VOTING WITH THEIR FEET
Daniel Henniger reports a mass exodus of people from “blue” states to “red” states.
When the Los Angeles Times published a story on the outflow, it didn’t have much trouble identifying the reason: The exodus is economic. In the world’s stalest states, such as Germany or Japan, people faced with cost-of-living waters rising to choking levels turn numb and go nowhere. But here in the U.S. moving on is a tradition, and today we have Web sites to reveal a suitable refuge from state political cultures intent on keeping the spending and tax spigot open.
Monstermoving.com lets you discover relative buying power if you lived somewhere else. Let’s type in L.A. and Tucson, just next door: “A salary of $30,000 in Los Angeles has the same buying power that a salary of $13,448 has in Tucson.” For Las Vegas the figure is $13,241. If on top of this they elect a Gray Davis governor, why stay?
New Yorkers’ third-favorite refugee camp is North Carolina. Easy to see why: You’ve got to earn $45,000 in the Big Apple to buy what $7,191 gets in Durham. As the Census report dryly puts it: “Five times as many people moved from New York to North Carolina as moved in the opposite direction.” Yes, retirees go to Florida, but the size of the flow is mind-boggling; in five years, 308,000 New Yorkers went there. It is now economically irrational for a middle-class person to retire in New York City.
If owning a home is central to the American dream, the blue states are becoming a nightmare. Realtor.com lets you learn why the dream is turning red: a three-bedroom house that costs $285,000 in L.A. is $155,725 in Tucson.
New York City’s hostility to 20-something apartment seekers, the seed-corn of its economy, is legendary. But a two-bedroom apartment goes for $760 in Richmond, Va., and $895 in Nashville, Tenn. For those prices you can’t sleep on the street in New York. Many young New Yorkers spend 50% of their before-tax income on rent. Of the 10 states with the highest combined tax burden, eight are blue states, according to the Tax Foundation.
Having moved only a year ago from one of the lowest cost of living states, Alabama, the the D.C. exurbs of Northern Virginia–opposite the general trend–I can certainly sympathize with this problem. Of course, salaries are also higher in more expensive areas, if not always enough to compensate for the differential cost of housing and taxation.
The linkage to “red” and “blue” states is not somewhat misleading, however. It certainly doesn’t follow that the country therefore becomes more “red” as a result of this migration. Indeed, Colorado, Florida, and the Carolinas are becoming less Republican over time–largely as a result of this migration pattern. While some people who move from, say, New York to Texas in order to buy a more substantial house and escape oppressive taxes will thereby be more sympathetic to Republicans, most will maintain their longstanding party affiliations in their new locale.
(Hat tip: Robert Prather)