When I moved from Maryland to Texas in 2009, it felt like I had moved from one country to another. Maryland is a high-tax blue state, full of government workers especially in the counties that ring the DC beltway. Democrats dominate its big cities and own its state government. But even though taxes there are high, Maryland thrives because of what goes on inside the beltway. The federal beast feeds off of states farther afield than Maryland, and feeds bedroom communities in Maryland that tend to be dominated by well-paid government workers. Maryland is beautiful but it feels old and sclerotic. There is no energy or motivation to reform anything in government at any level. Reform is in fact a threat. The same incompetents and hacks get elected to office year after year, Baltimore continues to get hollowed out by crime and drugs and policies hostile to business, and life goes on.
Texas is a completely different story. Situated about 1,500 miles from Maryland but on the international border with Mexico, Texas sprawls and brawls and wins and brags. One of the first bragging points I ran into was a striking one: More people had been moving to Texas from other states over the past few years prior to my move, making Texas the fastest growing state in the nation. I moved back because Texas is where I’m from, but in general Americans were fleeing high tax states where jobs had become scarce to Texas, one of the few states that still has no state income tax and whose government does not try to be everything to all people, and does not view business as an adjunct of big government policy or as a piggy bank to enrich and empower politicians. Texas feels young because of its libertarian vibe and because its new residents tend to be looking for a better life. They bring a new energy with them. Texas has its problems, but the prevailing attitude is that we can handle them, especially if the federal government would just do its job and otherwise stay on its leash.
That bragging point — state-to-state migration — may go away soon, though. According to Jim Petit, the IRS and the US Census Bureau are quietly doing away with measuring interstate migration patterns. After 21 years of consistently measuring how Americans move and where they go, the government is looking to stop taking the metric at all.
There will be other ways to measure migration patterns. U-Haul and other moving companies publish statistics based on how their rental moving trucks and vans are used, how often they’re rented for one-way trips from one state to another, and so forth. But none of those measures captures a full picture in the way that the IRS and Census Bureau do. The government’s data is necessary for state and local governments as well as businesses and taxpayers. It helps understand links between policies and citizen behavior. It shows how people vote with their feet when government goes too far or does too much.
The reason the Obama government is halting measuring interstate migration seems straightforward: The pattern makes the blue states look bad. More than 31,000 Maryland residents fled that state between 2007 and 2010. Many of those who left Maryland went next door to Virginia, where taxes are lower. Some of us just kept driving south. Blue California, New York, Michigan and Illinois tend to lose residents to red Texas and the gulf states. The high tax states have the worst budget deficits. The lower tax red states keep gaining residents and new businesses, and businesses keep moving from blue to red in search of friendlier business climates. Right-to-work states tend to have lower overall unemployment rates and higher economic growth. The truth hurts Democrats and their allies, in other words, so it’s time to suppress the truth.