Even Tom Delay Deserves Some Respect

Oh how it pains me to do this. But do it I must. Lots of folks wrote in about that Texas and wealth post below. I think this is the best illustration of what was wrong:

You fuckers are killing me today. I say that with love. Seriously. Fuckers is a term of endearment. Mostly.

Oh, wait. Not that one. This one:

I can't believe you picked this up.

Texas is like a poor man's Alaska, with the substantial natural resource wealth but with the wealth spread across a much greater population.

This is pretty ignorant. The GDP of Texas, in 2007, was 1.14 trillion dollars, close to nine percent of the national GDP (13.7 trillion). In this Texas stood just below California (1.8 trillion) and above New York (1.10 trillion). Taking the median income may say a lot about wealth distribution in Texas, but it's a stupid measure of how "wealthy" the state is. Tell me again how Texas is a "poor man's" Alaska (GDP 44 billion).

By the way -- this means Texas' economy would make it the fourteenth-largest in the world, larger than Australia, Ireland, Italy, etc.
Note: I think the secession talk is stupid grandstanding (albeit, grandstanding drilled into us by the mandatory Texas history course we public schoolers take). But it shouldn't be dismissed as an operationally insignificant possibility.

The central question, as I understand it, is how wealthy the state is, not what is the centerpoint value of the wealth distribution. Using the median confuses wealth with income equality. California's median income was $56,000 for 2006-7, Texas's $45,000 for the same period. But if you divide GDP by population, California's GDP per person was $49,000, Texas' 48,000 (rounded up from 47,581). What this suggests is that the *wealth* on a population basis for Texas is roughly equivalent, but distributed much less broadly than in California. If we're talking about just policy, then California looks a hell of a lot better. But in terms of whose policy is better at generating wealth, it's six of one, half a dozen of the other. THAT's why the "flaws" of median income make its use in this context misleading (if not ignorant).

I apologize to Tom Delay, and all the fine residents of Texas. Every so  often, while licking shots, I hit the wrong target. By and by, I hope it happens less and less. To all the commenters who shot me full of holes, as I've often said to Kenyatta after she's deflated my burgeoning ego with some snide (yet perceptive) shot, "This is why I keep you around." Anyway Sgwhite, points us to this small addendum:

Just one minor issue: you really shouldn't use median income, which can be distorted to the extent that inequality differs across states. You should instead use income per capita. As it happens, the comparison is even more striking. Texas, with its glorious free market regime and deeply incentive-creating 25 percent rate of health uninsurance, has a per capita income of $37,187; nanny-state New Jersey, with its oppressive taxes and regulation of everything (what it takes to get permission to cut down a dying tree ... ), has a per capita income of $49,194.

Not that that makes the kid right.