by Goldy, 08/31/2004, 8:54 PM

Of the various Washington state party insiders and elected officials doing upside-down margaritas at the Republican National Convention, by far the best known is Tim Eyman.

Yes, Tim likes to sell himself as a maverick man-of-the-people, selflessly fighting the political establishment, but the truth be told, he is the political establishment. No other Washington politician is more widely quoted, better known, or higher paid. And the state GOP has rewarded Tim’s efforts on behalf of the party by sending him to the big bash in NYC.

Make no mistake, this is not an easy ticket to snag. Only the innermost party insiders are appointed delegates. And Tim is amongst innermost of the innermost party insiders.

Tim’s always jawboning about the need to keep politicians accountable, and I couldn’t agree more. That’s why we filed a PDC complaint against Tim and his committees, and that’s why I’m confident the PDC will announce next week that they’ll be launching an investigation.

So enjoy the party, Tim. You’ve got a hangover waiting on your return.

by Goldy, 08/30/2004, 12:44 PM

On a more serious note, I’d like to point you towards an excellent editorial in The New York Times: “Abolish the Electoral College

The Electoral College is a silly, historical vestige that has long outlived its purpose. I remain convinced that had Bush won the popular vote by half a million, yet lost the election, the Electoral College would have been quickly abolished.

by Goldy, 08/29/2004, 11:50 PM

I’m going to take a break from my customary Tim bashing, political commentary and tempered media criticism to weigh in on a news item that touches upon one of my pet peeves: “Woman sues airline for humiliation over her weight“.

There have been quite a few similar stories over the past couple years about super-sized passengers angered and humiliated by airline employees who suggest — or require — that they buy a second seat. I don’t want to come across as insensitive to the needs of the avoirdupois-challenged, but speaking as someone of modest girth who flies cross-country three or four times a year, I applaud the airlines for finally acting on behalf of us boney-assed fellow travelers.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been seated next to a person whose buttocks were bigger than their seat cushion. They have for the most part been pleasant people, but while I don’t mind passing the time sharing conversation, I deeply resent being forced to share my allotted space. The laws of physics being what they are, I have at times involuntarily surrendered as much as a quarter of my seat to the stowaway in my neighbor’s thighs.

Since I usually travel with my young, window-gazing daughter, I am invariably seated in the middle. Fortunately I can usually flee encroachment by lifting the armrest between us, and sharing the combined space with my daughter’s cute little tuchis.

However last fall, while traveling alone, I happened to witness a brief confrontation between a ticket agent and a particularly wide-bodied, late arriving passenger. It was a full flight, and the agent meekly urged the passenger to switch to a later flight where she could be “better accommodated.” She tersely refused.

As luck would have it, she was given a middle seat… next to me.

Now I’m not exaggerating: her ingress and egress was only possible by lifting both armrests, which during flight were clamped backed down on slabs of gluteus overflowus like animals caught in a trap. For five and a half hours I was forced to share my seat with one her hypoxic appendages, which I imagined turning blue and lifeless by the time we arrived at the gate.

Her discomfort was clearly greater than mine, but my empathy was tempered by how unapologetic she was by her intrusion. I was seated on the aisle, and on boarding she asked if I would switch seats with her, “for obvious reasons.” For equally obvious reasons, I declined.

So each time she struggled in or out, she made a point of turning towards me and grumbling about how they made the seats “too narrow.” I desperately wanted to retort, “No, you made your ass too wide”, but held my tongue for fear she would lift the armrest in retaliation, unleashing a flood of cyanotic adipose in my direction.

It must be humiliating to be publicly told that your haunch is too large to fit in a single seat, but what is the alternative? Few gates could accommodate a separate sound-proofed “fat room”, and I’m not sure that would draw less attention. Or perhaps the airlines should strictly adopt the cartoon-character measuring posts long used at amusement parks? (“Your ass must be smaller than Barney’s to ride.”)

There are now several lawsuits accusing airlines of discrimination, but this is more about geometry than bigotry. If the seat of your pants is wider than the seat on the airplane, you simply do not fit. It may be embarrassing to be asked to purchase a second ticket; it may even be a substantial financial burden. But it is unfair to your seat-mate to cram yourself in regardless. I pay for my seat, and I have no obligation to share it, regardless of whether my scrawny ass actually fills its dimensions. Besides, when it comes to airplane comfort, whatever spatial advantage I might gain from my boney bottom is surely offset by its lack of adequate padding.

Perhaps my comments are unduly cruel, but I prefer to think of my position on this issue as rather nuanced. I myself have several friends and family members with whom I could not sit comfortably on a long flight (although admittedly with some, it has nothing to do with their size.) So I hope this is not perceived as an attack on fat people.

