Monday, March 17, 2014

Texas versus California

I have been trying to decide if Scott Lemieux covered this too completely, but I decided that there were a couple of useful points in this article.  Especially as relates to my California versus Texas discussion with Mark, where we discuss the relative merits of the two states. For example:
And despite all the gloating by Texas boosters about how the state attracts huge numbers of Americans fleeing California socialism, the numbers don’t bear out this narrative either. In 2012, 62,702 people moved from California to Texas, but 43,005 moved from Texas to California, for a net migration of just 19,697.
This really points out how marginal the population shift is.  It isn't zero, but it is also not a mass population shift driven by the hellish California region.

Even more telling:

Oh yes, I know what you’ve heard. And it’s true, as the state’s boosters like to brag, that Texas does not have an income tax. But Texas has sales and property taxes that make its overall burden of taxation on low-wage families much heavier than the national average, while the state also taxes the middle class at rates as high or higher than in California. For instance, non-elderly Californians with family income in the middle 20 percent of the income distribution pay combined state and local taxes amounting to 8.2 percent of their income, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy; by contrast, their counterparts in Texas pay 8.6 percent.

And unlike in California, middle-class families in Texas don’t get the advantage of having rich people share equally in the cost of providing government services. The top 1 percent in Texas have an effective tax rate of just 3.2 percent. That’s roughly two-fifths the rate that’s borne by the middle class, and just a quarter the rate paid by all those low-wage “takers” at the bottom 20 percent of the family income distribution. This Robin-Hood-in-reverse system gives Texas the fifth-most-regressive tax structure in the nation.  
That leads to some really interesting questions about he relation of tax rates to prosperity.  If most people in Texas pay more taxes than California, then maybe this is another data point on the scale of more money for government leading to a stronger and more prosperous state.  But these points really don't make the case that Texas is clearly better than California.  Now both states have a strong streak of pro-business advocates, and so I think that both could end up as engines of American prosperity.  But I think that the future for California is pretty optimistic once the actual facts are broadly considered. 

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