The Spectacle Blog

Voting With Their Feet

By on 9.27.10 | 4:09PM

One of the defining characteristics of Progressive economic policies is a refusal to acknowledge that people react to incentives such as changes in tax and regulatory policy.

One of the few ways to make politicians recognize the error of such "static modeling" is to take away their jobs. While elections are the usual means of accomplishing that beneficial task, they are not the only way.

Another way to force a politician to get a real job presents itself every 10 years when the results of the decadal census determine congressional reapportionment, the shift of seats in the House of Representatives from one state to another.

A new report (pdf) by Election Data Services adds a little bit of information to prior expectations of this census, including the fairly stunning revelation that New York is likely to lose two House seats and Florida to gain two.

The other change from prior expectations is that Missouri seems likely to lose a seat rather than Minnesota losing a seat, a result which would be very good news for Rep. Michele Bachmann, who stood real risk of being redistricted out of a job by the state's liberal legislature.

Texas appears set to pick up four seats. The several states looking to gain a single House seat are Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington.

Ohio is expected to lose two seats. The several states expecting to lose a single House seat are Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

There are obvious geographical trends (all the gaining seats are in the south or southwest except for Washington and all the losing states are in the Midwest or northeast except for Louisiana, which lost population following Hurricane Katrina.)

More interesting to me is tax policy in these various states.

The average Tax Foundation rank of total state and local tax burden among the states which are gaining seats is 34 (with a higher number meaning lower taxes). Excluding Louisiana, which is losing population because of natural disaster, the average rank of the states losing seats is 21.

Four of the eight states gaining seats have zero state income tax (explaining Washington State's inclusion among the other more typically conservative states which are gaining seats.) None of the states losing seats has zero state income tax.

Three of the states gaining seats are in the four lowest state and local tax burdens in the country. (The lowest was Louisiana.) Three of the states losing seats are in the top 7 highest state and local tax burdens in the country.

There is a political trend as well:

Among the seat gainers, 5 of the 8 went for John McCain in the 2008 election -- a tidal wave election for Barack Obama. Of the three states that went for Obama -- Florida, Nevada, and Washington -- two (FL and

NV) went Republican in 2004 and 2000. All but one of the seat-losing states (Missouri) went for Obama in 2008 and all but three went Democrat in 2004.

Living in Boulder, I get the sense that many people's stated liberal political views are fueled, at least in part, by feeling like that's the "cool" way to be in this town. It is not unheard of for people to be ostracized in Boulder if they're found out to be conservatives, including by those the conservative or libertarian thought were friends.

To the extent that people's views and votes are fueled by a sort of group-think or peer pressure, reapportionment to conservative and/or low-tax states could be a self-reinforcing trend in support of conservative and low-tax policies. When an independent or "moderate" voter moves from being surrounded by liberals and union-owned political machines to places with some sense of self-reliance and more fundamentally American values, they may be swayed away from their liberal voting habits of the past. Furthermore, as those states gain population and House seats, they simultaneously gain electoral college votes.

If I were a Democratic Party leader, the writing on the wall would be frightening indeed. The trends revealed in the 2010 census may portend a shift away from "Progressivism" over a much longer time frame and with more permanence than is suggested by the result of any one federal election while at the same time shifting rightward the likely result of those elections.

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