Golfer Phil Mickelson came under fire last week when he publicly deliberated the idea of leaving California in order to avoid its excessive income tax. Promptly blasted by much of the media, talking heads and public figures, Mickelson quickly retracted his comments and lamented over having made them at all.
Last I checked, Mickelson is entitled to the same first amendment rights that anyone else enjoys. This includes the right to publicly discuss a potential move from a state that remains a financial disaster zone.
Mickelson is hardly the first individual to consider moving in order to seek out lower tax rates. In fact, he finds himself in good company.
Gerard Depardieu drew massive scorn from the French media when he recently repatriated to Russia. France's new president decided to combat the nation's economic woes by enacting a 75 percent income tax on individuals earning more than one-million dollars a year. Depardieu was among the better known deserters, but only one of many who joined an exodus from the country following the instatement of higher tax rates.
Stateside, fellow golfer Tiger Woods moved from California to Florida. And not for the women. He saved $15 million in taxes that first year.
Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh left New York for Florida.
Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin renounced his U.S. citizenship last year.
Pop legend Tina Turner will soon give up her U.S. passport as she prepares to become a Swiss citizen.
California should be accustomed to the migration by now.
Joel Kotkin, one of the nation's premier demographers and a California resident, reports that nearly four million more people have left the not-so-Golden State in the last two decades than have come from other states. This represents a sharp reversal from the 1980s when 100,000 more people were moving to the state each year than leaving it.
Point is, even with the higher tax rates and the attempts to fleece the rich, California is in a state of economic free fall. State Controller John Chiang recently reported that total state revenue for November 2012 actually fell $806.8 million, nearly 11 percent below the state's budget.
No wonder objective financial journalists are likening the state to Greece, given its inexorable path of financial decline.
Even Hollywood, long a bastion of liberal orthodoxy, has joined in the parade. While many stars continue to make their homes in the Hollywood hills, their employers, the Hollywood studios, are increasingly making movies in Canada. Blockbusters like Titanic, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Brokeback Mountain, Twilight, The Incredible Hulk, just to name a few. Each filmed in Canada.
Lower labor costs and Canadian tax breaks seem to exert a strong pull - even on Hollywood.
So, if Mickelson decides that he too might care to save a few bucks, who can blame him? California's top state tax rate was recently raised from 9.3 percent to 12.3 percent. So, if Mickelson earned roughly $61,000,000 last year, that extra 3 percent represents over $1.8 million.
Ciao, California. What's happening Longhorn State!
Where in the declaration of independence does it allude to the need for wealthier individuals to cover the ever-growing balance sheets of poorly run states, much less the entire nation?
According to the Heritage Foundation, the top ten percent of earners cover 71 percent of the nation's tax revenues. So, the wealthy are already writing large checks. The real question is how that tax money is utilized. The answer? Not responsibly.
Entitlement and transfer payments, fraud, and lobbyists ensure that much of the nation's annual taxpayer revenue translates to no impact on the probability of raising an individual or family out of poverty.
In 2011, only 54 percent of the nation paid taxes. That same year, The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that 54 percent of the Federal budget went to entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid) and social safety net programs.
Yet, even as taxes increase across the nation, government spending simply rises to meet it. Just last week, the U.S. balance sheet stood at $3.01 trillion, breaking the $3 trillion mark for the first time.
Politicians and activist groups continue to harp on the principles of tax fairness. Even as government spending grows well beyond sane spending levels. What standard of fairness dictates that ten percent of the nation pays 72 percent of the income tax burden while 46 percent pay absolutely nothing at all?
Still, tax demagoguery is an effective tactic for politicians who leverage the politics of envy to stay in office. Even as disastrous tax-and-spend policies in Greece, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and California reveal their errors in judgment.
Generally, the rich have no problem with the idea of paying taxes. They do have a problem with paying most of the taxes, only to see politicians senselessly redistributing tax revenue in ways that fail to improve anyone's prospects. Ever. Especially as individuals, families and organizations grow increasingly dependent upon taxpayer largess, year after year.
Thank you, Mr. Mickelson, for going where too few dare to go. Even if you were forced to recant, we get the point.
No government, at any level, has the right to continuously raise taxes without displaying an ability to more wisely utilize those taxes.
You are not a milking cow, Mr. Mickelson. You earned that income. You have every right to spend it as you wish.
If you depart California for less fiscally burdensome pastures, you will not only win back your $1.8 million, but a few additional fans, I'm sure.