Politics & Policy

Rich Republicans?

Not yet. The red states are still number two, and working hard for a living.

By Jerry Bowyer

Recently the Bureau of Economic Analysis released two reports which shed a lot of light on what’s really going on in American politics. The reports show beyond question that the states that went for George W. Bush in the last election are considerably poorer than the ones that went for Kerry. The notion that the GOP is the party of the rich simply doesn’t match the economic reality.

States with the highest per capita income trend Democrat; the states with the lowest per capita income trend Republican. The top ten “blue states,” for example, had an average per capita personal income of $36,327, which is 20 percent higher than the top ten “red states,” which had an average of $30,275.

Northeastern states, which make up the geographical heart of liberalism, are considerably wealthier than the upstart Sunbelt states, and that’s just by the measure of personal income. The Northeast states also boast many more generations of accumulated financial capital than their Sunbelt cousins. In other words, income statements and balance sheets in the Northeast states reveal much richer populations.

These realities have led the Left to formulate an appearance-saving theory modeled on the book What’s the Matter with Kansas?, by Thomas Frank. In the Left’s view, scary pictures of men holding hands have led red-staters to commit economic suicide by voting Republican.

But if the GOP is not the party of the rich, is it the party of the poor? No. Increasingly, and counter to the Kansas theory, it’s becoming clear that the GOP is the party of the aspiring.

Last year, GSP (that’s GDP for states) was roughly even during the run-up to the election. That shows that there’s nothing “wrong with Kansas.” However, so far this year, the red states have shown dramatically higher income growth than the blue states. In other words, the blue states are rich, but they’re losing ground. The red states are comparatively less rich, but they’re gaining ground.

As the above chart shows, although the blue states are still considerably wealthier than the red states, the red states are currently trending upwards at a faster rate. Per capita personal income for the first quarter of 2005 jumped 1.05 percent for the red states, which is more than three times the 0.29 percent increase for their blue-state counterparts.

This pattern also shows up in more finely honed geographic measures. Ninety-seven of the 100 fastest-growing counties in America went GOP last year. These counties tend to be highly aspirational ex-urbs — areas that lie outside central cities and outside inner-ring suburbs. Your BuzzCharts author lives in such a community: Lots of land, lots of growth, lots of small business owners. Ex-urbians generally don’t come from wealth. In fact, they’re immune to class guilt because they didn’t inherit their wealth. More than the “aspiring class,” this is the “perspiring class.” After all, these people sweat to get where they’re going.

These are the new Republicans who handed the White House to George W. Bush.

– Jerry Bowyer is the author of The Bush Boom and an economic advisor to Blue Vase Capital Management. He can be reached through www.BowyerMedia.com.

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