COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE HAWKINS

Higher income taxes do cause people to adjust behaviors

When California resident Phil Mickelson said he might have to make drastic adjustments due to higher tax rates in California, tax-and-spend liberals made him the poster child of selfishness.

Those kinds of charges always prompt me to wonder how people define "enough."

Evidently for some there simply isn’t enough. The wealthy don’t give enough and governments at all levels don’t have enough. Ever.

Mickelson’s concern is that he will have to pay about half or more of his earned income to government, some to California’s franchise tax board and the rest to the IRS. Moving to an area that doesn’t have a state income tax would let him keep more of what he earns, allowing him spend it as he wishes, rather than giving it to inefficient government.

Mickelson may have paid upwards of $6 million in state income taxes in 2012. It would take about 4,000 average income wage earners to replace that amount in income tax payments.

Mickelson’s remarks sparked anew the argument that high state tax structures foster migration to states which have lower tax rates. There are conflicting studies on that, but there is one inescapable conclusion. The well is only so deep. Michelson says California wants to take more water out of his well than he may want to give.

It is certain that at some point the ever growing bite California government takes from private sector wage earners and business owners will become counterproductive. Some believe it is already.

The more California government takes from those who have and redistributes it to the beneficiaries elitist government decision makers think should get it the greater the likelihood the high income earners will take their money and leave.

Michelson later said he was sorry he brought the matter up at a press conference before a major golf tournament. He said using his public status and popularity was inappropriate.

If that were an indiscretion great numbers of luminaries suffer from the same malady. They use their celebrity to draw attention to an issue. Sometimes they support a conservative view point. More often they speak out in favor of a liberal agenda. A few years ago about half of Hollywood was going to move to Europe if George W. Bush were elected president.

Al Gore just sold a television network to Al Jeezera -- the communication outlet that was owned by a man who made millions selling oil to the world, the consumption of which Gore has criticized as being a major contributor to climate change. He was hammered by the right. How dare he support the very people and industry he criticizes?

Observers say Gore attempted to close the sale prior to Jan. 1, 2013 to avoid the higher tax rates agreed to in the fiscal cliff negotiations. Not much complaint about any aspect of the deal from climate change adherents who like what Gore says about the weather.

To be fair, he was poked at a bit by some on the left, but in a relaxed and friendly sort of way.

The deal was reportedly worth $100 million to Gore. Perhaps he will take some of that oily cash and buy more carbon offset credits. Let someone else save the planet from too much carbon by cutting back on carbon-based energy while the former candidate for president of the United States buys his way to carbon neutrality. This all makes Gore something of a hypocrite.

Gore also pays far more in income taxes than does the average Joe. The fact that he has more money doesn’t mean he ought to pay less attention to keeping it than those who earn less.

The higher federal income tax caused him to attempt to adjust his behavior. Claims that increases in tax rates don’t have that effect are based on the ostrich approach to life. Just hide your eyes. That way you can’t see what’s going on around you.

Ostriches don’t really do that, by the way. That makes ostriches smarter than some liberals.

Both men were considering the best way to keep more of what they have earned. The only time that is unreasonable behavior in the eyes of the left is when the so-called transgressor is not one of their own.

Hawkins is retired after 35 years as a construction industry association manager. He was a broadcast reporter and news anchor in Denver. As a Navy officer, he saw action in Vietnam in the River Assault Squadrons and is the recipient of a Silver Star and Purple Heart. He can be reached at george.hawkins@sddt.com

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