Obligatory Discussion of Washington State Political Issues

So, the politics has been pretty nasty here in Washington State, but I like this place and so I’m going to detail some of the reasons why I support or do not support various Washington State initiative measures on the ballot.

Just to start out, contrary to popular beliefs, I am a pretty classical libertarian in theory, but have socialist tendencies in practice. I like political theory if it can be supported by facts. I’m more interested in the actual results rather than any kind of cosmic spiritual battle between nebulous concepts like freedom and democracy and liberty and “Main Street.”

All information is pulled from the Voters’ Pamphlet I received in the mail from the guv’ment. No other sources will be used for this.

Okay, let’s push forward.

I 1053 – This measure would restate existing statutory requirements that legislative actions raising taxes must be approved by two-thirds legislative majorities or receive voter approval, and that new or increased fees require majority legislative approval

Oh. My. Zeus.

This is a terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible idea. And all I have to say is one word to show why.

California.

This is exactly the reason why California sucks so hard right now.

It is incredibly hard to get even a simple majority in legislatures, let alone 2/3 majorities. The ability to raise taxes is the one single most important thing that legislatures can do in American political theory and you want to hamstring them in that area? Why?

Taxes are important, people. They are super, super important, because nothing in this world comes for free. Roads don’t come for free, nor schools, police protection, firemen, water, electricity – all of these are provided for or subsidized by the government, and I don’t know about you, but I think most of these are essential to maintain the lifestyles we do today.

That’s why taxes are tied to the legislature. If you don’t like your taxes, vote out the monkeys you voted in several years before. But do not vote for this unless you want to turn out to be like California, where they can’t afford anything and every public service is crumbling all around you and it sucks for everyone, including you.

This is not good governance. This is proposing anarchy and the collapse of the government through slow, slow, slow poison, at the expense of its citizens. The less laws we have, the better, and this law is one we definitely do not not not not not not need.

I 1098 – concerns establishing a state income tax and reducing other taxes.

I don’t like income tax, just on a general basic level. So when I saw this, I immediately balked. However, I am going to be voting yes on this, and here are my reasons why:

1. The income tax is as follows:

If you have a family: From $0 – $400,000, you pay nothing. From $400,001 – $1,000,000, you pay 5% of the amount above $400,000. If you make over a million dollars (you lucky dog you), you pay $30,000 plus 9% of the amount above $1,000,000.

If you are single: From $0 – $200,000, you pay nothing. From $200,001 – $500,000, you pay 5% of what you make. And if you make $500,001 and above, you pay $15,000 plus 9% of what you made.

In addition, it will reduce the B&O taxes for small businesses, and it will decrease the state property tax by 20%. 20%!

Why I Like It:

1. If there’s something I hate more than income taxes, it’s property taxes. It’s the idea that you’re still paying rent to the government even though you bought a piece of land for yourself. I mean, it’s yours now, right? The government may put in a one time sales tax, but I don’t pay a Playstation tax or a Wii tax or a desk tax or a computer tax because I own that item. I feel a property tax is a heinous way for governments to basically charge us rent, even on land we supposedly bought. I feel a lowering of property taxes helps assuage the guilt of voting in an income tax.

2. B&O taxes will be reduced for small businesses. I like small businesses. And I know how crazy the B&O taxes are here. My wife tried to help my dad once with his taxes for his small businesses. It’s a mess. Plus, there’s that whole trickle down theory of economics that people still believe in, and do you know what I believe in more than rich people? Small businesses. Small businesses are the engine of America’s economic dynamism. Rich people? Not so much. So lower taxes for small businesses and raise taxes for people who get rich off of their corporate ventures (which indirectly covers the small business taxes and then some)? I’m down with that.

And for those of you who say I only support this because I’m not rich? I say to you, nay. I would still support this even if I was rich. Because I actually feel like I have a civic duty to the society I live in, and I’m not a sociopathic jerk like you.

I 1100 – This measure would close state liquor stores, authorize sale, distribution, and importation of spirits by private parties; and repeal certain requirements that govern the business operations of beer and wine distributors and producers.

Disclaimer: My wife works in the wine industry.

This one I would normally support, but recessions are hard times, my friends, and so I’m gonna have to vote against this one.

We have a budget crisis, and that budget crisis needs money, and currently, apparently the state needs a bucket of cash to close that hole caused by the recession.

Here’s an analogy – if the government is a business, and it’s in the red, and it needs money fast, here’s what you don’t do – close down the liquor selling division that is making revenue. It’s a stupid move. Really, it is. especially if that division is generating $350 million dollars annually, and that closing costs will be roughly $55 million dollars. Stupid.

Come back in ten years when we don’t have a recession going on, and then we’ll talk. In the meantime, as far as I know, this law is not especially throttling the beer, wine, and spirits industry, and it’s making the state money. I’m all for the status quo on this one.

If you really want to hear about some crazy, stupid, backwards laws about the alcohol industry, talk to my wife. She will regale you with stories of how the Prohibition Era really caused A Messed Up Time that we’re still cleaning up legally.

