Why I-95 Needs an Additional Southbound Lane - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Why I-95 Needs an Additional Southbound Lane
(Gabriele Maltinti/Shutterstock)

California — uh, make that Florida — here I come.

Sorry, Billy Joel. The number of people in a “New York state of mind” has dwindled down, in the words of the song, to a precious few. The ranks of fans of the Big Apple grow steadily thinner as they’re mugged one by one, either by criminals or by the Empire State’s many levels of ravenous tax collectors. The answer for so many who’ve been thus abused is to head for the nation’s southeast corner, the new Promised Land of Florida.

An easily readable chart on a recent Wall Street Journal editorial page makes it clear why the majority of traffic on I-95 is headed south. With a population of 2.5 million fewer residents than Florida, New York has a state budget twice as large, $227 billion to $114.8 billion. And this extravagant level of public spending, supported by confiscatory tax levels, doesn’t even come close to ensuring citizen safety. New York officials, especially in New York City, barely even pretend to inconvenience free-range criminals as they go about their villainous work. When even illegal immigrants who’ve escaped corrupt and dangerous countries want to get out of New York because they feel unsafe, anyone but a New York politician would suspect that something is amiss.

Looks like this incontinent “investing” has not led to safety, riches, or happiness, as more New Yorkers vote with their feet by leaving.

Take New York’s tax picture. Please. While Florida has no state income tax, New York obliges its citizens to turn over up to 10.9 percent of their annual income, a disheartening addition to the large bite the federals take through the dark work of Joe Biden’s favorite executive agency, the Internal (Eternal?) Revenue Service (and we all know who these people service every year, if I may speak in the animal-husbandry sense of the word). Clearly bad government costs A LOT in New York.

New Yorkers get a wee break in that the state’s sales tax is “just” 4 percent compared to Florida’s 6. But considering that the combined state and city sales tax in New York City is 8.875 percent, and that almost half of New York State’s population lives in The City, this small advantage is pretty much canceled.

Has all this taxing and spending (Democrats, in New York and elsewhere, call spending “investing”) led to prosperity? In a word, no. The unemployment rate in the relatively parsimonious Florida is at 2.5 percent. In pricy New York, it’s 4.3 percent, the fifth worst in the country. Florida’s GDP growth from 2016 through 2021 was 17 percent, more than double New York’s 8 percent for the same period. Looks like this incontinent “investing” has not led to safety, riches, or happiness, as more New Yorkers vote with their feet by leaving. And many of these outbound New Yorkers are former NYPD officers, just one of the reasons why the crime picture in the Big Apple is just as doleful as the tax comparisons. (READ MORE from Larry Thornberry: Florida’s Future Is Bright Red)

Without doubt, New York City, with its magnificent history, many accomplished citizens, and dazzling sights, has many charms, and I don’t want our New York readers to think I’m picking on them. But I was personally immune to these charms, even before the state, and especially the city, entered its present slough. I might edit the lyrics of that old Rodgers & Hart song to read, “YOU take Manhattan.” The subway may have charmed when those two were writing, but it now frightens more than charms. Manhattan is an “isle of Joy” no longer. Can it ever be again? If this is to happen, the self-satisfied progressives in Albany will first have to take notice. No evidence so far that they have, or ever intend to.

There’s quite a contrast between progressive Albany and conservative Tallahassee, as well as the rest of Florida, which is far easier on taxpayers and harder on criminals than New York. The better governance here, along with the sunshine, helps explain why the population of my home state has more than quadrupled since I graduated from college in 1964. Not all the newbies arriving in Florida are from New York, of course. Many are from other northern states that are politically blue, and whose residents therefore suffer from some of the same afflictions as New Yorkers.

We’ve always had New York transplants here. (There were so many folks from the northeast in Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, even 30 years ago, that some refer to the area as “Baja New Jersey.”) In the past, they’ve mostly pulled up stakes to escape the cold New York winters. Often, they would affix bumper strips to their cars that read, “I — picture of a heart — New York.” You hardly see these anymore, though I did spot one the other day that read, “I used to — picture of a heart — New York.” I feel the driver’s pain.

But steady on, all you folks thinking of making the jump to Florida. While Florida is a prosperous place that takes citizen safety and personal freedom seriously and most of the time develops public policies to support both, it’s no prelapsarian paradise. Crime isn’t as rampant here as elsewhere, but it does exist, and there are many sad stories because of it. The summers here are loooong, hot, and humid. (So humid that there is a movement to change the state flower from the orange blossom to mildew.) And every August and September, the state has to go on hurricane watch, wondering what a scratchy Mother Nature might have in store for us. There have been many misses and near misses in our late summer. But last year Hurricane Ian did a right job on us.

We welcome these new residents, of course. But, truth be told, the rapid growth is not an unalloyed blessing. As has happened elsewhere, when the population goes up, so do prices. And traffic here now, once quite manageable, is horrendous. Some benefit greatly from the new growth and prosperity, other just pay the price. But things won’t change in the foreseeable. The new arrivals seem to know why they were obliged to leave their homes, so they don’t vote for the kind of politicians who enact the kind of policies that made a train wreck of where they came from. So for the foreseeable, drivers are warned to use extreme caution when changing lanes on I-95 South. In the words of that famous traffic engineer, Satchel Paige, “something might be gaining on you.”

Larry Thornberry
Follow Their Stories:
View More
Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.
Sign up to receive our latest updates! Register

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: The American Spectator, 122 S Royal Street, Alexandria, VA, 22314, http://spectator.org. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Be a Free Market Loving Patriot. Subscribe Today!