First and foremost here, I want to underline this as being a post about being a United States citizen. Everyone who lives from the Northwest and Nunavut Territory islands in Canada’s great white north to the Tierra del Fuego of Argentina and Magallanes y Antártica of Chili are all Americans.
I am well aware of some of the emotional attachments the United States of America has to dwelling on itself as the sole heir of the American namesake while others on the American Continents may feel it’s arrogant and heavyhanded to usurp the continental name to be pegged on a single nation.
That is a discussion for another time. For now, I’m going to lean on the awkward nomenclature to refer to the US as America and those who reside as citizens Americans for clarity in crafting this post since that’s the default many readers will assume anyhow.
Truth be told, I want no part of the Murica. It’s a patronizing term endearment poking fun at the heavy tongued accent of the oft-undereducated that represent the most extreme of nationalistic, patriotic and overly exceptionalistic notions of the US psyche. Bordering on derogatory and drenched in sarcastic humor yet in some ways beloved and aspired to the caricature of Murica embodies at the same time both a self-identified cultural phenomenon and an external critique of said cultural identity.
And, there inlies the problem. Murica as the fat, gun wielding, Bible thumping, blissfully uneducated, anti-government yet not anarchistic, xenophobic, saloon fighting, beer guzzling cowpoke has become synonymous at to what it means to be American.
There are those who believe your geographic location denotes your Americaness and if you reside in the big, liberal city or along one of the coasts that somehow you’re less American that the deep south or part of the flyover states between the mountain ranges.
I call bullshit.
I am just as American when I reside in a major East Coast metropolis as any one anywhere in the US including the Murca’ hevin’ hick, grit, redneck, hillbilly, honky, hoss, country bumpkin, white trash, tailor trash, cracker, southerner who desperately want to believe otherwise. I receive all the benefits and pay all the taxes and my one vote counts the same as everyone else and it’s disheartening that not only is there a segement of the population too ignorant to understand this but there are actually elected officials and other cultural influencers who pander to and even encourage this nonsense.
Furthermore, if it weren’t for us non-Murica larger swaths of the alternate reality of America wouldn’t even exist in the first place. The point of this long winded exercise will to objectively point out the relative economic contributions of those liberal bastards the rest of Murica before we even touch on the subjective nature of what defines an American.
Who are the liberal bastards?
We’ll make this as easy as possible to define not-Murca. At a minimum it is generally the New England as Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the mid-Atlantic gateway of Connecticut, plus three of the mid-Atlantic states as New York, New Jersey and Delaware plus the whole of the west coast in California, Oregon and Washington. Even when a state, like NJ, deviates on a local political level (owning to it’s election of a GOP governor for example) the broader cultural experience and longer term ideal is that of the not-Murica.
Additionally, you may chose to include in not-Murica Maryland as the gateway to the south and Pennsylvania as the gateway to the flyover in the interpretation analysis and interpretation here. Both states functionally are mid-Atlantic region, both have purple-to-blue voting tendencies and generally have cultural tendencies and urban situations that are effectively more like their northern neighbors than anywhere else.
Finally, Hawai’i and Illinois may also fall into this group of not-Murica, although Chicago probably buoys Illinois. While I’ll mention them throughout the analysis, they’re islands (literally and figuratively) in the grander scheme of what is or is not Murica. Furthermore, urban oasis cities, like Austin, Texas, are just that and not representative of the larger state or regional behaviors as well as near impossible to include in an analysis.
Outside of the aforementioned 12 to 16 states everything else is Murica. Got it?
Generally, the New York City is the anti-Christ of Murica and the suburban sprawl the city creating a breading ground of non-Murican scum. It’s a major hub for businesses like banking, entertainment, technology, marketing, pharma and more that most of Murica distrusts almost moreso than their own government and is a hive of progressives and liberals, foreign ex-pats and immigrants, and of course it’s not very white or very Christian and certainly not clean and made up of white picket fences.
New York City Metropolitan region which is generally understood to be anywhere public transportation reaches including the five boroughs of NYC (Brookly, Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island & Queens), the two counties of Long Island (Nassau & Suffolk) the counties of the Lower Hudson Valley (Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange & Dutchess), CT’s Lower Shoreline Counties (Fairfield & New Haven) and the counties of North Jersey (generally Hudson, Bergen, Essex, Union, Passaic, Morris, Middlesex, Monmouth, Mercer and Somerset without getting technical that the latter four constitute parts of the Central Jersey and Jersey Shore regions).
Another way to look at the region though is through the lens of what’s known as the Northeast Corridor following the Amtrak rail line between Philadelphia and Boston as it traverses through NJ, NY and CT.