What it is an attack on is the failure of some people to recognize that one’s unfettered personal freedom ends at the point where it infringes on the personal freedom of others.

So in an odd sort of way, I guess today’s blog might be about politics after all… about that delicate balance between individual liberty and obligation to society that is at the core of much of our political debate. Or more bluntly, about the everyday competition over scarce resources. Or maybe it’s just about tort reform.

Oh what the hell… it’s about how incredibly uncomfortable it is to have a really fat person sit next to me on an airplane. Can’t a guy just vent sometimes?

by Goldy, 08/28/2004, 11:04 AM

I want to make one thing perfectly clear about the PDC complaint we filed:

Tim Eyman is lying to contributors when he says he is not compensated from initiative campaign funds.

This is indisputable. Our exhaustive (and exhausting) investigation of his public disclosure reports found $12,219.45 of reported in-kind contributions from Voters Want More Choices (VWMC) to Help Us Help Taxpayers (HUHT). These in-kind contributions to Tim’s personal compensation PAC have the same result as directly writing Tim a check, thus knocking down the financial wall between the two committees.

Our complaint alleges that there are tens of thousands of dollars of additional unreported in-kind contributions, including over $26,000 for printing and mailing expenses in June of 2004. Indeed, it appears that HUHT’s entire operations have been subsidized by I-864 campaign funds.

The exact numbers will only be learned after a thorough PDC investigation, but the evidence suggests it could be upwards of $50,000. Tim may believe you can run a government on vapors, but fundraising campaigns cost money. A two-color mailing so large that it included me, does not come free — and by failing to report it, Tim is obviously hiding something.

Tim’s been caught with his hand in the cookie jar once again. And I’ve got to believe that, at some point, his contributors will send him to bed without any dessert.

by Goldy, 08/27/2004, 2:52 PM

Yesterday we filed a complaint with the PDC alleging Tim Eyman of compensating himself from I-864 campaign contributions while fraudulently claiming he was not. [Fraud claim filed against Eyman]

In an email to supporters and the media, Timmy responded in typical Eymanesque fashion:

Here we go again with our opponents’ latest slime attack. I’ve reviewed their complaint and it’s filled with lies. We’ve bent-over-backwards to comply with the PDC’s reporting requirements and we’ll work with them to answer any questions they have.

Yeah. Well, if Timmy’s not careful he might find himself “bent-over” in the opposite direction in the shower of a federal prison… because our complaint is filled with facts, and quite compelling ones at that:

A) In early July we received a fundraising letter from Help Us Help Taxpayers (HUHT).
B) HUHT did not report a corresponding expenditure for printing and postage.
C) Voters Want More Choices (VWMC) did report a $26,305.72 expenditure for printing and postage on June 18, to Data Resources, Inc., the vendor that does all their bulk mailings.
D) We did not receive a mailing in June or July from VWMC, even though we had received the previous three mailings in 2004, all within one to three weeks of the reported expenditure date.

That alone is reason enough to investigate whether the July HUHT mailing was paid for by the June VWMC expenditure. And our suspicions are backed up by HUHT’s and VWMC’s prior history.

In July, August, September and October of 2003, VWMC misreported postage and mailing expenditures (again to Data Resources, Inc.), only to restate them as in-kind contributions to HUHT in amended returns filed in December. In fact, not only has HUHT never reported any fundraising costs, it has managed to operate for an entire year — raising over $160,000 — all on less than $50 in total expenditures!

An unbelievable return on investment.

In fact, it appears that HUHT’s operations are entirely subsidized by VWMC. VWMC has already reported over $12,000 of in-kind contributions, and we suspect that the true number is much, much higher. Hell… HUHT doesn’t even report its own bank fees!

And here’s the interesting thing… it’s not illegal for one PAC to contribute to another, as long as the two committees promptly and accurately report it. So why risk running afoul of PDC reporting requirements for what would otherwise be a legal transaction?

To maintain the appearance that he was not being compensated from I-864 money.

Think about it. Any in-kind contribution to HUHT offsets an expense that would otherwise reduce the funds available to pay “Tim, Mike, and Jack.” So in effect, any in-kind contribution from VWMC is money in their personal bank accounts. That’s just plain math.

Yet Tim has clearly tried to establish the perception of a wall between VWMC and HUHT, promising contributors that funds will not be mixed. Indeed, most of his fundraising emails during the I-864 campaign included the following pledge:

Voluntary donations to the 25% Property Tax Initiative will be used to qualify this important tax reduction initiative for the ballot. A different political action committee, ‘Help Us Help Taxpayers,’ raises money for a compensation fund for Tim Eyman, Jack Fagan, & Mike Fagan for their effective political work on behalf of taxpayers. These two campaign committees are kept separate and donations and expenditures for each fund are publicly reported every month.

