By Robert F. Sanchez, JMI Policy Director
Ohio’s troubles can serve as a cautionary tale for other states, including Florida. Ohio, which was the nation’s fourth most populous state at the start of the 20th Century, was long the thriving center of America’s industrial heartland.Ohioans prospered for decades in a state with relatively low taxes and a business-friendly climate. Even as recently as the midpoint of the 20th Century, Ohio’s population of 7.9 million dwarfed Florida’s 2.7 million.In the 2010 census, however, Florida’s population of 18.8 million far exceeds Ohio’s 11.5 million. Moreover, in the unkindest cut of all, the changes reported in the latest Census will cause Ohio to lose two seats in the next Congress while Florida gains two.Alas for Ohioans, successive governments of both political parties raised taxes and spending, enlarging the size and scope of government while organized labor — abetted by pro-union elected officials — undermined the competitiveness of Ohio’s industrial base.The decline was worst in Ohio’s major cities. The 2010 numbers tell the story:
Akron: 1960 population: 290,351; now: 199,110
Canton: 1950 population: 116,912; now: 73,007.
Cleveland: 1950 population: 914.808; now: 396,815 – which is less than it was 100 years ago. Some 25 percent of the city’s homes are vacant or were razed.
Cincinnati: 1950 population: 503,988; now: 296,943 – which is also less than it was 100 years ago.
Dayton: 1960 population: 262,332; now: 141,527.
Toledo: 1970 population: 383,818; now: 287,208.
Youngstown: 1930 population: 170,002; population now: 69,005.
The one exception to the rule is very revealing. It’s Columbus, the seat of Ohio’s state government and largest university. In 1960 its population was 471,316. Now it’s Ohio’s largest city, and its population of 787,033 is more than Cleveland’s and Cincinnati’s combined.Ohio’s troubled cities were famous in their heyday for making useful products ranging from steel, tires, cars, and aircraft to soap and toothpaste. What, exactly, is produced by Columbus — or most other state capitals? Taxes. Fees. Bureaucracy. Rules. Regulations. Edicts. Mandates. Red Tape. Costs.For parasitic state capitals to thrive while the areas whose taxes support them languish is a novel way to define “capital-ism.” Unfortunately, it’s not necessarily unique to Ohio. Let’s make sure it does not spread to Florida.