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Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, Which Is the Biggest Moocher State of All?

Which state gets the biggest share of its budget from the federal government? Is it California, the left’s bizarre alternative universe? Is it Illinois, the poster child for big-government excess? Nope, not even close. As a matter of fact, those two jurisdictions are among the 10-least dependent states. And if you’re guessing that the answer […]

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The Five Worst Ballot Initiatives of 2016

In just 10 days, voters will go to the polls and deal with the rather distasteful choice of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In some states, they also will have an opportunity to vote for or against various ballot initiatives and referendums. Here are the five proposals that would do the most damage in my […]

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Pension Promises to State and Local Bureaucrats Are a Ticking Time Bomb

America’s main long-run retirement challenge is our pay-as-you-go Social Security system, which was created back when everyone assumed we would always have a “population pyramid,” meaning relatively few retirees and lots of workers. But as longevity has increased and fertility has decreased, the population pyramid increasingly looks like a cylinder. This helps to explain why […]

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Advice for Taxpayers: If You Can’t Move to Hong Kong or the Cayman Islands, Move to Florida or Indiana

One (hopefully endearing) trait of being a policy wonk is that I have a weakness for jurisdictional rankings. At least if they’re methodologically sound. This is why I was so happy a couple of weeks ago when I got to peruse and analyze the 2016 version of Economic Freedom of the World (even if the […]

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From New Hampshire at the Top to New York at the Bottom, Ranking Freedom at the State Level

Proponents of liberty generally are big fans of federalism. In part, this is simply an issue of “good governance” since both voters and lawmakers at the state and local level are more likely to actually understand the real issues in communities and be able to develop policies that are more sensible. But we also like […]

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The Growing Crisis of Excessive and Unfunded Retirement Benefits for State and Local Bureaucrats (and a Libertarian Quandary)

I’ve written (some would say excessively) about the fact that America has too many bureaucrats and that they’re paid too much. That’s true in Washington. That’s true at the state level. And it’s true for local governments. But since I’m a big believer in beating a dead horse, let’s revisit this issue. We’ll narrow our […]

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Blue State Fail: California’s Long-Term Economic Decline

Something doesn’t add up. People like me have been explaining that California is an example of policies to avoid. Depending on my mood, I’ll refer to the state as the France, Italy, or Greece of the United States. But folks on the left are making the opposite argument. A writer for the Huffington Post tells […]

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Lessons from State Tax Policy: Kudos for Tennessee and Texas, Mockery for New York and California

Just like with nations, there are many factors that determine whether a state is hindering or enabling economic growth. But I’m very drawn to one variable, which is whether there’s a state income tax. If the answer is no, then it’s quite likely that it will enjoy better-than-average economic performance (and if a state makes […]

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Ranking States for Income Taxes and Government Efficiency

There’s no agreement on the most important variable for state tax competitiveness. You could make a strong case that it is the overall share of income taken by politicians in the state. Or you could argue that the tax system for employers is the key metric. And the top tax rate obviously is an important […]

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A Learning Moment about Government Greed for Yale’s Cloistered Academics

Even though it’s theoretically possible to design a desirable budget deal that includes a tax increase, I’m a big advocate of the no-tax-hike pledge for the simple reason that – in the real world – support for genuine spending restraint and real entitlement reform evaporates once politicians think higher revenues are an option. Heck, bumping […]

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The Middle Class Is Voting with its Feet against California and other High-Tax States

Long-run trends are an enormously important – yet greatly underappreciated – feature of public policy. Slight differences in growth can have enormous implications for a nation’s long-run prosperity. Gradual shifts in population trends may determine whether a nation faces demographic decline. Modest changes in the growth of government can make the difference between budgetary stability […]

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The State with the Best Tax Policy Is Actually South Dakota

Federalism is great for many reasons. When you have dozens of states with the freedom to choose different policies, you get lots of innovation and diversity, which helps identify policies that work. You also can minimize the cost of mistakes. When a policy error occurs in one state (for example, government-run healthcare in Vermont), it […]

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The Kansas Tax Cuts Are Working, and that’s Why Statists Are Worried

I was in Montreal last week for a conference on tax competition, where I participated in a debate about whether the corporate income tax should be abolished with my crazy left-wing friend Richard Murphy. But I don’t want to write about that debate, both because I was asked to take a position I don’t really […]

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Alaska’s Oil-Fueled Spending Binge Violates Fiscal Policy’s Golden Rule, Leads to Budget Mess

If you look at oil-rich jurisdictions around the world, it’s easy to see why experts sometimes write about the “resource curse.” Simply stated, governments don’t have much incentive to be responsible when they can use oil as a seemingly endless source of tax revenue. From the perspective of voters, this seems like a good deal. […]

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Why Doesn’t Hillary Learn any Lessons from the Slow Suicide of California and other High-Tax States

Here’s a quiz for readers. When politicians increase taxes, the result is: a) More spending? b) More red ink? c) Fewer jobs? d) Out-migration of productive taxpayers? e) Reduced competitiveness? f) Less investment? g) A bigger underground economy? h) More corruption? i) Less economic output? This is a trick question because the answer is (j), […]

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Measuring the Frugality (or lack thereof) of the GOP Governors Running for the White House

There are eight current or former governors running for the Republican nomination in 2016. In alphabetical order, we have Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Rick Perry, and Scott Walker. So who’s the best of that bunch? That’s a subjective judgement, of course, but one valuable piece of information […]

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State Fiscal Rankings and Implications for Public Policy and the 2016 Presidential Race

There’s an old saying that states are the laboratories of democracy. But since I’m a policy wonk, I focus more on the lessons we can learn from the states about public policy. Such as the importance of limiting the destructive nature of taxes. Such as the economic benefits of not having an income tax. Such […]

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Polygamy, Gay Marriage, and the Role of Government

Since I’m a bit old-fashioned, I think polygamy is rather weird. And it would also be a practical nightmare. Thinking about it from a guy’s perspective, imagine having to remember multiple birthdays and anniversaries? Not to mention dealing with a more complicated approval process if you want to get permission to join another softball league […]

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A Quandary on Taxes and Guns for Libertarians and Small-Government Conservatives

If you’re a libertarian or a small-government conservative, it’s quite likely you believe both these statements. Instead of picking winners and losers with special preferences and penalties, the tax code should be simple and fair, treating all economic activity similarly. Anything that reduces revenue to government is a good thing, and it’s especially good if […]

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The State of Washington Should Learn a Very Important Lesson from Connecticut about the Dangers of an Income Tax

Every so often, I get asked why I’m so rigidly opposed to tax hikes in general and so vociferously against the imposition of new taxes in particular. In part, my hostility is an ideological reflex When pressed, though, I’ll confess that there are situations – in theory – where more taxes might be acceptable. But […]

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