Spin Control

Sunday Spin: WA No. 1 for 'making a living'

OLYMPIA – Workers of Washington rejoice. You’re in the best state in which to make a living.

At least that’s the view of MoneyRates.com, an online business magazine that put the Evergreen State at the top of its annual rankings for the second year in a row. We finished second the two years before that, so all you workers feeling ill-used can either start looking for a better job or rejoice that you aren’t worse off in some second-rate state.

No doubt that when Al Gore invented the Internet, it was with the goal of giving everyone the ability to find a list of the best, worst, smartest, stupidest or weirdest things on almost any topic. But such rankings are of limited news value. . .

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... Some organization or another is always grading some aspect of the states’ economic activity. If Washington ranks highly, the list generates cheers from Democrats as the party mostly in power; if it does poorly, it prompts “toldya-so’s” from Republicans as the party mostly not in power.

Those responses are quickly followed by a counter ranking from another list, which allows both sides to return undeterred from long-held economic positions. The danger of such lists rests not in their existence, but in their casual use by people who don’t read past the headline.

Take, for example, MoneyRates’ Best States To Make a Living list (the publication avoids “in” and the choice between stilted construction or a dangling participle by skipping the whole thing). Being No. 1 would seem a good thing for Democrats to tout when Republicans start their perennial push for more business friendly legislation and less regulation. But not if those Democrats have ever complained about the state’s regressive tax system or pushed for a state income tax.

One criteria that gives Washington and some other Top 10 states their ranking in this list is their lack of a state income tax. Coupled with higher than average salaries, that helps Washington overcome slightly higher-than-average cost-of-living and unemployment rates. To be sure, a lack of an income tax means you take home more of your pay. But to make up for no income tax, the state has higher than average sales taxes, which isn’t factored in but could be considered more onerous when applied to the taxable items the average worker must buy at a higher cost-of-living rate.  If you make a living by operating your own business, and have to pay the business and occupation tax on your gross receipts, you also might have a different take on things.




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