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Red state in the red?
August 6, 2011 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Where Federal taxes are raised and spent. "Some American states receive more in federal spending than they pay in federal taxes; others receive less. Over twenty years these fiscal transfers can add up to a sizeable sum." A graph of the United States, color-coded to indicate surplus or deficit.
posted by dubold (52 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
On the one hand, this shouldn't be too upsetting -- the whole point of the Constitutional Convention was to integrate our political and economic union more strongly than the Articles of Confederation had done. Solidarity and all that.

On the other hand, I'd be quite happy with a law that said that any states whose Congressional delegation vote for, say, a federal Balanced Budget Amendment may not receive more federal transfers than their state sends to Washington in federal taxes....
posted by tivalasvegas at 1:28 PM on August 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


What are we supposed to read into this? Montana, for example, has a small not-very-rich population and lots of federal land that requires maintaining. North Dakota's in the same boat, population-wise, and they have 2 air bases and a large national park.
posted by desjardins at 1:30 PM on August 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, wtf Vermont? We kind of need you to be our shining paragon of social democracy right now.
posted by tivalasvegas at 1:31 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm feeling vindicated that my liberal state of Minnesota is tops on the "getting shafted by the South" list.

I know there's a lot more to this than a simple graph indicates, but still- red-stater "no more taxes" griefers can STFU now. I want my $500 billion back, please.
posted by EricGjerde at 1:40 PM on August 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


What are we supposed to read into this?

I thought it was an interesting insight into some of the benefits of a federal system, especially for states with a lower population density.
posted by dubold at 1:45 PM on August 6, 2011


States receiving high benefit relative to their tax income:
New Mexico, Mississippi, West Virginia, Maine, Alabama, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland + Washington D.C., Louisiana, Arizona, South Dakota, Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii

(Also, Puerto Rico receives a lot more money than they pay in taxes.)

States paying much more money than they receive in benefits:
Minnesota, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Illinois, Rhode Island

This is fairly kneejerk predisposition-confirmation out of me here, but.... it does seem like red states receive, generally, more wealth than blue states. There are a couple of notable exceptions: both Texas and Georgia contribute slightly more wealth than they receive, possibly due to the influences of very large cities in each state, but the chart doesn't display how close they are to the line.
posted by JHarris at 1:46 PM on August 6, 2011


Yeah, as fun as this is as a gotcha game (and honestly, since moving to a rural state, I'm getting a little sick of hearing people gripe about how "our tax dollars" are being used for things like big-city public transit that only benefit city people), I think it's fundamentally misguided. I believe that sometimes we need to redistribute wealth in the interests of social justice and having a functional society. If stamps are more expensive for people in densely-populated areas in order to subsidize the postal service of people in sparsely-populated areas, so be it. And I also think there's a sense in which we all benefit from some of those programs, even if we don't realize it. It's not like everyone who drives through Oklahoma actually lives in Oklahoma, so other people benefit from having paved highways there.

Obviously, we need to rethink our spending priorities big-time. But I don't think the way to do that is to pitch richer states against poorer ones or densely-populated states against rural ones.
posted by craichead at 1:47 PM on August 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Darn, they left off Guam. I was looking forward to seeing The Economist try to decide what the darkest shade of red in existence is.
posted by Winnemac at 1:52 PM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Think globally; tax locally.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:54 PM on August 6, 2011


For reference:
All military bases in the US
Major Air Force Installations
States with Army Bases
Federal lands in the US

Notice that Minnesota has a relatively small percentage of federal land and is one of the few states with NO military bases.
posted by desjardins at 1:55 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is fairly kneejerk predisposition-confirmation out of me here, but.... it does seem like red states receive, generally, more wealth than blue states.
I could be wrong, but I think that's mostly a function of red states tending to be more rural, and thus getting more per capita in things like federal highway funds. Also, places with a big military presence would get more money and tend to be more conservative. At least, that would be my guess.
posted by craichead at 1:55 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It just pisses me off when cartography is used to propagate bullshit correlations.
posted by desjardins at 1:57 PM on August 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've had an idea like this for a while now:

If a state gets more federal money back than it pay in federal taxes it should receive this surplus as a loan from the federal government. They have to pay off each yearly loan in 30 years. if they default on a loan they cannot receive another for say 50 years. A state that pays more in federal taxes than it receives should either get the money or it should be put in a trust account for the state if it ever runs a deficit.

