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GOP-Governed and Right-To-Work States Saved the Economy's Bacon in 2011

Now let's look at the top six job-gainers in percentage employment growth:


All six have Republican governors and are right-to-work states. Imagine that. Louisiana has been especially resilient despite the federal government's deliberately slow approvals of post-spill Gulf drilling permits.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and his state's legislature have decided that 2012 ought be the year to get with the right-to-work prosperity. Though the Hoosier State outperformed most of its neighbors during the former George W. Bush budget director's first four years in office, the past couple have been more than a little rough. In 2011, the state added only 18,000 jobs, and its unemployment rate dropped by only a half-point to 9.0%. Daniels and Republicans rightly believe that passing right-to-work would improve the state's competitiveness, especially against its other Midwestern rivals.

At the time this column was drafted, Indiana's House had passed the legislation, and State Senate approval followed by Daniels' signature appeared to be a virtual certainty, while organized labor and Indiana's Democratic legislators were quite furious. The PR-challenged unions were seriously considering disrupting the Super Bowl in Indianapolis on February 5.

Earlier this month, in one of the most ignorant moves I've seen in some time, union leaders brought in two members from Oklahoma, which in 2001 was the last state to enact right-to-work legislation, to moan in public about how miserable the Sooner State has since become.

Hoosier state workers should be so unfortunate:

  • At 6.1%, Oklahoma's year-end unemployment rate was almost a third lower than Indiana's; at the end of 2003, the two states' rates were almost identical.
  • Since 2001, the Sooner State, whose workforce is about half of Indiana's size, has added over 87,000 jobs, about the same number as Indiana has lost.
  • The deal closer is a stunner which yours truly did not expect. Oklahoma's per capita personal income, which trailed Indiana's by 9% in 2001, exceeded it by 4% just nine years later.

Though we shouldn't forget that Oklahoma's immigration law-enforcement measures enacted several years ago have also worked in its favor (another thing organized labor has opposed), it's hard to see why the vast majority of Hoosiers who are not union members shouldn't have the opportunity to see Sooner-like improvements.

The bigger picture is that if it weren’t for the states where Republican governors are applying common sense solutions to fiscal and economic problems, along with most of the states where getting many jobs doesn’t require you to pay union dues, the economic “recovery,” such as it is, would be somewhere between awfully weak to nonexistent. Yet Washington's Democrats, led by the president, continue to insist on applying baked-over versions of the policy choices which have left the country as a whole feeling blue during his three years in office.

(Thumbnail on PJM homepage assembled from multiple Shutterstock.com images.)