NY Times Asks: Why Do Blue States Suck?

This opinion video by the New York Times (Johnny Harris and Binyamin Applebaum) was published earlier this month, but has continued to get attention. The video begins by noting the Democrats’ professed commitment to housing opportunity, progressive taxation, and quality education. It then asks the question, what are the Democrats actually doing on these fronts in the states where they exercise complete control?

The answer is, they are doing poorly. The fact that red states are doing better than blue states is no surprise. People are abandoning California, New York, Illinois and Minnesota, and moving to Texas, Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina. These basic migration patterns, and parallel changes in economic growth, are driven by red-state economic policies–low taxation, controlled spending and rational regulation. But the Times liberals come at the issue from a different perspective, and indict their fellow liberals not for bad policy ideas, but for hypocrisy:

Sure, liberals don’t want “affordable housing” near their multi-million dollar mansions. Who can blame them? But governments in states like California have many policies in place that discourage housing development, not just in the heart of Palo Alto, but throughout the state.

The video indicts liberal states for not sharing property tax revenues equally among school districts. But money isn’t the problem: in Minnesota, for example, property tax revenues are shared equally among school districts, and it makes no difference. The problem in inner-city public schools is not money, which in many cases is overflowing. The problems are 1) cultural, and 2) the result of the fact that the teachers’ unions run the schools, not for the benefit of kids but for the benefit of union members.

And, of course, the Times video doesn’t mention the fact that in blue states, school choice, the one realistic path to a better education for poor urban children, is blocked not by conservatives–who advocate for school choice, but in any event have no power in those environments–but by Democratic Party liberals who owe their souls to the teachers’ unions.

For all of the above reasons, achievement gaps in red cities are lower than those in blue cities, as liberals have recently admitted.

As for maniacally progressive taxation, it is obvious that high-tax states are losing jobs, residents and wealth to lower-tax states. The idea that states like Washington should enact a progressive income tax in order to live up to Democratic “ideals” is ridiculous. The fact that Washington doesn’t have an income tax (despite its reputation as a blue state) is a principal key to that state’s strong growth, which benefits pretty much all residents.

So I think the Times’ analysis is fundamentally misguided. The problem is not that Democrats don’t live up to their ideals, but rather that they have the wrong ideals. Sure, liberals are hypocrites. But that is actually one of their better qualities.