For ease of dealing with NYC as a metropolitan region then, I’ll simply roll together the statewide effects of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut since state level data is the most readily available. Let’s additionally say that I reside in the tri-state area generally regarded as New York State, New Jersey and Connecticut (or if you live in certain parts of NJ you might swap CT for Pennsylvania) so specifically that region is of personal note to me.
Gross State Product
According to US Debt Clock on state GSP (Gross State Product) for 2015 February two of the top three (California & New York) and five of the top ten (New Jersey plus Pennsylvania and Illinois) are those evil non-Muricans.
New York, led primarily by the metropolitan region downstate is firmly at number three, with 1.3 trillion, as it has been for well over the last decade of survey information and New Jersey is entrenched at number eight just shy of a trillion itself. Adding in top 25 Connecticut, the tri-state region boasts over 2 trillion GSP or roughly 12% of the 17 trillion US GDP.
Scaling the combined state GSP into a Gross Regional Product and scaling the GRP to international GDP it’s roughly the output of Italy, and only slightly less than that of Brazil and France while outpacing both India and Russia. New York’s alone is about the size of Spain, New Jersey rivals Indonesia and the Netherlands while Connecticut falls around Finland and Chile in size.
In truncating the data slightly using urban areas rather than full state data and using slightly older 2010 numbers (that were oft-quoted during the Hurricane Sandy debates) the estimated gross metropolitan product of of the greater NYC region was 1.28$ trillion, ranking number in the US for Gross Regional Product (doubling the next largest urban region) and representing almost 10% of the United State’s 14.6$ trillion GDP at the time. The shear size of the region in economic impact and population is second only to Tokyo worldwide, and is larger than all but 14 recognized countries.
The bottom ten contributors, returning to the 2015 data, are Vermont, Montana, Rhode Island, Wyoming, South Dakota, Maine, Alaska, North Dakota, Delaware and Idaho with a combined 531$ billion. You will notice the split is pretty even between coastal states and interior Murica. There’s something more striking though and that is the population differences between the upper GSP states and these lower ones.
For example, California is both first in population and first in GSP, Texas is second in each, New York begins the divergence being forth in population and third in GSP while New Jersey ranks 11th in population and 8th in GSP and CT is 29th in population and 23rd in GDP. On the flip side Wyoming is 50th in population and 47 in GDP, Vermont 49th in population and 50th in GDP and that trend continues with the bottom ten in population only continuing to shift slightly when looking at GDP.
Clearly, the economy is in part a function of population so we will normalize the numbers parsing GSP on a per capita basis. Using the most recent 2012 numbers from The United States Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Connecticut ranks third with 55,000/per while New York (53,000/per) and New Jersey (49,000) both rank within the top ten.
New York and New Jersey are the only two to rank top ten in both raw GSP and adjusted GSP/per. Mass falls just out of the top ten GSP but just inside for GSP/per while Texas, Virginia, Maryland and Washington State all post top 15 rankings on both. Meanwhile, some of the lower seeded raw GSP states improve drastically when normalized for per capita, including Delaware, Alaska, North Dakota and Wyoming appearing in the top five.
It is also notable that the aggregate GDP per capita for the US just about 53,000 according to the World Bank’s 2014 numbers ranking it #10 internationally and 48,000 using the original BEA median. Using the BEA numbers against the World Bank’s is a bit inaccurate since the data sets are compiled different but for reference to provide approximate proximities New York and CT individually in top ten spots when plotting their GSP/per while NJ’s would rank it a solid number eleven just behind the US aggregate, and above the Netherlands who are currently 11.
On the other side of the spectrum? Well the bottom ten states in GSP per capita are Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas, South Carolina, Idaho, Alabama, Montana, Kentucky, New Mexico, Maine and Florida. The outliers are Idaho, Montana and Maine which, unlike some of the other low raw GSP states that combined with very small population, didn’t see a boost in ranking when moving to per capita. Most notably, Florida takes a huge hit moving from forth in raw GSP to the bottom in adjusted, while states like Alabama, South Carolina and Kentucky move from roughly the middle in raw GSP to the bottom in adjusted per capita.
Florida in raw GSP ranks in line with Indonesia on an international comparison (not much different from NJ in the top 20) but in adjusted per capita tanks to the relative contribution of Spain at #30. For everyone else it looks just as bad, considering Mississippi’s raw output is about the size of Morocco falling well outside of the international top 50 and it’s adjusted is about the contribution of Portugal or Cyprus inside the top 75.
Regionally speaking, the mid-Atlantic has the strongest Gross Regional Product of any US region in both raw numbers and GRP. The next largest is New England followed by California’s region. The worst GRPs are down south, across the central plains and Montana’s region.
