Not that this is any surprise, but when Republicans tacked an amendment to the ACA stipulating that Congress would also be subject to its regulations, its authors likely didn't think things would go this far. That's why on Wednesday, the Office of Personnel Management—with Obama's blessing—ruled to continue federal contributions to cover the premiums for the 535 members of the Senate and House of Representatives and thousands of Capitol Hill staff, a detail that had been left unclear by the amendment's language. This now puts Congress in the same boat of the rest of the country, as was likely originally intended.
Notably, Republicans did not stand up in arms against big government when this ruling came down. There were no fiery speeches made back home to scare up approval ratings, no declines on principle. One wonders, if Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and their ilk make good on their threats of a government shutdown in September, will they be protesting the fact that the government is paying for their health care, or just the fact that it'll soon be paying for other peoples', too.
Down in Richmond, California they're about to try it:
The power of eminent domain has traditionally worked against homeowners, who can be forced to sell their property to make way for a new highway or shopping mall. But now the working-class city of Richmond, Calif., hopes to use the same legal tool to help people stay right where they are.
Scarcely touched by the nation’s housing recovery and tired of waiting for federal help, Richmond is about to become the first city in the nation to try eminent domain as a way to stop foreclosures.
The results will be closely watched by both Wall Street banks, which have vigorously opposed the use of eminent domain to buy mortgages and reduce homeowner debt, and a host of cities across the country that are considering emulating Richmond.
Among those cities, according to the New York Times, is Seattle. Now: Do we have a leading mayoral candidate who will promise to move past the "considering" stage?
Detroit may have filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history, threatening to slash services and renege on public employee pensions, but that hasn't stopped Michigan's Republican Governor Rick Snyder from approving the use of $284 million of local tax money to subsidize a new ice hockey arena for the Detroit Red Wings.
"This is part of investing in Detroit's future," said Snyder, a Republican who blessed a state-appointed emergency manager's request to take the city into bankruptcy last week.
... The Michigan Strategic Fund Board approved the Detroit Downtown Development Authority's request to use economic development taxes for the project. The board also took a preliminary step toward issuing $450 million in bonds to build the arena, to be paid off in no more than 30 years by the Red Wings' owner and the city.
Local taxpayers will pick up about 63 percent of the cost of the new arena.
Olympia Development, owned by [Red Wings owner Mike] Ilitch and his wife, said the funding split for comparable major sports complexes in other cities in the past decade has averaged 75 percent public and 25 percent private.
By comparison, the public/private split for Seattle's proposed Sodo arena would be 40/60 with an NHL franchise, only 25/75 without. And Seattle and King County would only be responsible for issuing bonds to cover our share of the cost ($200 million with an NHL team, $125 million without), whereas Detroit is taking on the entire $450 million in arena debt.
And finally, Seattle isn't bankrupt. Seattle enjoys an Aaa bond rating.
My point in all this is that while there is a legitimate debate to be had over whether Sodo is the appropriate location to build a new arena, the financial terms of the deal are about as good as they come. There are tons of awful arena and stadium deals around the country (awful for taxpayers, that is), and Detroit's is one of them. So too is Sacramento's. And Glendale, Arizona's. But not Seattle's.
So if you want to make the argument that not a dime of taxpayer money should ever go toward building professional sports facilities, fine. I wish I lived in that world. But tell me that the Sodo MOU is a crappy, risky deal, and I'm just going to roll my eyes.
This is how banks roll:
She says all her possessions in Vinton County, Ohio, disappeared when Wellston First National Bank confused her home with the house across the street, foreclosed on it, changed the locks, and then sold or trashed everything — all while she was out of town for two weeks.
“They repossessed my house on accident, thinking it was the house across the street,” Barnett explained to Ohio's 10TV. “They told me that the GPS led them to my house. My grass hadn't been mowed and they just assumed.”
Worse still, Barnett says an itemized list requesting the bank pay her $18,000 so she can replace everything has only been met with ridicule from the bank's president.