And that’s where our allegation of conspiracy to commit fraud comes in, because whatever the actual dollar amount that was effectively transferred from VWMC to HUHT, there is no denying that it occurred. And thus Tim’s repeated claim that he was not being compensated from campaign funds is a lie.

And a blatant lie at that. Tim solicited contributions for VWMC right up until the signature deadline, promising that contributions would be used to qualify I-864 for the ballot. But he had clearly given up on the initiative as early as June 2, when he pulled petitions from the signature gathering firms.

Eyman was soliciting funds he had no intention of spending on I-864.

You want confirmation? Well, all the PDC has to do is subpoena Data Resources, Inc. and find out when they received the copy for HUHT’s early July mailing. These things take lead time, and I bet you dollars to doughnuts the copy was written well before the last fundraising email. So if Eyman was still fighting to qualify I-864 for the ballot, explain this:

Everyone knows that if it were on the ballot, it would pass… So if it’s so popular, why didn’t it qualify? We didn’t raise enough money in the short period of time available.

That’s I-864 he’s talking about, in that early July HUHT letter, that was expensed on June 18.

Eyman knew that I-864 wouldn’t qualify for the ballot. Eyman stopped paying signature gatherers for I-864. Eyman spent $26,000 of I-864 money to send a fundraising letter for HUHT. And yet Eyman continued to solicit contributions with the explicit pledge that all funds would be used to qualify I-864 for the ballot.

That is fraud.

Tim is understandably pissed at us for filing our PDC complaint. He should just be thankful we didn’t file a RICO suit.

by Goldy, 08/26/2004, 3:18 PM

I’ll blog in more detail on this later today, but we just filed a PDC complaint against Tim Eyman and his various PACs, and this one’s a doozy.

Amongst the many allegations is that during the final weeks of the I-864 signature drive, at a time he was agressively soliciting contributions for the initiative, he secretly used over $26,000 of campaign funds to finance a fundraising letter for his personal compensation PAC! And there’s more… lots more.

Read the complaint for yourself and see what a lying, thieving, blowhard Tim really is.

by Goldy, 08/26/2004, 9:44 AM

HorsesAss.org has been “blog lite” the last couple days, as I’ve been very busy working on a special project. You’ll find out the details later today.

So I hope you’ll excuse me if don’t celebrate Collin Levey Day with my usual gush of poison penmanship.

In fact, I don’t really have much criticism of her latest column, “The wink-wink world of campaign-finance laws“, except to point out that it is most notable not for what it says, but for what it doesn’t.

Sure, she spends more time attacking the Democrats’ hypocrisy regarding campaign finance reform than the Republicans’, and she underplays GOP motives for supporting McCain-Feingold in the first place (they thought it would disadvantage Democrats.) She is also typically disingenuous when she suggests that “the spending ledger overwhelmingly favors the Democrats” — it’s a touch closer this year, but once again the Rs will dramatically outspend the Ds.

And I certainly disagree with her apparent conclusion, that what we need is more unrestricted political money, not less.

But it is always important to note not what Collin says, but why she says it. She and her fellow cogs in the right-wing media machine are focusing on 527 groups and campaign-finance, to distract Americans from the real issue at the heart of the notorious “Swift Boat” ads: the vicious lies financed and coordinated by close associates of President Bush.

Bush and Cheney avoided service in Viet Nam. That’s okay. If I had been ten years older I would have tried to do the same.

But that’s all the more reason to be totally disgusted at their pattern of smearing opponents by attacking their war records. Bush did it to John McCain, and (surprise, surprise) now he’s doing it to John Kerry.

The efforts by Collin and her media colleagues to morph this into a debate over 527 committees is a blatant attempt to maximize exposure for the Swift Boat lies, while minimizing the political and financial cost to its sponsors. Collin has an excuse: this is what she does. But those reporters and editors in the “mainstream press” who have fallen for this trick should be ashamed of themselves.

We have a White House full of chicken hawks, who talk tough about our military, but display obvious disdain for those who serve it. If the media insists on making Kerry’s military record the most important issue in this campaign, then they owe it to voters to spend equal time exploring the service of Bush.

If the Rs want to make Kerry’s military record the focus of this campaign, then it is time to compare apples to apples. John Kerry chose to risk life and limb in Viet Nam. At the most, all Bush risked was his liver.

by Goldy, 08/24/2004, 11:54 PM

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a DC based nonpartisan research group, has recently released an analysis: “The Impact of the Ron Sims Tax Plan on Washington Tax Fairness“.

Known for their tax simulation model, ITEP reports that under the Sims plan, Washington would move from having the most unfair tax system in the nation to having the least unfair tax system… all while saving state taxpayers $1.25 billion annually in total federal, state, and local taxes.

