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Thomas: Facing the new red menace
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"Are we good guys or bad guys?" the animated Little John asked Robin Hood in the 1973 Disney classic cartoon.
"You know," John continued, "Our robbing the rich to feed the poor?"

"Rob?" Robin exclaimed. Then, sounding much like today's Democrats, he declared, "That's a naughty word. We never rob; we just sort of borrow a bit from those who can afford it."

"Borrow?" cried John. "Boy, are we in debt!"

I wonder how Little John would feel about $14 trillion of debt. Since the youth of America are going to pay for most of this, perhaps Disney should make a child's film about the U.S. debt. They could call it "Pinocchio: How Decades of Lies Grew the American Debt;" or "Alice in Entitlementland;" or "Fantasia: The Money Printer's Apprentice". You get the idea.

It seems that the idea of Democrats being compared to Robin Hood is gaining in popularity.

Just two days after I transcribed the little cartoon exchange with the idea for this column, on Feb. 28, 3M Chief Executive Officer George Buckley called President Barack Obama "anti-business," adding, "I judge people by their feet, not their mouth."

Buckley told the Financial Times, "We know what his instincts are. They are Robin Hood-esque. He is anti-business. There is a sense among companies that this is a difficult place to do business. It's about regulation, taxation, seemingly anti-business policies in Washington."

According to recent reports, by the end of this fiscal year on Sept. 30, the total U.S. debt will equal nearly $15.5 trillion, and for the first time since 1947, will surpass the total U.S. gross domestic product. All of this red ink, according to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a possible GOP presidential candidate, is our new "red menace."

Of course this "menace" looms not only in the federal government, but in state and local governments across the country. And, just as with the communist threat, liberals all over the U.S. are finding themselves on the wrong side of history.

Every year Moody's publishes its State Debt Medians Report. According to Moody's 2010 report, "Debt burden is one of many factors that Moody's uses to determine state credit quality. In considering debt burden, the focus is largely on Net Tax Supported Debt," which is defined as "debt secured by state operating resources which could otherwise be used for state operations. Any debt to which state resources are pledged for repayment is considered to be net tax-supported debt."

Again, according to Moody's 2010 report, "Two measures of state debt burden - debt per capita and debt as a percentage of personal income - are commonly used by analysts to compare the debt burden of one state to another."

The top 10 states with the most debt per capita: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, California, Washington, Rhode Island, Oregon.

The top 10 states with the largest debt as a percentage of personal income: Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, California, Kentucky, Washington, Rhode Island.

Notice the "blueness?"

As most everyone now knows, especially given the recent events in Wisconsin, one of the greatest contributors to local and state debt is pension liabilities. However, in Moody's numbers above, pension liabilities were not included. Moody's has now changed that.

Earlier this year, Moody's Investors Service released a report on state debt that included a broader approach to measuring a state's financial health. As the Financial Times put it, "In a bid to give a broader picture of state finances, Moody's combined their net tax supported debt and unfunded pension liabilities to assess how leveraged states are." In other words, Moody's is now calculating a state's debt burden by including the unfunded pension obligations owed to state employees.

When state pension liabilities are included, the top 10 states in total debt are: Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Illinois, Alaska, Rhode Island, Kentucky, Mississippi, West Virginia.

Again, the blue states lead.

As I noted a couple of years ago, U.S. states have frequently been called "laboratories of democracy." If you want to see how something will work in the federal government, look to the states.

Given the picture painted above, it is quite clear where liberals have taken the state governments of which they have been in control. For the most part, it is also quite clear on which side liberals stand with our new "red menace." Sadly, it is not with the "good guys."

Trevor Thomas is a Hall County resident and frequent columnist.