Taxpayers Get What They Pay For

Each year the US News and World Report releases their “best state rankings.”

It’s an exhaustive data analysis study that ranks each state one through 50 using complicated surveys, statistics and algorithms way over my head.

Mercifully, they boil it down to eight main criteria: healthcare, education, economy, crime and corrections, infrastructure, opportunity, fiscal stability, and natural environment.

These studies aren’t worth a whole lot in the real world despite producing some curious results.

Washington state of all places was ranked number one overall based on their analysis. New York came in at a mediocre 25th overall but miraculously our infrastructure is ranked 22nd in the country. It’s hard to believe there are 28 states with worse infrastructure than one with JFK airport, the MTA and infamous potholes.

Some of the figures can derail common prejudices while others will completely confirm them. For instance, I assumed that higher taxes come at the expense of economic productivity that could financially cripple a state.

On the contrary, liberal California is one of the least tax friendly states in the nation but they boast a GDP of over $2.5 trillion, which is by far the largest in the country and constitutes the sixth-biggest economy in the world by itself. Its vegan restaurant industry deserves its share of credit. Tax-and-spend New York has a $1.2 trillion GDP, third in the nation. If memory serves, over half of that money is directly tied to souvenir shops in New York City and craft breweries Upstate.

West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana are the most conservative states in the Union, considered very tax friendly. In solid Republican control, these folks wouldn’t trust a Democrat with their change purse. Maybe they should.

According to the data, Alabama has the poorest education of all 50 states. This confirms any patronizing stereotypes Northern Yankees might hold about the state who elected George Wallace governor four times. West Virginia has the worst economy. One might say they’ve been stuck in a filthy, dangerous, financial coal mine. Mississippi’s healthcare is the worst in America but they do have the most Confederate Flags. Louisiana provides the least opportunity to its citizens according to the report. There’s limited potential for upward mobility in the television gator-hunter business.

Taxpayers get what they pay for. States with higher taxes generally report higher satisfaction with the services they receive in return. Imagine that.

Derek Smith is a Frewsburg native.

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