I don't really expect the Phoenix Coyotes to move to Seattle before next season, because Glendale, Arizona has already thrown so much good money after bad that it's hard to see them turning down yet another awful (for taxpayers) arena deal. Exactly how awful...?
A local executive with intimate knowledge with the Coyotes situation said the city has a number of concerns about the Renaissance bid. That includes the group not having “enough skin in the game,” arena management payments being used for debt service on the purchase of the team and worries the group might have long-term plans to move the team to Seattle or another market.
Renaissance has reportedly sought a $15 million per year arena deal to manage city-owned Jobing.com Arena and help facilitate a sale.
To be clear, that's a $15 million a year taxpayer subsidy to the Coyotes in exchange for them staying in Glendale, money that the new owners would use for debt payment on their highly leveraged purchase of the team. The city had previously agreed to a $15 million a year 20-year deal with a previous potential ownership group. But Renaissance is reportedly seeking a lease of five years or less, so if the team is going to leave in a few years anyway, there's a strong argument for the city to cut its losses now.
There are certainly reasonable arguments for opposing a Sodo arena, but when critics decry it as a risky deal for taxpayers I just have to laugh, especially considering the truly irresponsible deals that so many other cities have accepted.
We all know electric cars are better for the environment than their fossil fuel chugging cousins, especially here in the hydro-powered Pacific Northwest. But how much better are they for your wallet?
The US Department of Energy just made that calculation easier with the the release of their eGallon website, a state-by-state comparison of average gasoline prices to average electricity prices. And it turns out that Washington State electric car drivers are the big winners, with a spread of $3.87 a gallon for gasoline compared to only $0.84 an "eGallon" for electric.
At a penny less, only North Dakota (in the midst of an energy boom) has a lower eGallon cost. But Washington also has some of the highest gasoline prices in the nation, making us the clear winners. The national average is $3.65 a gallon for gasoline and $1.14 an eGallon for electric.
So what does that mean for the typical driver? I drive about 8,000 miles a year, mostly city miles, and get about 23 miles per gallon on my 2001 Altima. So my fuel savings would come to over $1,000 a year. But I'm not typical. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the average American driver logs 13,500 miles a year, while the US Energy Information Administration reports that the average car (not SUV or truck) on the road gets 23.5 miles per gallon. If that describes you, you'd save about $1,740 a year by switching to an electric car in Washington State.
Of course, that's a misleading comparison. If you're going to buy a new car there are plenty of fuel-efficient models available at a considerably lower price than the electric options. At an MSRP of $28,800, the cheapest all-electric vehicle on the market is the Nissan Leaf, whereas the most fuel-efficient hybrid, the Toyota Prius C, starts at $19,080. At current energy costs, the Leaf would save me less than $300 a year compared to the Prius C, not nearly enough to justify the higher initial cost.
Still, if you're itching to go all electric, this is clearly the best state to do it in.
The Philadelphia Eagles are planning a $125 million renovation of Lincoln Financial Field. That in itself is unremarkable. As Seattleites well know, an enormous amount of money is spent building and renovating professional sports facilities all the time.
But I did find two details kinda interesting. First, the renovation comes only ten years after the stadium was built at a cost of $512 million ($256 million shouldered by taxpayers). And that's on top of millions of dollars of routine maintenance and a previously announced $30 million green energy initiative.
The obvious lesson to learn from this is that team owners really do see an economic imperative in frequently updating their facilities—even facilities as new as ten-year-old Lincoln Financial Field. Of course, they'd rather make taxpayers pick up the tab, but clearly, the Eagles wouldn't be making a $125 million investment if they didn't think they would realize a healthy return.
The average useful economic life of a professional sports facility may seem ridiculously short, but that is the nature the industry. A decade ago, when KeyArena was less than a decade old, the notion of replacing it seemed outrageous. A decade later (and the issue of public financing aside), not so much.
