Fox's Economic Argument For Secession Would Actually Create A “Confederacy of Takers”

Fox News' The Five argued that petitions created and signed by people calling for secession from the United States following President Obama's re-election were justified because conservative-leaning “red states” are more financially responsible than liberal-leaning “blue states.” But data shows that secession would lead to what is being called a “Confederacy of Takers” because “red states” tend to receive more in federal benefits than they pay in taxes, while “blue states” typically receive less.

In 2011, Obama established a mechanism for people to create and sign petitions on the White House website, and if any petition receives 25,000 or more signatures within 30 days, White House officials will respond to the petition. In the days following Obama's re-election, people have filed secession petitions for several states, including Mississippi and Alabama.

Fox's The Five gave credence to the states calling for secession, suggesting that some of the red states that filed the petitions have an economic argument. Co-host Greg Gutfeld proposed pitting “red states” featured in the secession petitions -- such as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas -- against “blue states” and seeing who succeeds financially. Guest co-host and Fox regular KT McFarland suggested it was the “richer states,” particularly the Southern states, that will have to bail out “bankrupt” states like California. Co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle was similarly frustrated at states “sponging off the states that are making money.”

However, according to 2010 data compiled by Talking Points Memo from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Internal Revenue Service, “red states” generally are receiving more from the federal government in benefits than they pay in taxes when compared to “blue states.” Indeed, a chart made by TPM shows that several of the states calling for secession (and defended by Fox News) pay on average less in taxes than they receive in federal benefits:

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank offered similar arguments in a November 13 column on the irony of “red states” wanting to secede from the union. He showed that the majority of “red states” receive “far more from the federal government in expenditures than they pay in taxes,” citing statistics from an analysis of tax and revenue data by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation in 2006:

Red states receive, on average, far more from the federal government in expenditures than they pay in taxes. The balance is the opposite in blue states. The secession petitions, therefore, give the opportunity to create what would be, in a fiscal sense, a far more perfect union.

Among those states with large numbers of petitioners asking out: Louisiana (more than 28,000 signatures at midday Tuesday), which gets about $1.45 in federal largess for every $1 it pays in taxes; Alabama (more than 20,000 signatures), which takes $1.71 for every $1 it puts in; South Carolina (26,000), which takes $1.38 for its dollar; and Missouri (22,000), which takes $1.29 for its dollar.

Since the effort gained attention this week, copycats in all but a few states have joined the petition drive. To be fair, White House officials could refuse the secession petitions of states Obama won, such as New York (which gets only 79 cents on its tax dollar), Michigan (85 cents) and Colorado (79 cents).

What would be left is a Confederacy of Takers, including relatively poor states such as Alaska, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. One of the few would-be Confederacy members that pays more than it receives is Texas, which because of oil money is roughly break-even at 94 cents of benefits for its tax dollar. (The statistics, from an analysis of tax and revenue data by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, were published in 2006, but the broad pattern doesn't vary much over time.) 

Co-host Eric Bolling eventually made this very point, saying, “if you break it down by red or blue, the red states definitely receive more than they put in.”