13 Years Later

In February of 2013 I wrote an essay entitled The Electoral College. It was originally published on this website and was part of the lost material when the site disappeared for a few days. It is currently a chapter in my as yet unpublished book entitled The Bubba Factor: Essays In Early 21st Century American Politics. I guess you could also call it unfinished because I now intend to add this article to that chapter.

Among other things, the original essay explored the relationship between what states paid in federal taxes, what they received in federal dollars and how they voted in the 2012 election. The data – the best I could find for years – was from a 2007 Tax Foundation study that examined 2005 taxes. The other day Dr. Paul Krugman mentioned a new study from the Rockefeller Institute examining 2018 federal tax transfers in the New York Times. That gave me the opportunity to see how much things changed over a 13 year time period.

Both pieces will rely heavily on a chart. One common feature is what I will call maker and taker states. The genesis of that terminology is 2012 GOP Veep candidate Paul Ryan who loved to talk about the makers and takers among the public. I simply label states as maker states if they send more dollars to Washington, DC than they receive back and vice versa. As of 2005 there were 17 maker states (with Rhode Island essentially a break even state). Of the 17 only Texas voted Romney-Ryan in 2012. In other words, 94% of the maker states voted for Obama-Biden.   23 of the 32 takers states, or 71%, voted Republican in 2012. In other words despite the Tea Party and general GOP rhetoric about personal responsibility and carrying your own weight the freeloaders voted overwhelmingly Republican.

Fast forward to the 2016 election and 2018 tax data. There are 10 maker states. California is the lone break even state. None of the eleven come from the old confederacy which is the geographical base of today’s GOP. 9 of the 11, or 81.8%, voted for Clinton-Kaine in 2012. We now have 39 taker states 28, or 71.7%, of which voted for Trump-Pence in 2012. Where in 2005 we had 17 states supporting 32; we now have 10 supporting 39. To top it off those who are paying the bills are being outvoted by those whose bills they are paying.

Before anyone levels the criticism I will admit this is far from a perfect comparison. The base data came from two different organizations and I’m certain their methodology was not identical. The tax years and the election years, while in close proximity, are not identical. All that said the trends and basic findings are irrefutable. The “freeloaders” are calling the shots and it is getting progressively worse.

In 2018 Connecticut received the lowest return per federal tax dollar at 74 cents. Kentucky had the highest return at $2.35. Four states more than doubled their money. In addition to Kentucky we have New Mexico at $2.34, Mississippi at $2.19 and West Virginia at $2.17. All but New Mexico voted Republican.

Before I present the chart for the 2016 election and 2018 tax data I need to explain a few things about my methodology. I discounted any faithless electors. Maine actually cast three of its electoral votes for Clinton and one for Trump; I simply counted the state as voting Democratic. The last column is the federal spending per a single federal tax dollar spent. There are many reasons why federal dollars are spent where they are but the trends simply jump out at you. Remember this does not count the increase in total taxes paid in high income, high home value, high tax states like New Jersey and New York because of changes in the tax code in the Trump Tower Tax Cut or that working and middle class tax breaks in it sunset while the breaks for the 1% are permanent. In other words, it’s even worse than it appears to be.

STATE                        MAKER/TAKER        ’16 VOTE        RETURN

Alabama                   T                                            R                         1.99

Alaska                        T                                            R                         1.67

Arizona                     T                                            R                         1.60

Arkansas                  T                                           R                         1.77

California                E                                           D                         1.00

Colorado                 M                                         D                          0.99

Connecticut           M                                        D                          0.74

Delaware                 T                                         D                         1.32

Florida                       T                                         R                          1.24

Georgia                     T                                         R                          1.29

Hawaii                       T                                         D                          1.61

Idaho                          T                                         R                          1.51

Illinois                       M                                        D                          0.97

Indiana                      T                                        R                           1.30

Iowa                           T                                        R                           1.13

Kansas                      T                                        R                          1.23

Kentucky                 T                                       R                           2.35

Louisiana                 T                                       R                           1.52

Maine                        T                                       D                          1.74

Maryland                 T                                      D                          1.53

Massachusetts      M                                    D                          0.83

Michigan                   T                                      R                         1.29

Minnesota                T                                     D                        1.09

Mississippi                T                                    R                          2.19

Missouri                     T                                    R                          1.50

Montana                    T                                    R                          1.49

Nebraska                   M                                  R                          0.98

Nevada                        T                                   D                         1.14

New Hampshire     M                                 D                          0.98

New Jersey                M                                D                           0.82

New Mexico              T                                  D                          2.34

New York                    M                                D                          0.86

North Carolina         T                                 R                          1.44

North Dakota           M                                R                          0.94

Ohio                               T                                  R                         1.34

Oklahoma                   T                                  R                         1.53

Oregon                         T                                  D                        1.29

Pennsylvania             T                                 R                         1.23

Rhode Island             T                                  D                         1.23

South Carolina        T                                   R                         1.73

South Dakota           T                                   R                         1.15

Tennessee                  T                                   R                         1.46

Texas                             T                                   R                         1.03

Utah                               T                                   R                         1.04

Vermont                      T                                   D                         1.41

Virginia                        T                                   D                         1.97

Washington              M                                  D                        0.98

West Virginia            T                                   R                        2.17

Wisconsin                    T                                   R                        1.06

Wyoming                      T                                  R                        1.06

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