Thanks, but I’m not planning to move to Idaho

Guest post by Matt Loschen, EOI Board member

Matt Loschen, EOI Board Member

I’ve worked hard and been incredibly lucky, and ended up somewhat wealthy. Not “Warhols on my wall” wealthy, but certainly well off enough to be very comfortable and free. To put it another way, I’m one of those people who panicky pundits fear will leave the state if my taxes are increased.

I watched the tax debates during the past election, and I was a little amused that some blowhards thought they could anticipate my decisions based on what they thought they learned in a freshman economics class. I was also depressed that so many well meaning people believed those sophists.

When you have choices – and money does that for you – money isn’t everything. Of course, everyone is different, but this Planet Money podcast  is a much more accurate reflection of reality than what you’ll hear from the pundits.

State taxes aren’t painful for me. In a state where many people on the lower end of the income spectrum are taxed at a relatively higher rate than I am, this might be hard to comprehend, but it’s true.

The fact is, I worry more about remembering to send the check to the counties where I own homes than I do about the amounts of the checks. Instead, I focus more on:

  • Doing my job: The idea that execs like me would leave Washington for a “low tax” state is really pretty silly. We’d be leaving our source of income. Yes, the workplace is more mobile now, but a lot of the affluent folk are managing groups of people, and we don’t do that online. When my company looked for areas to expand we didn’t look at tax levels much. We looked for the availability of highly educated recruits. Exactly the kind of people that cuts in higher ed will drive from the state, cuts driven by the lack of state revenue. So making Washington into a banana republic could actually force executives to leave rather than entice us to stay.
  • Family: I grew up here, an elderly parent is here, my kids go to school here, and many of my friends are here. Money gives you the freedom of choice…why would I choose to leave all of them just to save on my tax bill? Maybe they didn’t teach this in Econ for Pundits, but relationships are worth a lot. The podcast nailed that point: people who have choices stick around for their loved ones.
  • Lifestyle: I’m spoiled by the fantastic environment, culture, safety and healthcare in Washington. I’ve visited and worked in a lot of “low tax” states and countries: You couldn’t pay me enough to live in North Dakota, India or (especially) Texas. You get what you pay for. If I had to leave Washington I’d want to live in London or New York… where taxes are much higher, but the benefits are well worth it.
  • Patriotism: This may confuse the economist wanna-bes, but after a lifetime of citizenship and years of leadership here in Washington, I have a strong feeling of responsibility for the wellbeing of my state. There is pleasure in pride, and civic activism means more to me than dollars and cents. Those that think I’d take my money and leave rather than help fix Washington don’t know me very well. I didn’t get where I am by not caring, or giving up easily.

So bring on fair taxation. We wealthy folks are tough. We can take it.

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