Blue-state policies lead to aristocracy, not equality
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It's sad to see those trying so hard to prove themselves right that they accidentally prove themselves wrong.

That is the unavoidable conclusion to Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson's recent New York Times piece, "The Path to Prosperity Is Blue," and their premise that blue states are fundamentally better for business than red states.

The professors conclude that liberal policies are better than conservative ones by comparing the superior levels of wealth, education, patents and lifespan in blue states to those in red states. Their data are correct; their premise, reasoning and conclusion are not.

Alas, there is no Nobel Prize for intellectual dishonesty.


Wealthy coastal states are completely incomparable to parts of less-advantaged parts of the country. The East Coast was settled long before the rest of America — with the North Atlantic booming because of the Industrial Revolution — so its commercial and educational institutions have enjoyed a centuries-long head start and a virtuous cycle of prosperity, education, innovation and market capitalization.

It sounds great when you call it a virtuous cycle. A more accurate summary is simply the rich have gotten richer — especially if we're highlighting the social impact of prestigious, expensive North Atlantic universities, a phenomenon The Economist has disparaged as "America's new aristocracy." Our "progressive" institutions of higher education perpetuate social inequality better than anything else in the country.

Moving to the West Coast, California has always had, and will continue to have, one of the most powerful economies in the world by virtue of the fact that it is California.

If you enjoy a large population, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and year-round perfect weather for tourism and agriculture, you'd have to work very hard to fail. Certainly, politicians in Sacramento have tried for decades, but even they can't sink the Golden State — though they have managed to amass $400 billion in debt and unfunded liabilities.

Does anyone think you could ever tax and spend Mississippi into becoming California?

Rather, you can understand why red states aspire to emulate deeply blue Delaware, home of Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenGiuliani says he is unaware of reported federal investigation Trump says Giuliani is still his lawyer Sondland to tell Congress 'no quid pro quo' from Trump: report MORE and one of the most conservative tax policies on Planet Earth. Leaders in Delaware long ago realized they couldn't compete with their neighbors unless they slashed tax rates. President Obama may criticize foreign tax havens like the Cayman Islands, but he picked his vice president from the biggest domestic tax haven there is.

And the greatest bulwark of blue state power is Wall Street ... which progressives hate, remember? Occupy Wall Street was not about trying to get a job there.

In vainly trying to validate blue policies, Hacker and Pierson have only underscored the inherent advantages that enable blue state policies. (Mississippi would be crushed by a $400 billion debt.) Professors at Yale and the University of California, Berkeley respectively, the two are likewise obtuse to how blue states fail with their own philosophies: Red states give more to charity than blue states. Yes, poor, backwards Southern rednecks are more generous than the fair-trade coffee-drinking elitists who look down their noses at them on their way to yoga instead of church.

Moreover, blue states generally experience higher income inequality. The worst income inequality? Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and the District of Columbia. That's as blue as blue gets.

The authors smugly note that innovations in blue states leak over into red states — as though these saints on the coasts just can't avoid helping their backwards, flyover neighbors — while ignoring how red states provide the human capital that keeps blue states in business. The states busy raising the next generation of Americans are overwhelmingly red. Those states changing the fewest diapers? The District of Columbia, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut. Again, that's as blue as blue gets.

Honestly, is anyone so deluded that they think that Silicon Valley and New York City's catastrophically low fertility rates could ever provide themselves with enough labor?

Red states also volunteer more than their share of the soldiers, sailors and others for the armed forces. Those states with the lowest rates of military service? Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. Again, that's as blue as — well, you get the idea at this point.

Speaking of the military, many forget that Silicon Valley's spark of innovation came from defense spending, and not the free love, free drugs, free everything movement of the 1960s. The muscular defense budgets of the Cold War, particularly for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), helped create the engineering base that gave rise the Silicon Valley to the tech boom of the 1990s. (That and Stanford, a university founded by an East Coast elitist aristocrat.)

The one thing these gentlemen get right is praise for Utah's economy. The reddest state in the union dominates virtually all economic success indicators, has the highest fertility rate, boasts the lowest income inequality rate and always achieves budget surpluses instead of deficits. Salt Lake City gives more to charity than any other city in the country while Hartford, Conn., gives the least. (Perhaps Hacker's next study should be why his state is so stingy and Utahns are so generous.)

Hacker and Pierson's study was insultingly incomplete. It's easy to win a political argument if you only compare your strengths to your opponent’s weaknesses. Blue states may outperform red states in wealth, education level, patents and lifespan, but that's because of longstanding advantages that have nothing to do with current policies. And blue states fall short on other vital indicators like generosity, income inequality, birth rates and military service. 

So, sorry: The path to prosperity isn't blue. Indeed, we should be worried, whatever our partisan tilt, that leading academics promote economic models so disconnected from the reality.

Whitley is an award-winning journalist and columnist. He has worked for Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals Trump to award Medal of Freedom to former Attorney General Edwin Meese Trump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom MORE (R-Utah), the George W. Bush White House and the defense industry.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.