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Census migration data offers warning sign to Biden's big government vision

High-tax, heavy-regulation states lost population to states with leaner government footprint, apportionment data shows.

Updated: April 28, 2021 - 8:37am

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Ronald Reagan declared four decades ago this year that government was not the solution, it was the problem. But President Joe Biden's first speech before Congress is certain to take the opposite theme, doubling down on the notion that what America needs most right now is a bigger government where higher taxes, more regulation and more spending yield a brighter future.

"It's a once-in-a generation investment in America," Biden boasted recently in explaining his big-government bet to cure America's ills by raising taxes on companies and the wealthy and regulating the way to a more vibrant country.

As he sets his political course with Wednesday night's congressional speech, there are warning signs about the proposed journey inside the political apportionment data that his Census Bureau released Monday. The headline in that census data for most media was that several blue states lost congressional seats to red or purple states.

But inside those demographics was a stark pattern showing that Americans voted in the last decade against high-tax, indebted, aggressive regulatory states with their moving trucks. They fled the likes of California, New York and Illinois — and their historically high taxes and vast regulatory bureaucracies — for the greener pastures of Republican states in the South and Mountain West, where lower taxes, less regulation and more jobs were the draw.

It was the first time that California lost a congressional seat, the result of 2.4 million net defectors over the last two decades. When Reagan delivered his famous line in the 1980s, California was a migration magnet, home to Hollywood, aerospace giants and eventually Silicon Valley.

Today, iconic companies like Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co., Oracle Corp. Palantir Technologies Inc., Charles Schwab Corp. and McKesson Corp. are departing the Golden State for more business-friendly states. Elon Musk, one of the icons of today's technology revolutions with his portfolio of cutting-edge companies from SpaceX to Tesla, personally fled from California to Texas with a warning.

"If a team is winning for too long, they tend to get complacent," Musk said recently. "California has been winning for a long time, and I think they're taking it for granted."

Some believe the state's complacency is rooted in a willingness to let taxes and regulation keep creeping up until businesses and families find the burden worth fleeing.

Patrick Gleason, the vice president of state affairs at the anti-tax group Americans for Tax Reform, analyzed the migration pattern by tax burdens. He found that  the average top personal income tax rate for the seven states that lost seats in Congress was 6.5%, or 46% greater than the 4.45% average top income tax rate for the six states that picked up seats.

"It may give some congressional Democrats pause that Census Bureau figures show Americans are voting with their feet in favor of the very policies that the White House and congressional Democrats seek to block," Gleason wrote Tuesday in a opinion piece at Forbes magazine.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) whose low-tax, pro-business home state was one of the fastest-growing over the last decade with an 8.9% population increase, said the new Census Bureau data should be a wakeup call to big-government politicians everywhere.

"Right now, the people are …  voting, they're moving out of these blue states and moving into purple, or red states and getting away from high taxes and lockdowns and restrictions and trying to have a more normal life," she told Just the News on Tuesday. "And the Democrats, I think, are about to hit the panic button."

Not Biden, who has built his presidency on the belief a big government can deliver big and will reaffirm that message with his speech Wednesday night.