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Poor Texas

Matthew Yglesias notes that Tom DeLay is under the strange misapprehension that Texas is rich thanks to its low taxes and lack of regulation.
Just one minor issue: you really shouldn’t use median income, which can be distorted to the extent that inequality differs across states. You should instead use income per capita. As it happens, the comparison is even more striking. Texas, with its glorious free market regime and deeply incentive-creating 25 percent rate of health uninsurance, has a per capita income of $37,187; nanny-state New Jersey, with its oppressive taxes and regulation of everything (what it takes to get permission to cut down a dying tree … ), has a per capita income of $49,194.

I repeat my question from before: If Democrats were saying, "If Bush wins I'm going to move to [insert any of a list of 10 successful liberal countries]" what were Republicans saying recently? A place where religion rules and abortion is illegal like Iran? A place where free markets rule and there are few minorities like China?

A lot of Texas make fun of my New Jersey roots but, gosh, when income per capita is used (and Krugman is right: IPC is *much* better metric than median income) it looks like Paul and I are living in a place that's doing a better job.

Oh, and before someone complains that this is more "libertarian bait", start all posts by naming the country is an example of libertarian perfection and my reply will be based on the income per capita metric that I can find. (you can save me time by looking it up yourself, and linking to your source)

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I didn't follow your link, and I may be missing something in the jesting nature of this post... but you do realize China has minorities, right? I mean, even aside from the horrible situation with Tibet, there are many different recognized ethnicities, several of which have different laws applicable to them.

I don't know if Tom was being tongue-in-cheek, but I'm pretty sure Krugman was as far as median vs. per capita. The reason Krugman gave for using per capita has its sign reversed and is the exact reason why median is a better measure of most people's well-being. per capita (which is the mean rather than the median) has its uses, but this isn't one of them.

The reason (I'm pretty sure) Krugman wrote what he did is that he's mimicking libertarian and neoclassical economist's fallacious arguments and showing that by their own distorted standards, Texas is even worse.

In fact, once cost of goods and services is taken into account, Texas isn't quite as badly off, I'd guess. But still worse than those parts of the country that recognize the value of working together and sometimes havin ght government do the coordination.

I think what Krugman means is that it's better to look at per-capita income than "per household" income. Whether it's a mean or a median doesn't matter as much, except that the US Census reports "median household income" vs. "mean per-capita income" for some reason.

And in fact, if they were both per-capita, median income (which corrects for a small number of billionaires, which can drive a mean income upward even if you have lots of people in poverty) would be a better way of telling whether a place has a good standard of living.

But with the data we get, you have to look at both.

Median Household ("per casa") Income, 2007:
New Jersey: $67,035
Texas: $47,548

Per Capita (mean) Income, 2005:
New Jersey: $40,427
Texas: $29,372

Source: US Census Bureau, American Community Survey; via Wikipedia

So it doesn't make a lot of difference to Krugman's point about Texas; it sucks by comparison either way. Now Utah, on the other hand, with a 13th-ranked "median household" of $55,109, is belied by its 47th-ranked "mean per capita" of $24,977. Larger households, fewer earners, allows "household income" numbers to hide the poverty.

Switzerland's often cited as some kind of utopia by libertarians.

Switzerland has very low taxes. However, you're required to register your address with the authorities and pay by the bag to have your non-recyclable rubbish disposed of - and if you don't pay, your local government will go through your rubbish to work out whose it is and fine you. Plus, even though personal income taxes may be low, witholding taxes on savings and similiar things aren't.
Switzerland has liberal firearms laws. However, unless you're in the army reserves you're very restricted as to where you can take them and what you can do with them.
Switzerland has a system of direct democracy and referendums on a lot of things (including every citizen's right to force a referendum on any law if they can gather enough signatures). However, people keep voting for fiendish liberal things like assisted suicide and bans on smoking in public. Sometimes they even vote to raise taxes, too.

Oh, and I forgot to mention...

You should see the emissions regulations, paperwork requirements for owning a car (not least two sets of tyres for summer and winter, changed as appropriate) and the peoples' habit of voting for reduced commercial traffic (the kilometre-based tax which trucks transitting the country have to pay, for instance) and massive publicly-funded infrastructure projects like the Gotthard Base Tunnel - total cost CHF19.1 billion, or CHF2519 per head of population!

I think most libertarians would be okay with a fee to have your rubbish disposed of. Is refuse management a service that government is particularly qualified to provide?

