Saturday, October 09, 2010


So this is the only initiative I can get behind, even in a tentative way. But I have to point out, that like all the others, it is backed by individuals with deep pockets, and I will give it the same warts and all fisking that you're used to.

Initiative 1098 places an income tax on natives of Washington State. EVERYBODY PANIC!

OK, wait a minute. The initiative puts an income tax of 4% on folk making $200,000 ($400,000 filing jointly). And it reduces the odious B&O tax to the point of nonexistence for small businesses. And it reduces property taxes by 20%. And the money is earmarked for education and health care. So ... everybody panic in a more measured, reasonable fashion.

When I first moved out here to Washington State, one sell point I heard a number of times was "We don't have an income tax". Now, I never thought the PA or WI income taxes were particularly horrible in the first place, but hey, it was a sell point. What I wasn't told that was we DID have nasty sales taxes in place, along with tough property taxes. I guess it pays to read the fine print.

In fact, our sales tax is one of the most regressive ones around - and by regressive, I mean it hits the poor harder than the wealthy. A bigger percentage of the middle class paycheck goes into taxes as opposed to higher income brackets. In addition, the sales and property taxes are tied deeply into the market - the fact that so many government services are being cut is not a reflection on government waste (They've been pretty good at handling that) but the mere fact that there are less sales, and therefore less sales tax, to pay people with.

So I'm good with an income tax. If fact, if you come up with one that reduces the sales tax, I'd even sign on for one that affects all Washingtonians, not just the wealthiest. But until that bit of enlightened lunacy shows up, I'll have to support the one that is on the ballot. So consider this a Yes on the initiative.

But I said that the initiative system is invested with people with money, and 1098 is no different. In this case, the moneybags are centered on - Bill Gates Sr.

Say what? The guy pushing us to tax the rich is the father of one of the wealthiest men on the planet, and no slouch on his own. And he's got his son on board as well (Paul Allen and Microsoft itself are against the plan, which should make for some frosty moments at the next company picnic).

But still, Bill Gates, father and son. It is hard to call it a class war when some of the upper class is providing artillery support for the poor folk.

This initiative has produced some interesting commercials at least. The pro-side puts the elder Gates in a dunk tank. The anti-side lumbers in with a riff on the Mor furniture ads "TIRED of not paying enough taxes?" with enough scare quotes for a Halloween haunted mansion. In fact, the Seattle Times, which doesn't like its rich owners to pay taxes, pretty much went morally bankrupt trying to say nice things about the advert, and then only after extreme contortions could they get it to "half-true" (alas, the paper's examination of the political ads so far have been pretty horrible, even when I agree with their conclusions).

Now I know some Washington State natives who WOULD be affected by this tax, and in general I have found them to be open, progressive, and as concerned about education (where this funding is going) as anyone else. But even so, I'd understand if they voted against this at the ballot box. But I will note that if this goes down in flames, they're buying the drinks from here on out.

More later,