From the original story:
No one from the bank would go on camera with 10TV about the incident. The bank president told 10TV News that the bank is trying to come to terms with Barnett.
Now let's look at what happens when cops accidentally do the same thing as banks:
Nebraska police have been ordered to return over $1 million in cash they confiscated during a traffic stop, mistakenly believing it was drug money. Last week, Judge Joseph Bataillon ruled that the cash must be returned to Tara Mishra, 33, who had saved the money during her 15-year career as an exotic dancer.And not just that...
[It] was ordered that Mishra will receive $1,074,000 in cash, including interest.
Apparently in Washington State—where we tax the poor more and tax the rich less than any other state—we're chasing away corporate super yachts. They can be hundreds of feet long and cost around $5 million a year to maintain, but if they are registered as limited liability corporations, they're hounded by our "aggressive approach to taxation." Puget Sound Business Journal has an exposé on this terrible injustice.
So there are Senate hearings going on this week on whether or not the London Metal Exchange and other banks worked behind the scenes to hold aluminum supplies, driving up costs. Big banks allegedly behaving in underhanded ways—what is this, 2008?
Says MSN Money:
Tim Weiner, a global risk manager at MillerCoors, told the committee Tuesday that banks including Goldman Sachs (GS +0.01%), JP Morgan Chase (JPM +0.19%) and others gave warehouse owners approval to sit on huge stockpiles of aluminum, create artificial shortages and leave prices "inflated relative to the massive oversupply and record production."
MillerCoors, a U.S. joint venture between SABMiller (SAB) and MolsonCoors (TAP -0.63%), puts about 36 million barrels of the 59 million barrels of beer it produces each year into cans. As overhead goes, Weiner says, metal is the company's riskiest investment.
According to the article, "the cost of a six-pack jumped from $3.92 to $5.05 between 2001 and 2011, the last year for which information is available." Canned-beer drinkers, rise up! The affordability of your television-side digestif is at stake!
Yesterday morning I posted about a new study on upward mobility problems in America—how the problems vary by location, how Seattle has fewer problems than other big cities.
To which commenter fetish said:
America, for all it's problems, IS the most upwardly mobile civilization the world has ever seen. If you were born poor, there is no better place or time since WWII—70 years ago—to live except for America. It has simply never been better.
And hey, look, that's pretty close to what this great and terrifying piece by Benjamin Wallace-Wells in New York Magazine says:
Picture this, arranged along a time line.
For all of measurable human history up until the year 1750, nothing happened that mattered. This isn’t to say history was stagnant, or that life was only grim and blank, but the well-being of average people did not perceptibly improve. All of the wars, literature, love affairs, and religious schisms, the schemes for empire-making and ocean-crossing and simple profit and freedom, the entire human theater of ambition and deceit and redemption took place on a scale too small to register, too minor to much improve the lot of ordinary human beings. In England before the middle of the eighteenth century, where industrialization first began, the pace of progress was so slow that it took 350 years for a family to double its standard of living. In Sweden, during a similar 200-year period, there was essentially no improvement at all...
Then two things happened that did matter, and they were so grand that they dwarfed everything that had come before and encompassed most everything that has come since: the first industrial revolution, beginning in 1750 or so in the north of England, and the second industrial revolution, beginning around 1870 and created mostly in this country. That the second industrial revolution happened just as the first had begun to dissipate was an incredible stroke of good luck. It meant that during the whole modern era from 1750 onward—which contains, not coincidentally, the full life span of the United States—human well-being accelerated at a rate that could barely have been contemplated before. Instead of permanent stagnation, growth became so rapid and so seemingly automatic that by the fifties and sixties the average American would roughly double his or her parents’ standard of living. In the space of a single generation, for most everybody, life was getting twice as good.
The article goes on to explore why, according to an economist named Robert Gordon, this historical "blip" of extremely good times has been over for a while—and won't be coming back. Read it.
