Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Blue-State Suicide Pact

From Joel Kotkin, at New Geography:
With their enthusiastic backing of President Obama and the Democratic Party on Election Day, the bluest parts of America may have embraced a program utterly at odds with their economic self-interest. The almost uniform support of blue states’ congressional representatives for the administration’s campaign for tax “fairness” represents a kind of  bizarre economic suicide pact.

Any move to raise taxes on the rich — defined as households making over $250,000 annually — strikes directly at the economies of these states, which depend heavily on the earnings of high-income professionals, entrepreneurs and technical workers. In fact, when you examine which states, and metropolitan areas, have the highest concentrations of such people, it turns out they are overwhelmingly located in the bluest states and regions.

Ironically the new taxes will have relatively little effect on the detested Romney uber-class, who derive most of their income from capital gains,   taxed at a much lower rate. They also have access to all manner of offshore dodges. Nor will it have much impact on Silicon Valley millionaires and billionaires, or the Hollywood moguls and urban land speculators who constitute the Democratic Party’s “good rich,” and enjoy many of the same privileges as their wealthy conservative counterparts.

The people whose wallets will be drained in the new war on “the rich” are high-earning, but hardly plutocratic professionals like engineers, doctors, lawyers, small business owners and the like. Once seen as the bastion of the middle class, and exemplars of upward mobility, these people are emerging as the modern day “kulaks,” the affluent peasants ruthlessly targeted by Stalin in the early 1930s.
William Jacobson's getting a kick out of the kulak analogy: "Go kulak — more of nothing is nothing." (And be sure to follow the links there.)

But back to Kotkin's piece:
What would a big tax increase on the “rich” mean to the poor and working classes in these areas [big metro areas that supported Obama]? To be sure, they may gain via taxpayer-funded transfer payments, but it’s doubtful that higher taxes will make their prospects for escaping poverty much brighter. For the most part, the economies of the key blue regions are very dependent on the earnings of the mass affluent class, and their spending is critical to overall growth. Singling out the affluent may also reduce the discretionary spending that drives employment in the personal services sector, retail and in such key fields as construction.

This prospect is troubling since many of these areas are already among the most unequal in America. In the expensive blue areas, the lower-income middle class population that would benefit from the Administration’s plan of keeping the Bush rates for them is proportionally smaller, although the numbers of the poor, who already pay little or nothing in income taxes, generally greater. Indeed, according to a recent Census analysis, the two places with the highest proportions of poor people are Washington, D.C., and California. By far the highest level of inequality among the country’s 25 most populous counties is in Manhattan.

Finally we have to consider the impact of the new tax rates on the fiscal health of these states. Four of the five states in the poorest shape fiscally, according to a recent survey by 24/7 Wall Street, all have congressional delegations dominated by Democrats — California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Illinois (the one red state is Arizona). Slower economic growth brought about by higher taxes — compounded by high state taxes — is unlikely to make their situation any better.

So what can we expect to happen if the fiscal cliff appears, or if the President and his party get their taxes on the rich? One can expect a proportionally greater impact on citizens and the budgets of the already expensive, high-tax states, where the new kulak class is concentrated. It may also spark a greater migration of people and companies to less expensive, lower-tax areas...
Progressive economics is not smart.

Seriously. We're talking retardo-maximo territory here (shaking head in pitiful yet resigned astonishment).