America the Stable! Has a nice ring to it.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Standard & Poor's Ratings Services upgraded its outlook Monday for the U.S. government's long-term debt. S&P cited the government's strengthened finances, a recovering U.S. economy and some easing of Washington's political gridlock.
The credit rating service raised its outlook to "Stable" from "Negative," which means it's less likely to downgrade U.S. debt in the near future.
In other news, Jim Cramer has upgraded the Bluth Company from "Sell" to "Don't Buy."
Are you scared of the Koch brothers? "You look a little scared. We're really scared," Morgan Currier, a senior at UW, told the university's Associate Treasurer during a meeting on the sixth floor of an office building near the campus on Wednesday. "We're hoping you can weigh in and say you're really concerned that the Koch brothers could own a big part of our media."
United Students Against Sweatshops wants the UW to send a message to Oaktree Capital Management, one of the UW endowment's investment managers: Don't sell the Tribune Company to notorious right-wing industrialists David and Charles Koch.
A portion (neither the university nor the students informed me of how much) of the university's $2.23 billion endowment is managed by Oaktree, which currently owns the largest stake (23 percent) of Tribune Company. The ailing media conglomerate runs the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, six other daily newspapers, and various TV stations, including Q13 Fox in Seattle.
Oaktree is rumored to want to sell off its stake. The Koch brothers are interested in buying. If you're not familiar, the Koch brothers are evil, global-warming-denying billionaires who've poured millions into right-wing campaign coffers. They're America's Rupert Murdochs, or they could be, if they get into the media monopoly game.
For all the problems with K-12 education funding in Washington state (and let's be honest, there are some awfully big problems), there is one thing that the state does extremely right: We fund our schools predominantly at the state level rather than at the local level. On average, about three quarters of K-12 school funding comes from the state, with only about a quarter coming from local taxpayers. In some other states, these numbers are reversed.
The result is that while there are funding disparities both between districts and within them, there is much more K-12 parity within Washington State than in much of the rest of the nation. (I'm not excusing the inequity that is there, just pointing out that there is less compared to many other states.)
This is arguably very good public policy... assuming there is the political will to raise the revenue necessary to fund all our schools at an adequate level, rather than allowing a lack of funding to drag all our schools down. It is also a policy that appears to enjoy near universal bipartisan support. For example, you never hear rural Republicans arguing to get state government off their backs and let their public schools go it alone.
But, you know, this is also a policy that implicitly embraces massive redistribution of wealth, a concept normally anathema to conservative politicians. Wealthy regions like the Seattle metropolitan area disproportionately fund state government, while rock-solid Republican regions like those in rural Eastern Washington get many more dollars back from the state than they send to Olympia. It is, dare I say socialist programs like "levy equalization," that keep the funding of their schools roughly on par with ours, regardless of whether their voters support the taxes necessary to pay for them.
But good intentions and court orders can only go so far.
So here's some helpful advice to public school boosters in the less wealthy parts of the state: You can either support urban Democrats in our efforts to tax ourselves to amply pay for the education of all our state's children, or you can prepare for an era of growing inequity. The statutory cap on local school levies may never disappear, but there are many ways to get around it, from Seattle's Families & Education Levy to the millions of dollars a year that PTA's in affluent schools and districts raise to supplement the woeful lack of state school funding. Seattle, for example, is wealthy enough to fund universal high quality preschool on our own—in fact, doing so would inevitably cost our taxpayers substantially less than a comparable state-funded program.
And given the lack of support from the rest of the state for raising the tax dollars necessary to fund public education at the level we want and need, this is exactly the route we will eventually take. We don't want to disadvantage children born in property-tax-poor districts, but our first obligation is to our own children. As parents, I'm sure you understand that. So if you won't let us raise the revenue necessary to amply provide for the education of all our children, then we will find a way to do it for our own.
If there is a lesson to learn from Olympia's utter refusal to address the McCleary decision, it's that local school districts cannot look to Olympia to fix their funding problems. Fortunately for Seattle, we're rich, so we can afford to address our own needs. But if that is the path we are forced to take, it can't help but erode our support for a state K-12 funding system that, for all its problems, has long been one of the most equitable in the nation.