Red stater politicians can't complain unless they want to be tagged as welfare recipients.
posted by dibblda at 1:58 PM on August 6, 2011


Red stater politicians can't complain unless they want to be tagged as welfare recipients.

Will the delegates from South Carolina (sooo in the red) please shut the fuck up about cutting federal funding?
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:13 PM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Tax incentives" = corporate welfare.
posted by Cranberry at 2:15 PM on August 6, 2011


Would be nice if they showed actual raw numbers, instead of strange ratios. "1990-2009 federal taxes minus federal spending as a percentage of 2009 GDP" is not exactly entirely clear.

I would like to see, for example, what net dollar amount was spent in 2009 by the residents of Delaware, Minnesota, and New Jersey, per capita, on other states. And what net dollar amount was received in 2009 by the residents of New Mexico, Mississippi, and West Virginia, per capita, from other states.
posted by Flunkie at 2:20 PM on August 6, 2011


So that's why they call them red states.
posted by warbaby at 2:21 PM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Isn't complaining about a state receiving more in federal spending than they pay in federal taxes a bit like complaining that the single mother down the street gets more in welfare payments than she pays in taxes?

Or in other words, isn't it kind of the point of the system to do this?

The small matter of anti-tax zealots/politicians aside that is...
posted by knapah at 2:28 PM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Isn't complaining about a state receiving more in federal spending than they pay in federal taxes a bit like complaining that the single mother down the street gets more in welfare payments than she pays in taxes?
It would be if the single mother down the street was constantly complaining about her hard-earned tax dollars going to lucky ducky welfare queens.
posted by Flunkie at 2:35 PM on August 6, 2011 [23 favorites]


On the one hand, this shouldn't be too upsetting -- the whole point of the Constitutional Convention was to integrate our political and economic union more strongly than the Articles of Confederation had done. Solidarity and all that.

Yeah. Can't wait until they do the same over here in Europe. Sure, Greece will receive more money than they pay - at least initially, but it would mean getting rid of all the panic about them defaulting.

And for all practical purposes the current bail-out schemes amount to pretty much the same thing anyway, in the long run.
posted by DreamerFi at 2:38 PM on August 6, 2011


West Virginia, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Puerto Rico, the reddest of the red, include some of the poorest people in the country with the fewest job prospects. I'm glad that my tax money can help them.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:57 PM on August 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


Map of Federal Lands and Indian Reservations (pdf)

Note the large reservations in Montana, the Dakotas, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. Federal spending on reservations is (tragically) a drop in the bucket, but it adds to the amount of spending on these states relative to others. (I thought that Indians didn't pay federal income tax, but I was wrong.)
posted by desjardins at 2:58 PM on August 6, 2011


Oh and like hydropsyche said, I am more than happy to help the poor get help. Corporations get tax cuts, sure, but much federal spending, besides defense contracts, goes to people who actually need it.
posted by desjardins at 3:00 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's the worst goddamn color scale I've ever seen. I'm slightly colorblind and they both look identical.
posted by odinsdream at 3:12 PM on August 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


"On the other hand, I'd be quite happy with a law that said that any states whose Congressional delegation vote for, say, a federal Balanced Budget Amendment may not receive more federal transfers than their state sends to Washington in federal taxes..."

The democrats could just start attaching it as a rider to every GOP bill relating to spending or taxing or whatever that they don't like, and then vote for the bill in question, forcing the GOP to vote against their own bills over and over.

It'd be entertaining if not very productive.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:16 PM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


On the other hand, if you dislike federal taxes and think the govt ought to get off your back, and that less govt is good, then you can consult this list:

http://www.addictinginfo.org/2011/05/18/102-things-not-to-do-if-you-hate-taxes/
posted by Postroad at 3:59 PM on August 6, 2011


As a liberal Texan, I would be grateful if my Metafilter pals would keep in mind that most "red states" are 45% blue or more , and vice-versa. You have a bunch of allies here that get overlooked in a popular false dichotomy. A red state is a state where the GOP has just enough of a edge to have won recent elections, that's all
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:01 PM on August 6, 2011 [15 favorites]


It just pisses me off when cartography is used to propagate bullshit correlations.