Not bad, huh?

by Goldy, 08/23/2004, 12:39 PM

Thanks Tim!

I was scrounging around the dailies looking for something to blog on this morning when Tim Eyman graciously dropped a gift in my inbox. In a fundraising email CC’d to the media, Timmy once again attacks the state Department of Revenue for having the gall to release statistics during an election year.

Tim’s media strategy is very simple. He routinely emails the press — sometimes as often as two or three times a week — pushing his own “statistics” and “analysis.” With no year-round opposition to refute his arguments (at least, not until now), his unsupported claims eventually seep into the public debate on the strength of sheer repetition.

This morning’s email is a great example, as it repeats several familiar Eymanisms. But a little investigation makes it easy to pick apart.

Washington is the 7th highest taxed state in the nation (www.taxfoundation.org) but our state’s Department of Revenue says our tax burden ain’t that bad. Gimme a break.

As I’ve stated many times, DOR estimates based on US Census Bureau data show that Washington’s state and local tax burden — that’s taxes paid as a percentage of income — ranked us 32nd in 2002… well below the national average.

So are we 7th or 32nd? Well Tim cites TaxFoundation.org, so let’s go there and see where the discrepancy comes from. Ooops… according to the very first blurb at the top of WA’s page, we rank 21st nationally in state and local tax burden.

(Scroll down the page further, and you’ll see that our local property taxes rank us 35th per capita, and 41st as a percentage of personal income. I wonder why Tim hasn’t cited those stats in support of his property tax cutting measures?)

So where does Tim’s 7th ranking come from? Well, he’s using TaxFoundation.org’s ranking of total federal, state and local tax burden. So, isn’t that meaningful?

No.

TaxFoundation.org’s own charts show that WA also ranks 7th for federal tax burden. The fact that adding state and local tax burden doesn’t move the total ranking, merely shows that our state and local burden is near the national average (actually, slightly below it, even according to TaxFoundation.org.)

Washington ranks high nationally in federal tax burden because Washington is a wealthy state, with some very high incomes that skew the state average. To add federal tax burden to state and local tax burden makes national rankings of state and local tax burden meaningless.

In fact, the very notion of “ranking” can be misleading.

For example, let’s go back to 2002, the last year for which data is available from both TaxFoundation.org and the DOR. In 2002, the DOR ranks Washington 32nd nationally with 10.09% state and local tax burden. For the same year, TaxFoundation.org ranks Washington 13th nationally, with a 10.4% burden.

13th or 32nd… that’s a huge difference, right?

Not really.

According to the DOR, the difference in tax burden between top ranked New York and 6th ranked Rhode Island is equal to the difference between Rhode Island and 39th ranked Missouri! TaxFoundation.org reports similar comparative results — the difference between NY and RI (now ranked 5th) is equal to the spread between RI and 32nd ranked Montana.

In both studies, 36 states were within 1% of the national average. Thus a couple tenths of a percent shift in tax burden can result in a dramatic shift in national ranking, with relatively little real impact.

And one final comment on the discrepancy between TaxFoundation.org and DOR numbers. As I read it, TaxFoundation.org calculates WA’s tax burden as higher because it adds in over $1 billion in taxes imported into the state. This looks to me like an argument for a state income tax.

On to the rest of the email:

They say that tax bills went up 4.2% which means they’re lower. Huh? Only politicians and bureaucrats using government double-speak can make an increase into a decrease. It just shows that there’s an election in November that will again decide the direction of taxation in our state — and the government is weighing in.

That’s just plain silly.

What the DOR reported was that tax revenues grew 4.2% from 2000 to 2002, but during the same period, average personal income grew 10%. Tax experts will tell you that the best measure of growth in demand for public services is growth in personal income, which encompasses growth in population, inflation and earnings.

Tax revenues — and thus expenditures — are clearly growing slower than demand for government services. In fact, they’re barely keeping up with inflation.

I-892′s revenue-neutral $400 million property tax reduction, I-884′s $1 billion sales tax increase, and Ron Sims’ massive tax increase by adding a state income tax — the outcomes of these voter decisions will determine the trajectory of taxes for years to come.

First, I-892 is not revenue neutral. The Office of Financial Management recently released a fiscal impact study on I-892, estimating that the state general fund will lose $30 million a year in lottery revenues alone in 2008, and that local governments will lose an additional $8.4 million in taxes on other forms of gambling. And these figures don’t even begin to take into account loses to other taxable business activities.

Second, Tim has long touted his $400 million tax reduction figure without providing any documentation to back it up. The OFM estimates 2008 tax savings at $252 million, based on $112 in revenues per slot machine per day. Under I-892 we could saturate the market with over 36,000 slot machines statewide. By comparison, other saturated markets, like Las Vegas, see daily net revenues of only $88 per day on average.

