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For decades, liberals loved to gloat about the economic productivity of blue states, characterizing red America as a backward and culturally insignificant relic that had to be subsidized by the far more advanced and profitable sectors of the country. This was always a bit of an odd talking point for a movement that pretended to champion the poor and reject the excesses of capitalism, but never make the mistake of believing leftists care more about the values they espouse than the opportunity to spit on an enemy.
It was never a very factual argument, as much of the subsidies provided to red states were agricultural and served to drive down the cost of food across the country, but progressive journalists and pundits love to sneer at their lessers and rarely think about where their food comes from. What is now beyond debate is that the economic power in the United States is shifting south, as a report from Bloomberg recently revealed. Over 2 million people moved to the South over the last two years, taking $100 billion in wealth with them, and that migration is reshaping the economic landscape of the nation.
According to the report, the collective economic power of six states in the Southeast — Florida, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee — now contribute more to GDP than the Northeastern states. This shift in economic dominance occurred during the COVID pandemic, and the trend has shown no sign of slowing down.
The metropolitan areas of the South are booming as the region dominates the rest of the nation in job growth. Real estate prices have skyrocketed, and new construction has risen rapidly as housing markets seek to keep up with the increased demand in red America. A region that has long been ridiculed as the poverty-stricken backwater of the nation is transforming into America’s most impressive economic engine.
The South has long sought to make itself a tempting target for wealth migration, with many states featuring a relatively cheap cost of living and a low, or nonexistent, income tax. Many retirees have discovered that their New York City pensions go much farther below the Mason-Dixon line. Southern states have also attempted to lure corporations to relocate to their metro areas with generous subsidies or the suspension of development impact fees. Those efforts had already borne fruit, but the lockdowns and economic disruption of the pandemic rapidly accelerated the movement of individuals and corporations into regions that had been more resistant to the biomedical tyranny that accompanied the COVID outbreak. The inability to operate a business or leave one’s home turned out to be the push that many need to finally make the move southward.
The advantages of life in blue America have always been clear. Urban areas dominated by liberal politics offered economic, social, and cultural opportunities that simply could not be found anywhere else. Crime, drugs, and other social ills may have been exacerbated by permissive progressive policies, but many were willing to pay the cost for access to the numerous benefits that these economic powerhouses could provide.
That calculus had already begun to shift as the radical drive to essentially legalize crime seized the progressive movement. Theft, vandalism, and drug crime naturally escalated as an increasing number of progressive jurisdictions refused to prosecute violators, and leftist district attorneys, often elected with the help of George Soros, reduced the sentences of violet criminals and those facing weapons charges. Shoplifting rings regularly emptied the shelves of large retailers without fear of punishment, prompting corporations to abandon those areas altogether. Calls to defund or completely abolish the police accompanied the Black Lives Matter riots of 2020. Law-abiding citizens who had dutifully shuttered their business and churches in response to the pandemic watched rioters burn down those same storefronts while being cheered on by progressive politicians. The trade-offs for living in a blue state may once have been worth the sacrifice, but it became increasingly clear that relocation was quickly becoming an existential question.
The economic shift of southern migration may grab the headlines, but it would be a mistake to ignore the social and political factors. Many who already understood the financial benefits of relocation had their hand forced by the progressive revolution that was consuming their home states. These culture war refugees sought to escape a social climate where sexualization, radical gender theory, and outright mutilation were being pushed on their children. The constant witch hunt to cancel conservatives and the social alienation felt by the few right-of-center residents remaining in blue states eventually became too overwhelming to ignore.
Cultural degradation may have been something that people were willing to put up with as long as the financial benefits continued to flow, but those who had not completely embraced the progressive revolution quickly found that their neighborhoods were unsafe, their children were brainwashed, and their human resource departments were seeking to fire them. In previous decades the need for shared cultural values had been outweighed by the promise of economic prosperity, but it became increasingly clear that those two factors could no longer be evaluated separately.
While this shift in population and capital has provided many benefits to red states, it can also be a danger. Large corporations and blue-state refugees tend to bring their values with them. For many years, Florida was trending from solid red to purple as residents from New York And New Jersey relocated for lower housing prices and taxes, but then immediately resumed voting for the same policies that had made their previous home states unlivable.
Texas and Arizona have seen a similar shift as Californians flee their sinking state only to start the process of civilizational decay anew. In Florida, that trend was reversed after the post-pandemic migration brought a massive influx of residents who were moving, not just for economic reasons, but for political and cultural reasons as well. In a 2022 midterm election in which most GOP candidates fell well short of expectations, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis crushed his opponent by 20 points. DeSantis used that mandate to pass sweeping changes on issues like gun rights, trangenderist ideology, and abortion. The governor’s willingness to push back on large corporations like Disney while advancing culturally conservative legislation created a filtering mechanism for new residents. Those who were seeking to move purely for economic benefit would have to look elsewhere.
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Auron MacIntyre is the host of “The Auron MacIntyre Show” and a columnist for Blaze News.