2010 Census Shows Folks Flocking to Free Market States

Are Big Government bastions contributing to their own decline?

Data released by the census bureau yesterday indicates that Republican-leaning seats will have a stronger voice in the House and increased pull in the electoral college over the next decade. Yet, there is a deeper, more important message contained within the heaps of figures as well. States that embrace conservative principles of governance are growing, while those states that stubbornly cling to progressive policies are bleeding citizens, jobs and influence. People are flocking to states in the South and West that offer low taxes and reject mandatory collective bargaining. The population increase in states governed by conservative principles has two components: internal migration and immigration. In the first case, American citizens continue to relocate into states where government exerts a light hand. In the latter, new immigrants naturally flock to the states where economic opportunities are the brightest. Either way, the 2010 census provides a ringing endorsement for the kind of free market, limited government principles that the electorate so strongly supported in the last election.

The big winner was Texas, which saw its population swell by twenty-one percent over the last decade and which will gain four seats in the House of Representatives as a result. As a "Right to Work" state and one that imposes no state income tax, Texas continues to serve as a model of free market driven prosperity, despite the long recession. Last year the Lone Star state added 129,000 jobs. Compare that to California, which lost 112,000 jobs in the same time frame. Then, consider another point of contrast: state and local government spending in Texas has held steady at about eighteen percent of its private GDP, while state and local government spending in California ballooned from nineteen percent in 1987 to over twenty-six percent today.

According to Americans for Tax Reform the states that will gain seats in reapportionment have an average top individual state income tax rate of 2.8 percent, while those states that will lose seats have an average top rate of 6.05 percent. Almost 90 percent of winning states have Right to Work laws in place, while only 20 percent of losing states allow workers to opt-out of paying union dues. The net effect is obvious. States that offer lower taxes and that refuse to pay homage to Big Labor attract employers, who in turn attract employees. People flock to cities where jobs are plentiful, whether those people happen to be new immigrants or whether their families have lived in America for generations. The 2010 census makes it very clear that such cities are located within states that still believe in the American Dream.

Ohio and New York will lose two seats in the House, while Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Louisiana will each lose one. Of that group, only Louisiana is a reliably red state, and its population decrease is attributable to the exodus that occurred after Hurricane Katrina wreaked her havoc, rather than the way the state is governed. In addition to Texas, winners include Florida, which will pick up two seats, while Georgia, South Carolina, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Washington will gain a seat apiece. These are largely free market states, for only Washington can be described as true blue, although it does not have a state or corporate income tax.

Democrats sought to downplay the ominous message that the 2010 election seemed to portend for their party. "I don't think that shifting some seats from one area of the country to another necessarily marks a concern that you can't make a politically potent argument in those new places,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. Gibbs might be right. Perhaps Democrats can make “politically potent” arguments in the new, growing centers of population and power in America. But that’s somewhat beside the point. Unless those arguments are economically potent and can thus convince voters that putting down roots in the area will lead to personal fulfillment and prosperity, the political sales-pitch won’t count for much. The Democratic/progressive message resonates in the Detroit metro area, for example, but what sort of victory is that? Voters are fleeing the greater Detroit region in droves and while those who remain are the most reliable of the Democrat faithful, their importance diminishes with each passing day as the center of the nation’s population moves ever west and south.

The progressive paradigm declares that equal results, as determined by the benevolent guiding hand of big government, will ultimately prove the most attractive enticement to the electorate. The 2010 census suggests something else: that the average American is far less interested in equal results than he or she cares about equal opportunity – the opportunity to prosper in states that do not choose to interfere with individual decisions or to pick an individual’s pocket. Texas Governor Rick Perry nailed it, contrasting his state’s economy to that of California:

If people needed any reminder of why Texas is the greatest place in America to live, work and raise a family, this report certainly provides it," he said in a written statement. "With all due respect to California, it's hard to beat our state's combination of low taxes, predictable regulations, fair legal system and world-class workforce. The fact that Texas has created more jobs this year than any other state is confirmation that our state is on the right track.

Will the Democratic Party and those states suffering under leftist leadership respond to Perry’s challenge? That seems unlikely, but leftist governance of economically irrelevant states grows less and less important each day. States like New York, California and Illinois can continue to pursue their leftist, utopian dreams, but those fantasies will mean little as their citizens continue to flock to places where the money actually is, rather than remain in states where lofty promises remain unfulfilled.