And finally, Tim is just plain lying when he says that Ron Sims’ proposed tax reform plan would be a “massive tax increase by adding a state income tax.” It doesn’t “add” a state income tax, it replaces the state sales tax and B&O tax. And it results in a net reduction in total state, local and federal tax burden… the tax burden measure Tim is always so quick to tout.

I’ve already gone on too long, so I won’t bother refuting the rest of Tim’s rhetoric. Needless to say, nothing Tim says can be taken at face value.

by Goldy, 08/22/2004, 10:53 AM

Yesterday I briefly blogged on the spate of news stories surrounding a DOR study that shows state and local tax burden at the lowest point since 1981.

This is deceptive.

Eliminate the anomalous 1981 dip, and tax burden is actually near a forty-year low.

This can clearly be seen in a preliminary study I posted to TaxSanity.org last month, “The truth about property taxes in Washington State“. The study uses state and federal historical data to show that state and local tax burden has not only remained quite stable over the past 20 years, but is well below national averages and historic highs.

As you’d expect, initiative profiteer Tim Eyman scoffs at the DOR study. According to the AP story he “denounced it as an election-year tactic to reduce support for his measures.”

Yeah Tim… God forbid voters decide an election based on the facts.

So, is Washington a high tax state as Timmy persistently claims? Well, it all depends on who you are, and how much you earn. While Washington ranks 32nd nationally for average state and local tax burden, our tax system is the undisputed champion of regressivity.

If you earn $20,000 a year you live in the highest taxed state in the union, but if you earn $200,000 a year you live in one of the lowest.

And that is exactly the kind of structural unfairness that Tim’s across-the-board tax cuts have exacerbated… and that Ron Sims proposes to fix with his bold new tax plan.

by Goldy, 08/21/2004, 10:06 AM

I’ll blog on this in more detail later in the day, but I just wanted to quickly point readers towards the flood of articles on a DOR report that state and local tax burden is at its lowest point since 1981.

It all started with an article yesterday in the Spokane Spokesman-Review by their excellent Capitol reporter, Rich Roesler. That was followed up by an AP story, printed in the Seattle Times and elsewhere, and spurring an even more thorough article in the Seattle P-I.

Finally, Joe Turner in the Tacoma News Tribune adds to the story by reporting on an OFM report that analyzes the impact of I-892: “Eyman oversells tax relief, state says“.

More later.

by Goldy, 08/20/2004, 7:06 PM

After giving the first whack to RNC hatchetgal Collin Levey, the Seattle Times today officially joined the scrum over disappointing test scores at charter schools. [The debunking politics of charter schools]

The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress report add nothing to the debate on charter schools.

Yeah… especially if you don’t report it.

In case you get all your “news” from the Seattle Times, (and thus have no idea what we’re talking about,) the NY Times broke a story earlier this weekly (quickly picked up by the Seattle P-I and Tacoma News Tribune) that Education Department statistics show fourth graders at charter schools lag half a year behind similar students at traditional public schools.

Of course, keeping your readers ignorant makes it so much easier to refute the study in an editorial. For example, the Seattle Times attempts to discount the results as being an unfair comparison:

Charter schools are concentrated in urban, often poor, areas. Many students were unsuccessful in the public schools. After years of being academically behind, they are now playing catch-up. Yet, the study compares their achievement with their public-school counterparts. It is an unfair, premature comparison.

But the study was careful to compare rotten apples to rotten apples. As the NY Times noted, “in almost every racial, economic and geographic category, fourth graders attending charter schools are outperformed by their peers in traditional public schools.”

On average, charter school students are performing worse than students at the schools they transfered out of. But to defend their long standing support of charter schools, the Seattle times flips the analysis on its head:

Pronouncements regarding their academic performance are more telling about the schools the children came from than about the charter schools they’re in.

Oh please…!

Still, much of the Seattle Times editorial is measured, even reasonable. Of course there may be extenuating circumstances that influenced the test results, and of course it is too early in the charter school experiment to judge it one way or the other.

But proponents of charter schools have loudly touted them as a superior, free market alternative — offering nothing but anecdotes to back up their claims — so I must disagree with the Seattle Times editorial board. National test results showing charter school students lagging behind does add something very important to the national and local debate: a dose of reality.

Washington voters have wisely chosen a cautious approach to charter schools, and I expect they’ll do so again this November by rejecting R-55.

by Goldy, 08/20/2004, 12:14 AM

Surprise, surprise.

After months of watching Ron Sims get rave reviews for his bold tax reform plan (and I strongly suspect, watching her lead over Sims steadily shrink in her own internal polls), Christine Gregoire is finally starting to warm up to the idea.

