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Monday, August 5, 2013

The City Is the Laboratory of the State

Posted by on Mon, Aug 5, 2013 at 12:53 PM

As much as it fills my mouth with vomit to say it, I agree with Seattle Times editorial page editor Kate Riley:

The economy’s future lies in cities, not the state or Congress

This is a position to which I have been gradually moving over the past couple years. While Olympia deserves credit for passing some important social reforms that cost no money, when it comes to economic issues, the best we seem to be able to hope for as Democrats are lawmakers willing and able to play defense in support of the status quo: "As the Senate Ways and Means chair, I ... worked successfully to restore cuts to education and social services proposed by Republicans," mayoral hopeful Ed Murray boasts on his own campaign website about his legislative accomplishments. He blocked proposed cuts! Leadership!

Meanwhile, some really useful and creative reforms are happening at the local level—Seattle's paid sick leave ordinance, the Sea-Tac Good Jobs Initiative, our recent debate over living wage jobs—with plenty of room for even more innovation and experimentation. Seattle possesses the most dynamic and attractive economy in the state. If Olympia won't pass the legislation necessary to sustain and grow our economy, we'll just have to do it ourselves. And then we can rely on our representatives in Olympia to defend our right to home rule, since playing defense is what they seem to be best at.

Offended by our state's most-regressive-in-the-nation tax structure? Let's pass an income tax in Seattle—say, a five percent tax on incomes over one million dollars—and force that 80-year-old decision back before the courts. Once voters have approved it somewhere, and that 1933 decision has been overturned, state lawmakers will no longer have an excuse to keep an income tax off the table.

Frustrated at the slow pace at which Olympia is expanding access to high quality early learning—the only educational reform that everybody agrees works? Then don't wait on Olympia to pay for it by raising the revenue you know they'll never have the votes to raise. Seattle could easily afford to implement universal preschool for all its children—paid for by that 5 percent tax on income over one million dollars. As could Bellevue, Mercer Island, and dozens of other cities. Let's do it here first, prove that works, and inspire the rest of the state to go to Olympia and demand that they get it too.

The point is not to cut out the rest of the state, it is to lead it by example.

No doubt Riley and I have a different policy agenda, but we've come to the same pragmatic political conclusion:

Katz and Bradley see metropolitan areas driving a revolution from the bottom up.

The result they picture is a power shift where leaders of these city-states are wielding much more influence at all levels. They are not forsaking but working with their federal and state counterparts and they are much more influential.

“State and national governments will eventually have to bend to the people who are driving our country forward,” Katz predicts.

Riley and I may have different revolutions in mind, but the means toward achieving revolution is one thing on which we both agree.


Comments (29) RSS

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Joe Szilagyi 1
"Cities are dying creatures and have been for over four thousand years -- don't believe the pro-city propaganda from the Stranger! People aren't meant to live stacked up in rat's warren of housing. Everyone should move to Kent's majestic East Hill! It literally is Shangri-La."
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on August 5, 2013 at 1:06 PM · Report this
"Let's pass an income tax in Seattle"

Take your Geritol Goldensteinemberg and wait until Friday comes back around.
Posted by Sugartit on August 5, 2013 at 1:06 PM · Report this
"Seattle could easily afford to implement universal preschool for all its children—paid for by that 5 percent tax on income over one million dollars. "

Care to show us the actual math? the number of residents living in Seattle who make that much in INCOME (probably less than 100) vs the cost of your preschool program? Or do you run government the way a drunk mohel performs at a bris?
Posted by Mercer Island Goy on August 5, 2013 at 1:10 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 4
Not so.

Seattle is forced to make Washington's regressive taxation even more regessive to pay for anything. We need income tax but we can't do that at the city level. All we can do is jack up sales taxes higher. And then wonder why the poor are priced out of the city.

Seattle's gun laws are thrown out or repealed at the state level. Our attempt to end the abusive distribuition of phone books is stymied at the state and federal level. Would we have that grandiose monument to the car, the world's largest tunnel, if we weren't forced to bend to the will of Washington's suburbanites and rural rednecks? Bloomberg's reforms in New York City ran into the same state and federal brick wall.

