The Most Socialist States in America

Socialist Who?

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. 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. Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue


What is a 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 least and the 10 most socialist states in America. Read on – the results may surprise you. Photo Credit: joiseyshowaa


10th Least Socialist State: Washington

Leading off our ranking of the LEAST socialist states is Washington, home to the beautiful Cascade mountains. Politically, Washington is quite liberal. It was the first state in the country to have elected women for governor and both of its Senate seats, and has gone Democrat in every presidential election since 1988. Washington’s budget accounts for only 9.7% of the state’s total output, making it the 10th least socialist state in the union. Gross Domestic Product (2009): $338,334,000,000 Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $32,817,000,000 Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 9.7% Photo Credit: fddi1


9th Least Socialist State: Missouri

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $239,752,000,000 Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $22,426,000,000 Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 9.4% Photo Credit: happysteve


8th Least Socialist State: Georgia

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $395,194,000,000 Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $36,203,000,000 Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 9.2% Photo Credit: Joe Shlabotnick


7th Least Socialist State: South Dakota

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $38,308,000,000 Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $3,496,000,000 Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 9.1% Photo Credit: Sebastian Bergmann


6th Least Socialist State: Virginia

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $408,443,000,000 Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $36,963,000,000 Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 9.0% Photo Credit: Taber Andrew Bain


5th Least Socialist State: Florida

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $737,038,000,000 Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $65,517,000,000 Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 8.9% Photo Credit: Karen Horton


4th Least Socialist State: New Hampshire

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $59,400,000,000 Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $4,871,000,000 Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 8.2% Photo Credit: Leventhal Map Center


3rd Least Socialist State: Texas

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $1,144,695,000,000 Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $89,907,000,000 Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 7.9% Photo Credit: pcxHB


2nd Least Socialist State: Illinois

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $630,398,000,000 Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $48,379,000,000 Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 7.7% Photo Credit: laffy4k


Least Socialist State: Nevada

Gross Domestic Product (2009): $126,503,000,000 Total State Expenditures (FY 2009): $8,300,000,000 Expenditures as Proportion of GDP: 6.6% Nevada’s respect for personal freedoms makes it unique in our nation. Legalized gambling and prostitution, as well as open container laws, are testament to the state’s laissez-faire approach to influencing its population. The numbers here show that this lax approach to intervening in people’s daily lives extends to the state economy as well. Nevadans seem to be rather wary of government in general, as Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle made the most of her anti-taxation message to mount a serious challenge to Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader who kept his seat by 5% of the vote in the recent midterm elections. The governorship is most important when considering state budgets though, and Republican Brian Sandoval’s landslide victory in November reflects the population’s conservative leanings in deciding who they want to run their state. With expenditures amounting to a mere 6% of its GDP, Nevada holds the honor of being the least socialist state in the country. Photo Credit: Matthias Ott


10th Most Socialist State: 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% Leading 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. Photo Credit: Patricia Drury


9th Most Socialist State: 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% Photo Credit: missrogue


8th Most Socialist State: 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% Photo Credit: StuSeeger


7th Most Socialist State: 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% Photo Credit: 52890443@N02


6th Most Socialist State: 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% Photo Credit: Ken Lund


5th Most Socialist State: 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% Photo Credit: a4gpa


4th Most Socialist State: 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% Photo Credit: mpd01605


3rd Most Socialist State: 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% **note: after publication of this article, revised data for FY 2009 put Alabama's expenditures at $19,760,000,000, equivalent to 11.6% of state GDP and effectively removing the state from this ranking. Photo Credit: Southernpixel


2nd Most Socialist State: 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% Photo Credit: Len@Loblolly Photo


Most Socialist State: 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 will explain for some how the state’s expenditures have come to account for 32.1% of total output. Photo Credit: Joelk75


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