Enforcing California’s Proposed Wealth/Exit Tax

California has another proposal in its legislature for a wealth/exit tax. The bill includes provisions to create contractual claims tied to the assets of a wealthy taxpayer who doesn’t have the cash to pay their annual wealth tax bill because most of their assets aren’t easily turned into cash. This claim would require the taxpayer to make annual filings with California’s Franchise Tax Board and eventually pay the wealth taxes owed, even if they’ve moved to another state.

One of the common criticisms of the exit tax provision I’m seeing amounts to, “Oh, yeah, and how do you think you’ll collect when I’ve moved to another state?” My personal experience suggests the FTB knows how.

My wife and I moved to California in 1982. We left in 1990. When we left, we sold all our real property, removed all our personal property, and closed all our bank or other financial accounts in the state. We had no financial connection to California. In 1994, the Franchise Tax Board filed a tax lien on our house in Maryland, claiming that we owed back income taxes. That was first notice we had of the alleged delinquency. When we didn’t immediately pay in full, the FTB’s response was to turn us in the IRS, triggering a federal audit.

The IRS determined that we had overpaid for the year in question and sent us a refund of about a hundred bucks, and we were able to use that audit to show that we had overpaid our California income tax as well. It turned out California only owed us about five dollars. Normally, we would let such a small amount ride as a credit to be applied to next year’s taxes, but since we had no intention of ever living in California again, we made them send us a check—and remove the tax lien.

Yes, we beat California’s attempt of extort us, but I believe our experience shows the kind of tactics the FTB would use to enforce an exit tax.

UPDATE—It’s been pointed out that a wealth tax would violate the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment and an exit tax would violate the fundamental right to travel of the Fourteenth Amendment. True, but when has a law being patently unconstitutional ever stopped the California legislature from passing it?

You Get What You Pay For …

… then you pay for what you got. After Trump was elected, a video surfaced of a Google employee meeting in which the corporate leadership said they could not allow an election like that to happen again, and there’s plenty of evidence suggesting that Google participated with other tech companies in tipping the scales in Biden’s favor in 2020. They got what they paid for.

Of course, what they paid for is a dangerously incompetent administration. The poor economy is but one Joe Biden’s failures. Google may be big, but it’s not so big that it isn’t affected by a stagnant economy. They’re laying off 12,000 employees.

As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Ho Hum, Another Possible Government Shutdown

So the government may shutdown if the Senate doesn’t pass the omnibus funding bill under consideration—and members of the House, including Speaker-presumptive McCarthy, have said that after control of the House flips next year they will quash any legislation originated by a Republican senator who votes to pass the bill.


Given that I work as a government contractor, I suppose I should take a greater interest in the matter, but I was planning to take next week off anyway. Oh, and one of the reasons I’ve got over six weeks of paid time off accrued is because my previous experience with Congressional budgetary incompetence.

The next few weeks are going to be … um … complicated.

20 % of the Customers Drink 80 % of the Beer

That version of the the 80/20 Rule is attributed to an English pub keeper. It’s an informal summary of the Pareto distribution, a power-law probability phenomenon that describes a great deal of human behavior. The Pareto distribution suggests it is usually the case in an organization with a statistically large population that a group about the size of the square root of the total population produces half of the organization’s beneficial work.

This tells us why Elon Musk is probably right and Robert Reich is probably wrong.

If Twitter had 7500 employees when Musk took over, something on the order of 87 were probably carrying half the real productive load. Firing only half the staff wouldn’t get rid of enough deadwood.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Twitter will be reshaped.

That Sucking Sound You Hear …

… is inflation cleaning out your wallet. The Consumer Price Index for August was up 8.3 % over August, 2021. That was higher than the “expected” rate.

The CPI’s food index rose 11.4% in August, the worst year-over-year increase since Jimmy Carter was President. (The Gentle Reader may remember that I once optimistically hoped that the Xiden Administration would be Carter’s second term.)

And the Dow fell about 500 points after the worse-than-“expected” inflation report.

Math is Hard

Karine Jean-Pierre really said this—

Look, when you look at the data, the inflation data, we’re seeing more progress, bringing global inflation down in the U.S. economy, as I just stated moments ago. Overall, uh, prices have been essentially flat in our country these last two months. That is welcome news for American families.

OTOH, if you believe Nineteen Eighty-Four is an instruction manual rather than a warning, then arithmetic is subject to revision as required. Two plus two can be five or three or four or whatever The Party needs it to be.

My 401k and rollover IRA were unavailable for comment.

BTW, I almost posted this with an I’m Not Making This Up, You Know headline.

A Significant Windfall

America’s newspaper of record reports that the average lifetime earnings of graduates who have earned a gender studies degree rose sharply to $10,000 this week. The report also notes—

[s]ome college graduates with gender studies degrees are actually hitting up to $20,000 if they received Pell grants, doubling the most common average of $10,000, and being more than $20,000 over the previous average of $0.

The Actual Cost of Electric Cars

I’m an electrical engineer. My day job involves designing the electronics that will drive a set of motors in a robot arm to be used on a NASA satellite. While the motors are not as powerful as those used in cars, the technology is similar. The paperwork below goes a long way in explaining why one of my VWs burns gasoline and the other is a diesel.When I first saw this quote, I thought it was fake. However, a bit of research showed that a low end estimate for replacing a Volt battery is around 9,000 bucks. A Los Angeles Chevy dealer was cited online as estimating just short of 20,000 dollars for a Volt battery replacement, and costs as high as 32,000 are reported.

I ran the VIN shown on the estimate at the AC Delco parts website. The car is a 2012 Volt hybrid which means that the battery could now be out of warranty. Because the car is hybrid, there is still a 1.4 L gasoline engine to maintain in addition to the battery and electric motor.

It would probably be more expensive to replace the diesel engine in my New Beetle that that gasoline engine in my GTI, but it would still be less that the cost of a low end estimate for a Volt battery job. And I’d expect a diesel engine to go a lot further than 70,000 miles before needing to be rebuilt or replaced. My other diesel cars all went past 300,000 miles before requiring serious engine work.


UPDATE—The estimated cost of this battery replacement is almost the same as the original 2012 sticker price for a Volt.

A Bit of ECON 101

It’s beginning to look as if the economy shrank again in 2Q 2022. That would be a second quarter of negative economic growth which meets the formal definition of a recession

Informally, it’s generally agreed that a recession is when you neighbor loses his job, a depression is when you lose yours, and a recovery is when a whole lot of politicians (mostly Democrats) lose theirs.

T minus 135 days.