'Blue' States Most Indebted; 'Red' States Among Most Fiscally Fit
A new report out by Forbes -- aptly called "The Global Debt Bomb" -- reveals that the five states roiling in the most debt are all so-called "blue" states. The top five are: Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and California. And among the five most fiscally sound are three predominantly "red" states (Utah, Nebraska, Texas) and two more politically mixed states (New Hampshire and Virginia). Forbes'methodology included:
unfunded pension liabilities, changes in tax revenue, credit ratings, debt as a percentage of Gross State Product, debt per capita, growth expectations for employment and the state economy, net migrations and a "moocher ratio" that compares government employees, pension burdens and Medicaid enrollees to private-sector employment.While the pro-business magazine's analysis is that "stronger unions and a larger appetite for public programs" have led to the downfall of the most indebted states, the reality of the matter is that lowdown is, at best, a tad oversimplified -- and at worst, unrealistic. Every single state has a larger appetite for public programs these days -- state unemployment benefit pools are drying up left and right. And as much as I'd like to say that unions have a ton of pull, they aren't going to be one of the top-two reasons any state's budget dips into the red. Instead, a more likely reason the most fiscally fit states are in good budgetary shape is because places like Virginia, Utah, and Texas are experiencing population booms, whereas states like New Jersey and California are contracting population-wise, after having grown for decades. And let's not even get started on how Forbesdefines fiscally sound. Because poverty and hunger are up throughout the country, particularly in southern states (i.e. red states), so while those local governments might see budget surpluses, regular folks there certainly aren't. And places like Texas -- fiscally fit, according to the report -- have the highest number of uninsured; 1 in 5 children there go without medical insurance. In any case, to me, the more interesting point brought up by the study is whether incumbent Democrats in longtime true-blue states are aware of how bad their states are doing relative to others -- and whether they'll be moved to act to cover their asses (and as a result, cover their constituents') by the mid-term elections this year. After all, nothing moves politicians to act more efficiently than the fear of an electoral loss.