Seems like the hated blue states are doing a very good job holding up their part of the capitalistic American dream when it comes to driving the economy both nationally and globally while some of those all-Murican counterparts are struggling mightly to even tread water. The elimination of “non-Murican” Blue States on the whole would cripple what’s left of the union itself and even just a pairing off of the three liberal dens of NY, NJ and CT used in this analysis would be extremely painful.
Federal Taxation & Dependency
State situations go beyond their revenue producing abilities. One such measure would be comparing Federal Dependency. Currently, there is no definitive standard for Inbound Federal Benefit Dollars to a State versus their Outbound Federal Tax Receipts but Wallet Hub provides a yearly estimate in reviewing a number of inter-related factors.
According to the most recent 2014 survey, New Jersey leads the US as least dependent in the composite ratings, followed by Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota, Kansas, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nebraska and Ohio. Five of ten are non-Murica, four straight off the coasts. New York State comes in at #20 as a composite.
The bottom of the composite list should look fairly familiar: New Mexico, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, Montana, West Virginia, Arizona, Louisiana, South Dakota, Maine and South Carolina. Only one non-Murican in the bottom ten, and when you branch it out to bottom third it stays that way!
One of the biggest factors is in relation to each state’s return on Federal Investment, or how much of each dollar sent out of the state comes back to it. As you would guess, there’s an element of the Gross State Product at work here, those who can give more do and those who don’t have much to give take more.
The biggest givers are as follows: Delaware (31c returned per Taxed Dollar), Nebraska (41c), Illinois (45c), New Jersey (48c) all get back less than half of what they send out. Two coast states out of four and Illinois for good measure for three of four in Murica. New York ranks 9 (58c) while . The one notable is CT in a stunning turn from where they were several years ago is 30 (even receipts) but may be, in part, from disproportionate per capita funding for post-Sandy projects which is probably similar to the effects of anti-Fed leaders in places like Kansas reversing their “taker” ways.
Speaking of, the biggest moochers in this measure are South Carolina (5.38$ received per Taxed Dollar), North Dakota (3.83$), Alabama (2.46$), Mississippi (2.34$), New Mexico (2.19$), Kentucky (2.18$), Florida (2.02$), West Virginia (1.99$) are the states that essentially double or greater their neediest, and nary a single non-Murican among them.
If there seems to be some correlations, your eyes aren’t lying. States like New Jersey, Illinois, California, Connecticut, Nebraska and to a slightly lesser degree Iowa, Wisconsin, New York and Minnesota have higher tax rates (heavier tax burden per person) but lower dependency on the Feds (dollars received per person), while states like New Mexico, Alabama, Mississippi, and to a slightly lesser degree West Virginia, Arizona, Louisiana, South Dakota, Wyoming, North Dakota and Florida pay some of the lowest taxes while being the most dependent. Four of the five and five of the eight upper end states are non-Murica while not a single non-Murican state is at the bottom.
Taking this grouping and overlaying it with GSP/per what you end up with is only three states at the top: Connecticut, New Jersey and New York with five states in common at the bottom: New Mexico, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and West Virginia. The best state then is probably Mass in that it has low taxes and low dependency while still contributing a decent GSP and GSP/per, Delaware has a similar tax hit and dependency level but lacks the Gross State Product depth.
If it looks like many of those pesky East Coast states are doing a lot of the heavy lifting while some of those all-Murican ones are pulling up the rear in the fat and lazy category, you wouldn’t be mistaken. Specifically, the tri-state area from a tax redistribution perspective provides a significant assistance to Murica, making the region two-for-two in our analysis so far.
Maybe it’s about more than revenues and taxes from an economic or fiscal perspective. Maybe it’s about spending patterns overall as well. After all, we’re told by our red-blooded Murican leaders we have to reign in spending.
The least leveraged states (according to the States Project using Pew Center research, data from the US Census Bureau and additional information from AEI), meaning they have the least state debt including unfunded liabilities, as a percentage of GSP are Nebraska, Tennessee, Indiana, Virginia and South Dakota.
South Dakota stands out there because they pay low taxes and are highly dependent of the Feds. The dependency might be one of the reasons they’re able to remain deleveraged. Also among the top in this position are Florida, Wyoming, North Dakota and Arizona who don’t carry a lot of debt while some of their expenses are likely offset by Federal funding which they are leaders in receiving.
On the flipside holding the highest percentage of debt are Hawai’i, New Jersey, Ohio, Alaska and New Mexico. NJ is technically blue but has a GOP governor, while being a high tax, low dependency state which contributes to its need to fun itself through debt, although that’s not the sole reason for it’s unbalanced situation. CT is in a similar situation in the top 10 as is Illinois as they are both higher federal tax contributors with much lower dependencies.