This Tampa Bay Times special investigation into the worst charities in America is absolutely what online journalism should be: An easy-to-understand webpage displaying all sorts of new information. it's the product of months of research, and it's packed with eye-opening facts. (Some of the charities only wind up giving 0.9 percent of the millions raised back in direct cash aid.) Go dig in.
In a recent study of 21 rich countries, America was the only one that does not guarantee its citizens any paid holiday. Not Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior's birthday. Not even Memorial Day. From the Center for Economic and Policy Research:
Sometimes when you achieve small government, you end up getting bossed around by somebody else. In this case, as with most, it's (surprise!) big business. Sure, we've got a growing economy and lower unemployment than much of Europe, but that's partly because an increasing number of us are stuck in low-wage jobs with scant benefits. The American Dream is now affordable health insurance and paid vacation. At least due to White Flight 2, the rich are fleeing the suburbs they once strove for, so you can probably get that two-car garage on the cheap.
Ads are on my phone, in my email, in my social network accounts, on billboards, in the papers and blogs I read—and that is fine. I can live with that. I chose to live in a capitalist society. But the sky is where I draw the line. Leave that space alone and let me enjoy the marvelous clouds in peace.
Looks like it may have been Monsanto:
Unapproved genetically engineered wheat has been found growing on a farm in Oregon, federal officials said Wednesday, a development that could disrupt American exports of the grain.
The Agriculture Department said the wheat was of the type developed by Monsanto to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup, also known as glyphosate. Such wheat was field-tested in 16 states, including Oregon, from 1998 through 2005, but Monsanto dropped the project before the wheat was ever approved for commercial planting.
Zero countries have approved genetically modified wheat, so if this rogue wheat got into our country's wheat supply—either for domestic consumption or export—it could be an expensive problem. According to the New York Times, wheat is a $17.9 billion industry in America.
I couldn't really say it any better than Bill Lyne of the United Faculty of Washington State, so I'll just steal his words:
Everybody knows we’re killing our colleges, nobody seems to be willing or able to do anything about it. The business community moans and groans about STEM graduates but resists closing even the most obsolete tax loophole to pay for them. The Seattle Times puts half-page ads for its wonderful Greater Good Campaign directly opposite editorials that relentlessly describe state employees (i.e. the people who work in our colleges) as the root of all evil. And legislators’ responses range from sincere concern to puffy demagoguery, but nobody seems to be able to create the political will to generate the real resources necessary to stop the slipping.
The special session stumbles along with three budget proposals on the table, none of which stops the erosion that the governor is worried about. Technically, none of the three budgets makes new cuts to higher education. But they all enshrine the new normal of the old cuts, leaving college and university base funding well below where it was in 2009, and doing nothing to address the growing problems of restricted access, larger classes, and increased time to graduation.
The rallying cry against raising new revenue is largely based on the assertion that higher taxes would hurt our state's economic competitiveness. But it's hard to see how Washington remains competitive far into the future while being home to one of the worst funded public university systems in the nation.
In the end, we get the government we pay for.
The Seattle Times editorial board is both right and wrong in its assessment of state transportation spending in the wake of the I-5 Skagit River bridge collapse. Right in its call to prioritize spending more on "infrastructure maintenance" and less on "sexy new projects," but wrong in its narrow definition of "infrastructure maintenance."
Immediately, some politicians began to suggest the collapse of the 165-foot span over the Skagit River was a case study on the cost of deferred infrastructure maintenance.
But that narrative does not seem to fit the facts. Instead, the collapse, as described by state officials, suggests an obsolete bridge design exploited by a freak accident.
