Admittedly, I am an unabashed cheerleader for Utah exceptionalism. Last year, I wrote a short book about how Utah leads the nation in faith, family and freedom. Little did I realize at the time that Utah is also the most equal state in the Union in terms of income.
It turns out the research on income inequality has been ubiquitous for several years now, a new best-selling book on the subject has made it a cause célèbre once again. Progressives are eating up Thomas Piketty’s new book, Capital in the Twenty First Century, and use it now in conjunction with liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren’s push for a living minimum wage.
As it turns out, much to the chagrin of progressives everywhere, Utah is the most income-equal state in the Union. The goal of income equality is a large middle class where the divide between the rich and poor is at its absolute minimum. Utah is the best in this category. Yes, homogenous, patriarchal, church-going, Republican-dominated, liquor-hating, federalism-loving, politically conservative Utah does income equality better than any blue state in the nation.
A poor kid in Utah has a better chance at becoming a rich kid and a better chance at living the middle class dream than any other poor kid in America. When most people today say that the American Dream is out of their reach, Utahns say, “Not for us!”
The question is why? Why is Utah an exceptional place to live if income equality is a priority for you?
Utah’s Department of Workforce Services believes the reasons are that we have a high minimum standard of education and a comparatively high number of workers per household. It points to a Census Bureau study published in 2011 that gives Utah high marks. The Utah business community believes our income equality is exceptional because Utahns are hard workers, our government overlords have created an economically diverse environment, we educate children well and our social safety net is wider than other states.
I’m sure there are many more quantitative reasons why Utah is the best at income equality. But most of these economic analyses are incomplete. They hint around the edges of a thorough analysis. They overlook the obvious reasons why Utah has a strong middle class and high income equality. They overlook the tremendous impact of faith and family in our quality of life.
Utah has a strong middle class because we live middle-class lives. We still believe deeply in a culture of faith that requires us to love our neighbor as ourselves. We take care of each other. In fact, we see it as a moral imperative. Our belief in freedom extends beyond an isolated view of individual liberty. We believe in community. Likewise, we have a strong middle class because we still get married and have children. Utah is a child-centric culture of marriage and family.
The very reasons why Utah is best at income equality are the very reasons why progressives hate Utah (here, here and here). And that’s why progressives fail in their ideological pursuits. You can’t just talk the talk. You have to walk the walk.
For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.
This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.
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