Billionaires in Washington, the no-income-tax state
An Internet source sends me GeekWire’s listing the top 10 tech billionaires with the comment that four of the top eight live in the state of Washington: Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer.
I checked the Forbes 400 list of Americans, which is of plain-vanilla billionaires, geek and non-geek combined. The geekish four are in the top 20: Gates 1st, Bezos 11th, Ballmer 19th and Allen 20th.
The Evergreen State is lucky to have these four because they are active entrepreneurs who created two companies that have become area giants, Microsoft and Amazon. Bezos moved from the East Coast to found Amazon here, and Gates and Allen started Microsoft in New Mexico and moved it here. Since leaving Microsoft, Allen has started another company, Vulcan, with major investments here.
Washington is one of 50 states and has roughly one-50th of the population of the United States. By statistical rights, it might have one billionaire on that list, or none at all. California and New York each have three. Four is remarkable. No other state has as many. Why us? One plausible explanation is that this state has no state income tax.
Seven states have no income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. Of the top 20 richest people in America, nine live in those states: the four residents of Washington plus Christy Walton, Forrest Mars Jr. and John Mars in Wyoming, Sheldon Alelson in Nevada and Alice Walton in Texas. The Waltons and the Marses are heirs to the retailing and candy fortunes of the same name, and Adelson owns a casino in Las Vegas.
Forty-five percent of the 20 richest people live in one of the 14 percent of all states with no income tax. Coincidence? Probably not.
Then again, some of the others live in the high income-tax states, including Michael Bloomberg, George Soros and libertarian David Koch (!) in New York (top rate of state income tax, 8.82 percent), Larry Ellison, Larry Page and Sergei Brin in California (top rate 9.3 percent), and Phil Knight in Oregon (top rate, 9.9 percent).
Taxes aren’t everything. But they do matter. (Ask the French, whose famous actor Gerard Depardieu is fleeing to... Russia.)
Achenblog by Joel Achenbach
Postman On Politics