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The Most Socialist States in America

Greg Bocquet, MainStreet
Friday, 26 Nov 2010 | 1:47 PM ET

When the Democratic Party took over the presidency and both houses of Congress in 2008, conservatives were quick to warn their supporters of a coming era of socialism led by President Barack Obama.

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Indeed, that message was a constant in the debate over the health care reform bill as well as the Congressional midterm elections, when Tea Party conservatives made taxation a rallying cry for frustrated Americans.

As the narrative of the country’s purported move toward socialism persists, MainStreet decided to evaluate which states were the most and least socialist, to get a picture of how diverse the country is in how states manage their finances.

What is 'Socialist,' Anyway?

To evaluate the degree to which different states manifest socialist principles, we started from the core definition of socialism as a form of government in which the state owns the means of production and allocates resources to its citizens at its discretion.

In other words, a purely socialist state is one in which the state is responsible for 100% of economic output and spends all of it on social programs.

Since no part of the U.S. can be considered purely socialist, we measured total expenditures as a proportion of total economic output to compare the size of the public sector in each state. Using recently released 2009 state gross domestic product figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and total state expenditures for fiscal year 2009 from the most recent report of the National Association of State Budget Officers, we have come up with the 10 most socialist states in America.

Read on; the results may surprise you. (Or jump to — Alaska?!)

10. Rhode Island

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $47,837,000,000

Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $7,587,000,000

Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 15.9%

On the list of most socialist states, tiny Rhode Island takes the 10th spot. Progressive on many social questions (the state was the second to abolish the death penalty, and was the third to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes), its residents have voted for Democrats in eight of the last nine presidential elections.

Economically, Rhode Island continually ranks among the states with the highest tax rates. Its property taxes, sales tax and income taxes are all above the respective national averages, not surprising for the 10th most socialist state on our list.

Hawaii
Photo by: Charlotte Dallot
Hawaii

9. Hawaii

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $66,431,000,000

Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $11,822,000,000

Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 17.8%

8. Arkansas

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $101,818,000,000

Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $18,403,000,000

Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 18.1%

7. Wyoming

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $37,544,000,000

Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $7,123,000,000

Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 19.0%

6. Mississippi

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $95,905,000,000

Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $19,380,000,000

Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 20.2%

5. New Mexico

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $74,801,000,000

Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $15,455,000,000

Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 20.7%

4. Vermont

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $25,438,000,000

Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $5,341,000,000

Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 21.0%

3. Alabama

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $169,856,000,000

Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $46,558,000,000

Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 27.4%

Alaska
Alaskan Dude
Alaska

2. Alaska

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $45,709,000,000

Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $14,315,000,000

Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 31.3%

1. West Virginia

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $63,344,000,000

Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $20,362,000,000

Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 32.1%

Despite the fact that Republicans won two out of three House seats in the 2010 midterm elections, West Virginia has been a Democratic state for most of its existence.

In fact, Congress’s longest-serving member ever was Robert Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat who, at the time of his death last year, had represented the state for 57 years.

On the state level, four of the past five governors have come from the Democratic Party, which could explain how the state’s expenditures have come to account for 32.1% of total output.

- Greg Bocquet is a writer for MainStreet, part of TheStreet Network.

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