According to the Seattle Times editorial board, Democrats are bad people:
THE priority of the majority Democrats in Olympia has not been economic recovery. If it were, the Legislature would not be leaning on the taxpayer for nine-tenths of a billion dollars.
Damn… they finally caught on. Yes the priority of us Dems, as always, has been the destruction of the economic and social fabric of these United States. “Heil Osama bin Stalin!”… or something like that.
Or perhaps, it’s possible, there might be a legitimate debate to be had over economic policy, with the majority of Dems genuinely believing that the anti-stimulative effects of further state government cuts would be greater than the anti-stimulative effects of minor tax increases? But, you know, it’s always easier just to question your opponents’ motives.
If the priority were economic recovery, Thursday’s page-one headline in The Seattle Times would not have been, “Despite cuts, state spending actually on track to go up.”
Oh God… if the Legislature’s spending, regulatory and revenue priorities were based solely on coaxing complimentary headlines out of the Seattle Times, Washington state would look like Somalia by now. I mean honestly, this is a paper that has steadfastly refused to cover the billions of dollars in spending cuts over the past two years, and the impact it has had on Washington families, yet we’re expected to accept their headlines as a generally accurate let alone evenhanded depiction of reality?
The priority of legislators has been protecting state employees. In the past two years, when private employment in Washington has plunged by 7.5 percent, the total of state workers outside of higher education has been shaved by 0.7 percent. The Legislature might have increased that rate in the coming year, but it didn’t.
A.) The past performance of the Times’ editorial board has given me absolutely no reason to accept that assertion as fact. B) Nice job cherry-picking data by excluding a big chunk of state general fund spending. I mean, it’s kinda like saying that “Nobody in Times management, outside of Frank Blethen, has ever shot a neighbor’s dog.”
Many voices, including this page, told legislators to declare a fiscal emergency and reopen state employee contracts. Raising the employee share of health-care premiums from 12 percent to 20 percent — a share that is still below the average in the private sector — would have saved about $50 million in this biennium. The Legislature didn’t do it.
Which is surprising, because if you’re gonna take fiscal advice from anybody, it’s a company that pissed away a half a billion dollars of equity over the past decade.
There is also the matter of step increases — an automatic pay increase for an employee not at the top of the salary schedule. In the worst crisis in years, with taxes being slapped on all sorts of things and the unemployment rate close to 9 percent, the Legislature continued to fund step increases.
While what the Times really wanted the state to do was use this crisis as an excuse to break contracts and crush the public employee unions.
The state might simply stop doing some things. A bill was introduced to end the state’s retail monopoly of liquor. The Legislature didn’t pass it.
And regardless of whose numbers you believe, passing it would have done absolutely nothing to address our current budget crisis. But again, if we can exploit the Great Recession as an excuse for privatizing something for the sake of privatization, why not have at it?
A year ago, when the economic omens were worse, the Legislature made it through without big tax increases. Back then, Initiative 960 required a two-thirds vote, and they didn’t have that. This year, I-960 was amendable by a simple majority, and they quickly amended it. After that, the tax proposals scurried out like crabs from under a wet rock.
If all you knew about politics came from the Times’ headlines and editorials, you might think that you have to handcuff those tax-and-spend Democrats to the radiator to keep them from raising taxes every full moon, when in fact when it comes to major taxes, the opposite has been true over at least the past quarter century.
Despite the fact that the sale of goods has represented an ever shrinking portion of the state economy since the 1950’s, there hasn’t been a hike in the state portion of the sales tax rate since 1983… the longest such lag, by far, since the sales tax was implemented back in 1935. The B&O tax on manufacturing was cut in 1995 and again in 1997, and now it too stands at 1983 levels. And while the gas tax has been raised 14.5 cents since 2003, that jump followed a nearly unprecedented 12-year period of stagnation, with the current 37.5 cent a gallon tax still falling below the historical average as a percentage of the price at the pump. Only the tobacco tax has seen substantial increases, but primarily for public health reasons, and with bipartisan support.
Meanwhile, the Democratic controlled Legislature has spent much of the past decade passing billions of dollars worth of tax exemptions. And let’s not forget car tabs, which the Legislature eliminated in 1998 by feebly reenacting Tim Eyman’s unconstitutional I-965, essentially cutting a chunk of annual revenue equivalent to a one cent per dollar reduction in the state sales tax rate.
Indeed, even with the plethora of property and sales tax increases approved by local voters, total state and local taxes as a percentage of personal income fell from a high of 10.4% in 1994 to 8.9% in 2008, ranking us 35th nationwide according to the conservative Tax Foundation. So the very notion that it was I-960 that handcuffed Democrats, rather than their own well-documented reluctance to anger taxpayers, is complete and utter bullshit.
Raising taxes is never an easy thing for politicians to do, not even Democrats. Never. And to imply otherwise is nothing short of slander.
Senate Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, blamed her urban colleagues. “I think a majority of our caucus is from very safe districts.” she said. “As a result, they just feel like we don’t want to reform.”
Lynn Kessler is a Republican. There, I said it. At least on fiscal issues, the Democratic caucus is led, if not dominated, by politicians who would have been Republicans two decades ago. And yet even with the outsized influence that these economic DINOs have on the caucus’s agenda, Kessler has the nerve to publicly criticize her urban colleagues for occasionally voting the needs and interests of their constituents over that of the BIAW and Frank Blethen?
There’s a part of me that almost wishes the Democrats would lose a bunch of House seats come November, if only to foment a caucus revolt that might install some new and more effective leadership, that truly reflects the values of the Democratic Party.
Somebody, sometime, is going to make them reform state government. It will happen. But it didn’t happen this year.
Reform? What reform? The Times didn’t call for reform; they called for busting state employee unions and dropping temporary assistance to those unable to work due to physical or mental disability. Would that save money in the short term? Sure. Would it address the bureaucratic inefficiencies and misplaced priorities that surely exist? Nope. And it sure as hell wouldn’t do anything to address the long term structural revenue deficit that results from clinging to an early 20th century tax structure that simply doesn’t fit the reality of our post-industrial, 21st century economy.
But again, you know, if there’s an opportunity to impugn the character and motives of the majority Democrats, why not take it?