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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

October 7, 2010 at 10:25 AM

Washington state ranks well until it comes to debt

The blog 24/7Wall St has a new report on “America’s best and worst run states.” Washington comes in at No. 15 overall.

“Washington, the Evergreen State, just missed being in the top ten for median household income, ranking eleventh with a reported amount of $56,548 for 2009. Unfortunately, the state is also plagued by an extremely high debt, which has only increased throughout the recession.” Debt per-capita: $9,658, 43rd nationally.

Wyoming, North Dakota and Iowa came in first. This isn’t surprising considering that these are low-population states that avoided the worst excesses of the bubble and, as in the case of Wyoming and energy, have real, if narrow, economies. The worst: Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana, Michigan, Arizona, California and Kentucky. Washington’s only potential model for good practices might be No. 5 Minnesota, a populous state with a diverse economy.

While conceding the difficulty of ranking the states, the blog’s authors write, “Ultimately, however, states can control their own destinies. Well-run states have a great deal in common with well-run corporations. Books are kept balanced. Investment is prudent. Debt is sustainable. Innovation is prized. Workers are well-chosen and well-trained. Executives are picked based on merit and not ‘politics.’

That’s true enough — Olympia, take note — and it’s also a reminder of how many badly run corporations are out there, too. But state and local governments also have duties that the market can’t fill, and the commons are not a business, much less an ideological sandbox. No wonder budget-cutting, gub’ment-hating Arizona performs among the worst of the states.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Consumer spending

Didn’t do half bad last month

All on credit cards

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