As the probability of President Barack Obama’s reelection grows, state and local officials across the country are tallying up the potential ramifications of a second term. For the most part, the biggest concerns lie with energy-producing states, which fear stricter environmental regulations, and those places most dependent on military or space spending, which are both likely to decrease under a second Obama administration.
On the other hand, several states, and particularly the District of Columbia, have reasons to look forward to another four years. Under Obama the federal workforce has expanded — even as state and localities have cut their government jobs. The growing concentration of power has also swelled the ranks of Washington‘s parasitical enablers, from high-end lobbyists to expense-account restaurants. While much of urban America is struggling, currently Washington is experiencing something of a golden age.
So what states have the most to lose from a second Obama term? The most obvious is Texas, the fastest-growing of the nation’s big states. Used to owning the inside track in Washington during the long years of Bush family rule, the Lone Star state now has less clout in Congress and the White House than in recent memory. Texans are particularly worried about restrictions on fossil fuel energy development, which is largely responsible for robust growth throughout the state.
“Obama now wants to take credit for the increased production that has happened, but [increased production] has been opposed in every corner by the administration,” says John Hofmeister, founder of the Houston-based Citizens for Affordable Energy and former CEO of Shell USA. Hofmeister fears that in a second term, with no concern for reelection, Obama could exert even greater controls on fossil fuel development. This would have dramatic, negative implications not only for Texas but for the entire national energy grid, which includes North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Alaska and Louisiana. These states fear that the nation’s recent energy boom, which has generated some of the nation’s strongest job and income growth, could implode in Obama’s second term.
Take Louisiana, which is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the BP oil spill in 2010. The administration’s moratorium on offshore drilling, sparked by the spill, has had a deleterious effect on the state’s energy economy, according to a recent study, with half offshore oil and service companies shifting their operations to other regions and laying off employees.
Once the moratorium was lifted in 2010, companies have faced long delays for new wells, growing from 60-day delays in 2008 to more than 109 last year . “The energy states feel they are being persecuted for their good deeds,” says Eric Smith, director of the Tulane Energy Institute in New Orleans. “There is a sense there are people in the administration who would like this whole industry to go away.”
Many of these same states also worry about the administration’s proposed downsizing of the military. Obama’s move to cut roughly towards $500 billion in defense spending may make sense, but it threatens places with large military presences such as Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina and New Mexico.
The D.C. metro area might also be hit by defense cuts, but overall the it has many reasons to genuflect toward the Obama Administration. Federal wages, salaries and procurement account for 40% of the district’s economic activity, roughly four times the percentage of any state. Expanding regulation on energy, health care and financial services has sparked a steady job boom in lobbying, think tanks and other facets of the persuasion industry — including among Republicans –at a time when employment growth has been sluggish elsewhere.
D.C. partisans hail their city as the leader of a national urban boom. The district clearly benefits from diminished job opportunities in more market-based economies, particularly for educated 20-somethings.
No place has flourished as much as the capital, but a second term would be favorable to states such as Maryland, which depend heavily on research spending directed from Washington and where federal spending accounts for fifteen percent of the local economy, over seven times the national average. Maryland agencies such as the National Institutes for Health will likely expand under an increasingly federalized health care system — particularly if Democrats gain more seats in Congress with an Obama win.
Other big states that may benefit from a second term include New York, California and Illinois. New York benefits largely from the administration’s Wall Street leanings, despite the president’s recent attacks on financial elite. Even for the non-conspiracy theorists, the administration’s ties to Goldman Sachs appear unusually intimate. Powerful allies like Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer, D.C.’s greatest Wall Street booster, suggest big money has little to fear from a second term.
Overall the administration’s basic policy approach has favored the financial giants. Support for bailouts, seemingly permanent low interest rates, few prosecutions for miscreant investment bankers, the institutionalization of “too big to fail” and easy loans for renewable fuel firms all have benefited the big Wall Street players.
Of course, a Republican victory would not be a disaster for these worthies. Companies like Goldman Sachs are hedging their bets by sending loads of cash to the likely Republican choice, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
But other New York interests, such as mass transit funding, would benefit from the current administration’s generally pro-urban, green sensibilities. Tight regulations on carbon emissions — increasing the price of fossil fuels — may help the competitive position of New York City, which has little industry left and relatively low carbon emissions per capita, in part due to a greater reliance on hydroelectric and nuclear power.
California also has reasons to root for an Obama victory. Although among the richest states in fossil fuels, particularly oil, the Golden State has become a bastion of both climate change alarmism and renewable energy subsidization. It adamantly won’t develop traditional its energy resources — which would help boost the state’s still weak economy — and Silicon Valley venture firms have eagerly grabbed subsidies and loans for start-ups from Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s seemingly bottomless cornucopia.
Furthermore, more powerful EPA would make California’s current “go it alone” energy and environmental problems less disadvantageous compared to more fossil-fuel-friendly states, leveling what is now a tortuous economic playing field.
Similarly, attempts to push the state’s troubled high-speed rail line — recently described in Mother Jones as “jaw-droppingly shameless” – will succeed only with strong backing by the federal government. Under a Republican administration and Congress, Brown’s beloved high-speed line would depend entirely on state and private funding, likely terminating the project.
But no state needs an Obama victory more than his adopted home state of Illinois. To be sure, having a native son in the White House has not prevented the Land of Lincoln from suffering one of the weakest economies in the nation. The state has one of the highest rates of out-migration in the country, according to recent United Van Lines data and Census results.
Even worse, the Land of Lincoln faces a fiscal crisis so great that it makes California look well-managed. Without a good friend in the White House, and allies in Congress, Illinois could end up replacing long-struggling, now-improving Michigan as the Great Lakes’ new leading basket case. Count Illinois 20 electoral votes in the Obama column.
This piece originally appeared in Forbes.com.
Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com and is a distinguished presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University, and contributing editor to the City Journal in New York. He is author of The City: A Global History. His newest book is The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, released in February, 2010.
Photo from BigStockPhoto.com.