Everybody Pays for Blue-State Extravagance
Alexis de Tocqueville once observed that “In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve.” With that in mind, conservatives happily ensconced in low-tax red states sometimes engage in a bit of schadenfreude when they consider the much higher state income taxes many liberals face. Whether it’s the cost of welcoming illegal immigrants with food, housing and education, questionable school curricula about the history of the gay rights movement, or frivolous and expensive programs to address “global warming,” it’s easy to take satisfaction in thinking “well, at least it’s not my state taxes paying for it.”
But when or if the federal tax code ever faces serious reform, it should be remembered that under the current structure, in which state and local property taxes are deductible on federal income taxes, the taxpayers of states with more moderate taxes (or none at all) are subsidizing the overpriced liberal government of so-called “progressive” states.
Although the total taxes paid are higher in a state with a higher income rate, a Texan (for example) will end up paying more federal income tax than a Californian with the same income, simply because the Californian can take a deduction on his much-higher state and local tax bite.
Consider two earners, one in Texas and the other in California, each earning $100,000 in the year 2013. The Texan pays no state income tax. The Californian owes his state 9.3% + $2191, for a total of $11,491.
For federal taxes, the rate for an individual taxpayer at that income level is $17,891 + 28% of income over $87,850. The Texan’s federal income taxes come to $21,293. But since the Californian can deduct his state income taxes, his taxable income drops to $88,509. $17,891 + 28% over $87,850 makes his federal income tax liability only $18,075.
The Californian is paying $3218 less to Washington than the Texan!
Remember that when someone spouts the tired liberal myth that red states collect more from the government than they pay (a specious argument that counts military expenditures as money sent to the state by Washington.)
But bear in mind that this example takes into account only state income taxes. Since property taxes are also deductible, and the states with the highest state income taxes also tend to have higher property tax rates, the “subsidy” provided by red states is often even greater.
Lawmakers in blue states are more willing to raise taxes to cover frivolous programs when they know that their constituents will not have to bear the entire cost. Were this not the case, voters in those states might be less forgiving of their overspending. Personally, I’d be willing to lose the deduction for my state income taxes and property taxes if I knew taxpayers in San Francisco (and Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Seattle) were suddenly getting the same wake-up call. If the Californian making $100k had to pay his much-higher state taxes in addition to the exact samefederal taxes as the guy in Texas, support for liberal nanny-state expenditures, and the high state taxes they require, might dry up rather quickly.