- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 10, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

As President Obama’s advisers plan his 2012 re-election campaign, they not only face shifting political winds but must navigate an electoral map much tougher than the 2008 version. The past decade has seen population shift from states with high taxes and big government to those that have embraced private-sector job creation. As a result, 10 states are projected to lose congressional seats and Electoral College votes, while eight states will gain them. Following this round of reapportionment, small-government red states are likely to have greater clout in Congress and the Electoral College, threatening to derail a liberal agenda on Capitol Hill as well as the president’s 2012 re-election bid.

A recent study by Election Data Services shows Texas gaining four seats and Florida gaining two. Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington are poised to pick up one seat each. The biggest losers will be New York and Ohio - both projected to lose two seats - while Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are on track to lose a seat each.

On taxes, the gap between the winning and losing states is pronounced. Among states gaining seats, the average top personal income tax rate is roughly 2.8 percent. Among the losers, the average top rate is 6.05 percent - a difference of 116 percent. In terms of state and local tax burdens, each taxpayer forks over an average of $4,534 per year in states poised to lose seats - a full 29 percent more than taxpayers in their small-government counterparts.

It comes as no surprise then that states losing seats spend more, too. Among our losers, the average state government spends $5,177 for every man, woman and child. The gainers, led by Texas, spend just $4,008 per capita.

Also important is the way the two groups approach the labor market. In eight of the 10 states projected to lose seats, workers can be forced to join a union as a condition of being hired. In stark contrast, seven of the eight gainers are Right to Work states, meaning they give employees the right to decide individually whether they wish to join or contribute financially to a union.

The data support an argument conservatives have been making for years. A favorable tax climate that restricts government’s temptation to crowd out private investment and protects worker freedom leads to more jobs, promotes higher levels of economic growth and attracts employers and families from across the country. States that perform well using the metrics listed above have a distinct competitive advantage over those that embrace a culture of unionization and big government.

That’s why, according to the Buckeye Institute in Ohio, forced-unionization states have experienced less than half the job growth of Right to Work states. It’s why Ohio has lost roughly 20 companies to Georgia since the last congressional reapportionment. It’s why Michigan has shed 57 percent of its auto-related work force while Texas has increased jobs in the industry by 7 percent over the same time period. Those lost workers take dollars with them, too. Between 2004 and 2008, Michigan lost roughly $472 million in income to Texas alone.

The shift in population has serious future public-policy implications. Logic holds that as small-government states increase their representation in Congress, more fiscal conservatives will be elected to Congress. And as we look forward to the 2012 presidential election, more conservative Southern and Western states stand to gain roughly 11 votes in the Electoral College.

Imagine a Congress that takes four House seats from liberal New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey and redistributes them to conservative Texas. Or a 2012 presidential election in which Georgia, South Carolina and Utah have increased clout, while New York sees its influence wane for the seventh consecutive decade. Liberal politicians at the state level are not only damaging their states’ economies, they are making themselves increasingly irrelevant in federal policymaking and national elections. By eliminating jobs for hardworking families in their states, they are effectively destroying jobs for prospective elected Democrats.

As population shifts to areas of the country conducive to private-sector job creation and economic growth, it seems fiscal conservatism at the state level will soon lead to a more conservative federal public-policy agenda.

GOP victory by the numbers

At the state level, last week was more than a “wave” election. Republicans picked up 680 state legislative seats, 19 state legislative chambers and seven governorships. The number of state legislative pickups is more than double what the Democrats gained during their 2008 wave. Not only do these gains on the state level mean more conservative public-policy agendas in the “laboratories of democracy,” it means that Republicans can redraw a huge number of congressional seats to lock in an electoral advantage for the next decade.

First, let’s look at the states newly under full Republican control of the state House, Senate and governorship. Two states, Maine and Wisconsin, flipped all three from Democrat to Republican. Minnesota flipped both legislative chambers, and the governor’s race is likely headed to a recount. In total, the GOP has total control of state government in 20 states. It is estimated that Republicans are solely responsible for redrawing 193 U.S. House districts, as opposed to just 44 for Democrats.

In addition, 10 states are slated to lose one or more congressional districts in the post-census reapportionment process, while eight states stand to gain seats. Eleven of the 18 reapportionment states are fully controlled by the GOP, meaning they are able to eliminate safe Democratic districts or create new safe Republican holds.
Looking to the next presidential election, some of the most crucial 2012 swing states are now Republican-controlled, including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It is likely that for a Republican to unseat President Obama, he will need to win both Florida and Ohio, plus pick up 10 more electoral votes in a swing state like Wisconsin. This is much easier with new Republican governors in power.

In terms of public policy, it is likely that split government at the federal level will achieve very little over the next two years. State governments, prodded by constitutional obligations to balance their budgets, have the opportunity to pass paradigm-shifting legislation that serves as a template for a future Republican Congress and president. The combination of sound policymaking and clever mapmaking sets the table nicely for a conservative resurgence at the national level.

Joshua Culling is state affairs manager for Americans for Tax Reform.

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