Agreed. That's what statistics are for.
posted by scottreynen at 4:05 PM on August 6, 2011


Flunkie: Would be nice if they showed actual raw numbers, instead of strange ratios. "1990-2009 federal taxes minus federal spending as a percentage of 2009 GDP" is not exactly entirely clear. I would like to see, for example, what net dollar amount was spent in 2009...

The raw numbers are in the table below the map. I think the column you're looking for is labeled "(Federal) Taxes minus (Federal) spending, $bn."
posted by yeolcoatl at 4:07 PM on August 6, 2011


What are we supposed to read into this?

It shows the reality of federal spending, versus the conventional wisdom (in some quarters) that the big populous states suck up tax dollars earned by Proud Americans in the red states. I mean, that's like half of the Tea Party's platform, isn't it? More evidence that they are wrong.
posted by gjc at 4:15 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks yeolcoatl, but I did see that, and it's not really what I'm looking for. It's taxes minus spending totalled over the years 1990 to 2009.

That's a difficult number to put into any sort of reasonable comparison to, say, population, due to the difference between what a "1990 dollar" is and what a "2009 dollar" is, as well as the differences in population, plus the simple fact that any or all of them could have actually varied wildly as a percentage in any given year of that 20 year period.
posted by Flunkie at 4:18 PM on August 6, 2011


Another map: Presidential Disaster Declarations from 2000-2007 (PDF). This means they got money from FEMA.

States that got hit the hardest: Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, North Dakota, Indiana, West Virginia, New York, Alaska. All of those except New York are in the red on the original map.
posted by desjardins at 4:20 PM on August 6, 2011


As a liberal Texan, I would be grateful if my Metafilter pals would keep in mind that most "red states" are 45% blue or more , and vice-versa.
I'm sympathetic to the overall point, but I'm not really sure that this is actually true, at least not in a practical sense. For example, less than a third of the states that voted for McCain were 55%-45% or closer. As were less than a third of those that voted for Obama.
posted by Flunkie at 4:34 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yay Pennsylvania, still the Keystone State!
posted by Ron Thanagar at 5:29 PM on August 6, 2011


...and where are Iraq and Afghanistan on this map? Ohwait.
posted by gracedissolved at 5:54 PM on August 6, 2011


Despite all the talk of rugged individualism and independence in Republican-leaning Alaska, we sure are a true-blue state when it comes to the federal teat.
posted by steamynachos at 6:07 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It just pisses me off when cartography is used to propagate bullshit correlations.

It's not a bullshit correlation, though. You agree the correlation is there, and in fact explain why the correlation exists.

The problem is what to conclude from the statistic. Is the difference in taxes vs. spending explained by the size difference in red states vs. blue states? Or miliary presence? It would be interesting to see numbers that control for that. I'd mess with it but I can't get R to run on my iPhone.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:13 PM on August 6, 2011


If federal tax dollars weren't flowing into places like rural Alabama, the people who live there would get sweet fuck-all. There are few jobs, all the land is owned by either folks who inherited it from their daddy's daddy's daddy or out-of-state paper companies, there's a pitiful education system and crumbling infrastructure.

On the one hand, shoveling money into a hole doesn't make sense. On the other hand, people gotta eat. And have sewer systems. And bridges that don't collapse in a strong breeze.

Also, in Alabama's defense: there's a bunch of those federal dollars being used for things like building the Webb telescope (please Congress, fund this) and doing other Rocket Science type stuff in Huntsville. Things that will benefit the nation and the world, not just us red-state layabouts.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:52 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Somebody did a similar analysis with similar results for the State of Washington several months ago: Welfare State.

Unsurprisingly, Republican counties take more from the general fund than they contribute, and Democratic counties contribute more than they take.

In other words, reduced government is going to disproportionally affect the areas that are pushing for it.

Honestly, I'm happy my money can go to build infrastructure and provide services to areas that need it. It's part of building a better country and world.
posted by formless at 7:15 PM on August 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maryland + Washington D.C.

