In the state-level struggle for the future of America, there can be little doubt: The Red State model of free markets, low taxes, and minimal regulation is beating the daylights out of the Blue State model of top-down control, high taxes, and pervasive nanny-state regulation. But will it last?
The Wall Street Journal, deploying data from the center-left Brookings Institution, last month reported that Blue states, those governed by Democrats, were still 1.3 million jobs short of where they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. Red states, those led by Republicans, had managed to add 350,000 jobs.
A big reason for the disparity is the fact that millions fled Blue states during COVID.
“Forty-six million people moved to a different ZIP Code in the year through February 2022, the most in any 12-month period in records going back to 2010,” the Journal wrote. And most of them moved from Blue to Red states, with Florida, Texas, and North Carolina the biggest gainers, while California, New York, and Illinois lost the most.
Big, blue cities, in particular, lost huge numbers of people as soaring crime, sidewalk homeless encampments, COVID lockdowns, high taxes, and miserably underperforming schools made once-beautiful metropolises unlivable for many.
For example, San Francisco, the political base of both California Gov. Gavin Newsom and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, lost a stunning 6.3% of its population during the pandemic, Census data show.
As a whole, California has lost thousands of families, not to mention a number of major Silicon Valley tech companies, to Red state competitors such as Florida and Texas, according to a study by the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank, which used moving-van data from multiple states.
As the San Jose Mercury News reported last month:
Only Illinois ranked worse off than the Golden State when it came to moving vans heading for the border during the pandemic, according to the report, which focused on data from the moving company United Van Lines. In 2018-19, 56% of moves in California were families fleeing the state. In 2020-21, that figure jumped to nearly 60%.
The state that was by far the biggest draw of California residents? It was Texas, the destination for more than 7,500 California families during the four years in the study, perhaps little surprise given that Silicon Valley’s tech giants like Oracle, Tesla and Hewlett Packard Enterprise picked up and moved their headquarters there too.
These aren’t the first to show this trend. Earlier research, based on IRS data, shows that Blue states aren’t just hemorrhaging population, but tax revenues and jobs as well.
A report by Wirepoints, a nonprofit Illinois-based research organization, showed just how big the Blue state losses have been:
On the losing side, New York suffered the worst outflow of money of any state in 2020. The Empire State lost a net $19.5 billion in income, or 2.5% of its 2019 AGI, while a net of nearly 250,000 residents moved out.
California was next, losing a net $17.8 billion and 263,000 people. Illinois was third with a net loss of $8.5 billion and 101,000 people. Massachusetts and New Jersey were in fourth and fifth place, with $2.6 and $2.3 billion in income losses, respectively.
And who were the winners?
The Sunshine State attracted over $41.1 billion in Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) from 624,000 new residents (tax filers and their dependents) that moved into Florida in 2020. On the flip side, Florida lost $17.4 billion in AGI from 457,000 people who left. Overall, Florida came out ahead with 167,000 net new people and $23.7 billion in net new taxable income.
That’s a total gain of about 3.3% of the state’s total 2019 AGI ($711 billion).
Texas was the runner up with a net income gain of $6.3 billion, followed by Arizona with $4.8 billion. North and South Carolina rounded out the top five with net gains of $3.8 billion and $3.6 billion, respectively.
It can no longer be doubted: The Republican model of governance has shown itself to be vastly more attractive to Americans, especially those in deteriorating Blue states who are voting with their feet to escape.
But there’s another question pending: Will Red states soon find their Blue state immigrants brought their old voting habits and ways of thinking with them after they move in, creating a kind of Blue state pandemic?
A recent piece in City Journal noted that some Blue states are actually marketing themselves as bastions of leftist culture, trying to lure former citizens to return.
In this, California’s Newsom takes the cake for chutzpah, running a commercial in Texas and Florida with this message:
Freedom is under attack by Republican leaders in states like Florida. Banning books. Restricting speech. Making it harder to vote. Criminalizing women and doctors. I urge all of you to join us in California, where we still believe in freedom. Freedom of speech. Freedom to choose.
Meanwhile, other states, including New Jersey and Connecticut, have used the recent Dobbs U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade to encourage those who have left to return by enacting new laws that liberalize abortion in their states.
Will this Blue state approach work? Doubtful. Those who moved didn’t do so for transient or light reasons. They did so because they were angry and fed up enough to pull up stakes and relocate someplace entirely new.
Given time, most people who move adopt the mores, attitudes, and ways of the majority population where they live, not vice versa. That’s the hope, anyway.
Just to be sure, Republican leaders should make a concerted effort to remind those fleeing Blue states why they voted with their feet for Red states, and make it clear that they don’t want to replicate the leftist idiocy of California, Illinois, New Jersey, or other Blue failures.
Along those lines, Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds has proposed that Red states create a “welcome wagon,” and the Foundation for Economic Education introduced a “Fresh Start States initiative” to keep Red states red. Last year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill creating the “1836 project,” which, as he described it, “promotes patriotic education & ensures future generations understand TX values.”
“Texas: Love It Or Leave It” bumper stickers, anyone?
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board