The Seattle P-I reported today that Gregoire softened her stance on tax reform during an endorsement interview, apparently backtracking on her earlier statement that an income tax would be “dead on arrival”.

Gregoire said yesterday that officials should start a “discussion” about creating an income tax, “reform” business taxes and persuade voters that the recent 5-cent gas tax increase is not enough to “get the job done.”

The income tax has long been considered “the third rail” of Washington politics (a curious metaphor for our rail-challenged state.) But rather than electrocuting Sims, the issue has clearly recharged his campaign.

And now Gregoire seems to be looking towards tax reform for a jolt in the polls too.

by Goldy, 08/19/2004, 3:57 PM

Two days late, the Seattle Times finally mentions the blockbuster national study that charter school students lag a half year behind those in traditional public schools.

Surprisingly, it’s in a column by Collin Levy. Not surprisingly, the column is an ideological screed that contorts itself into an attack on John Kerry, while failing once again to include the tiniest shred of local context. [Big picture doesn't justify charter-school foes' glee]

(Question: does Collin even read the Seattle Times? Is she aware that voters are being asked to approve or reject R-55 this November, authorizing charter schools? At this point I can only assume that the Times’ goal is to syndicate Collin nationally, explaining her meticulous efforts to avoid any taint of local consciousness. Anyway…)

While her column benefits from a coherency that has been lacking in recent weeks (perhaps Collin’s taken my constructive criticism to heart,) it includes the usual invective and exaggeration, cartoonishly demonizing those at odds with right wing doctrine:

Not since the golden age of “Looney Tunes” has bad news been met with such hand-rubbing glee.

That’s right Collin, we’re all just tickled pink that hundreds of thousands of children are getting a sub-standard education. Who cares about children, as long as it works to our political advantage, right?

Such opponents may often gasp that the charter-school program is a devious plot by the GOP to rid the world of public education, but their calculation is simple politics. The unions’ positions on merit pay (no) and seniority (yes) badly warps the educational landscape. And, as is true with most such entrenched operations, they are motivated by the interests of their members, not the interests of their students.

I always find it amazing when critics attack the motivations of teachers, many of whom have passed up the opportunity of better paying careers so they could educate our children. Vassar offers a BA in Education, so Collin, like many of her classmates, could have chosen that profession. She did not.

But blaming teachers unions for failing schools is a convenient way of diverting attention away from the fact that charter schools are indeed “a devious plot by the GOP to rid the world of public education”… at least to some of the more cynical and/or ideological members of the GOP.

Unlike Collin, I’m not going to demonize the other side by suggesting that they want to harm our children. It’s just that they are so ideologically driven — so convinced that they see the invisible hand of God in free markets — that they believe the outcome will be for the best… whatever the result.

That is the dark, Social Darwinian side to applying free market ideology to public education. Some schools will survive, some will close. Some children will thrive, others will not. But if you believe that free markets are always the most efficient means of allocating resources, then a free market driven educational system will be the best educational system possible… even if it fails to adequately educate the majority of children.

Of course some of the support for charter schools is more cynical. It all comes down to money.

The standard fig leaf of Democrats attempting to navigate between parental expectations and union demands is in play here, too. Democrats say they support accountability but criticize the Bush administration for failing adequately to “fund” the law. In other words, the educrats always turn it into a demand for more money.

That’s absolutely right, for the core difference between Democrats and Republicans on education, is that Democrats believe we are underinvesting in our children’s future. Democrats want to spend more money on education. Republicans do not.

Collin and her RNC overseers try to dismiss test scores and rely instead on isolated anecdotes to defend the performance of charter schools, but the more interesting question is “why?” Why has the Bush administration made charter schools a central provision of the No Child Left Behind Act?

Because it is education reform on the cheap.

I’ll say it again: you get what you pay for. On their own — without a commitment to adequate funding — charter schools are educational alchemy. A vote for R-55 is fools gold.

by Goldy, 08/19/2004, 9:16 AM

Have I ever mentioned that Tim Eyman is a lying, thieving, blowhard?

In an fundraising email cc’d to the media today, Tim calls attention to the “additional $1.8 million” in contributions reported by the No on I-892 campaign this week. He goes on to write:

This is IN ADDITION TO the massive amount already raised by the tribes
(Thursday, 8/12/2004, REBECCA COOK, Associated Press Writer. The most recent campaign finance reports show that I-892 opponents have raised more than $3 million as of July 31. Supporters of the initiative have raised only $619,000, though that report was filed at the end of June.).

If you were naive (or stupid) you would believe that the No campaign has raised over $4.8 million. The truth is, they’ve raised exactly $3,020,043.18.

