming, two other states with the same voting records, from his general indictment.)
At the same time, Cohn applauds the sound judgment of the residents of blue California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin. These states gave their electoral votes to the Big Labor-endorsed presidential candidates in 2000, 2004 and 2008. (Equally blue Hawaii fails somehow to get the same commendation.)
Cohn, an acid-penned advocate of compulsory unionism, tries to show it’s not just the fact the 20 red states he identifies vote contrary to his preferences that makes them loathsome, and not just the fact that the 17 blue states (plus D.C.) he identifies vote in accord with his preferences that establishes them as virtuous. Rather, he insists that “by nearly every measure” people in the blue states (none of which has a Right to Work law on the books) are “better off than” people in red states (85% of which have statutes prohibiting forced union dues and fees).
Cohn apparently considers the array of notable advantages red states possess over blue states to be unworthy of citation. But most Americans would probably not agree with him that it’s unimportant that, according to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data, red states enjoyed an 11.8% aggregate increase in total private-sector employment from 2001-2011, triple the overall increase for blue states.
Most people would also likely consider it to be worth mentioning that, once adjusted for interstate cost-of-living differences with the help of indices calculated by the nonpartisan Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, the average 2011 disposable income per capita in red states was $36,460, nearly $2150 more than the average for blue states.
Moreover, as Claremont Review of Books Senior Editor William Voegeli pointed out in a response to Cohn (see the second link above) eight of the 10 states suffering the greatest absolute population losses due to net domestic out-migration from 2000-2009 were blue states. Hurricane Katrina-ravaged Louisiana was the only red state among the 10.
Incredibly, while he does not acknowledge or try to explain the huge and ongoing net migration flow of people from blue forced-unionism states to red or purple Right to Work states, Cohn does use data that are, to a large extent, a consequence of this migration to indict red states!
For example, IRS and other data indicate that the miserable business climates and job-creation records of high-cost blue states like California, New York, New Jersey and several New England states hurt high-earning households less than others. Consequently, as of 2009, IRS statistics show that 3.34% of individual and joint federal tax filers in blue states reported annual incomes of $200,000 or more, compared to just 2.19% in red states. This is true despite the fact that, as we saw above, on average cost of living-adjusted incomes are higher in red states.
Since the 3.93 million 2009 tax filers (out of 141.46 million total) with incomes over $200,000 forked over 37.1% of the $1.268 trillion paid in individual income taxes that year, states with a disproportionately high share of top earners invariably contributed a disproportionately high share of the taxes going in to federal coffers.
This is inevitable under our current progressive federal income tax system, and even implementation of a “flat tax” wouldn’t change the facts: The highest earners would pay a huge share of all federal income taxes, and states with an above-average share of high earners would contribute disproportionately. Unless you are an advocate of replacing the income tax with a head tax, there is nothing you can do about that. But Cohn, who is by no means a head tax proponent, opportunistically cites the tax-distribution data to demonstrate, in his own mind, that red states are tax “moochers.” This makes no sense to anyone who has actually looked at the state-by-state IRS data. But it probably makes Cohn feel good.
Besides the highest-earning households, adults with no children or plans to have them are a second group who are substantially less apt to move from forced-unionism states to Right to Work states than are parents and prospective parents. This is reflected in U.S. Census data.
In blue states as a group in 2010, there were 20.6% more people in their peak tax-paying years (ages 35-54) than there were children 17 and under. In “red” states, there were just 6.8% more 35-54 year-olds than there were children. All the extra dependent exemptions and $1000 child tax credits for red-state households undoubtedly lower their tax burden by a significant amount. But does that really make red states a collective “Minnie the Moocher,” as Cab Calloway used to sing? Or is that just pique on the part of Jon Cohn?