Taxation arbitrarily assigned representation.
posted by stbalbach at 7:49 PM on August 6, 2011


"If federal tax dollars weren't flowing into places like rural Alabama, the people who live there would get sweet fuck-all."

But this is true of rural parts of Illinois, too. And some densely urban parts of Illinois. And other states.

"Also, in Alabama's defense: there's a bunch of those federal dollars being used for things like building the Webb telescope (please Congress, fund this) and doing other Rocket Science type stuff in Huntsville. Things that will benefit the nation and the world, not just us red-state layabouts."

Also true in other states.

Not that I begrudge "red states" (in which I have at times lived) funding; just that we could all justify why our states need more moolah.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:52 PM on August 6, 2011


I know this is just political exhaustion talking, but can the blue northeast please secede just for like a month or two? Just to show these Tea Party folks what they're really talking about? Because... we'll be okay... really. But, how you feeling, South Carolina?
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 7:58 PM on August 6, 2011


No offense to those Carolinians out there of course. Former Georgian speaking.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:11 PM on August 6, 2011


As a liberal Texan, I would be grateful if my Metafilter pals would keep in mind that most "red states" are 45% blue or more , and vice-versa. You have a bunch of allies here that get overlooked in a popular false dichotomy.

Glad to have you there. Any chance of gettin' those electoral votes awarded proportionally?
posted by benito.strauss at 8:27 PM on August 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


If Virginia restored all the money they stole from West Virginia in mugwump courts after the Civil War, WV would be a solid, stolid tax-contributing state of the industrial midwest. Essential infrastructure was instead siphoned off into reparations for a non-slaver minority standing up to a human-bondage corrupt majority.

One of the many evil legacies of Lincoln's assassination.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:46 PM on August 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


W00T Illinois is in the top 5!

You're welcome America!
posted by Max Power at 9:04 PM on August 6, 2011


It's not a bullshit correlation, though. You agree the correlation is there, and in fact explain why the correlation exists.

People are gleeful because they think that Republican states are being hypocritical. The correlation between a state's deficit and its politicians' hypocrisy is bullshit, and that's why I provided evidence to show that federal spending has more to do with factors largely unrelated to politics. I have not run the numbers, but I would venture to guess that population is not correlated with political leaning; at least I would have a hard time believing that it's a causal factor. Likewise with natural disasters, unless you are a crazy person that believes God is punishing some states.

I'm sure military base spending and location is at least partly due to politics, but I can't say whether it's correlated to political party, and there are natural strategic considerations (submarine bases can't be located in North Dakota).

Federal lands as a percentage of land area is mostly caused by historical factors - "oh shit we built up most of the land in the east, maybe we should save some of the natural beauty of the west before we destroy it all. And hey, let's shove the Indians over here to the land we haven't built on and don't want." I am willing to believe that federal spending on that land may be politically motivated, though.
posted by desjardins at 6:25 AM on August 7, 2011


Also, my husband pointed out that Delaware's high tax revenue compared to its receipt of expenditures is mostly due to its lax incorporation rules. Lots of companies paying taxes, not that many people.
posted by desjardins at 6:27 AM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


To me, it's more about the lack of comprehension of who benefits from the federal system. The red state rhetoric of anti-welfare, anti-entitlements, etc. is not alligned with the reality of who is really dependent on the taxes of those much-reviled northeastern liberal elites. Sure military bases in the south or rural west might provide some national security benefit to definitely supply? Jobs in the places they're located. If the military isn't, in large part, a make-work welfare program, I don't know what is.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 7:16 AM on August 7, 2011


Ah erased a line.

might provide some national security benefit to everyone but you know what they definitely supply?

Etc.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 7:18 AM on August 7, 2011


Obviously, we need to rethink our spending priorities big-time. But I don't think the way to do that is to pitch richer states against poorer ones or densely-populated states against rural ones.

That horse left the barn a long time ago; these numbers counteract the default narrative that my rural conservative relatives carry with them like a security blanket. In their world, hard working plain country folk carry the urban poor on their backs.
posted by verb at 11:26 AM on August 7, 2011


Obviously money should only go to those who do not need it. Are you not familiar with the parable of the talents?

</hamburger>
posted by blue_beetle at 10:52 AM on August 8, 2011


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