Economy

Getting our facts straight

“Should taxpayers in Indiana who have paid their bills on time, who have done their job fiscally be bailing out Californians who haven’t?” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., asks. “No. That’s a moral hazard that we are not interested in creating.” – Fox News Blog

This nonsense has prompted a pretty good comment over at The Agonist, worth reading. That’s not the point, though. The point is that Paul Ryan obviously knows nothing. This is not a surprise, since he’s now the great white hope of Republican financial acumen. If this is an example of what Ryan brings to the table, the chance of anything reasonable happening the next two years is even dimmer than we thought. The man is as dumb as a sack of hammers.

Because, as we’ve discussed before, there’s this folk mythology out there that somehow the great American heartland—you know, where real Americans live—think Indiana or Wisconsin here—are carrying the load for those deadbeats in California—or wherever those liberals on welfare live. But we know that isn’t true. How do we know this? Because I’ve mentioned this a couple of times before.

It comes from work done by that exemplary outfit, The Tax Foundation, who from time to time compile information on what they call “tax burden.” This refers to how taxed various Americans are—by state, by congressional district, by, well, whatever. And they have compiled an excellent and highly informative table about who supports whom. I should note that this is hardly a progressive outfit, but their data analysis is spot on. (And apologies–the columns line up when I draft this, but not when I post it–but you can figure it out.)

Here it is:

State Federal Spending per Dollar of Federal Taxes Rank
New Mexico $2.03 1
Mississippi $2.02 2
Alaska $1.84 3
Louisiana $1.78 4
West Virginia $1.76 5
North Dakota $1.68 6
Alabama $1.66 7
South Dakota $1.53 8
Kentucky $1.51 9
Virginia $1.51 10
Montana $1.47 11
Hawaii $1.44 12
Maine $1.41 13
Arkansas $1.41 14
Oklahoma $1.36 15
South Carolina $1.35 16
Missouri $1.32 17
Maryland $1.30 18
Tennessee $1.27 19
Idaho $1.21 20
Arizona $1.19 21
Kansas $1.12 22
Wyoming $1.11 23
Iowa $1.10 24
Nebraska $1.10 25
Vermont $1.08 26
North Carolina $1.08 27
Pennsylvania $1.07 28
Utah $1.07 29
Indiana $1.05 30
Ohio $1.05 31
Georgia $1.01 32
Rhode Island $1.00 33
Florida $0.97 34
Texas $0.94 35
Oregon $0.93 36
Michigan $0.92 37
Washington $0.88 38
Wisconsin $0.86 39
Massachusetts $0.82 40
Colorado $0.81 41
New York $0.79 42
California $0.78 43
Delaware $0.77 44
Illinois $0.75 45
Minnesota $0.72 46
New Hampshire $0.71 47
Connecticut $0.69 48
Nevada $0.65 49
New Jersey $0.61 50
District of Columbia $5.55 na

Source: Tax Foundation, Census Bureau

Congressman Ryan should study this table, because it’s highly instructive. First, as we’ve noted before, about one-third of the states support the other two thirds. Not surprisingly, those that do the supporting tend to be wealthier states, while those that are supported tend to be poorer states, although I guess you might wonder how Nevada snuck in there. Note that Indiana, which Senator Ryan assumes is supporting California, in fact is not—it‘s what the Tax Foundation folks call a taker state. California, on the other hand, is a donor state. So Ryan has it backwards—it’s Californians who should be getting tired of supporting those deadbeat Indianans. Of course, the fact that most of the taker states are Red States should come as no surprise. You would think that Ryan, being from a donor state supporting those deadbeats in Indiana and elsewhere, would take note of this on behalf of his beleaguered constituents back home.

You’ll notice that the above table is as of 2005. This turns out to be the most recent data that the Tax Foundation has complied, although they are seeking funds to update this information. I for one would love to know what this looks like as of the most recent tax year, or whatever more recent date the information can be pulled together from. Then we’ll have something valuable—timely and factually-based information with which we can gently suggest to Senator Ryan and his cohorts, who seem to like to just make stuff up, that they shut the fuck up until they learn something basic about who pays for what.

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