New Mexico on the other hand is a low tax states that in addition to their debt rely very heavy on the Feds. Other states that are over-leveraged in the bottom include familiar names, Mississippi and Alabama, as highly reliant on the Feds while also being heavily leveraged themselves. A few other notable states who are heavily indebted include: Kentucky, West Virginia and South Carolina as examples of consistently underperforming economically states.
New York is right in the middle at 26, while Mass is 28 and oft-derided California is 30, while Texas is comparatively at 21. These states obligations are inherently different due to their massive individual raw GSP, relatively stronger GSP/per.
The reality is of the bottom 15 states only five, Hawaii, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois and Rhode Island, are considered blue with one essentially purple (Ohio) and the rest predominantly red. Those red states are in much worse positions than their blue counterparts thanks in part to the per capita adjusted GSPs in most cases.
While we can’t say the region, or non-Murica goes three for three, in the analysis as wins, while the all-Muricans definitely go three-for-three as losers when looking at the economic disparities.
So what does all this money (or lack thereof) buy for residents?
It buys education. Throughout not-Murica you have some of the strongest education numbers available. Highest high school graduation rates in the nation include almost all not-Murica states above the national average of 81% and when you strip out those who achieve graduation by appeal, by GED, or by diversification of standards some of the top performing Murica states slip considerably. Since graduation is subjective on a district by district and state by state basis but standardized test scores are not what you find is achievement above the national average is lead by not-Murica states. Alternatively, one can look at drop out and age out/pushout rates and find apart from pockets of underperformance in heavily urban areas the not-Murica experience is far better than the Murica one with more kids not falling through the cracks. One can also look at independent school rankings and find again, a greater consistency of well ranked schools within the Murica states while the lowest performing schools skew heavily to a string of southern states you’ve come to expect problems from.
Collegiate numbers are sometimes skewed because they look at post-graduate residency rather than student origination, but if you look at Forbes or US News numbers that use origination you find not-Murica leading the way on basic higher education with higher percentages of students both entering and completing first degrees. When it comes to extended education, the highest per capita terminal degree residences occur in the Northeast and California with only Texas joining in as a representation of Murica.
Health & Health Care
Health numbers are again a bit skewed for any number of reasons and in no small part due to the ACA beginning to see improvements in traditionally poor performing states. Kaiser Foundation places the not-Murica states in the upper percentiles for heath outcomes across the board with only a few states from Murica managing to reach those thresholds when it comes to quality of care and general perception of health. The Health Dept shows the average lifespan is longer in the not-Murica states beating the national average substantially and the quality of late life is better overall with fewer instances of terminal illness causing deaths below the national average age. the CDC also counts fewer diseases and fewer examples of addiction among the not-Murica states despite the historical perception of these areas and their associated raw number spikes.
While there are a few states in the midwest with superior infrastructure and a great many examples of infrastructure problems especially along the North East coordinator generally access to transportation is better in not-Murica than outside of it. This can be judged by comparing access in similar area classifications such as miles of public transportation in an urban setting or miles of sidewalk or bike paths in a suburban setting as well as number of minutes of traffic per capita in a given metropolis. While some of the longest average commutes exist in not-Murica metropolises with places like DC, LA and Boston being the butt of any number of jokes the reality is even with those and New York City’s legendary times not-Murica doesn’t do so bad for itself overall. You’re just as likely to sit in hellacious traffic in many Murican cities and the effects of suburbanization are worse in Murica due to the lack of public transportation options, side walks, etc. Several travel magazines actually rate cities like New York and Boston among the best in the world while providing some of Murica’s cities with the lowest scores that come in laughably below the likes of Moscow – a city Muricans love to deride.
All in all
My point here wasn’t to necessarily blast Murica for being what it is as much as to displell the notion that Murica is somehow superior to not-Murica. Without not-Murica much of the United States itself would not exist as it does today, and and the attempt to devalue the importance of not-Murica is actually pretty unAmerican from both the historical and current point of view.
There’s something inherently a bit racist about some of this sentiment that Murica is the only version of the US worth showcasing in its overtly white, overtly masculine, overtly “mature” presentation of itself. It’s because places like New York and New Jersey and Mass were and continue to be bastions of immigration and that diversity is as frightening now as it was over 100 years ago when Irish, Souther Europeans, Eastern Europeans and Iberians began coming over providing the foundation for much of what has become coopted into the US culture of today.
So, please, put the petty bullshit of calling New Yorkers and Californians less American because we’re in NY and CA and realize that without us Murica wouldn’t be Murica at all.