This preliminary study started with a blog post I did several months ago entitled “New Jersey, the Sorry State”, a deep dive into Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that my state is hardly generating employment outside the government sector.
The blame for this sorry state of affairs I heaped on NJ’s political culture, which is high-taxing, heavily-regulating, pro-union, anti-business and Democrat-dominated. As the power of Democrats, the self-proclaimed friends of the working man, has risen in this state, fewer working men have actually had work.
One of my readers suggested extending the work to all states. A daunting prospect, but I have made a start — back to BLS data for 51 deep dives. This time I’m looking longer term, with data from 1990 to the present.
To try to get to grips with party politics in all states through time, I researched affiliations of the governor and two senators and the plurality of the House of Representatives delegations and the state senate and legislatures for each year since 1990, using wikipedia and such other sources as I could find. No doubt there are some errors at this stage, particularly in identifying the leanings of state legislatures 15 or more years ago. These errors are minor; it’s unlikely that I could mistake Idaho for a blue state or Washington for a red state, for example.
Those two next door neighbors bracket my best ranking of the 50 states + DC by political complexion, from most Democrat to most Republican:
>> bluest: WA DC WV MA AR NJ CA MD IL HI DE
>> next: NY VT IA WI RI MI OR CT ME NC
>> middle: NM MN MT LA COPA NH ND IN TN
>> next: SD VA MS NV AL MO NE KS OK FL
>> reddest: KY OH AZ SC WY AK GA UT TX ID
Next best alternative ranking is so similar:
>> bluest: DC WA WV MA AR MD CA HI NJ DE VT
>> next: IL RI NY MI OR CT IA WI LA NM
>> middle: NC ME MN ND MT IN PA VA NV CO
>> next: TN AL SD GA NH KY MS MO FL NE
>> reddest: AZ KS OH TX OK AK SC WY UT ID
Let me point out a few things by way of caveats and highlight a few preliminary conclusions.
Conclusion 1: Government is not just New Jersey’s growth industry; it’s a growth industry in most states, Democrat or Republican. In fact, it is only in a handful of blue states and territories that government employment has been static or falling: MA, MI, NY, DC, and RI.
Conclusion 2: The predominant pattern in the last ten years has been for employment in goods-producing industry to be declining, in service-providing business to be growing somewhat, and in government to be growing fastest of the three. That pattern is seen in 37 states: AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, MD, MS, MO, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NC, OH, OK, OR, PA, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, and WI; in MI it was declining but less than other employment. So at bottom, government is growing at the expense of goods production. In the limit, this places fiscal drag on the economy, which reinforces the original trend and makes it worse. That is our New Jersey experience.
Conclusion 3: The states that have experienced the greatest declines in employment in goods-producing industry are (worst first): RI, MI, NJ, CT, NY, NC, OH, ME, MA, and PA. Mostly northeastern/midwestern, mostly unionized, and mostly Democrat.
Conclusion 4: The states that have experienced the best performance in growing employment in goods-producing industry are (worst first): NE, CO, NM, SD, ID, MT, UT, WY, NV, ND. Near runners-up were TX, AZ, and OK. Mostly western, mostly right-to-work, and mostly Republican.
Conclusion 5: Only in Wyoming is employment growth in goods-producing industry positive and higher than either services or government.
Caveat: A Democrat is not the same wherever you go, nor is a Republican. A Maine Republican is a very different animal than a Texas or Wyoming Republican; in fact, some say it is a RINO. A Mississippi Democrat in 2009 is not ever the same as a Massachusetts Democrat, nor a Mississippi Democrat of twenty years ago.
Caveat, speaking of Massachusetts: In connection with the special election there on 1/19/2010, I and many others have taken to calling the Bay State “the bluest of all blue states.” This is incorrect. It yields to the blueness of the Washingtons (state & district) and West Virginia.
Caveat: Employment in goods-producing industry is not a holy grail and need not be the object of all economic policy. If someone leaves a job in the declining textile industry in North Carolina, retrains as a radiological technician and get a better job in that field, no one argues that either that person or the state of North Carolina are worse off. The problem is when employment in the goods-producing sector as a whole is in total headlong decline. That means industry is giving up on a place. That means industry prefers to take its chances with the Chinese Communist than the Michigan Democrats.
Caveat: Productivity has improved in goods producing industry, meaning fewer workers are needed to do the same or greater work. I know. That’s wonderful. But that productivity itself should incentivize capital to come into a place and employ workers who have worked themselves out of their jobs. If it’s not enough, other things are wrong, and the benefit of their productivity is not for workers to share. Politicians must ask the question, what else is needed to attract industry? Republicans ask that question; Democrats ask instead what other self-defeating social costs and regulations they can impose on job-creating enterprise.
Here’s one final caveat, and it is important. I don’t know which way the causation runs. I am not sure whether the growth states of the West are Republican because they are prosperous, or prosperous because they are Republican. I am more certain that employment grows in right-to-work states because it can, without restriction; that’s just economic common sense. Capital goes where it is well treated.
This much is clear. The employment restrictions and the class struggle nonsense offered by those friends of the working man, the Democrats, isn’t offering the working man in the post-industrial Northeast and Midwest any tangible economic return on his long-term political investment.
I say if you want to work, go R. If you want to stand on the unemployment line complaining about the Man, go D.