Why the discrepancy? What Timmy cleverly (and intentionally) did was use the No campaign’s latest C3 report, but ignore it’s amended C4 report.

For those who don’t understand PDC nomenclature… the AP story Tim cites is simply wrong… and he knows it. And if he manages to trick a reporter into printing his implied $4.8 million figure, he’ll cite that in another lying email.

Tim Eyman is pathologically dishonest, a moral defect he shameless exploits to his own rhetorical advantage.

by Goldy, 08/18/2004, 8:18 AM

In an editorial last week, The Seattle Times talked up the need for media diversity. Well this week they demonstrated it by ignoring the breaking story about our nation’s failing charter schools.

Yesterday the NY Times reported that “in almost every racial, economic and geographic category, fourth graders attending charter schools are outperformed by their peers in traditional public schools.” [Nation's Charter Schools Lagging Behind, U.S. Test Scores Reveal]

This is a huge story… front page, above the fold in the NY Times. Over 600,000 children already attend charter schools, and the number is expected to grow dramatically under President Bush’s ironically named “No Child Left Behind” Act. No wonder this story was featured prominently in newspapers and media broadcasts nationwide.

But The Seattle Times? Nada. Not a mention. Not a word. Zilch.

The Seattle P-I and Tacoma News Tribune managed to squeeze the story into their pages yesterday. But The Times couldn’t be bothered… despite the fact that Referendum 55 — authorizing charter schools — will be on the Washington state ballot this November.

Or perhaps the Times didn’t cover the story because R-55 is on the ballot, and it would undermine their previously stated support for charter schools? In a June 11 editorial the Times called opposition to charter schools “an enormous waste of time,” lamenting that R-55 delays implementation past the start of the new school year.

Reasonable voters will see the state’s modest new charter-school law for what it is: one creative way to give some of our neediest students a top-notch education.

Knowing that fourth graders in charter schools lag half a year behind those in traditional public schools, “reasonable voters” might choose to err on the side of caution. And it is the responsibility of our region’s largest and most influential newspaper to give voters this information.

I’m not suggesting that the Times’ editors conspired to keep this story out of print, so as to protect their own political agenda. But every news outlet has its own editorial bias, and it surely influences decisions on which stories to run.

All the more reason why Seattle should remain a two-newspaper town.

by Goldy, 08/17/2004, 6:13 PM

From the LA Times:

California’s largest charter school operator has shut down at least 60 campuses amid new state restrictions and an investigation into financial and academic practices — leaving nearly 10,000 students to find new schools just a few weeks before the new semester begins.

I guess that’s the free market at work.

by Goldy, 08/16/2004, 10:34 PM

Washington voters have repeatedly rejected ballot measures approving charter schools, and we’ll have another opportunity this November by voting “No” on Referendum 55.

Rather than supporting adequate funding (and the taxes to support it) charter school proponents argue that subjecting public schools to free market competition is the only way to improve education. But according to an article in the NY Times, this national experiment with our children’s future hasn’t been going so well: “Nation’s Charter Schools Lagging Behind, U.S. Test Scores Reveal“.

The findings, buried in data quietly released by the US Department of Education, showed that fourth graders in charter schools lagged about half a year behind similar students in other public schools in both reading and math.

Put another way, only 25 percent of the fourth graders attending charters were proficient in reading and math, against 30 percent who were proficient in reading, and 32 percent in math, at traditional public schools.

Personally, I’ve got nothing against charter schools in theory, but in practice they’re really just a union-busting effort to defund traditional public schools.

And at the risk of being branded a Marxist, I’d just like to suggest the unpopular notion that perhaps the “free market” is not always the best and most efficient means of allocating resources. After all, if competition is such a magic elixir, why is it that successful companies like Microsoft are always striving to squash it?

The truth is, a lot of the appeal of charter schools is that it promises taxpayers something for nothing… it says we can improve public education without spending more money, if only we let the free market work its magic.

But it ignores one of the basic rules of free markets: you don’t get something for nothing. That’s something the 600,000 students in charter schools are learning the hard way.

(For more information on R-55, go to ProtectOurPublicSchools.org)

by Goldy, 08/16/2004, 12:31 PM

The other day I laid into professional prevaricator Tim Eyman for claiming a Snohomish County judge had ordered the original I-18 language back on the ballot, when in reality, all the judge did was set an August 24 hearing date. Surely Tim’s lawyers had explained the judge’s ruling, but that didn’t stop him from hyping this “huge legal victory” to potential contributors.

Well if you have any doubts that Tim Eyman is an incorrigible liar, his latest email should put them to rest.

In a press-release-cum-fundraising-email sent this morning to supporters and the media, Tim perpetuates his lie, and backs it up by deceitfully appending an erroneous version of a Seattle P-I article that has since been corrected.

