If we learned nothing else during the 2012 election, it is that some of us are makers, hard-working folk solely responsible for America's prosperity, and others are takers, who want the federal government to pay for luxuries like food and health care.
What may come as some surprise is where these two warring tribes tend to live. The states with elected officials most likely to espouse anti-taker sentiments -- i.e., Republican-dominated states -- are the most dependent on federal spending, while returning the least to Washington in the way of tax dollars.
That's according to the consumer finance site Wallet Hub, which crunched federal tax and spending data and then ranked states from most to least dependent on Uncle Sam. In the map below, green states are the least dependent, while red states -- appropriately -- are the most dependent.
The "makingest" state, according to the analysis, is Delaware. Delawareans -- this is really what they call themselves -- pay $1 in taxes for every 50 cents they get back from the federal government. Delaware also has the lowest rate of federal contracts received, as a proportion of federal tax dollars paid. And the state has the highest gross domestic product per capita, at $72,642.
The "takingest" states, in a tie, are Mississippi and New Mexico, according to the analysis. Both states take about $3 in federal spending for every $1 contributed in taxes. Both states are highly dependent on federal funding as a percentage of state revenue. And New Mexico, especially, has lots of federal workers.
The state with the lowest return on taxpayer investment is South Carolina. Its citizens pay $1 in taxes per capita for every $7.87 in federal funding received.
The two states that come closest to breaking even are Washington and Georgia. These states get back $1.05 for every $1 in taxes paid.
Wallet Hub tabulated its results using three metrics: taxes paid as compared to federal spending per capita, what percentage of state revenue comes from federal dollars, and the number of federal employees per capita. The first two categories were given more weight than the third.
While the rankings are obviously somewhat arbitrary -- one would get different results using different metrics -- they do broadly correspond to patterns of poverty. States like Mississippi and Alabama, which are hugely dependent on federal tax dollars to help feed, clothe and shelter their citizens, are among those with the largest deficits, in terms of what they get in federal help versus what they give back in tax dollars.
For most of American history, bringing home the federal pork, in extra benefits for citizens or spending projects, was a badge of honor for elected officials. The rise of the Tea Party has changed this calculus. Now in the most conservative states it is seen as a political boon to turn down federal handouts. In essence, they are trying to become less taker-y.
The most obvious evidence of this trend can be seen in the expansion of Medicaid, the health plan for the poor, under the Affordable Care Act. Of the 10 states with the biggest dependency gap, as determined by Wallet Hub, seven -- Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, South Dakota and Tennessee -- have decided not to expand their Medicaid programs, even though the funding would come from federal coffers.