Don Rogers: Tall tales in days of Zoom

Looks like that great California exodus is more hop across the bay than flood of tax refugees to Texas.

At least that’s the story told in change-of-address records and credit data. Silicon Valley might be leaking Elon Musks, Hewlett Packards, Oracles. But more techies appear to have moved to Truckee than Austin, not to mention Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin.

Still, California shows a net loss in population in 2020 for the first time perhaps ever. The growth spurt might finally be over for this state, the wild weed that doubled since 1970 from 20 million to 40 million people today.

Doesn’t matter that the dip about matches the ratio of anti-vaxxers refusing to wear their masks at Safeway. The population did dip. Only not in Nevada County, which in 2020 had one of the largest exoduses in the state, a 17% increase in move-outs over 2019, but then also a 31% increase in people moving in. So we have a couple of hundred more residents, all told. Maybe we’ll reach 100,000 yet.

It’s the moving here part that caused the state’s population to drop, though. Fewer people came from elsewhere to cover the gap from those leaving the Golden State. The migration elsewhere was around the annual average, actually, for all the tall tales. Except for San Francisco. Residents there left in droves, with considerably fewer people moving in.

This from Postal Service records and the California Policy Lab combing through credit data.


Seems Uncle Bob, tugging on his red ball cap and waxing on, is a little off about those lower taxes in Texas, too.

States have a way of, er, compensating, let’s say. So yeehaw, no income tax in Texas. Let’s go there! But hold on a minute. You might want to think this through. I don’t just mean dusty plains and sweltering summers.

States don’t only vary by income tax. There’s sales tax, property tax, excise tax, vehicle tax, all kinds of tax. Put them together and the picture changes.

WalletHub, a credit score service, analyzed the full raft of taxes and compared the total rate to their percentage of average income in each state.

Some of the results fit what we think we know:

The highest-tax states as a percentage of income are Illinois and Connecticut at 15%, with New York and Pennsylvania right behind at 14%.

The lowest-tax states are Alaska and Delaware at 6%, Montana at 7%, and a bunch of other inland Western states like Nevada at 8%.

But you might want to sit down for this. California clocks in at just under 9%, good for 11th lowest in the country.

And Texas? How about 40th? Yep. Nearly 13% of the average Texan’s income goes to paying the combination of taxes in that state. Uncle Bob sounds all hat if you do some math. At least according this measure of total local and state tax rates (there are many):


Now, San Francisco did empty out. Good Republican states do dominate the lowest 10 for taxation. Real estate in our area is indeed going for a mint, with multiple offers and so few places for sale that everything’s a pearl.

It is fun to fantasize about cashing out and moving somewhere less expensive, maybe better all around. The opportunity is more promising than a lottery ticket. More promising yet if we don’t have to be somewhere specific to earn our living. Have laptop, will travel. We’ll always have Zoom.

But where?

What if you’ve lived in Hawaii, the Northwest, the Midwest, the Northeast, ski towns, beach towns, towns with only Republicans, towns with only Democrats? Prairie towns, mountain towns, the city, the suburbs, in the country, even deep in the wilderness with the nearest neighbor 15 miles away? That last might have been my favorite, looking back.

But what if right here is the best of all? The lake, the mountains, the ocean, even the desert close by. Snowboarding, mountain biking, super interesting and smart people with all kinds of views. Culture, artists, authors. National forest and plenty of trails right in town.

Everything is unsettled, everyone’s so triggered and ready — eager even — to lash out in these last bumpy days of the pandemic. We each can draw up long lists of all the cons in our current lives, everything wrong about here.

More likely, though, we’re acting as our own Uncle Bobs, waxing on about supposed utopias out there, forgetting for the moment it’s awfully good, if you think a little more about it, right here.

Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at or 530-477-4299.

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