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'I Want High-Income Earners to Stay'

“To continually attack high-income earners when 51% of our taxes are paid by 2% of New Yorkers—this blows my mind when I hear people say, 'so what if they leave.' No you leave! I want my high-income earners right here in this city!"
So said New York City Mayor Eric Adams last week in a rare moment of clarity.
Of course, they aren’t his high-income earners. They just happen to live where he lives. In case there’s any doubt, they belong to themselves, not to anyone else. John Locke’s concept of self-ownership is both powerful and useful.
Mayor Adams implicitly and correctly identifies one way to help keep high-income New Yorkers in New York: quit being mean to them. At least that’s what I think he’s saying.
That entails a few things. Quit complaining about high-income people. Quit saying that they don’t deserve what they have. Those who earned it by serving other people—and that’s most high-income people—do deserve what they have. And, for Pete’s sake, don’t keep saying that they don’t pay “their fair share.”
What is their fair share? Your answer will depend on your concept of fairness. But here’s what sounds like a reasonable concept: make people pay according to the value they get from the government.
Let’s see what that would mean for New Yorkers. Take a New York City couple who, together, make $500,000 a year in taxable income and file jointly. They pay $19,155.60 in New York City taxes alone. That’s on top of the even higher taxes they would pay to the state government and to the feds. Is it plausible that they get services from the city government that they value at $19,155.60 or more?
Think of it another way. A NYC couple making $90,000 in taxable income would pay $3,264 in NYC taxes. Divide that into $19,155.60 and you get 5.87. Does the $500,000 couple really get almost 6 times the value of services that the $90,000 couple gets?
Fortunately, there’s a policy that would make the tax system less unfair and would also help retain high-income New Yorkers. Make the tax rate 3 percent on everyone. The rates currently range from 3.078 percent for people with income between 0 and $21,600 to 3.8765 percent for people with income above $90,000. (These tax rates are for married people filing jointly.) Cut that rate to 3 percent and everyone would get a bit of a break. The tax cut would be biggest on the highest-income people. That make sense because, as Adams pointed out, they now pay a disproportionate share of NYC taxes. Their share would still be too high, but the tax cut would be a modest move in the right direction.