During the presidential debate for Bartlett’s reelection in The West Wing, the Democratic president turns to the Republican nominee and says:
“There are times when we’re fifty states and there are times when we’re one country, and have national needs. And the way I know this is that Florida
didn’t fight Germany in World War II or establish civil rights. You think states should do the governing wall-to-wall. That’s a perfectly valid opinion. But your state of Florida got $12.6 billion in federal money last year – from Nebraskans, and Virginians, and New Yorkers, and Alaskans, with their Eskimo poetry. 12.6 out of a state budget of $50 billion. I’m supposed to be using this time for a question, so here it is: Can we have it back, please?”
Like Governor Ritchie and the Republicans in the West Wing, real-life Republicans and Tea Partyers abhor big government. But as President Bartlett pointed out, we do not operate as a collection of states, and the federal government gives considerable aid to the various states to supplement state funding. This is inevitably a redistribution from wealthier states to poorer states–from Wall St. and Silicon Valley to Main St. and Tin Pan Alley. But the latter is not so grateful for the assistance of the former, and even as they accept federal dollars, Republicans vilify the source of their extra income.
Above we see two maps of the United States. The one on the bottom is a familiar Electoral Map from Bush v. Kerry, 2004. On the top is a map I created (alas, I could not find a snazzier map-making program) using data from the Tax Foundation. It shows Federal Dollars Received by State Per Dollar Sent to Washington. Notice anything? To a large extent, the red states correlate from map to map. That is, Republican states in favor of smaller government were actually the biggest beneficiaries of big government. For every dollar Mississippi sent to the federal government, it received $2.02; for every dollar New Jersey sent to the federal government, it saw only $0.61. Yet Mississippi voters don’t berate their Senators and Representatives for being so effective at bringing home the bacon. In Mississippi, the 2007 budget was composed of $8.4 billion from state-source funds, and $5.9 billion from federal funds. Over 40% of Mississippi’s state budget that year came from the federal government, and of that over half came from out-of-state taxpayers, including liberal elites in places like New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. Can we have it back please? (funnily enough, Gov. Ritchie’s Florida just about breaks even at $0.97 received per dollar sent. The other odd blue state, Texas, is also close at $0.94.)
The other irony is that, living in D.C., I see license plates every day that complain “Taxation Without Representation”, and lawn signs campaigning for DC Voting Rights. Yet although New Mexico and Mississippi have the highest returns of any states, the District of Columbia blows them out of the water. For every dollar D.C. sent to the Treasury, the federal government paid $5.55 back. For that kind of money, I’d happily trade the services of my representative, Scott Garrett from the NJ-5th.
Full rankings of federal funding below the fold:
|State||Federal Spending per Dollar of Federal Taxes|
|District of Columbia||$5.55|