Seventy-four years ago there was a hit song (#15 on the Billboard Hot 100) about a Bostonian trapped on an eternal subway ride between Kendall Square and Heath Street because of MBTA fiscal incompetence. But what if Charlie’s story was updated?
New twist: instead of a Charlie Card, he’s packing a Platinum Visa with enough dough on it to kiss both the T and Massachusetts goodbye.
That’s what the latest study of 2021 IRS data claims is happening. The business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation research finds Suffolk and Middlesex Counties lost a packed Fenway Park-full of residents aged 26 to 35. Plenty were natives, some were blow-ins. But the message is the same: I got my degree, had some fun, but now that I’m trying to launch a business/family/lifestyle, I can do it elsewhere much more cheaply, in better weather, with public transit that works (‘poor old Charlie!’). See ya.”
How to stop that bleeding, keep talent and entrepreneurship here, and face up to the butt-kicking less-expensive states have been giving us in the battle for computer tech jobs? MTF President Doug Howgate calls that “the multi billion dollar question…. We’re an aging population, natural population growth in Massachusetts is not particularly high. We need that cohort of folks in Massachusetts to serve our economy and make sure the state thrives.”
Proverb alert: adversity makes strange bedfellows.
The left-leaning Massachusetts Budget & Policy Center issued a statement pushing back on hand-wringing over the rich joining the flight from Massachusetts due to excessive taxation, including the new millionaires’ tax. Instead, writes MBPC Senior Policy Analyst Kurt Wise, the focus should be on “the challenges working families in Massachusetts face…[including] the high cost of housing, childcare, and post-secondary education, as well as unreliable transportation systems.”
Howgate: “Yes, we’re worried about high wealth folks [leaving], but we’re also seeing this 26 to 35 cohort leaving and that’s our future workforce.”
That sounds like fundamental agreement. As we just saw in the Biden-McCarthy debt ceiling talks, even bitterly divided parties can reach a deal if they agree to find their common ground and camp out on it.
No one seriously argues that tax policy is the leading cause of reservations with Allied Van Lines. But it’s also laughable to deny its place in the constellation of budget-busting costs that have residents blowing town. (After all, Dunkin Donuts is available in 40 other states, including some where the rent isn’t too damn high and March isn’t six months long.)
So is it really so unbearable to contemplate moderation of our sky-high capital-gains and estates taxes, along with the lower-income breaks in the governor’s tax package? If card-carrying progressives like Maura Healey and Karen Spilka can manage it, so can the unions and other special interest groups behind the MBPC.
It’s not exactly knuckling under to the man. Even some of those tapped-out 26-to 35-year-olds might be hoping that one day they, too, might realize a capital gain or get a leg up from an inheritance.
Decades after Charlie on the MTA was “the man who’ll never return,” state officials used the slogan “Make It In Massachusetts” to help reverse the exodus of the 1980s. The fate of the tax bill will indicate whether or not the current political establishment wants to make it, or break it.
Subscribe to MASSterList
Start your morning with MASSterList’s chronicle of news and informed analysis about politics, policy, media, and influence in Massachusetts. Plus, get an inside look at Beacon Hill’s hottest new job postings.