Opinion

GTT for the greener pastures?

THE “WELCOME TO TEXAS” sign at the state line (Shutterstock).

“Bloom where you’re planted” – Anonymous.

About 200 years ago, people wanting to start a new life sometimes used the acronym GTT, which stood for “Gone to Texas.” At first it was largely folks fleeing their debts after the Panic of 1819 (they called depressions “panics” back then).

Texas, although technically part of Mexico, was a sparsely settled place with next to no law-and-order. A man or woman could escape the past by being “GTT.” Later it meant migrating to someplace where you can get a fresh start, whether you are fleeing the law or your own boring life.

We’re seeing a bit of a migration to Texas, or Kentucky or Oregon or Montana or Arizona from California these days. It’s a lot of people who have left the Golden State behind. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, from 2010 to 2019, about 6.1 million people moved out, compared to 4.9 million who moved in.

Some folks try to make a political point out of this, arguing that high taxes and crazy Democrats in Sacramento are driving people to pack their U-Hauls and take to the Interstate.

There’s probably some truth to this, but according the PPIC’s research, it’s the high cost of living – especially the cost of housing – that’s really prompting the exodus. And that works both ways, too. If you’re a baby boomer who bought a house (or condo) a while back and are retired – or close to it – you are probably house-rich. 

Million dollar homes – once the dream only of the folks in Huntington Harbour – are becoming increasingly common in places with a lot less glamour. Our house in Garden Grove is  worth – we are told – somewhere around “a whole bunch.” And it’s paid for.

You can probably guess what that kind of cash that can buy in Tennessee or Idaho or Kansas. You can have a huge house, a ranch and all the ATVs you can eat.

The PPIC also says that the people leaving are mostly folks who really can’t afford to live here and are being replaced – in part – by higher income, higher educated humans. In our modest neighborhood, Teslas, BMWs and Lexus’s are far more common than our two Chevys.

Among our friends who have moved, some have political reasons and some economic. If, for instance, you fled to Arizona to find a comfortable red state, whoops! In the 2020 election it went blue, both for Joe Biden and for two U.S. Senators.

If you’re ticked off about taxes – and who isn’t? – read the fine print in your dream of escape.

Some states that – for example – don’t have state income taxes but have a high local sales taxes. And without a Prop. 13, your property tax bill can leap tall buildings in a single year. 

I have pals who cursed the traffic on the 405 and now profane just as loudly while crawling along on some two-lane highway.

Freaked out about our wildfires and oil spills? Some of my expat friends moved to homes right in the path of Hurricane  Ida and its relatives. There they sat, electrical power out, the streets flooding, stores closed, dogs and cats living together ….

Hey, I don’t want to rain on your parade out of the state. Follow your bliss. But it’s sometimes a painful epiphany to discover that there are potholes, panhandlers and prickly politicians wherever you go.

Want to be GTT, literally or figuratively? Sure. But, please, look before you le…ave.

Jim Tortolano’s Retorts appears on alternate weeks, trading with “Usually Reliable Sources.” Full disclosure: Jim’s family left the home state of Rhode Island in 1956. And he still feels guilty about it.

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1 reply »

  1. Cheryl and I moved to AZ for better health, clearly understanding we will have to face the almost unbearable summers. Let’s face it, no place is perfect. We were able to sell our house in Redmond, WA for a boatload of money and pay cash for our brand new home in a 55+ community plus, plus put money away for traveling the world in our retirement.

    On the other side of the coin, I am not sure my kids will ever be able to own their own homes, and that makes me so very sad. No wonder my children’s generation wants dramatic economic and social change to help level the playing field.

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