As the progressive left in the Ocean State calls on the General Assembly to reverse the Carcieri-era tax breaks for the rich, the best defense the right has come up with is that the affluent will move away if we ask them to pay their fair share. While I’m fairly confident most folks are smart enough not to make such life-altering decisions based on the singular factor of tax rates, for those of you who aren’t, here’s a personal story for you:
When I was in elementary school, my parents split up and my dad lost his job. My mom, who worked at Bostitch, could no longer afford our big fancy house and our affluent lifestyle in the suburbs of East Greenwich. So she had a choice: she could either move us to a different community, where her meager salary would go much farther, or we could continue to struggle to get by in EG.
My mom, easily the wisest social scientist I have ever known, decided to keep us here. We moved to a smaller house but stayed in town. From our new home, I could almost see Warwick from the back yard, it was right there on the other side of Post Road less than a half mile away.
We could have moved there, too, and at a fraction of the cost. But my mom wanted to keep us in East Greenwich schools, which were already regarded as head and shoulders better than our neighboring communities. (This was the first generation in 100 years of Bostitch employees who didn’t by and large live in East Greenwich … now the manufacturing plant is still here but is virtually devoid of jobs.)
I’m quite pleased with my mom’s decision to keep us in East Greenwich even though it cost her more A LOT more to do so. So is she, as are my brother and sister. Interestingly, the four of us are pretty socially, politically and economically diverse, and perhaps the one thing we all agree on is that staying here was well worth the investment.
Now, you can argue that East Greenwich to Warwick isn’t the same as Rhode Island to Massachusetts. But you can’t argue that it’s cheaper to live in East Greenwich than it is in Warwick – and that is the argument conservatives are making on migration; not that wealth will cross state lines because it is better elsewhere, but because it is cheaper.
If wealth is moving to neighboring states because it is better there, then Rhode Island has a problem. But if we’re losing wealthy residents because it’s cheaper there, that’s not as bad … Ask anyone in my family and they will tell you those who would make such a short-sighted decision might not be destined to be wealthy forever…