There are times when numbers tell a story just by themselves. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s claim that it would be a “Blue State Bailout” for the federal government to help places like New York and my home state of New Jersey cope with the financial consequences of covid-19 is one of those times.
President Trump echoed McConnell’s (R-Ky.) claims in a tweet Monday, asking why what he called “poorly run” Democratic-led states should be seeking bailout relief. (McConnell had suggested last week that states seek bankruptcy protection instead).
“Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help?” Trump wrote. “I am open to discussing anything, but just asking?”
In fact, however, if you look at the numbers from the Rockefeller Institute of Government, which tracks how much money each state sends to Washington and how much it gets back, you can see that McConnell’s home state of Kentucky gets a “Bluegrass State Bailout” of tens of billions of dollars every year.
McConnell’s rejection of federal aid for states risks causing a depression, analysts say
For the four federal fiscal years that ended Sept. 30, 2018, the most recent numbers available, Kentucky got $148 billion more from the federal government than the Bluegrass State sent to Washington.
Meanwhile, New Jersey got $71.7 billion less than it sent, and New York got $116.2 billion less.
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The Rockefeller Institute people, who are polite, call states like Kentucky “getters” and states like New Jersey and New York “givers.”
I’m somewhat less polite, and I call the likes of Kentucky “moocher states” and the likes of New Jersey and New York “sucker states,” a term that I got from Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.).
When you look at Page 22 of this report, you see that Kentucky is the biggest moocher state in the country.
To be sure — my three favorite weasel words — Kentucky looks like only the third biggest moocher, with Maryland and Virginia leading the list.
However, those numbers are skewed because of all the federal facilities and federal employees in those two states.
“As the states neighboring Washington, Virginia and Maryland are home to several federal agencies and workers, which means that a lot of federal contract and wage spending flows into them,” Laura Schultz, the co-author of this year’s balance-of-payments report, said in an email. “In addition to receiving high levels of federal spending,” she said, “they are also high-income states and generate higher than average tax revenue.”
That’s why I don’t consider them moochers.
On a related front, some Republicans are talking about sending China a bill for what covid-19 is costing our country.
In that same childish and posturing spirit, let me offer my own suggestion.
It’s this. New Jersey and New York, which are by far the two biggest sucker states, should send the federal government a bill for the excess money that their residents and businesses have sent to Washington.
That way, neither state would need what McConnell calls a bailout — they would just be getting some of their own back.
For that matter, the four other seriously suckered states — Massachusetts, at $47.4 billion; Connecticut, $35.6 billion; California, $25.7 billion; and Illinois, $22.4 billion — could send bills, too.
If these six sucker states — all of which, not coincidentally, are blue states — got what they asked for, they wouldn’t need any covid-19 money from Washington.
Of course, if these states sued the federal government — which they won’t, unless they take leave of their senses — they would have roughly the same chance of getting any money from Washington that the United States has of getting money from China for covid-19 compensation: zilch.
Meanwhile, as the debate rages, those of us in the sucker states that McConnell mocks will keep sending billions of dollars to Washington, which will keep funding the eleven-digit annual Bluegrass Bailout of Kentucky, the No. 1 moocher state.
And you can bet that we won’t hear any objection from McConnell about the added federal debt this particular bailout will pile onto future generations.