By all means, Olympia should focus on repairing or replacing our 135 "structurally deficient" state bridges first. Those pose the most immediate threat to public safety and commerce. But even a well-maintained "functionally obsolete" bridge (as the Skagit River span was officially designated) should be beneath the standards of Washington State. Far from a "freak accident," a WSDOT report finds that the bridge had previously suffered a number of "high load hits," with at least eight sections where the steel was bent or dented by hard hits from trucks carrying loads too tall to clear the bridge.
Should replacing a 58-year-old structurally sufficient—but functionally obsolete—bridge like the Skagit River span be considered a sexy new project? I don't think so. But either way, it would be a mistake to lose sight of our transportation infrastructure as a whole for the sake of focusing on individual structures. Even a writer at the car-hating Stranger will admit that sometimes expanding capacity can be just as critical to maintaining public safety and commerce as maintaining the structures we already have.
But the bigger lesson to learn from the Skagit River bridge collapse is that government matters. This is a reminder of the irreplaceable role our tax dollars play in maintaining the quality of life and economic prosperity of our state. The debate the Seattle Times raises about transportation spending priorities is one well worth having, but reprioritizing alone cannot fix all our problems if there isn't enough money to go around. For there is also a strong argument to make that we are not spending enough money as a state—on roads, on bridges, on transit, on education, and on other crucial public infrastructure and services—to either meet our current needs or to prepare for the future. And it would be foolish to debate spending without debating revenue.
That is a debate I'd hope the editorial boards would welcome too.
Huh. I guess that explains Cienna:
Idaho remains stuck at the bottom of public education funding, ranking second to last of all states in per-student spending for a third straight year, the U.S. Census Bureau said today.
Idaho spent $6,824 per student in the 2010-11 school year, above only Utah, according to the latest available figures.
Neighboring Washington ranked 30th – up two spots from the previous year – with $9,483 spent per student.
Both Idaho and Washington fall below the national average of $10,560 per student.
Just to bring Washington State's per student spending up to the national average would cost an additional $1.12 billion a year ($2.24 billion per biennium). And in case you think our taxpayers can't afford it, it's important to note that Washington ranks 46th in terms of per student spending as a percentage of per capita income. We're just cheap, pure and simple.
AppleInsider makes a very good point about Tim Cook's appearance before a Senate panel to defend Apple from charges of tax evasion yesterday:
Though some such as U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) portrayed Apple's tax strategy as "unique," at least in scope, the tax shelter practice known by attorneys as the "Double Irish" is also utilized by tech companies Google and Yahoo.
Google has moved foreign profits through Ireland and the Netherlands, allowing to avoid about $2 billion in income taxes a year, according to Bloomberg. But unlike Apple, which manages its Irish subsidiary in the U.S., Google goes one step further and manages its Irish branch through Bermuda — a British territory that has no corporate income tax.
Yahoo, too, is said to deposit its profits in an Irish subsidiary. Like Apple, Yahoo says its Irish arm is not a tax resident to avoid corporate income taxes. But Yahoo also employs a strategy similar to Google and claims its tax residency offshore, in the Cayman Islands.
Apple is not unique in this. They just have gotten more attention because everyone knows they're sitting on an unthinkably huge pile of money. But does any of this matter? After the chummy way John McCain ended the Apple tax investigation yesterday...
...I'd be shocked to learn that anything is going to change.
Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn will seek to offset federal aid to victims of a massive tornado that blasted through Oklahoma City suburbs on Monday with cuts elsewhere in the budget.
Of course he will. Because apparently, America has only so much compassion to spread around. So if we're going to relieve suffering in Oklahoma it is necessary to cause suffering elsewhere, just to even things out.
Coburn, who intends to retire in 2016, joined his fellow Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) last year in supporting an amendment that would have substantially cut a package of $60 billion dollars intended for reconstruction of the East Coast in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. The measure eventually passed in two parts with most of the Senate Republican caucus in opposition, but not before New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and New York GOP Reps. Peter King and Michael Grimm offered scathing critiques that their party was abandoning stranded people in the wake of the storm.
