By Kristin Tate, opinion contributor — 04/24/18
Am I the only one in my spinning class at Equinox in Manhattan who’s fed up paying $200 every month for a gym with clean showers, $3,000 in rent every month for an apartment without cockroaches and $8 every morning for a cup of coffee? Am I the only one moving through the greater part of New York City boroughs and seeing an inexorable march of urban decay matched with the discomfort of crowding and inexplicable costs? I know I am not.
New York is the most expensive city in America. Its lower-cost neighborhoods are riddled with crime and homelessness. Its public schools, some of which are among the worst in the nation, look more like prisons than places of learning.
With between up to 50 percent of their paycheck going to a combination of federal, local and city taxes, not including other consumer taxes baked into every aspect of their consumer practices, residents don’t even have the comfort of knowing that their tax expenditures are going to the improvement of their lives in the city. New York infamously misuses the hard-earned tax revenues of its citizens in ways that scarcely benefit them.
Eventually, city and state taxes, fees, and regulations become so burdensome that people and corporations jump ship. More people are currently fleeing New York than any other metropolitan area in the nation. More than 1 million people have moved out of the New York City metro area since 2010 in search of greener pastures, which amounts to a negative net migration rate of 4.4 percent.
The recently passed tax bill, which repeals the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, will only speed up the exodus. Thanks to the bill’s passage, many New York taxpayers will save little or nothing despite a cut in the federal rate. The state’s highest earners — who have been footing an outsized share of the bill — will pay tens of thousands of dollars more in income taxes in 2018. In New York alone, loss of the SALT deduction will remove $72 billion a year in tax deductions and affect 3.4 million residents.
And make no mistake: What’s happening in the Big Apple is a microcosm of what’s happening in the nation’s blue states, cities and towns. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago — the places where power and capital have traditionally congregated — have become so over-regulated, so overpriced and mismanaged, and so morally bankrupt and soft on crime that people are leaving in droves. Of course, these high-tax cities are the same places hit hardest by the removal of the SALT deduction.
The cost of popular moving truck services, like U-Haul, is largely created through the ironclad rules of supply and demand. Turns out, there is much higher demand for trucks leaving high-tax blue states heading to low-tax red states than vice versa.
A route from California to Texas, for example, is more than twice as expensive as a route from Texas to California. Want to go from Los Angeles to Dallas? $2,558. Returning back? $1,232. Texas is the No. 1 state people move trucks to, with states like Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina and Colorado rounding out the top 10. The states people are fleeing? New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois — and at the top, California.
These facts are not coincidences. In fact, in 2016 the Golden State lost almost 143,000 net residents to other states — that figure is an 11 percent increase from 2015. Between 2005 and 2015, Los Angeles and San Francisco alone lost 250,000 residents. The largest socioeconomic segment moving from California is the upper-middle class. The state is home to some of the most burdensome taxes and regulations in the nation. Meanwhile, its social engineering — from green energy to wealth redistribution — have made many working families poorer. As California begins its long decline, the influx outward is picking up in earnest.
The only way to slow the great exodus out of America’s blue meccas is to make these areas more affordable for middle-class families; the most significant way to do that is to lower state and city income taxes. And if residents don’t want to be “double taxed” following the removal of SALT deductions, the solution is simple: remove state and city income taxes altogether.
Houston is the nation’s fourth-largest city and is able to operate, while funding massive infrastructure projects to support its population, without income tax revenue. When residents keep more of their hard-earned money, they are more incentivized to spend that money in ways that make their community a better place.
This is a lesson high-tax states and cities need to learn if they want to avoid transforming into ghost towns.
Kristin Tate is author of the new book How Do I Tax Thee?: The Field Guide to the Great American Rip-Off.