Jeff Bezos, the e-commerce magnate and one of the world’s wealthiest individuals, has announced his decision to relocate from Seattle to Florida. While he cites being closer to his aging parents as the primary reason for the move, it’s evident that the state’s tax policies and the changing landscape of Seattle also played a significant role in this decision.
Jeff Bezos is leaving Seattle for low tax Miami.https://t.co/aQCKtGADvq
— Citizen Free Press (@CitizenFreePres) November 3, 2023
Washington state’s policies have prompted several businesses and billionaires to depart from Seattle’s urban core, and Bezos may not be the last to do so. The dissatisfaction extends beyond the billionaire class, as recent reports indicate a concerning rise in mental health issues among young adults in the city.
The Seattle Times revealed that 21% of young adults have sought medication for depression and anxiety. In addition, Seattle has earned the unfortunate title of the nation’s saddest city, with high percentages of adults reporting feelings of depression.
This surprising trend raises questions about the city’s overall well-being despite its many attractions, including high-tech job opportunities, a vibrant culinary scene, a thriving arts community, and access to the great outdoors. One prominent factor contributing to Seattle’s woes is its socialist-leaning government.
Council member Kshama Sawant has advocated for rent strikes and proposed taxing the rich and large corporations, including Amazon, to fund social housing and homeless services. Even Bezos, residing in the exclusive enclave of Medina along Lake Washington’s eastern shores, is not immune to the impact of these policies.
Medina stands in stark contrast to the struggling downtown Seattle, where public safety concerns have surged, with rampant drug use and criminal activity. While Medina boasts strict surveillance and security measures, Seattle’s mass transit system faces severe issues, including air contamination and a spike in violence.
The need for extensive security forces further strains public finances, and fare revenue can’t keep up with the associated costs. Over the past three decades, during which Bezos founded Amazon in his Seattle garage, the city has struggled with an increasingly socialist leadership that prioritizes equity over safety.
Amazon itself has decided to relocate 2,000 employees from downtown Seattle to Bellevue, across Lake Washington. Another factor influencing Bezos’ decision is the tax burden in King County and Washington state.
A new wealth tax, recently upheld by the Washington Supreme Court, takes 7% from the sale of financial assets, affecting those with profits exceeding $250,000. Bezos, with a net worth of $161 billion, recognizes the potential savings in state taxes by adopting a visitor status in Washington State rather than a resident.
While the proponents of the wealth tax argue that it’s an “excise tax,” Bezos’ move echoes the motivations of other wealthy individuals like Donald Trump, who also sought a more favorable tax climate. As former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan once noted, “Whatever you tax, you get less of.”
In this case, Washington State may find that taxing billionaires will lead to fewer of them to generate revenue during the next tax cycle, as Bezos’ departure serves as a cautionary tale.