What's the matter with these guys? Where are the vast federal maple syrup subsidies that each presidential aspirant has to pledge to support? The Shaker Furniture Protection Act?

Don't they know how the game is played? Look at Iowa.

Two caveats.

The Tax Foundation's latest data come from 2004. (Ahern explains that the federal government hasn't issued more recent figures.)

Since then, the huge federal deficit has shrunk a bit, so a few other states are probably now net contributors as well. Washington state and Oregon are probably paying in, and maybe Indiana, Georgia and Texas as well.

You could also argue the numbers are a bit unfair to some states, like Florida, that have a lot of retirees from elsewhere. Their federal spending includes a lot of Social Security checks sent out each month.

But any reasonable primary calendar could adjust for this. And I'm not sure it matters that much anyway. Retirees certainly earned their money, but they're not the ones who'll be paying the rest of the country's bills today and tomorrow.

Only a small number of states are paying their keep. Giving them the early primaries could deliver two benefits.

One, it might encourage a few more states to pony up. Any state that wants to hold an early primary can get its wish. Just cut a check and cut in line.

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