Since sociologist Cristobal Young published “The Myth of Millionaire Tax Flight: How Place Still Matters for the Rich” in 2017, countless media outlets have quoted him and cited his work, such as a recent Washington Post article. But little did he expect that his work would one day be the focus of a comedic political video getting thousands of views.
Created by video journalist, comedian and activist Jeff Seal, the production advocates for higher taxes on top earners, focusing on Young’s book.
In the video, Seal describes how millionaires threatened to leave New York City if their taxes were raised. “Until one day a man came along," Seal narrates, "and asked, ‘what if they were lying?’” In a spoof of the movie “The Princess Bride,” Seal poses as a Peter Falk look-alike reading Young’s book to his grandson.
Young, on-screen, explains how he came to the conclusion that millionaire tax flight is 99% myth: “My research draws on confidential access to IRS tax returns filed by every top income earner in the country. That’s 45 million tax returns filed by people who make a million dollars or more a year,” says Young, associate professor of sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The video mixes in street interviews in the upper east side of Manhattan, using the comic device of a fake moving company offering to help millionaires move to lower-tax states. None of the wealthy New Yorkers they met said they wanted to move to a lower tax state, some adding colorful responses.
“I like to use humor in the classroom,” Young says, “to keep learning fun. This video took that to a whole other level.”
Young even performs a ‘shredding’ guitar solo in the video, to humorously highlight a key finding in his research. “They wanted to have some guitar effects,” Young says, “and asked me ‘can you shred?’ I was like ‘guys, I learned guitar in the 1990s, of course I can shred.’”