The results of a study measuring economic and personal freedom in all 50 states contradict the policies of President Obama.
The study “Freedom in the 50 States,” conducted by researchers at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, looked at more than 200 state policies, including those on taxes, regulations, government spending and debt, property rights, health insurance, labor laws, gun control, education policy, civil liberties and tort abuse.
North Dakota scored the highest, followed by South Dakota, Tennessee, New Hampshire and Oklahoma.
New York was ranked the least-free state, followed by California, New Jersey, Hawaii and Rhode Island.
The results fly in the face of the president’s stated preferences for higher taxes and more regulations, redistributing wealth and picking winners in the business world.
Last-ranked New York has the highest state and local tax burden in the country, at 14 percent of income.
That conflicts with Obama’s criticism of lower taxes.
In a speech in Osawatomie, Kan., on Dec. 6, 2011, Obama critiqued cutting taxes and regulations by saying, “Here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It has never worked.”
The president has also recommended using taxes to redistribute wealth, famously telling “Joe the Plumber” during the 2008 election campaign that when “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”
But “everybody” does not seem to benefit from higher taxes. The authors of the study, William Ruger and Jason Sorens, found, “The more a state denies people their freedoms, increases their taxes or passes laws that make it hard for businesses to hire and fire, the more likely they are to leave.”
And with lower taxes, comes more income.
“States that protect more of their residents’ freedom and make it easier to run businesses enjoy a steady inflow of people from more burdensome ones. They also enjoy higher personal income growth,” wrote Ruger and Sorens.
“Adam Smith was right,” Ruger told Investors Business Daily, adding, “If you have economic freedom, you will have economic growth.”
Economic freedom might seem to be the opposite of the Obama administration’s attempts to attempt to pick winners in the market.
Here’s Obama’s comments on the free market:
Here’s Obama’s comments to Joe the Pluber:
Solar-panel maker Solyndra went bust in 2011, leaving taxpayers liable for $535 million in federal guarantees. And that represents just a fraction of Obama’s $80 billion clean-technology program.
The Solyndra debacle didn’t deter Obama. In his State of the Union address in February, he announced plans to reinvest federal oil-and-gas drilling revenues into research on electric vehicles, biofuels, fuel cells, and natural gas-powered vehicles.
The authors of the freedom study said the threat of government intrusion spanned the spheres of both economic and personal freedoms.
“Where legislators think they’re responsible for protecting you from yourself and choosing the menus of your meals, it’s no great surprise that they also see fewer limitations on their power in other areas. After all, if they’re taking your food, why not also take your money?” wrote Ruger and Sorens.
And that’s why, they say, the study shows Americans are migrating to more fiscally-conservative states, with New Yorkers “voting with their feet.”
“On net, between 2000 and 2010, New York saw 1.7 million of its residents move to other states. While the Empire State’s overall population didn’t drop – the births of new New Yorkers and the arrival of new immigrants prop up the figures – it shed 8.9 percent of its 2000 population.”
Ruger and Sorens said, while the big problem in New York is high taxes, in California it’s too many regulations on business.
“The Golden State, with hundreds of miles of picturesque Pacific coastline, nonetheless managed to drive off a net of 1.5 million residents between 2000 and 2010 — over 4 percent of its 2000 population. And Californians’ personal income actually contracted by 0.4 percent per year in the seven years before the Great Recession struck, a record worse than any other state besides Michigan.”
The study accounted for such factors as the geographic desirability of warmer states. But even accounting for that, “Arizona, which ranks 11th on freedom, saw 700,000 people move in from other states – 13.9 percent of its 2000 population.”
“That’s not a coincidence,” the authors conclude.