Republicans will overwhelmingly support a multibillion dollar aid package for Oklahoma, because it is a red state. On the other hand, Democrats will overwhelmingly support a multibillion dollar aid package for Oklahoma, because they are not hypocritical assholes.
Did Apple go through all sorts of outrageous tax avoidance contortions in order to dramatically reduce its tax liability? Absolutely. But in doing so, did Apple break any actual laws? Probably not.
Congress can get as huffy as it wants in accusing Apple of being a tax cheat, but Apple's only playing by the rules that Congress has laid down. The real scandal here is our ridiculous corporate tax code that allows this sort of shit to happen. All the time.
Yeah, Apple jumps through hoops to avoid paying taxes. But at over $6 billion in 2012, Apple claims to be the largest corporate income tax payer in the US. Meanwhile, dozens of giant US corporations (including Boeing and Paccar) consistently pay a negative federal income tax.
So yeah, Apple deserves to be excoriated for its accounting tricks. But it is Congress that is the enabler of all this corporate tax avoidance, and Congress that ultimately deserves the blame.
Nelson D. Schwartz at the New York Times explains:
Even as Apple became the nation’s most profitable technology company, it avoided billions in taxes in the United States and around the world through a web of subsidiaries so complex it spanned continents and surprised experts, a Congressional investigation has found...In 2011, for example, one subsidiary paid Ireland just one-twentieth of 1 percent in taxes on $22 billion on pretax earnings from various operations; another did not file a corporate tax return anywhere and has paid almost nothing on $30 billion in profits since 2009.
“Apple wasn’t satisfied with shifting its profits to a low-tax offshore tax haven,” said Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat. “Apple sought the holy grail of tax avoidance. It has created offshore entities holding tens of billions of dollars while claiming to be tax resident nowhere.”
This is really shitty of Apple, of course. Apple CEO Tim Cook is scheduled to address a Senate hearing tomorrow. But the question remains: Is Congress going to do anything about this?
Later this afternoon, just before the deadline, I will not file to run against four-term incumbent Seattle City Council member Richard Conlin. And believe it or not, it was a very difficult decision that I've been struggling with for weeks.
After nine years of covering Washington state and local politics I've come to the conclusion that Seattle can no longer wait on Olympia to address our problems. Our state's inability to fix its longterm structural revenue deficit dictates a gradual but relentless reduction in the services and infrastructure investments the state can provide. Whatever the result at the polls, unless and until the state finds a way to grow revenue somewhat commensurate with the economy, we will inevitably get the Republican agenda by default. And unable to maintain the transportation, education, and other amenities sufficient to preserve Washington's economic competitiveness, our economy will ultimately sputter and stagnate.
Washington is a state teetering on the edge of decline.
Meanwhile, the "fuck Seattle" attitude that permeates much of the rest of the state, combined with Republicans' knee-jerk opposition to taxes of all kinds for any reason under any circumstances, assures that Olympia cannot be counted on even to grant us the authority to tax ourselves to meet our own needs.
But there is hope. Seattle is a compassionate city, a progressive city, a smart city. But above all, Seattle is an affluent city. And while the revenue options at our disposal may not be the ones we'd prefer, we are wealthy enough to use the options we have to invest in the human and physical infrastructure we need to assure economic growth and prosperity now and in the future. That is, assuming we have political leaders with the vision to embrace a newly self-sufficient Seattle, and the communications skills to sell that vision to voters.
Which we don't.
That is why (besides all the usual narcissistic bullshit that is inherent in politics) I seriously considered challenging Conlin: Because Seattle needs and deserves more than the caretaker council that Conlin has come to epitomize. We need to invest in our children, in our transit, in our roads, and sidewalks, and bikeways now, while we can still afford to, before our economy is dragged down by the rest of the state. If we act proactively while we still have an economy capable of sustaining such investments, we can sustain Seattle's competitiveness, and perhaps even drag the rest of the state kicking and screaming with us.
