Now that the $15 minimum wage ordinance has passed, Seattle Times editorial columnist Jonathan Martin predicts that “Seattle’s politics are going to snap back to the center…”
With an alliance of big labor and Occupy Wall Street activism, the radical $15 wage idea shot from outer political orbit to inevitability in little more than a year. Never mind that it is an unproven experiment, with as much potential to close businesses as it has to boost low-wage workers’ paychecks.
But as the $15 movement held a dance party, literally, at City Hall on Monday, I could hear an almost sigh.
It was the sound of Seattle’s politics — after a spin around the dance floor with the far-left — snapping back to its more natural state of deliberate, bland, center-left policies.
Sigh. I want to like Martin, I really do. But there’s something about joining that paper’s editorial board that turns its writers a little stupid.
First of all, “unproven experiment” is redundant. That’s the whole purpose of conducting an experiment: To prove something. And yet in the exact same sentence in which Martin goes out of his way to double emphasize the unknown consequences of a $15 minimum wage (it’s not just an experiment, mind you, but an unproven experiment!), he goes on to assert certainty as to its outcome: “as much potential to close businesses as it has to boost low-wage workers’ paychecks.” The experiment is totally unproven, says Martin, yet the relative probability of potential outcomes is totally known.
Indeed, if you dissect the logic of that sentence further, what it is actually asserting is that the $15 minimum wage will close businesses. We absolutely know that it will “boost low-wage workers’ paychecks”—that’s merely the mechanism of raising the minimum wage. So to say that it has “as much potential to close businesses as it has to boost low-wage workers’ paychecks,” is to express certainty that it will close businesses.
Hell, that doesn’t sound “unproven” at all. At least to Martin.
But I digress. My real beef with Martin’s column is not that sloppy sentence. It’s with his equally sloppy presumption that the $15 minimum wage is somehow outside of the center of Seattle politics.
It was a deal brokered by the mayor between business and labor leaders. Polls showed the proposal enjoying overwhelming public support. It passed the city council by a unanimous 9-0 vote. What could be more politically centrist than that? Yes, the speed in which we moved on the issue—one year and four days from when striking fast food workers first made the $15 an hour demand to the moment the city council met it—was remarkable for process-obssessed Seattle. But that was a testament to the speed in which the issue achieved consensus.
No, there’s nothing leftist or “radical” about a minimum wage or a millionaires tax—certainly not here in Seattle, where such proposals pass easily. Indeed, if anything is far outside the center of Seattle politics it is the Seattle Times editorial board and its relentlessly anti-tax, anti-goverment, anti-Seattle agenda. I mean, this is a paper whose publisher has been one of the leading national voices in favor of eliminating the inheritance tax at a time when income and wealth inequality is growing to such extremes as to threaten the very being of our democracy.
Now thats radical!
Martin’s effort to define policy as left, right, or center is purely arbitrary, and totally detached from public opinion. He scoffs at the notion of council member* Kshama Sawant’s proposed “millionaires tax,” yet if we were to put a 5 percent tax on incomes over $1 million on Seattle’s ballot in 2016, do you think it would pass? Of course it would! Because here in Seattle, taxing the income of the wealthy is a centrist policy!
On economic issues, it is the Seattle Times editorial board that is far outside the mainstream.
* Yes, that’s right, she’s a council member. 93,682 Seattleites voted for Sawant. So how far outside the center of Seattle politics could she really be?