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November 29 2012

Do you live or invest in a death spiral state?

Vicki E. Alger

“Thinking about buying a house? Or a municipal bond? Be careful where you put your capital. Don’t put it in a state at high risk of a fiscal tailspin,” warns Forbes.com, adding, “Two factors determine whether a state makes this elite list of fiscal hellholes.” They are a state’s maker-to-taker ratio, and its credit-worthiness:

A taker is someone who draws money from the government, as an employee, pensioner or welfare recipient. A maker is someone gainfully employed in the private sector.

Let us give those takers the benefit of our sympathy and assume that every single one of them is a deserving soul. This person is either genuinely needy or a dedicated public servant or the recipient of a well-earned pension.

But what happens when these needy types outnumber the providers? Taxes get too high. Prosperous citizens decamp. Employers decamp. That just makes matters worse for the taxpayers left behind.

The second element in the death spiral list is a scorecard of state credit-worthiness done by Conning & Co., a money manager known for its measures of risk in insurance company portfolios. Conning’s analysis focuses more on dollars than body counts. Its formula downgrades states for large debts, an uncompetitive business climate, weak home prices and bad trends in employment.

It’s easy to see how California got on our list. It has pampered a large army of civil servants while using every imaginable trick to chase private-sector jobs away. … Illinois is especially known for its dishonesty, whether among officeholders (future license plate motto: Land of Corruption) or in the habit of under-accounting for promises to government employees.

If you live or plan to invest in one of the 11 states below, Forbes.com reads the tea leaves, noting you “can look forward to a rising tax burden, deteriorating state finances and an exodus of employers.”

Forbes’ Death Spiral States: Taker/Marker Ratio

  • New Mexico-1.53
  • Mississippi-1.49
  • California-1.39
  • Alabama-1.10
  • Maine-1.07
  • New York-1.07
  • South Carolina-1.06
  • Kentucky-1.05
  • Illinois-1.03
  • Hawaii-1.02
  • Ohio-1.00
Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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