The Confederacy of Takers

Dana Milbank, Washington Post, November 13, 2012

President Obama’s opponents have unwittingly come up with a brilliant plan to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” They want to secede from the union.

If Obama were serious about being a good steward of the nation’s finances, he’d let them.

The White House, in one of those astro-turf efforts that make people feel warm about small-d democracy, launched a “We the People” program on its Web site last year, allowing Americans to petition their government for a redress of grievances. {snip}

And so a large number of patriotic Americans, mostly from states won by Mitt Romney last week, have petitioned the White House to let them secede. They should be careful about what they wish for. It would be excellent financial news for those of us left behind if Obama were to grant a number of the rebel states their wish “to withdraw from the United States and create [their] own NEW government” (the petitions emphasize “new” by capitalizing it).

Red states receive, on average, far more from the federal government in expenditures than they pay in taxes. The balance is the opposite in blue states. The secession petitions, therefore, give the opportunity to create what would be, in a fiscal sense, a far more perfect union.

Among those states with large numbers of petitioners asking out: Louisiana (more than 28,000 signatures at midday Tuesday), which gets about $1.45 in federal largess for every $1 it pays in taxes; Alabama (more than 20,000 signatures), which takes $1.71 for every $1 it puts in; South Carolina (26,000), which takes $1.38 for its dollar; and Missouri (22,000), which takes $1.29 for its dollar.

{snip} To be fair, White House officials could refuse the secession petitions of states Obama won, such as New York (which gets only 79 cents on its tax dollar), Michigan (85 cents) and Colorado (79 cents).

What would be left is a Confederacy of Takers, including relatively poor states such as Alaska, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. One of the few would-be Confederacy members that pays more than it receives is Texas, which because of oil money is roughly break-even at 94 cents of benefits for its tax dollar. {snip}.

{snip}

But once the handout states left the union (and took with them a proportionate share of the federal debt), the rest of the country could enjoy lower taxes and the high level of government service typical of the Northeast, the Great Lakes and the West Coast.

{snip}

Of course, secession isn’t as easy or as painless as an electronic petition, and Obama couldn’t offer a redress of these petitioners’ grievances even if he wanted to. Nor should he want to: The Union of the Makers would be fiscally healthy but spiritually poor without the Confederacy of the Takers.

Yet would-be rebels from the red states should keep in mind during the coming budget battle that those who are most ardent about cutting government spending tend to come from parts of the country that most rely on it.

 

Editor’s Note: The following reply was sent to Mr. Milbank:

Dear Mr. Milbank,

I read with interest your recent tongue-in-cheek article regarding red state secession. You point out that many red states are net takers from the federal government and that their secession would be a boon to the federal ledger. I fear your analysis is a bit short-sighted, however.

If red states established their own governments, we would expect them to be quite limited, with little in the way of welfare or make-work government jobs. I expect this would result in a mass exodus of the dependent class to the more generous corners of the old Union. Since this class is disproportionately non-white, it would be welcomed with open arms due to the blue states’ professed love of diversity.

The New York Times produced an excellent interactive map in 2009 that showed food stamp usage by county. It lets you to toggle between food stamp use by whites (a category which may well include Hispanics) and blacks. A quick glance shows that in most Southern counties, whites take advantage of food stamps at rates between only 0 and 11.5 percent, compared to rates between 25 and 50 percent for blacks.

This is, of course, only one welfare program, but you will find the same contrast in all of them. In the southern states, blacks voted overwhelmingly Democratic (96 percent of black voters in Mississippi voted for Obama, as did 95 percent in Alabama) and whites voted overwhelmingly Republican (89 percent of white voters in Mississippi went for Romney, as did 84 percent in Alabama). When one party offers handouts and the other wants to reduce them, it’s easy to see why blacks and whites voted as they did.

The result of southern secession and the end of federal largess would be a second Great Black Migration, along with a Hispanic Migration. Voters in Washington and Maine would get all the diversity they’ve been clamoring for, and black and Hispanic migrants would escape the South’s fabled “racism.” Finally, southern whites would be relieved from the federal domination they’ve been trying to cast off for the past 150 years. Clearly, this is a win-win-win situation.

Best regards,
Henry Wolff
Website Editor, American Renaissance

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