Washington state’s unemployment rate shot up to 9.2 percent last month, still higher than the national rate and nearly double what it was a year ago.
The increase was nearly 1 percentage point from February’s revised rate of 8.3 percent.
And in Oregon, really, really ow.
I’m taking a couple of days off, but I can’t help thinking about the news that Oregon’s unemployment rate has now climbed to 12.1 percent – equaling the worst of the state’s last deep recession, in the early 1980s.
It seems we’ve moved, as predicted, from a financial-sector-housing fraud-bubble crisis to a continued downward slide.
Both states need to reform their tax systems. Oregon hamstrung itself with California-style property tax restraints, and of course up here in Washington we have the stupid, broken, Depression-era “temporary tax system” that has been in effect for seventy years or whatever.
Nothing is a panacea, but having the traditional “three-legged stool” of state taxes would seem to be worth considering. Sales taxes play a role in moderating consumption, allowing consumers not to pay some of the tax by buying less. But income taxes have the advantage of automatically adjusting to changing economic conditions.
When you talk to regular folks about taxes, one of the first things they will say is that if you allow a new form of taxation, “they’ll just raise our taxes more.” Which, you know, is understandable, as the right-wing culture of resentment has been pushing this line of thought for forty years. But given the serious nature of the crisis and the threat to our long-term economic well being, especially in education, it would be nice if the state could at least try to reform the stupid, broken tax system.
I don’t know who the bidness guys and gals think are going to be the workers and leaders of tomorrow, but with massive tuition hikes and drastic cuts to K-12 looming as distinct possibilities, there is a danger the real threat to our future comes not from government spending but from savaging our public assets. Good luck with all that international investment in about ten-twenty years, guys. Most international corporations are looking for a highly skilled, highly educated work force.
It’s all a bit harder to explain than how to wave a teabag, but I figure most ordinary folks are still pretty darn worried about retirement and education. There’s an inherent suspicion about government, but there is also a genuine desire to have quality services in public safety, health care, transportation and education. What regular folks expect is value for their taxes, and if one cuts the very programs that help create a large, stable middle class, one is basically doing the work of the right for them.
So the issue for the leaders of this state is rather simple. Do something meaningful now about our stupid, broken tax system and be prepared to wage a battle against the know-nothing right wing assholes funded by right-wing foundation and PAC money, or do piddly little regressive sales tax measures in the hopes of threading a needle that can’t be threaded, and then be prepared to do battle against the know-nothing right wing assholes funded by right-wing foundation and PAC money.
The question isn’t when or how the right wing assholes will attack, the question is how much ground Democrats cede to them before actually fighting. (Does this sound in any way familiar to anyone? Did we not learn anything from the last eight years?)
In other words, fight now or fight later. Might as well do what’s in the best interest of the citizenry as a whole. In an economy continuing to fight deflationary pressures, public spending and investment is in the public interest.