What do bitter Rust Belt states have in common?

The Wall Street Journal takes a closer look at the commonalities between states identified as “bitter” by Barack Obama, and finds one thread that runs through their economies. Jeff Durstewitz notes that Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan all have state governments that overtax and overregulate, and protect unions at the expense of workers and jobs:

In the firestorm touched off by Barack Obama’s comments about those who “cling to” guns and religion out of economic resentment, most analysis missed a crucial point: The “bitterness” felt in the so-called Rust Belt is mainly a product of high-tax, highly unionized states.

While there are pockets of prosperity in Pennsylvania, upstate New York, Ohio and Michigan, a good deal of this area is economically depressed. That’s not because of Washington’s policies (or lack thereof). These policies aren’t killing Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and Florida.

While southern states do have problems, their governments generally don’t smother economic growth by layering on ever-rising taxation, regulation and expenses. They don’t permit workers to be forced to join closed-shop unions. No one in D.C. – Obama, Clinton, McCain or Superman – can fix the Rust Belt’s self-inflicted wounds.

No one doubts that these states have had a rougher time with their economies than the nation as a whole, but as this column points out, that should focus attention on what makes these states different from those experiencing more success. They have ossified their economic philosophies, thanks to political classes held in thrall by Big Labor and liberal regulators, and now act surprised when investors place their resources in states with better flexibility and more freedom. Rather than looking for federal bailouts, these states should tend to their own back yards and revamp their entire approach to business and investment.

Instead, Barack Obama offers them the hair of the dog. In his San Francisco remarks, his point was that voters in these states mistrust government solutions, and so they bitterly cling to bigotry, guns, and God. He wants to roll out even more government intrusion and redistributionism, which non-urban voters in these states rightly see as the source of their problems and not the solution to them. They want less government and more private-sector investment, and they want both state and federal governments to stop taxing them to death to support failing programs centered on the urban areas of their states.

Barack Obama promises them more of the same old failed approach. They’re not bitter; they’re just far more experienced than Obama with these policies.