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The '15 Election: Strange Things in Washington State

The GOP here in Washington State is crowing and, given the way many of the ballot issues went, they should be. Alas, over in stupid-land they, as usual, don’t understand even the simplest aspects of economics or how a modern society functions. Nor do they grasp what they have wrought.

There were a bunch of ideologically tinged issues on the ballot but the one I want to focus on here is the one known locally as the Eyman proposal, named for arch-conservative Tim Eyman who, FWIW, is currently under investigation for unethical conduct. It  had been put to the public before. It lost the first couple of times and when a version of it was passed, it was later deemed unconstitutional.

The proposal is extremely sneaky. It cuts the state sales tax by 1¢ unless the Legislature sends a constitutional amendment to the ballot calling for a two-thirds legislative vote — or a public vote — to impose any tax increases. Because the latter is highly unlikely and will be a protracted process, the sales tax will almost certainly drop and put a huge dent in the state budget.

The right wingers are triumphant saying “the people have spoken.” Well, in a sense, they have. The proposal won with 54% of the vote. But, as is typical in off-year elections, a mere 31% of registered voters submitted ballots. So, in this case, “the people” represents roughly 17% of eligible voters. A pathetic outcome.

Now, why is this proposal so awful? It’s actually simple, once you stop and think — something, alas, that the electorate seems strangely uncomfortable doing these days.

First, it will force a dramatic decrease in services. Funding for education, the police, the courts, the infrastructure, health and hospitals will be reduced. It will be very much like what happened in ‘08 and ‘09 when the recession cut tax revenue dramatically. Memories that have faded will be refreshed in the years to come.

Second, it will not have any impact on the lives of ordinary folks. The reduction in sales taxes will be so small that it will barely to be noticed but, because local governments need funds to function, there will be increases in other areas to try to compensate. Property taxes will go up. Permitting and license fees will go up. Fire, hospital and school districts will ask for increases which will come from property taxes. Nuisance taxes will increase. In the end no one will save anything. This, of course, is precisely what happened after the ‘08 recession.

The answer to the tax revenue problem is obvious: a progressive state income tax that doesn’t kick in until upper-middle class income levels. A good place would be to start at $200k/year. Interestingly, a proposition like this was on the ballot a few years back with people like Bill Gates, who would be taxed the most, arguing strongly for it. It failed.

We are where we are. The GOP has deluded people that their policies are the right ones (well, 17% of them anyway). It’s obvious they are not.

It’s then reasonable to ask what are the Republicans really up to?

The destruction of government, plain and simple. The ultimate goal here in Washington State, where left-coast liberals actually make up a majority and urban centers like Seattle and Bellingham are flourishing, is to defund government to the point where it cannot function. Then they can say, “see, like Reagan told us, government is the problem.”

Who will then run things? The oligarchs, big business, the conglomerates, the people who’ve been selling the poor benighted bastards who vote for idiotic measures like Eyman’s proposal a bill of goods. There’s a name for this form of government, where the corporate sector works hand-in-glove with a limited government and cuts citizens out of the decision-making process. It’s called Fascism.

The future is going to be ugly if we can’t turn this around, hopefully in ‘16. And, in a sign of things to come, I was elected water commissioner in a mini-landslide (58% - 42%).

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