Vanishing Data on Tax Migration
[Editor’s Note: The following post is by TDV contributor, Wendy McElroy]
Oh so quietly, the Obama Administration has removed embarrassing data from the public eye. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) no longer provides information on tax migration within the U.S. There was no announcement from either the IRS or the Census Bureau, which co-operates in compiling data. The reports have simply ceased.
In 1991, the IRS began to offer statistics on the number of people who relocated from and to every county in America during the preceding fiscal year. When combined with the aggregate incomes of those who relocated, the information gave analysts a sense of how taxation was impacting demographics. In September of 2012, the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research published a report entitled “The Great California Exodus: A Closer Look”. The report used “data from the Census, the Internal Revenue Service…and other sources” to “map in detail where in California the migrants come from, and where they go when they leave the state.” The report also attributed the migration to a series of “cost drivers” with taxes topping the list.
The other cost drivers: “regulations, the high price of housing and commercial real estate, costly electricity, union power, and high labor costs.” All of them have a strong tax component. Consider “union power.” In California, the Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) provides retirement benefits for over 1.6 million current employees, retirees, and their families. One way or the other, these benefits are at tax expense. For example, employee’s salaries and their union dues come from taxation. Every dollar so confiscated is a dollar yanked out of private pockets and production. Such factors make California extraordinarily hostile to business, the wealthy and anyone who strives to join their ranks. No wonder the home of choice for California tax migrants was Texas whose Constitution prohibits a state tax on personal income.
The Manhattan Institute called the IRS data the “most useful tool” it had for analysis. That tool is no longer available. The government reacts to embarrassing facts as heartless people used to react to idiot relatives in the olden days; they locked the embarrassment into an attic and never spoke of it again. Thus the state-by-state interactive tax migration table maintained by the Tax Foundation ends with the year 2010. The same fate awaits the nationwide county-by-county map offered by Forbes. Thus, the American public will be a little less informed. The American government will be a little less transparent as statistics are fed into an Orwellian memory hole.
Why the information blackout? There are several reasons, none of which are mutually exclusive.
The first reason is the same one that prompted Stalin to shoot his census takers. The truth can be politically embarrassing. In the late 1930s, Stalin commanded that an accurate census be taken to give him the information he required to prepare for a possible war with Germany. He got what he asked for but not what he wanted. The census reflected the politically engineered and deliberate murder of millions of Kulaks (farm-owning peasants) in the Ukraine from purges, planned starvation and disease. The data showed the deadly devastation of communist policy upon an entire class of Russians who simply disappeared. Stalin did not want that level of accuracy; he certainly did not wish it to be public knowledge. And, so, the census takers were abruptly executed and inflated population figures were released.
In America, it is still considered poor taste to line civil servants up against a wall and shoot them. When politically awkward data is exposed, the data rather than the collectors are destroyed. After all, what is not known does not exist. Nothing to see here, folks, move along and no one needs to be hurt.
The Crony Capitalism site states, “When taxes are high enough for people and businesses to pull up their stakes and move halfway across a continent something is wrong.” Something is terribly wrong at the very heart of America. Crony Capitalism continues, “the data [on tax migration] is no longer public due likely to the embarrassing nature of the information. Polls in high tax states want the tax bases of their respective states to think that they have no option but to pay even higher rates.”
That is a second reason to hide the data. Information is power; it allows individuals to know their options and to act on them. Ignorance is power as well because it allows those who impose it on others to manufacture the truth because no evidence to the contrary is allowed to exist.
A third reason for the Orwellian memory hole is to discourage what could become a dangerous trend – at least dangerous to the government. So far tax migration is occurring on an individual-by-individual basis. Many who migrate do so quietly and without contacting anyone beyond the circle of people necessary to relocate, such as lawyers or real estate agents. If people believe they are alone in their opinions and behavior, they are less likely to speak out or organize into an effective force. They may well continue to act as individuals but their inconspicuous actions will not inspire others. They will not ring a bell in the night — either to alarm or to encourage.
Silence and ignorance are friends to the state. And whatever the state wants you not to hear, not to know is important to your well-being. The government does not want you to know how popular an option leaving has become.
Everyone needs to weigh options for themselves, and many people will “stand their ground” because that ground is shared with family and friends who cannot or will not move. I cannot disagree. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but being informed is never the wrong choice. I can disagree with ignorance.
My opinion? I cannot say it with more pith or elegance than Crony Capitalism: “Get – Out – Now.”
Wendy McElroy is a renowned individualist anarchist and individualist feminist. She was a co-founder along with Carl Watner and George H. Smith of The Voluntaryist in 1982, and is the author/editor of twelve books, the latest of which is “The Art of Being Free”. Follow her work at