As the chart below clearly shows, there is a strong correlation between the per capita consumption of mozzarella cheese and the number of civil engineering doctorates awarded. No one doubts that the better educated our civil engineers are, the safer our bridges will be. We should lobby the state legislature to mandate mozzarella cheese with every meal served in schools and the State House.
Of course, this is nonsense. As statisticians will tell us, just because there’s a strong correlation, it does not imply causation. The number of civil engineers we train is totally independent from the consumption of cheese.
The same is true for another mantra that has surface appeal but that has been disproven by statistical evidence. Without any facts to support him, Governor Christie and his cronies have been shouting that our estate and inheritance taxes (which are primarily levied on the wealthier) are driving rich people out of New Jersey.
This myth was totally debunked at a forum in Trenton this morning sponsored by New Jersey Policy Perspective. In several presentations by advocates as well as the Assembly Budget Chairman, lots of those pesky facts were discussed showing there is little or no truth to the legend that these pejoratively-named “death taxes” drive people out of the state.
Budget Chairman Gary Schaer pointed out that in Governor Christie’s proposed budget, $848 million in revenue is projected to come from estate and inheritance taxes. If we reduce or eliminate that revenue, what programs are people willing to cut in order to maintain a balanced budget? Chances are, any solution proposed by the Republicans would hit those whose voices are not heard, those who could least afford the reduction of safety nets.
Michael Mazerov of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, DC, said the false correlation between taxes and flight is a myth primarily perpetuated by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Koch brothers-funded lobbying group that works to perpetuate income inequality and the dirty fuel industry. He quoted study after study that shows taxes have little or no impact on migration from the state. In fact, when Florida (the state that receives the most émigrés from New Jersey) started phasing out its estate tax in 2002, the number of New Jerseyans who moved there actually decreased.
The bottom line, as expressed by Budget Chairman Scheer, is “budget documents are just numbers. They reflect the priorities of the state.” What kind of state do we want to be? One where millionaires get even richer on the backs of the average working person and the indigent? Or one that takes care of its own when for whatever reason – whether it be health or the economy or other factors – when it comes time to make budget decisions.
So keep in mind that a Harvard student showed that there is a strong correlation between the sales of sour cream and deaths from motorcycle accidents. Write to your legislator to urge him or her to ban sour cream immediately. For the sake of our motorcyclists. And while you’re at it, tell your friends in Trenton to sustain the estate and inheritance taxes – for the benefit of all of us who live in the Garden State.