Also, re your second post, two sets of tires makes sense in a mountainous country. Having appropriate tires as a requirement of using the roads is a fine thing. It makes everyone safer, and reduces wear and tear.

Also, a tax for transiting trucks makes sense too. It directly puts on the trucks the costs of their using the roads. If they don't want to pay the taxes, they can go around Switzerland. I think most libertarians would say that the main problem there is the governmental ownership of the roads, not use-based fees.

Very interesting. So Switzerland has a lot more libertarianism in the legal structure than the US, but the people there act like US "liberals" blended with the legendarily uptight/precise Swiss attitude towards life, which makes it end up looking not terribly different than here.

I suspect the cost of living here is a bit lower as well. There are good things and bad things about Texas.

The zealotry that both the Democrats and the Republicans seem to be using to denigrate the opposition is getting really irritating. There are a lot of people who are fed up with both parties and who are becoming more and more vocal. I spent some of this afternoon talking to people who not only object to many of the policies and direction of the current administration, they also really object to many of the things the previous administration did to this country. Calling them disgruntled Republicans who are angry that Obama won the election is just plain wrong.

Didn't see anyone throwing tea parties to protest the last administration, and I most particularly didn't see any one of my friends and acquaintances who are a) bitching now, and b) claiming to have been just as pissed off at GW, standing up at any point between 2001 and 2008 to protest any of the prior administration's policies, decisions, or directions.

My favorites are the people protesting Obama's authorship of the $700 billion bank bailout (you know, the one that GW rammed through before he left office)--priceless, really.

The only difference between the "zealotry" now and the zealotry of the past eight years is that now it's two-sided--looks pretty ugly when everyone plays by the same rules, doesn't it?

It takes time for people to become unhappy enough to actually start to take action. There were lots of folks who were quite vocal about Bush's actions, but there was also a feeling of helplessness. Obama represents change and hope, so maybe folks are willing to actually take action.

I'm still waiting to see many of the previous administration's blatently unconstitutional actions and policies be reversed.

Democrats threaten to move, Republicans threaten to secede. I think the difference is because Republicans have more guns and are more patriotic.

How does patriotism==threatening to secede?

It doesn't really. But questioning the patriotism of Democrats is a frequently-used Republican political tactic.

A couple of things I would like to point out:

First, Texas was not the first legislature to pass resolutions asserting their 10th Amendment rights. So, don't pick on just us.

Second, there has been an undercurrent of "maybe we should be our own country again" for at least 50 years that I know of. The idea of seceding is not a new one.

Raw Income Comparisons Aren't Useful...

...unless they account for cost-of-living differences in the two locations.

You can't buy nearly as much with your $ in NJ (save gasoline) as you can in TX. Housing costs are just night-and-day with NJ being FAR higher than TX.

That $37k in TX will go a lot further than 49k will in NJ, I can promise you that.

Re: Raw Income Comparisons Aren't Useful...

Raw comparisons aren't useful? But this is in response to libertarians doing raw comparisons in the other direction. So, you are calling the entire debate ludicrous? How dare you, sir. Quoating raw statistics with zero context IS WHAT MADE THE INTERNET GREAT!

What are you... some kind of internet-hating luddite?

Go back to your rhetoric classes, old man. And in the future, try to keep it to less than 140 bytes so it fits on twitter format.

Re: Raw Income Comparisons Aren't Useful...

but seriously...

Please tell me what the cost of living difference is (with a citation) and then tell me if the income, adjusted for CoL, is higher in NJ.

Re: Raw Income Comparisons Aren't Useful...

So Missouri published some national data for 4Q2008 on the "cost of living indices". A lower number is better than a higher number. Obviously.

So if we take TX and NJ's per capita income, and divide by the index, a higher number would, in theory, be better. (e.g., represent how far that dollar stretched over the lower cost of living).

TX: 37187 / 90.5 = 410.83
NJ: 49194 / 129.4 = 380.17

So it appears at least, that TX's lower per-capita income is still a "better deal" than NJ's higher income, as it will go farther with TX's much lower cost-of-living.

Re: Raw Income Comparisons Aren't Useful...

Ah, but 410 and 380 are so close it is a wash. That demonstrates the libertarian principle that markets always work to even everything out. So, I guess it doesn't matter what you do, everything is fine.

Wait a sec... that can't be right!

They're all going to move to Galt's Gulch.

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