Has President-elect Donald Trump a mandate to govern? Debate roils on. While he captured the Electoral College, 306-to-232, critics respond that “popular” momentum lies with Hillary Clinton, who won by more than 2.6 million ballots. Trump supporters counter that in presidential politics, it’s the state-by-state tally that matters; otherwise, Republicans would have played a different ground game. Meanwhile, a world away from this partisan sniping, ordinary Americans eke out their existence. And in this all-important contest, Democrats are clearly losing.
So argues Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore. In a column charting the migration to business-friendly states from those burdened with over-government (analysed by Moore in ALEC’s Rich States, Poor States, co-authored with economists Arthur Laffer and Jonathan Williams), he describes the “economic depression in the blue states that went for Hillary.”
All have the hallmarks of Democrat politics. “High taxes rates. High welfare benefits. Heavy regulation. Environmental extremism. Super minimum wages.” And all are losing taxpayers to those red states where the government footprint is less intrusive, more welcoming to wealth creators. Americans are voting with their feet, to Texas and Florida from California and New York.
George Washington would mar his reputation for probity by conferring the moniker of “Empire State” today that, according to an early 20th century guide, was well-earned due to “the vastness of its resources” and “because it so conspicuously illustrates the imperial power of law-abiding liberty.” According to ALEC, New York ranks 50th of states for economic promise; 12.7 percent marginal personal taxes place her second to the bottom and dead last with a marginal corporate tax rate of 17 percent. Unlike red states, she makes no effort to attract business with right-to-work laws but rather enacts minimum wage legislation this observer called a “cruel April Fools’ Day joke.”
As New York Sun editor Seth Lipsky is wont to emphasize, this is “a constitutional moment.” Rich States, Poor States presents examples of federalism at its best, of sovereign states and citizens at liberty to set socio-economic policy — who are equally free to pull up stakes and move to states with political leanings more to their liking: overwhelmingly to red from blue, in Moore’s analysis.
America is neither homogeneous nor ruled by an omnipotent central Washington authority. It is, to use liberals’ descriptor du jour, a land of “diversity,” united by a common heritage of rule of law, constitutional government, and personal freedom. (The Electoral College was just one compromise of federalism; without it, smaller states would have rejected the proposed Constitution in 1787.)
But this is also an enterprise moment. Fifty sovereign states, several territories, and the District of Columbia — each vying for the boon of entrepreneurial initiative and the employment and prosperity it brings. Even Donald Trump, focusing on an economically counter-productive “America First” policy of tariff protection to keep industries state-side, endorses the idea of inter-state competition. In an off-hand aside on the campaign trail, he acknowledged that companies “may go to a different state, and that’s different.” As President-elect he continues this theme, telling Carrier officials at Indianapolis that companies “can leave from state to state, and they can negotiate good deals with the different states and all of that…”
And therein lies the hope for the sluggish states of the Union. Rich States, Poor States attests that even California and New York should not be written off. Talent, infrastructure, and opportunity are in their reach; the main impediment standing between them and economic vitality is recalcitrant government. Just as competition between individuals results in greater ingenuity and productivity, so competition between states strengthens the nation and improves the lives of all Americans.
It is time for Democrat states to throw off their artificial fetters, invigorate entrepreneurial innovation, and no longer be blue in spirit. They may not convert to red politically, but they can stop being “in” the red and prosper once more by being in the black. The Empire State, for one, should take a lesson from Tammany Hall sachem George Washington Plunkitt: “I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.”