He's rolling it out this week:
Mr. Obama’s offensive will begin on Wednesday in Galesburg, Ill., with what his aides are saying will be a major address on economic policy at Knox College...
White House officials liken Wednesday’s speech to one he gave in 2011 in Osawatomie, Kan., where he articulated the theme of economic inequality in American society that became a leitmotif of his re-election campaign, and to one at Georgetown University soon after taking office in 2009, when he talked about how the American economy would recover from the Great Recession.
The timing of this is partly related to some upcoming fights with Republicans over budget matters. But another part of the timing is an upcoming milestone: "September will be the fifth anniversary of the financial crisis."
Which raises the question:
Detroit’s bankruptcy filing is unconstitutional and must be rescinded, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina ruled on Friday. Thursday’s filing was supposed to set into motion proceedings that would allow the city’s unelected emergency manager Kevyn Orr to break pension contracts with 30,000 city workers and retirees, but Aquilina ruled Friday afternoon it violates the Michigan Constitution.
Nobody knows what's going to happen now.
Microsoft's net income climbed to five billion dollars over the last quarter, but that's apparently far below Wall Street's expectations, according to CNN Money:
Sales rose 10% to $19.9 billion, also falling far short of the $20.7 billion analyst had forecast.
Results were negatively impacted by a whopping $900 million write-off of Microsoft's Surface RT inventory. Microsoft recently knocked $150 off the price of the tablet, which debuted in October and initially sold for $500.
No wonder Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was so public about his reorganization of the company last week.
Detroit has gone bankrupt.
Lynn Stuart Parramore's article about what happened when a libertarian took the reigns of Sears should be read by everyone who wants to see what happens when libertarianism is applied to the real world. Libertarian ideals always fail in practice, and when you try to say that to a libertarian—Alan Greenspan sinking the global economy is the most obvious example—they always insist that your example didn't demonstrate true libertarianism. I'm sure that libertarians will dismiss this Sears example because Sears didn't exist in a vacuum—it would've worked if America was a truly libertarian culture. Which makes sense! After all, I would be the handsomest man in America if everybody else in America was uglier than me.
Remember when Marissa Mayer axed telecommuting at Yahoo because, among other things, they found they had people on the payroll that no longer did any actual work there? Well, apparently they also noticed that Altavista was still on their payroll, and earlier this month they axed it, too. Back in 1995, Altavista showed promise but then was quickly eclipsed by Google, which was incorporated three years later. Fuck it, I'm going back to JumpStation.
In other search engine news that somebody might care about, Washington Post has this interview with Gabe Weinberg, who heads up DuckDuckGo, a fledgeling search engine that promises not to track its users:
We don’t track our users. We don’t have to do that because we focus on Web search, where we can make money without tracking people. All the rest have other products that require tracking.
I tried out DuckDuckGo, and the UI isn't bad. Results were roughly the same as I get on Google (albeit rearranged a bit), but there's way less clutter. I may just give DuckDuckGo a trial. Either way, it's an interesting read if you're a nerd. This nerd learned an example of white label: "Ask and AOL are still around with 1 percent or 2 percent of the market. They are both white label of Google [e.g. Google's search results re-packaged]." And one of the main (specific) reasons no one can mess with Google in the search engine market. From Weinberg:
If you look at the search engines that died, especially the ones that raised a bunch of money in the mid-2000s, almost all of them tried to copy the indexing Google does. They tried to copy the whole Internet to their servers and then data mine it. That is a very expensive proposition both in human capital and physical capital. That is a large barrier to entry that only Microsoft, Yandex and Baidu have been able to do. All of those are public companies and they all spend a lot of money per year on it. Way more than any startup has ever raised.
Steven Spielberg is in talks with Dreamworks to remake The Grapes of Wrath, because apparently what's missing from John Ford's 1940 adaptation is cloying, formulaic nicey-nice conclusions, transparent plot-development exposition, and watering down of the script for minimum controversy.