Cities are at the forefront of innovation when it comes to making wish lists for a progressive future, but the one-acre-one-vote system that lets small town minds rule America has the final say on what we get to do. Don't let a few toy trolly lines and green bike boxes fool you into thinking the battles at the statehouse and in DC don't need to be fought.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on August 5, 2013 at 1:15 PM · Report this
Fnarf 5
What needs to happen here is what happened in California. Voters there finally saw through the constant bleating refrain of the right-wingers about "compromise" and "bipartisan" for the bullshit that it always was, and voted in a 60%+ Democratic legislature to work with the Democratic governor, and broke the logjam. Taxes were immediately raised on the rich, the budget was balanced, schools and other state services were put back on an even keel, and the state economy is booming now. This is not your grandfather's Democratic Party; they mean business, and they're getting it done. We must show people that 100% of the blame for the incompetent and obstructionist legislature is Republicans, kooks and bigots and gun-addled crazies, all of them.
Posted by Fnarf on August 5, 2013 at 1:19 PM · Report this
What @4 said.

What we should do is propose a statewide measure to replace the asinine B&O tax and most of the sales tax with a flat income tax.
Posted by mloar on August 5, 2013 at 1:21 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 7

Flat? Fuck you, Rand Paul.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on August 5, 2013 at 1:23 PM · Report this

And you expected something different from a journal named the "Seattle Times"?

Newspapers are lodged in the place names of cities; hence they are obsolete.

High Speed Rail makes a State what a City used to be.

Look at California.

When you can commute from LA to a job in Sacramento...the subway is now the caternary line.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on August 5, 2013 at 1:24 PM · Report this
@5, hooray!
Posted by gone unregistered on August 5, 2013 at 1:27 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 10
The problem is the tax exemptions make it so the rich get richer faster than the poor get poorer.

Time to form our own State and pull the rig out from the Red areas.
Posted by Will in Seattle on August 5, 2013 at 1:38 PM · Report this

The long timers get a free ride.

The newcomers pay full fare.

Unleash the Property Tax rate!
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on August 5, 2013 at 1:41 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 12
I still can't believe Kentucky, red state fuckers one and all, gets $1.51 for every $1.00 they send to the fed. It's time to end subsidies to Republican assholes!
Posted by Pope Peabrain on August 5, 2013 at 1:45 PM · Report this


Right 20 years of misguided density and urbanism that left us with the same stupid traffic jams.

It's time for a purge of the Ideologues.

Bring on the Realpolitik.

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on August 5, 2013 at 1:47 PM · Report this
Shut the fuck up, Bailo!
Posted by Shut the fuck up, Bailo! on August 5, 2013 at 2:02 PM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 15
Is this even legal? Don't we derive our powers of taxation from the state, who will clearly end this the moment we try it?

If it is legal, I'm all for it. In fact, I'm even all for it if it's not. WA didn't wait around for pot to be legal federally to make it legal here, despite not having the legal authority to do so.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on August 5, 2013 at 2:20 PM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 16
Oops, I didn't read the Times story. Mayors are asking for this ability.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on August 5, 2013 at 2:36 PM · Report this
theophrastus 17
Paraphrasing the local economist guy on KUOW: "if it wasn't for Seattle, Washington would be Idaho."

...and yet Olympia treats Seattle as close to shit as it can.
Posted by theophrastus on August 5, 2013 at 3:14 PM · Report this
Goldy 18
@15 There is no constitutional or statutory limit on a local income tax other than a 5-4 1933 court decision that ruled income as property (a decision for which there is no surviving precedent left in any other state or federal court). The first step is to challenge this ruling, and the surest way to do this is to pass an income tax locally.
Posted by Goldy on August 5, 2013 at 3:30 PM · Report this

If you think my income isn't my property you're no better than a pickpocket.

But more importantly, to deprive people of social protection of their property, especially the pay they give 2/3 of their waking time to earn isn't merely wrong, it strikes at the core of the social contract.

As for taxing only those who through hard work, discipline and risk have earned their good lives- Go to hell you commie scumbag.
Posted by Seattleblues on August 5, 2013 at 4:23 PM · Report this
The quote from #1 is retarded. Urbanization has been going on for a century at least and shows no signs of slowing.

I agree with the article and, as usual, Fnarf. #6 is just a pathetic, asinine, and ignorant man who should immediately be exiled to Somalia where he can revel in his adolescent fantasies of libertarian anal-expulsive bullshit.
Posted by NineOneFour on August 5, 2013 at 5:03 PM · Report this
Fnarf 21
@19, you pay taxes for the privilege of living in an organized society that makes your earnings possible. Only the looniest of loons fails to grasp that. Your argument denies the very possibility of any taxation at all, which isn't even worthy of a response. It's certainly not a conservative view; real conservatives agree that taxation, progressive taxation, is necessary.

