COMMENTARY | The New York Times recently ran a piece citing a study that shows that the myth that millionaires will flee in the face of higher taxes is exactly that: a myth. While other factors, like job location, family and climate do affect decisions to move, the New York Times reports that tax rates rarely factor in.
Intuitively, it makes sense. Even the threat of it — raise my taxes and I’m out of here! — reeks of the type of childishness it’s difficult to equate with amassing a large fortune. Then again, in a world where Donald Trump is a billionaire, perhaps I’m giving a little too much credit.
In any case, whether the foot-stomping or taking-the-ball-and-going-homing is true or not, there is a better, bigger question. Why, on earth, would we care if they did?
In 2011, 4,000 millionaires paid no federal income tax. Twenty-six Fortune 500 companies paid a “negative tax rate,” meaning we paid them.
So “raise my taxes and I’m out of here!” is pretty much a hollow threat. If you’re not paying taxes now, it’s not as though we’re losing tax revenue with a Great Millionaire Migration. Mostly, we’d be losing a bunch of spoiled, entitled people who, like Mitt Romney, feel that it’s fair that they should pay a lower tax rate than someone with a lot less money.
Or worse, think that the poor should carry the burden for them. North Carolina, for example, is apparently considering abolishing personal and corporate income taxes, and proposing to make up the gap by raising sales and property taxes. Most notably, and in the sharpest jab at struggling families, the proposal includes an increase in the food sales tax from 2 percent to 8.05 percent. A family spending $100 a week on groceries will have $24 less a month to spend on food under this proposal.
But, no doubt, it will keep those millionaires happy and flush with extra money for yacht fuel.
It’s a strange phenomenon, this idea that we, the plebeians, somehow admire, or even worship, those people who fortify themselves within forts of cash. Few things illustrate this twisted view of the little people better than the hotly contested documentary “The Queen of Versailles,” which followed the lives of Westgate CEO David Siegal and his wife. Siegal, you may recall, was one of the employers who sent his employees a letter suggesting that if President Barack Obama were re-elected, they would likely be out of jobs.
This threat to move if required to actually chip in carries with it the air that we will be losing out simply by being deprived of the presence of the wealthy, that obviously we want them near us. That they are somehow, simply through existing, a benefit to us.
Sorry guys. Not so much.
If you don’t want to live in this country and be a productive, contributing member of society, feel free to buy yourself an island, or move to Russia, or wherever it is you feel you’ll be appropriately appreciated. You obviously, have the means.
But stop with petty, silly threats in response to the suggestion that you pay what you owe. You’re already not paying it, and “double not paying it,” is the kind of thing that only works on the playground.