Here is the opening paragraph of the article as it appears in Tim’s email:

A Snohomish County judge yesterday ordered that the original language of a ballot initiative that would reduce the size of the King County Council from 13 to nine members stand, reversing the effect of a recent vote by the council to delay the measure if passed.

And here is the opening paragraph of the actual P-I article as it currently appears online:

A Snohomish County Superior Court judge yesterday ordered set an Aug. 24 hearing date for a judge to consider whether the original language of an initiative to reduce the size of the King County Council from 13 to nine should be on the November ballot.

I’ve never understood why news publications continue to look the other way at Tim’s habit of violating their copyright by reprinting articles without permission, for commercial purposes. (And you can’t get much more commercial than a fundraising email for Tim’s personal compensation PAC.) But if protecting their intellectual property isn’t compelling enough, perhaps protecting their integrity is… for this isn’t the first time Tim has knowingly reprinted the wrong draft of an article or column.

On Feb. 6 Tim sent an email to supporters allegedly reprinting a column he had published in the Tacoma News Tribune. Problem was, it wasn’t actually the column the TNT printed on Jan. 18, but rather an earlier, much different draft that the TNT’s editors had forced him to extensively rewrite.

So let this be a lesson to my friends in the media: Tim doesn’t just lie to you, he uses you to repeat his lies to your colleagues and the public. He has complete and utter disregard for the press in general, and you personally. Thus nothing, absolutely nothing he says or writes should be taken at face value.

Even his alleged news clippings.

by Goldy, 08/15/2004, 4:50 PM

I cringed when I saw the headline of today’s editorial in the Seattle Times, “Sims’ tax plan: bold but impractical.”

The Times has been consistently ardent in their opposition to a state income tax, to the point of belittling William Gates Sr. in a Bruce Ramsey column last December (“The joys of not having a state income tax.”) Gates found it appalling that Washington had the most regressive tax structure in the nation, a sentiment Ramsey pooh-poohed, suggesting our regressive tax system is necessary “to offset the unfairly progressive federal income tax.”

So in the context of the editorial board’s topsy-turvy world, where balancing budgets on the backs of middle- and low-income households is not only defensible, but a moral and economic imperative, the headline on this new editorial had me expecting the worst.

In truth, the editorial was rather even-handed, applauding the Sims’ plan as bold, serious and pro-growth, while pointing out the obvious political hurdles of passing the necessary constitutional amendments.

But I’m guessing those hurdles shrank considerably once the details of the Sims’ plan were released last week. By eliminating the burdensome B&O tax, and replacing it with nothing, Sims may have turned the plan’s most dangerous potential opponent — the business lobby — into his biggest ally. The business community gets everything it could ask for: increased investment in essential infrastructure, and zero taxes. When push comes to shove, powerful business interests will be pushing and shoving to get the Legislature over that two-thirds hump.

While I personally had some initial reservations over this aspect of the plan, I have grown to appreciate it’s subtle brilliance. Eliminating corporate taxes is not only a clever political move in regards to the plan’s passage, it also eliminates one of the most corrupting forces in Olympia… the annual feeding frenzy of corporate lobbyists influencing legislators to pass billions of dollars of special interest sales and B&O tax exemptions. Without corporate taxes there can be no corporate tax exemptions. While the Sims’ plan is sure to be a job creator over all, it is certain to put more than a few lobbyists out of work.

As to concerns that business is getting off scott free, well, there’s a school of thought that says businesses don’t really pay taxes at all; they just pass it on to consumers. That’s a tremendous oversimplification, but when you consider the fact that business owners will now be taxed at as much as 10 percent when they take profits out, it’s a tradeoff I think many progressives will be willing to accept.

The end result is that Washington will move from having the most regressive tax structure in the nation, to one of the most progressive. 80 percent of households will see their total tax burden decline, with only the top 4 or 5 percent seeing significant increases. At the same time, the ability to deduct the income tax from our federal returns will produce hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenues that can be used to either further cut taxes or fund needed investment in education, transportation and other essential services.

Sims estimates the plan will save Washington citizens $731 million in federal taxes, but the number is likely very conservative. The Gates Commission projections were considerably higher, and it is not unreasonable to suggest that a final analysis could more than double the savings.

That’s a lot of money to leave on the table for ideological reasons, which helps to explain why even such a knee-jerk income tax opponent as the Times is willing to take Sims so seriously:

This page has both big reservations about a state income tax and realism that putting one into place is almost politically impossible. But Sims deserves credit for forcing people to stop and think about the best way to pay for state government.

That may seem like a tiny concession, but it’s huge considering the hard line the Times has previously held on this issue. Sims has clearly made the editorial board (if not the headline writer) reconsider its position.

And that is what political leadership is all about.