Frost Belt congressmen charged yesterday that the federal government has helped impoverish their region by shifting $165 billion in tax money collected in the North and Midwest over the past five years to the South, the West and the District of Columbia.
Rep. Robert W. Edgar (D-Pa.), chairman of the 213-member Northeast-Midwest Congressional Coalition, said the U.S. government "continues to siphon billions upon billons of dollars out of the Northeast and Midwest," accelerating the economic decline in those areas while other regions use the money for economic growth.
The trend is particularly marked in the area of defense spending, coalition members charged, where the government has been closing Northern installations and consolidating operations in the South and West.
Coalition members, at a news conference last week, said one reason for this may be that Southerners -- like Sens. Richard B. Russell (D-Ga.) and Mendel Rivers (D-S.C.) -- have headed Congress' armed services committees for most of the past two generations.
The coalition used a tabulation prepared by the Library of Congress to back its charges.The document compares the amount of taxes collected in each region and state with the total federal outlays in each state and region, including Social Security payments, salaries to federal employes, direct grants and other federal spending.
According to the tabulation, the Northeast and Midwest have been sending $30 billion to $35 billion a year more to Washington in taxes then they receive in federal spending -- a total of $165 billion from fiscal 1975 through fiscal 1979 The money has gone to the District of Columbia and the South and Midwest.
The tabulation shows that the District of Columbia -- with a huge roster of federal employes living here and receiving salaries, plus federal payment and participation in various programs -- has enjoyed a net gain of about $53 billion over the five-year period. The figures indicate it has been by far the biggest gainer among individual jurisdictions.
Maryland and Virginia, which also have many federal employes, also have been big net gainers, according to coalition figures: Virginia about $15 billion over the five-year period, Maryland about $7 billion.
On the other hand, the tabulation put New Jersey at a $5.5 billion net loss in 1979. New York $1.7 billion, Pennsylvania $2 billion, Illinois $7.6 billion, Michigan, $7.2 billion and Ohio $6.7 billion.
The coalition said one important factor in the shift of money from the Frost Belt to the South and West is the high proportion of military installations in the South and West.
It said, for example, that only 13 percent of military personnel stationed in the country are in the Northeast-Midwest regions, while about 51 percent are in the South and 36 percent in the West.
The coalition said the Frost Belt has only 25 percent of all base facilities but has suffered 40 percent of all base closings in the past decade. f
Since 1950, the coalition said, the Northeast has lost 53,460 defense department employes, the Midwest has gained 16,685, and the South and West have gained a whopping 535,675.
Rep. Charles Dougherty (R-Pa.) said California "has more military personnel stationed there than all the Northeastern and Midwestern states combined."
The coalition wants the Pentagon to shift more forces, installations and spending to the Frost Belt and also has been fighting to alter formulas for federal grant programs in general to give a higher proportion of grants to the North and Midwest.
Many federal grant formulas are based on factors that favor the South or West, such as the number of persons below the poverty line and low per capita income. Frost Belt spokesmen say these formulas ignore other, equally important factors measuring social distress, such as unemployment rates, age of housing or rate of economic growth.