For example: Seattle desperately needs to invest in the one education reform that everybody agrees works: High quality universal preschool for all three- and four-year-olds.
Zeljka Marosevic at Melville House tells us about a meeting yesterday that was held to discuss Amazon.com's taxes, or lack thereof:
“What people will find particularly galling is that the amount Amazon is paying in tax is actually less than they are taking from UK taxpayers in the form of government grants. Companies like Amazon should pay their fair share of tax based on their economic activity in this country and the profits they make here...
Why is it people get ridiculously upset when someone on the internet sees a young mother of three buying some mildly unhealthy food with food stamps, but when Amazon sucks at the welfare teat on an exponentially larger scale, it's at best considered to be the free hand of the market and at worst just shrugged off as the way it is nowadays?
Last week I took the state projections of the additional revenue that would be raised should states be allowed to collect sales tax on remote sales under the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA), and estimated that it would bring an additional $63 million a year into various King County coffers by 2017. It was a rough extrapolation based on the limited data I had, but figured it was "certainly in the ballpark."
It certainly was. At Representative Reuven Carlyle's request the state Department of Revenue just released county-by-county estimates, and it turns out King County would see a $60.7 million bump in revenue in 2017. That means my estimates for Seattle ($6.9 million) and Metro ($19 million) are likely in the ballpark too.
But King would only collect about 38 percent of the annual $158.5 million in additional local sales tax that would be raised statewide. For example, lacking our economic base, many Eastern Washington counties have been particularly starved for cash. So no doubt the $26.8 million a year in additional revenue that Internet sales tax collection would raise would provide welcome relief to the twelve counties comprising Washington's 5th Congressional District.
So why won't US Representative Cathy McMorris Rogers do what's right for her district?
The bill has already passed the US Senate by a 69-27 margin, but faces a big hurdle in the Republican-controlled House where many GOPers insist that is a (gasp) tax increase. It isn't. This is a tax that consumers already owe their home states, but don't pay. The MFA only makes it possible for states to force Internet retailers to collect it.
As one of the highest ranking members of the Republican caucus, and arguably the most powerful member of our state delegation, McMorris Rogers has an opportunity to put the interests of her district and her state above her party's inflexible Norquistian ideology, and lead the way toward passing the MFA. As the most sales tax dependent state in the nation, no state would benefit more from the MFA's passage than Washington. To the tune of $491.1 million a year in combined state and local revenue.
McMorris Rogers quickly climbed the House GOP leadership ranks by adhering closely to the party line. Isn't it time for her to use her position to show some actual leadership on behalf of her constituents?
If there's one thing we've always known about state Senator Ed Murray, it's that he has the potential to raise an awful lot of money awfully fast. And he didn't disappoint during the fundraising-freeze break between the end of the regular legislative session and today's start of the special session, raising $103,693 in only two weeks for his campaign to unseat Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.
To put that in perspective, that's more than Tim Burgess, Bruce Harrell, and McGinn raised during the entire month of April. Combined.
For an apples to apples comparison, following is a table of the mayoral fundraising totals through the end of April. (Note: It only includes Murray's April 29-30 totals, not the remaining $97,150 he's raised in May.)
|Candidate||Total Raised||Net Balance|
Add in his May totals and Murray has raised $221,123 total, likely bringing his net balance north of $140,000 (there's no word on his expenditures). That said, the other candidates have presumably been raising cash the past couple weeks as well, if at a dramatically slower pace. Now that the special session has started, Murray is prohibited from raising money again, giving the other candidates an opportunity to catch up.
Would be Sonics owner Chris Hansen announced today that he has upped his valuation of the Sacramento Kings by another $75 million, bringing the total franchise value to an unprecedented $625 million. The previous NBA record was the sale of the Golden State Warriors for $450 million just a few years back in 2010.
This new move raises his offer for the Maloof family's 65 percent share of the Kings by $49 million to over $406 million. "While we appreciate that this is a very difficult decision for the league and owners, we hope it is understood that we really believe the time is now to bring the NBA back to Seattle," Hansen wrote in a post to his website.