I know this is difficult for you, because every word that passes through your synapses is the product of your overwhelming need to be subservient to ideas you lack the mental ability to understand, so you repeat slogans again and again.

We can discuss the appropriate level of tax if you like, but only on a factual basis. Tax rates are lower now than at any point in your lifetime, and it's destroying the state. In addition, your assertions that "some people" (niggers, faggots, illegals, welfare cheats, libtards) don't pay tax is, again, beneath contempt. Poor people who don't pay federal income tax pay MORE tax than people who do, as a proportion of their income. That's a simple fact. You are not bearing the burden you think you are.

And your worldview, your politics, your religion are built on a foundation of lies. Stupid lies; lies a five-year-old can spot. There is nothing conservative about that, nothing.

And we're not negotiating with people like you anymore; we're steamrolling you out of the way. You contribute nothing.
Posted by Fnarf on August 5, 2013 at 5:08 PM · Report this
The City runs at 1 order of magnitude. Walking.

The Suburb runs at 2 orders of magnitude. Driving.

The Farm will run at 3 orders of magnitude. HSR.

The City is a Suburb in slo-mo.
The Suburb is a Farm in slo-mo.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on August 5, 2013 at 5:21 PM · Report this
Goldy 23
@19 You should have read the small print on that social contract before signing. See, in exchange for protecting your property, the government gets to tax you.

And no, income is not property. Income is a transaction (money that comes in), a transfer of wealth from one party to another. Afterwards, it becomes property.

Yes, that's a purely legal distinction. But since we're talking about the constitutionality of an income tax, that's what counts.
Posted by Goldy on August 5, 2013 at 5:49 PM · Report this

Since I never have claimed people shouldn't pay for the government all the palaver about that I'll ignore.

As far as those who gain financially and directly more than they pay, that's a matter of public record. If citizen A pays no federal income tax, you can't argue they do. Yet the federal government operates for them precisely as for the highest bracket taxpayers. If this citizen also gets various federal, state and local programs buying their food, paying for their health care, helping with their rent and so on whatever measly sum they pay in state taxes isn't worth considering. They are, in plain fact, being directly paid for their citizenship.

Facts are inconvenient to one such as you, I know. Your worldview, not mine, hangs on flimsy premises at odds with reality. I suppose your irrational anger stems from this cognitive dissonance. Good luck with that.
Posted by Seattleblues on August 5, 2013 at 7:25 PM · Report this

If you're happy signing away your most basic property rights, I'll make you a deal. You give up all your hard earned money and keep your filthy hands off of mine.

And again, the principal of paying my way presents no problem to me. But asking a few to pay not their own way, but that of everyone else? Yeah, that bothers me.
Posted by Seattleblues on August 5, 2013 at 7:31 PM · Report this
Goldy 26
@25 You do understand that as a percentage of income, the poor in WA pay a helluva lot more than the wealthy in state and local taxes. You understand that right? That somebody earning under $20,000 a year pays about 17 percent in state and local taxes, whereas somebody earning $2 million pays about 3.5 percent.

All I'm proposing is asking the wealthy to up their share a bit. Not even make it flat. Just a little less regressive. Hard to see what's so offensive about that.
Posted by Goldy on August 5, 2013 at 8:59 PM · Report this
Lissa 27
Ooo Seattleblues! "Commie scumbag"! I'm sure your Pastor would frown and shake his head at that sort of language.
Why don't you ask him if that's the sort of thing a good Christian would say?

You know, after you're done sucking on the crack pipe that Slog is for you.
Posted by Lissa on August 5, 2013 at 9:54 PM · Report this
El Matardillo 28
The quickest way to turn Seattle into Detroit is to pass an income tax. High-income citizens will just move elsewhere and the property tax base will be destroyed.

Just another idiot proposal from a paper run by idiots.
Posted by El Matardillo on August 6, 2013 at 8:30 AM · Report this
Goldy 29
Can I just say how disappointingly narrow-minded this comment thread is. Almost entirely focused on taxation, with little ability to address the larger issue.

Ah well.
Posted by Goldy on August 6, 2013 at 9:26 AM · Report this

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