Thankfully, Dreamworks claims Spielberg only aims to produce the thing because he'll reportedly be too busy filming American Sniper with Bradley Cooper (dry heave sound). Still, it's hard to believe that he'd rather be doing that than working on an adaptation of one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. Cue untested hand-puppet director! Apparently there was a big race to buy the rights for Wrath from the Steinbeck estate due to the upcoming 75th anniversary of the book.
This video is maddening: "You're a poor American? You've got more than poor people in Nairobi! And you've got freedom, too, so shut the fuck up."
When will Charles Koch have enough money? How much blood does he need to suck out of America's middle class before he's finally satiated?
Here's some good perspective, on how money affects one single mother's confidence.
In the remake, Josh Brolin will play the lead, and no one is likely to eat a live octopus. (Which happened in the original; don't tell PETA.) Based on the poster, this remake of a film that itself was made in the ancient times of 2005 already features a canned slogan: "Ask not why you were imprisoned. Ask why you were set free." So, that and a picture of Brolin climbing out of a hope chest or whatever are our only harbingers. This can't end well.
After the jump, the most excellent fight scene from Oldboy. If you have not seen the film and care, I suggest watching the whole thing instead.
Sarah Lacy, founder of tech news site Pando Daily, which is based in San Francisco, said “If I had more friends who were BART drivers, I would probably be very sympathetic to their cause, and if they had more friends who were building companies they would probably realize we’re not all millionaires, and we’re actually working pretty hard to build something.”
She said the BART strike exacerbated what she sees as a philosophical divide in the Bay Area. “People in the tech industry feel like life is a meritocracy. You work really hard, you build something and you create something, which is sort of directly opposite to unions.”
Tra-la-la! If sociopathy is defined as not caring about the perspectives or emotions of other people, what is the condition where you only care about people if they're your friends—when you understand the plight of others but can't be bothered unless that plight directly affects your own? And let's check in on what Lacy has to say about the meritocracy when she's 60 and unemployable in the tech world. Unions exist to save us from the kind of free market that Silicon Valley douchebags like Lacy want to create. The only reason people believe in the meritocracy is because they think they've got a better-than-average shot at succeeding in the meritocracy. Unions are for people who want to know that their futures are safe from the weighted-lottery mindset that people like Lacy are trying to sell to the American public.
New York’s top prosecutor is investigating some of the state’s largest employers over their use of A.T.M.-style cards to pay their hourly employees.
The New York attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, has sent letters seeking information to about 20 employers, including McDonald’s, Walgreen and Wal-Mart, say people briefed on the matter.
The inquiry by Mr. Schneiderman comes as a growing number of companies are abandoning paper paychecks and direct deposit to offer prepaid cards. But consumer lawyers, employees, and state and federal regulators have said that in the vast majority of cases, use of the cards can generate a range of fees — 50 cents for a balance inquiry and $2.25 for an out-of-network A.T.M. Those fees can quickly devour the pay of part-time and low-wage workers.
And many employees say that they have no alternative.
If you haven't read the article that sparked this investigation, you need to.
As one New York Times commenter wrote: "Since when are employees required to pay a fee to get their pay?"
Tomorrow, Seattle City Council member (and mayoral candidate) Bruce Harrell is hosting a "working discussion... on gender pay inequity in Seattle" at City Hall tomorrow at 2 p.m., citing a National Partnership for Women & Families study that called out Seattle for "the worst wage gap between women and men out of the top 50 U.S. metropolitan areas."
Cienna pointed out on Slog that two of the three mayoral candidates who were asked at an early mayoral forum why Seattle's wage gap is so bad, and what they would do to address it as mayor, bombed hard. Noted exception: Harrell, who said, "The answer is simple—institutional practices. We haven’t paid attention to the institutional practices. Here’s the difference between the mayor and myself—when I read the report, I immediately went into action. I’ve asked the Seattle Women’s commission to develop a work plan with me to look at the policy changes we have to do."