The Maloofs were already being leaned on by the league to accept a lower offer from a Sacramento investment group. Passing up an additional $49 million makes that an even tougher ask.
This all raises the possibility that Hansen could end up owning the team, but without permission from the league to move it to Seattle. Awkward. But also interesting, in that it would put the Kings in the same sort of limbo the Sonics were in immediately after Clay Bennett purchased the team.
Remember, the Sacramento arena deal is awfully tenuous, and with the proposed local ownership group out of the picture, doesn't really even exist. If Hansen purchases the team—with or without the league's blessing—it could kill the arena deal. And without an arena, there's no reason for keeping the Kings in Sacramento.
It's a pretty ballsy move on Hansen's part.
This morning, I told you about a calamitous douche named Chris DeRose who suggested a bunch of idiot ideas to improve customer service at McDonald's. None of DeRose's ideas involved paying the employees more.
The comments thread to that post has been pretty great, including a link from Gold Star Slog Commenter Merchant Seaman to a story from KPLU that seems to prove my thesis about McDonald's employees doing better at their jobs when they're paid a better wage. It's about a McDonald's along the border in Washington State (where the minimum wage is $9.19) that won't move twenty feet into Idaho, where the minimum wage is $7.25:
So, just to be clear: This McDonalds is in the state with the higher minimum wage. And this busy intersection is so profitable that it didn’t occur to [franchise owner Tim] Skubitz to move, even when he tore down the old McDonald’s in 2011. He built a fancier new one in the same place instead of in the state right across the street with the lower minimum wage. Skibutz says wages are just one piece of a larger puzzle.
“Just because we've expanded our business shows that we're growing our business,” he said. “And so with growing our business, I need more employees. So we've grown substantially I'd say in the last year and a half.”
The researchers who studied neighboring counties across state lines say there are a couple of reasons why minimum wage increases turn out to be a wash for businesses overall. They say first, the wage hike reduces turnover. It also leads employers to invest more in worker training, which increases productivity.
This story is proof that Republicans who insist lower wages are the way to build jobs are full of shit. I suggest you go read the whole thing.
Chris DeRose published an article at Business Insider addressing the fact that McDonald's is failing at customer service, with a vice president of the company openly talking about the “rude or unprofessional employees" at some franchises. Here are DeRose's suggestions:
1. Create shared emotion around delivering a great customer experience.
2. Keep simplifying work processes and rules
3. Invest more in tools and training.
4. Reward and recognize great service.
What DeRose doesn't suggest? Paying the employees a living wage. Instead, he spends his time blathering about bullshit PowerPoint terms like "wow stories" and "customer mania" and "creating memories." If you treat your employees like garbage, they're going to treat your customers like garbage. McDonald's shitty pay doesn't even get a mention in DeRose's article, but a program where "employees nominate each other for a series of pins" is suggested as a fix. Fucking unbelievable.
I've already written about the boon to state tax revenues should the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA) pass the US House, enabling Washington State to collect an additional $567 million in taxes on the purchase of out-of-state goods in the 2015-17 biennium. But the so-called "Internet Sales Tax" would also prove a boon to local governments that have been slowly starved by a sales tax base that has been steadily shrinking as a portion of the overall economy.
According to the latest Washington State Department of Revenue projections, local governments would collect an additional $27.3 million in 2014, rising to $158.5 million in 2017 once businesses reach 90 percent compliance.
So what does this mean here in Seattle and King County? Well, King County accounts for about 40 percent of total taxable sales statewide, and Seattle accounts for about 39 percent of King County sales. So extrapolating from DOR's numbers, the following local revenues can be roughly approximated:
|King County (.15)||$0.5||$1.5||$2.4||$3.2|
|Sound Transit (.9)||$3.3||$8.7||$14.4||$19.0|
|Criminal Justice (.1)||$0.4||$1.0||$1.6||$2.0|
|Mental Health (.1)||$0.4||$1.0||$1.6||$2.0|
It's a rough extrapolation based on projected revenues. And not all of King County levies the full 3 cent per dollar local sales tax, so that muddies my calculations a touch. But it's certainly in the ballpark. And the biggest takeaway is that the MFA would raise a substantial amount of money to build and operate local transit—an additional $38 million a year for Metro and Sound Transit combined by 2017. You know, give or take.
