Why I don’t get even more frustrated when folks ignore the economics we teach. The reason is quite clear: at some point economics comes back to bite you in the tookus. It’s not really satisfying either to say “I told you so” largely because that means we’re all poorer than we have to be. Here’s the latest from last weekend’s WSJ:
It looks like that Facebook IPO may not be enough to save California’s fisc after all. Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin has renounced his U.S. citizenship to move to Singapore, which has no capital gains tax. And now we learn the Golden State’s budget deficit will come in at $16 billion, up from a merely awful $9.2 billion estimate in January.
California Controller John Chiang reported last week that April tax collections were a gigantic 20.2%, or $2.44 billion, below 2012-13 budget projections. You have to admire Mr. Chiang’s capacity for understatement as he noted that “revenues disappointed.” Yes, and J.P. Morgan’s whale trade was a $2 billion rounding error.
Among the biggest surprises is a 21.5% or nearly $2 billion decline in personal income tax payments from what Governor Jerry Brown had anticipated. This reinforces the point that when states rely too heavily on the top 1% of taxpayers to pay the bills, fiscal policy is a roller coaster ride.
California is suffering this tax drought even as most other states enjoy a revenue rebound. State tax collections were up nationally by 8.9% last year, according to the Census Bureau, and this year revenues are up by double digits in many states. The state comptroller reports that Texas is enjoying 10.9% growth in its sales taxes (it has no income tax), while California can’t seem to keep up despite one of the highest tax rates in the land.