Now it looks like he's starting to deliver on that promise of "action."
Speaking as part of tomorrow's discussion are Tracey Whitten, chair of the Seattle Women's Commission economic committee, former commission chair Abigail Echo-Hawk, and four other panelists focused on women in the workforce. In a press release, Harrell says the solutions to this problem "must include innovative Business & Occupation tax incentives, new online job portals to better connect applicants with employers and city programs to connect female students with mentors in the STEM field.”
Mayor McGinn's response at the time was an intelligent and entertaining smackdown of a horseshit Seattle Times editorial on the subject. But substantively, what is he doing to address the wage gap?
His spokesman, Robert Cruickshank, says the mayor has done three things: "We immediately talked to the women's commission to provide feedback on this issue. We asked the director of personnel for the City of Seattle, Dave Stewart, to look into gender pay equity statistics at the City of Seattle. And we've been talking to other large employers around the city to see if we can put together a common effort to address this issue."
What's going to come of all this planning and discussing? I hope we'll find out soon.
You are getting more for less:
Wages fell at the fastest rate ever recorded during the first quarter of this year, the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.Neoliberalism may be dead in the academic world, but it's alive and well in the real world.
Hourly wages fell 3.8 percent in the first quarter, the biggest drop since the BLS began tracking compensation in 1947. Productivity rose half a percentage point. The result was that what economists call “labor unit costs” fell 4.3 percent.
In plain English, that means paychecks overall shrank, but work output grew. If you are a business owner, that is news worthy of a toast with a bottle of the finest Cristal champagne, which at $595 is more than the $518 that a median-wage worker earns in a week.
During the year and a half in which Seattle first debated building a new Sonics arena in Sodo, and then was captivated by the sudden prospect of quickly stealing away the Sacramento Kings, professional hockey was always an afterthought. The proposed arena is being designed to National Hockey League standards, because why not? But the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Chris Hansen's billionaire-heavy ownership group doesn't even kick in until an NBA franchise is acquired.
But in less than two weeks, with little effort and presumably zero taxpayer subsidy, an NHL team might just fall into our laps. Makes all the Sturm und Drang over luring the NBA back seem almost silly in retrospect.
By all accounts, the Glendale, Arizona city council has until July 2 to agree to provide the Phoenix Coyotes a substantial taxpayer subsidy or else the league will sell the team to investors intent on moving the Coyotes to Seattle's KeyArena in time for the 2013-2014 season. That's right, KeyArena—an outdated arena with notoriously bad ice and only 11,000 unobstructed hockey seats. How this makes better business sense than a partially subsidized lease in an NHL-class arena in a city with an established fan base, I don't know. But it's certainly no long term solution.
With its relatively tiny broadcast contracts, no major league sport relies more on ticket sales than the NHL, so it's hard to see even sellout crowds penciling out at KeyArena. If we get the Coyotes—and want to keep them—we're going to have to build them a new arena. And that means, unless an NBA team unexpectedly falls into our lap soon, we're going to need to revise the MOU.
"The question is not basketball or hockey, the question is the level of risk," King County Executive Dow Constantine answered yesterday when asked at our SECB interview if he would support revising the MOU to accommodate this possible new reality. "I think we struck a really good deal," says Constantine, "and if people can show us a proposal that keeps the risk as low as it is, we'd be open to considering it."
Through the existing MOU, Hansen's ArenaCo guarantees revenue sufficient to cover the city and county's annual bond payments, but it's not clear if he would be willing to provide similar assurances to build an arena for a hockey team he wouldn't own. It could make sense in that having a new arena at the ready could improve Seattle's prospects of securing an NBA team. But that's a pretty big leap.
In any case, it's an issue that could soon be thrust upon us. Already one of Glendale's seven city council members is on the record saying she will vote against the proposed lease, and other council members have also voiced their skepticism. If a majority of the council follows suit, the Coyotes could soon be our team. And our problem.
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.