Kevin Price
Discussing the rise and decline of states on Fox News Strategy Room
By Kevin Price
October 1, 2009

I always enjoy the opportunity to join the panel on Strategy Room. This being the week of its first year anniversary of that program made it all the more special. On the show we covered many things, including why certain states prosper and why others do not. I knew exactly where the conversation was going when the Host, Eric Bolling started discussing the decline of Detroit and other historically industrialized cities that are all in decline and out of no where he started naming states (mainly in the South) that seem to be enjoying economic growth. He asked, "what do these have in common?' The answer was simple; they are Right to Work states.

Right to Work states allow employees to choose whether they join a union, while closed union shop states make union membership compulsory. How significant of an impact does such have an economy? A report by Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal and best selling author Arthur Laffer, published by the American Legislative Council, discusses the common Characteristics of Rich and poor States. The authors do a thorough investigation of why the ten richest states have prospered and why the ten poorest have struggled. The report covers ten years, 1997 to 2007.

The states that have enjoyed the most prosperity over the last decade, according to the study, are Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Virginia, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nevada, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas. On average, these ten states witnessed an 85.1% increase in the states' gross state product growth, an 87.9% increase in personal income growth, a 55.9% increase in personal income per capita growth, and a 20.4 percent increase in population growth.

On the opposite end of the economic spectrum you have Hawaii, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New York. These unfortunate states have only seen a 59.3% increase in the states' gross state product growth, a 60.7% increase in personal income growth, a 52.3% increase in personal income per capita growth, and a mere 4.4 percent increase in population growth.

There are several similar characteristics between the rich and poor states in one area in particular, which is in the policies they pursue. For example, all but one of the winners are Right to Work states (Colorado). Meanwhile, all of the losers are under force unionism. When unions (and their higher benefits, wages, and other labor expenditures) are a fixed cost of doing business, those states are simply less attractive, which leads businesses to businesses moving to more business friendly states.

It doesn't stop with unions. The ten losers are noted for having excessively high taxes on businesses and high income earners. When these income earners feel such pressure, they know they cannot always "fight" the policies effectively, so they take "flight" to states that are friendlier to business and wealth creation. Furthermore, the losers are known for more excessive regulations than the winners, another cost in time and money in building a business. Finally, these losers often have crippling licensure laws that undermine entrepreneurship and economic activity. Laffer and Moore's study goes much further by examining several "principles" of effective taxation and shows huge disparity between the winners and losers. The bottom line is that some states create an environment that is more business friendly. As a result, those states enjoy lower unemployment and higher economic growth.

The results of the states that ignore the ability of businesses and the affluent to flee such policies have led to a huge decline in both prosperity and even population growth in the "loser" states. The study should be read by policy makers, business owners, and individuals who want to live in states of prosperity and not poverty.

© Kevin Price


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Kevin Price

Kevin Price is Publisher and Editor in Chief of

His background is eclectic and includes years of experience in both business and public policy, as well as two decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He was an aide to U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey (R-NH) and later went on to work in policy areas with some of the nation's leading think tanks including the National Center for Public Policy Research and was part of the Heritage Foundation's Annual Guide to Public Policy Experts... (more)


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