As much as I love to hate the Seattle Times editorial board, the truth is I actually agree with much of what they write. Sure, sometimes they’re just plain awful, like their shameful “death tax” lies. And sometimes they’re just hamfistedly insensitive and stupid, like Wednesday’s editorial that came off as placing more value on Black Friday than on black lives. But much of the time, and on many issues, I more or less agree with their general sentiment, however incoherently stated.
Take for example yesterday’s editorial urging legislators to protect funding for early and higher education:
MORE money will flow into Washington’s kindergarten through high-school programs in the next two years, but state lawmakers must ensure that doesn’t come at a cost to early and higher education.
The state’s education system should foster student success from ages 3 to 23…
Well, of course. Who could disagree with that? It’s great to see such commonsense advocacy coming from the editorial board of our state’s paper of record. And 3-to-23 education isn’t the only worthwhile program on which the editors have advocated spending more money. The problem is they’re missing in action when it comes to advocating for raising the revenue necessary to pay for it. In fact they’re worse than missing in action—they’re goddamn obstructionists!
The editors assert that it will cost the state an additional $10 billion over the next two biennial budgets to fund both McCleary and Initiative 1351. Whether you trust their numbers or not (and you usually can’t) it’s a lot of money. And the editors’ only revenue suggestion? “Raising the sales tax another percentage point would be unpopular, but effective.”
Unpopular, maybe, but effective, not so much. A percentage point increase in the sales tax would raise about $1 billion a year. So even in that unlikely scenario in which we pass a sales tax increase through the Republican-controlled state senate, where’s the other $1.5 billion a year coming from, let alone any additional money to fund early and higher education? On this the editorial board is silent.
What’s so frustrating about this editorial is that they’re almost there! They recognize the need to spend billions more on 3-to-23 education, and they even appear to understand that it will require significant sources of new revenue. But they just can’t bring themselves to take the lead in moving our state closer toward an actual solution. Which is what we need—especially after their years of knee-jerk obstructionism on revenue issues.
Washington is a very affluent state. We can easily afford to invest in education. But more importantly, our future prosperity depends upon it. It is past time to stop arguing about whether to raise taxes, and to start arguing about which taxes we’re going to raise. And if our editorial boards really want to live up to the civic role they claim for themselves, they might want to start leading this debate.