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Post hoc or propter hoc? Public union malfeasance meets academic pusillanimity

A couple of days ago, in a column called "Phony Cuts/Real Taxes," I reproduced here a chart from Connecticut's Yankee Institute for Public Policy that contrasted the growth of the state's population for the last several decades -- only a tiny uptick -- with the growth of state expenditures: Yes, that's right, it's up, up, up and away! The increase is prodigious all along, but it really gets going after the "temporary" (ha, ha) state income tax came on line in 1991.

Those politicians: they're such cards. When it comes to taxes or other devices to convert the meum of individual wealth to the tuum of state appropriation, "temporary" always means "permanent." Did I mention, by the way, two facts about Connecticut? 1. It has the highest per-capita indebtedness of any state in the union. 2) Every statewide office in Connecticut is held by a Democrat. All of them. In 2008, the pseudo-Republican Christopher Shays -- the last Republican Congressman in New England -- said sayonara; in 2010, the rest of the offices went blue. (Bonus question: what happened to New England? Most of it used to be staunchly Republican. Now most of it is deep blue, and even more deeply in debt.)

Is there a connection here? Here's a hand-dandy chart, originally from Moody's, reproduced by CNN that tells the story.

(Click on the link for a version in which you can mouse over to see just how much you owe.) So it's states like Connecticut (your share: $4859), Massachusetts, New York, California, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, and Hawaii on one end of the spectrum and Wyoming, South Dakota, Texas, Nebraska (your share: $15), and Iowa at the other end. What are some differences between the two groups? Oh, right, states in the former group are overwhelmingly, some are exclusively, Democratic, the latter are heavily Republican. Is that an accident? Is the political complexion of a state irrelevant to its fiscal health? What do you think?

While you are pondering that, here's another post-hoc-or-propter-hoc quandary. After "Phony Cuts/Real Taxes" was posted, I heard from Andy Cowin, Chairman of the Yankee Institute, who sent me a remarkable op-ed he had published a few weeks before in The Wall Street Journal. It's entitled "Unions Try to Silence a Think Tank." (The link, I regret to inform you, presents not the full article, but only an opportunity to pay for the full article, which, let me hasten to add, is worth doing.) In his op-ed, Mr. Cowin describes how public-sector union leaders in Connecticut had filed a complaint -- what he aptly characterized as "a bizarre complaint" -- against the Yankee Institute. Their tort? "That the Yankee Institute is critical of Union practices and that our funders share the same view."