They say you should travel when you retire.
My wife and I just returned from our fourth cross-country junket. We left Newport on Easter Sunday and, 28 states later, got back July 3. Besides visiting national parks (six this trip), travel can bring new insights ranging from first-hand experience of climate change to the recipe for redneck martinis.
No, we don’t have a camper, and we only spent a dozen nights in hotels. Most of the time we visited family or friends, always for brief stays, except a stretch at our second home in Florida.
Virtually all of our Florida neighbors come from the Midwest or Northeast to escape cold weather and high taxes. When they discover we are from California, they are polite, but they clearly think we are misguided. Invariably they feel compelled to explain the facts of life to us. While the weather issue confuses them, the tax issue is the clincher. Fran and I must be certifiably crazy to still subject ourselves to those astronomical income tax rates in California.
Turns out it’s largely a case of myth versus reality. True, Florida has no income tax, but when you add up the other taxes these people pay, between Florida and their summer places up north, our overall tax burdens are pretty much the same. Prop. 13 is a big reason.
Politics is not as big a point of difference in Florida as you might think. While Florida is a swing state, and the home states of most our Florida neighbors are every bit as blue as California, so they can identify.
The most notable difference for an outsider is the incessant barrage of TV ads thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. Trust me, you are better informed without them.
Perhaps the most interesting political event in Florida is the race for California’s third senator. Republican Connie Mack is running against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. Mack has been a congressman from a gerrymandered district that went from the Atlantic side of Florida across the Everglades to the Gulf of Mexico.
Half his constituents viewed him as a carpetbagger even before his 2007 marriage to Rep. Mary Bono of Palm Desert. Now the accusation is, when not in Washington, Mack really spends most of the time in California.
Mack and Nelson are currently running neck-and-neck. Imagine. There could be a third senator for California – and a conservative Republican at that.
See, travel does bring new insights. Next time, the recipe for redneck martinis.