Spinning the Census Numbers to the Right

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The right-wing Oregon Catalyst site quotes a study by the right-wing Americans for Tax Reform organization supposedly proving – surprise, surprise! – that right-wing economic policies promote growth and prosperity.

The ATR compared states that will gain congressional seats through reapportionment as the result of the 2010 census with those that will lose seats and found that the gainers “had significantly lower taxes, less government spending, and were more likely to have ‘Right to Work’ laws in place.”

Eight states will gain congressional seats, with Texas and Florida adding two and Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington adding one each. Eleven will lose seats, including New York and Ohio (two each) and Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania (one each).

“The average top personal income tax rate among gainers is 116% lower than among losers,” ATR says. “The total state and local tax burden is nearly one-third lower, as is per capita government spending. In eight of 10 losers, workers can be forced to join a union as a condition of employment.”

As ATR (and Oregon Catalyst) see it, all this “is further proof that fiscally conservative public policy spurs economic growth, creates jobs, and attracts population growth.”

But there’s an old axiom in logic that says correlation does not equal causation. People have many different reasons besides tax rates for choosing to live in one state rather than another. Conservatives look at these numbers through their own ideological prism and see a validation of their economic dogmas; I just see a continuation of the migration away from the Frost Belt toward the Sun Belt that’s been going on for decades.

And I hope nobody at ATR or Oregon Catalyst is going to hold up Florida (11.9% unemployment) and Nevada (14.2%) as shining examples of economic success. As far as that goes, South Carolina (10.7%) and Georgia (9.9%) aren’t much better.


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