Maine Governor’s stupid mistake allows Stephen King to preach taxing the rich again.
The great American novelist Stephen King has been given a bunch of free press because Governor Paul LePage thought he had left Maine to escape taxes. LePage wants to change the tax structure in Maine and argues that his changes will attract more people to the state. But using Stephen King as an example of tax migration was a big mistake—not just a factual mistake but a public relations disaster.
According to the Portland Press Herald, King wants LePage to “man up and apologize.”
King is right. LePage should apologize if he made false statements (and it seems that he did so). Every moment he delays just hurts his message more.
The governor’s remarks were in the context of his defense of a controversial tax overhaul proposal. The plan reduces the state income tax by raising the sales tax and applying it to new items and services, a proposal that LePage argues will lure wealthy retirees and seasonal inhabitants to make Maine their primary domicile. The tax migration theory has been challenged by Democrats, but LePage attempted to hit back in his weekly radio address, arguing that the state’s income tax was adopted by former Democratic Gov. Ken Curtis, who now lives in Florida.
“Meanwhile, remember who introduced the income tax here in Maine,” LePage said. “Well, today former Governor Ken Curtis lives in Florida where there is zero income tax. Stephen King and Roxanne Quimby have moved away, as well.”
The governor is correct about Curtis. However, his suggestion that King doesn’t live in Maine or pay income taxes here is incorrect. On Thursday, King, the author of 55 novels, many with a horror theme, sent a response to The Pulse AM 620 radio station in Bangor, which he owns, to set the record straight.
King is an advocate of taxing the rich “more.” I don’t think King has a cogent argument for his position. The story quotes him:
Tabby (King’s wife, Tabitha) and I pay every cent of our Maine state income taxes, and are glad to do it. We feel, as Governor LePage apparently does not, that much is owed from those to whom much has been given. We see our taxes as a way of paying back the state that has given us so much. State taxes pay for state services. There’s just no way around it. Governor LePage needs to remember there ain’t no free lunch.
First of all, King’s assertion about what people owe is irrelevant to the issue. LaPage’s claim is that taxation is affecting residency decisions and therefore hurting Maine. That claim is not disproven by the fact that King still pays taxes in Maine. King needs to grapple with the claim or else he is not saying anything that matters. Would King prefer Maine to suffer financially to follow his ethical ideal rather than find a way to attract more rich people to the area and benefit the state?
Secondly, why is this debt that successful, lucky people owe supposed to be paid to the Maine state government? I’ve read King’s autobiographical statements and the state had pretty much nothing to do with his success. He’d be better off finding out who the true god is, thank him for his success, and donate his money accordingly.
Third, beyond what King owed God, it is undoubtedly true that it is good for King to share his fortune with others, both out of charity in general, and perhaps also because of what he feels toward the people of Maine (which is not the same as the Maine state government). He says, “the King Foundation gives grants from three to five million dollars annually, mostly in Maine.” OK. But why not give more? Why should some guys get to take King’s money and distribute it because they won a popularity contest in the state?
None of King’s arguments work unless you add theology and ascribe to the state some kind of mystical, divine status to claim to be the source of King’s success.
What about equality before the law? If King was to commit a crime, then would he be entitled to special protections? I assume not. But how can the state claim to treat all people impartially, yet grab a lot more money from some people and not others?
Notice, I’m not saying that King should pay no more than a person with less wealth. If the government was to extract a flat rate, King would still pay more. A percentage of King’s yearly income is going to be far greater than the same percentage of my yearly income.
Finally, if it is so right to make the rich pay more, then why let them keep as much as they do? Why should King, who was “given” so much by the state, get to live in two homes, with one in Florida for the winter? If King is going to encourage us to think this way about the wealthy, I don’t see how he is going to stop us from taking a lot more than he wants. King seems to get off on the moral superiority he is pretending to have. But if he succeeds in raising a generation on this mindset, he won’t find it so exhilarating to be on the business end of the politics he preaches.
He’s inviting a monster into his home, and feeling proud of himself for doing so.