Taxing history’s unlearned lessons

Cal Thomas's picture

“What experience and history teach is this — that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.” (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, “The Philosophy of History,” 1837)

Last week, the Newark Star-Ledger reported that New Jersey lost $70 billion in wealth over the past five years. The reason? Affluent people have moved to states with a lower tax rate or no income tax at all.

The findings are from a study conducted by the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College, the first study on interstate wealth migration in the country. The report found that wealthy New Jersey residents apparently grew tired of the state treating their success as an ATM for politicians and so they moved to Florida, Pennsylvania and even New York, a state not known for low taxes, but its levies are not as high as New Jersey’s.

The study found that wealth migration is a relatively new phenomenon. In the five years preceding 2004, researchers discovered an influx of $98 billion into the state. That would have been during a period when New Jersey was enjoying tax cuts after a run of four successive Republican governors. The Democrats who followed raised taxes, some substantially.

Dennis Bone, chairman of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, told the Newark Star-Ledger, “This study makes it crystal clear that New Jersey’s tax policies are resulting in a significant decline in the state’s wealth.”

The problem in New Jersey and with the federal government under Democrats and some Republicans is that ideology has trumped history and common sense when it comes to taxes and spending.

Politicians can see the results of lower taxes, which bring greater prosperity and higher revenue to federal and state governments because more people are working and earning money. But their liberal ideology is so frozen it cannot move from its desire to “tax the rich,” even though overtaxing the rich drives the rich to other states.

Unfortunately, there is no escaping the long arm of the federal government, which may be why the Obama administration wants to cut back on space travel.

What can be said about politicians who refuse to see the obvious and stick, not to principle (a principle would make them change their minds), but to a rigid ideology that is cult-like in its refusal to accept reality? If you tax more, you will get less because businesses won’t hire and in extreme cases — like New Jersey — people will move to other states.

The problem for New Jersey and other states — and Washington — is that governments are run by politicians whose main focus is their re-election. In this pursuit they don’t want to say “no” to anyone’s request for an earmark, a project, a program, or an “entitlement.”

The result has been a growing addiction by too many people to government instead of reliance on self. As more become dependent on government, more vote to preserve the status quo. And rabid political opponents will set upon anyone who suggests a cut in spending.

Welfare reform should have taught a valuable lesson. There were claims that people would starve in the streets if their welfare checks were ended and recipients were forced to get jobs. They got jobs and no one starved.

Government must begin weaning people from government. If it won’t, we the people must do it. All programs should be continually subject to reauthorization and justification. Social Security and Medicare should be means-tested with incentives for people not to sign-up for them. Families should take care of elderly parents, like they once did. Government should be a last resort, not a first resource.

Just as too many have been conditioned to turn to government, we must be reconditioned to turn away from government and embrace the higher virtue of liberty. We can’t go on taxing and spending ourselves into financial oblivion. New Jersey proves there are limits. Does the Obama administration and a Democratic Congress understand? Will they learn from history?

[Cal Thomas is America’s most widely syndicated op-ed columnist, appearing in more than 600 national newspapers. He is the author of more than 10 books and is a FOX News political contributor since 1997. Email Cal Thomas at] ©2010 TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

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Cyclist's picture
Submitted by Cyclist on Tue, 02/09/2010 - 8:07pm.

that can't control its spending. Google the current situation in Greece. What a mess they're in. EU member states are trying to come up with a way to help the Greek economy without busting their own. However, everyone is mindful that Spain, Portugal and Italy are also in precarious financial striates. There’s not enough money to go around.

The Greek socialist government responded by announcing that austerity measures are in order and they promise to do so "fairly". Oh, several Greek labor unions are going to the streets in a move to shut that nation down in protest. Typical, eh?

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

S. Lindsey's picture
Submitted by S. Lindsey on Tue, 02/09/2010 - 8:24pm.

I was working on a new blog on just this.. The next major bubble to burst is Europe. They are in worse shape then we are. Gold dropped $49 an ounce the other day.. Why? Because Europe started buying our Dollars as a back stop to their debt.

In years past this was a safe bet.. But when our debt is going through the roof.. their "Dollars" are no safer then ours...

The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them. ~~Patrick Henry
"Illegitimus non Corborundum"

Cyclist's picture
Submitted by Cyclist on Tue, 02/09/2010 - 8:42pm.

about that.

Anyways, when I look at our deficit and then the running debt I tremble. Somebody has got to say enough already. We are almost....NO, we are at the "coffin corner" otherwise known as the point of no return with our economy. Cross that line and we all lose.

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

Joe Kawfi's picture
Submitted by Joe Kawfi on Tue, 02/09/2010 - 10:42pm.

It's amazing to watch the libs come apart at the seams over a few notes scrawled on the hand of someone who is not in government while the miserable failure known as Barrack Obama continues to drive our nation further and further into debt.

This dog and pony show that he is proposing with the Republicans is nothing new, and he is only doing it because he has been called on the carpet by the American people for his blatant partisanship.

On health care, he demands socialist solutions to achieve "universal coverage," when such solutions have failed everywhere they've been tried and will, studies show, leave millions uninsured.

"If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin." - Samuel Adams

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