That's not enough to solve all our problems; Metro alone faces a $75 million shortfall in 2014. But it makes a big dent. And to be clear: This is not a new tax! The MFA merely enables state and local governments to collect a tax consumers already owe, but overwhelmingly don't pay. And now that they've worked out the kinks so that it's no longer a burden on small retailers, it's hard to see the moral or economic argument against it.
...if the government would actually fucking hire some people?
With 2.2 million more government workers now, assuming the same labor force size, the unemployment rate wouldn't be 7.7 percent. It would be 6.3 percent.
The government is the most important job creator in the United States, and it's been slacking off.
Astronauts on money! How do you like our hundred dollar bill now?
When the Sonics started agitating for a new arena less than a decade after KeyArena's publicly-funded $75 million renovation, taxpayers and politicians where rightly outraged. At its grand re-opening in 1995, NBA commissioner David Stern praised KeyArena as "a beautiful building" and "very special to me." Just a few years later Stern would scornfully dismiss the arena as "woefully inadequate."
But that was a decade ago. In the years hence the Sonics were sold, public funding demands were escalated, and the team was ultimately stolen away to Oklahoma City. But more importantly in the context of recent developments, KeyArena has grown another decade older.
Now pushing 20, KeyArena is gracefully entering its golden years by arena and stadium standards, where the useful life expectancy is typically about 30. That lifespan is as true here in Seattle as it is in other big cities. KeyArena first opened as the Coliseum in 1962; it was torn down to its steel trusses and rebuilt 32 years later in 1994. The Kingdome was even less long-lived: Opened in 1976, renovated in 1994 (at a cost of $51 million), and demolished in 2000 at the tender age of 24.
It may seem wasteful to replace these giant structures every three decades or so, but it's long been the norm. Tastes change and buildings deteriorate. The Kingdome's costly 1994 renovation was necessitated by a catastrophic roof collapse, and the old Coliseum holds the dubious record for hosting the only NBA game ever to be forfeited due to rain, when the roof leaked onto the court during a 1986 game against the Phoenix Suns. The city paid off KeyArena's construction bonds in 2008 after a financial settlement with Clay Bennett, and its operations have turned a small profit ever since—about $640,000 in 2012. But that's far from enough money to fund a robust maintenance program let alone any major repairs or renovations.
At some point, competitive pressures combined with good old fashioned entropy dictate that it makes more economic sense to replace an old arena or stadium than it does to maintain one. And experience suggests that KeyArena will hit that point within another decade or so.
I don't know if I can suggest that you go read this whole Thomas Friedman editorial for the New York Times, but this paragraph feels like a nicely encapsulated description of the world in which we live, especially the bit that I bolded:
If you are self-motivated, wow, this world is tailored for you. The boundaries are all gone. But if you’re not self-motivated, this world will be a challenge because the walls, ceilings and floors that protected people are also disappearing. That is what I mean when I say “it is a 401(k) world.” Government will do less for you. Companies will do less for you. Unions can do less for you. There will be fewer limits, but also fewer guarantees. Your specific contribution will define your specific benefits much more. Just showing up will not cut it.
The problem is, not every "self-motivated" person can succeed. That's just basic math. And all of us will have at one point during our lives a time in which we can't be "self-motivated," be it through illness or catastrophe or just plain bad luck. That's what May Day should be about, not smashing windows or fake "real life superheroes" who think they deserve public attention because of their dumb wardrobe choices. May Day should be about treating the most vulnerable with dignity and respect, because we're not just a bunch of animals.