Also, I’m against I 1105, a very similar law to I 1100.

I 1107 – This measure would end sales tax on candy; end temporary sales tax on some bottled water; end temporary excise taxes on carbonated beverages; and reduce tax rates for certain food processors.

Oh dear. The candy tax. This initiative has some incredibly duplicitous rhetoric behind it, so here’s the skinny folks.

1. There is no “candy tax.” There’s been a lot of talk about a candy tax, but it doesn’t exist. What does exist is that right now, candy is not exempt from sales tax. Food staples are, like bread, milk, cheese. You know, stuff that is actually really useful for people. I am all about sales tax exemptions for food staples. But candy is not a food staple (seriously, people. Did your mothers raise you at all?!). The so-called candy tax is just regular sales tax. Yep. You’re not paying any extra taxes than if you had bought an Xbox 360. Yet, nobody is screaming about ending sales tax (I hope that never happens).

2. This is the same thing with bottled water. I have a grudge against bottled water. It’s wasteful, both in resources and money. It creates all kinds of ecological problems. It’s not that much safer (or even more dangerous) than your tap water. It’s just plain wrong and useless. So taxing it, I’m all down with it the same way I’m down with taxing cigarettes.

3. There is an excise tax on carbonated beverages. But again, soda is not a staple. It will probably very much kill you faster than most other things you could buy in the long run. Carbonated beverages is a huge contributor to the obesity epidemic in America, which puts a massive financial strain on our already beleaguered health care system. An excise tax will offset the public harm that soft drinks do (yes, I do believe there is more of a public harm from soft drink consumption than gay sex, but then, I think John Stuart Mill would agree with me here).

Neither of these products are essential staples for living. All three of them do cause public harm. I have no problem with taxing unnecessary products that cause public harm.

And that is that, folks. Happy voting! You are voting, right?

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Obligatory Discussion of Washington State Political Issues

  1. E-rock

    What’s wrong with rich people? Don’t we all want to be prosperous? If one person has made wise investments or worked hard, isn’t that great for him? How is demonizing ‘rich people’ helpful?

    …when small businesses succeed they become big businesses. Big businesses employ huge numbers of people (Boeing, anyone?). Businesses are good. When they become big and their owners are no longer hip, they still are great of the economy.

    Speaking of trickle down, I home taught with a businessman, one of those evil rich capitalist exploiters. He was worth many millions. Sounds like a horrible person already, doesn’t he? But wait, his machine shop employed dozens of machinists and designers making 50000 capitalist exploitation units ($) a year. Thats more jobs than the $112 million in CA for 52 jobs, and the gov didn’t even have to pay anything! Trickle down!

    This is just an aside, but I think 1098 brings up an interesting conflict. Remember how it was immoral the majority of people vote on a minority (gay issues)? But now it looks like you are encouraging voting to increase taxes on a small section of the population. A little unfair?

  2. Ted

    Simply put, big businesses are not evil, but they do benefit a lot from the society that they operate in. They benefit from people who have been educated by publicly subsidized education. They benefit from using the transportation system which requires few, if any, tolls. They benefit from using reliable, subsidized utilities such as water and power, and most importantly, they benefit from the market which the government (hopefully) protects. They benefit from the society which supports them. If it weren’t for the society that they live in, they wouldn’t be rich. Someone who is rich now would not necessarily thrive just as well in, say, a hunter-gatherer society, and so they have more stake in what society has to offer, right?

    We have a market that promotes risk taking and mitigates failure through things like bankruptcy laws and other government/civic/public safety nets. The taxes they pay may help someone with a mental disease get medical care, who may in turn become one of their top engineers. Fathers who don’t have to worry about losing their health insurance ever can quit their dead end jobs and use their skills and creativity to start their own businesses, thus generating more wealth, opportunities, and creativity. When everyone, including the rich, contribute to society, you can lift all boats.

    The government isn’t just into job creation – it’s making sure that the people who want to build businesses and create jobs can do so in a fair, competitive environment that maximizes risk taking and minimizes penalties from failing. Otherwise, nobody would ever start a business. Microsoft came along, and nobody thought they could topple. But even with the stranglehold they had on the market, Google came along and is giving them a run for their money. And even all mighty Google needs to innovate and survive if they don’t want Facebook to destroy them. All three benefit from the society we live in that doesn’t live by the law of the jungle – they benefit from a society that says if you teach a man to fish, they can fish for a lifetime. And teaching people how to fish (among other things) costs money.

    These people are hardly getting taxed to the limit. Washington State is one of the few places with no income tax, and our budget is suffering because of it. And the income tax proposed is hardly unreasonable. If they can still afford two cars and a nice house, I hardly think they are “suffering.” Even after the income tax, they are still living a much more opulent lifestyle than I am (by the hundredfold), so they still have motivation to keep their job and make more money.

    For a rich person to get rich off of the system and then deny others the chance when they themselves took advantage of it, it’s like getting to the top of the clubhouse, pulling up the ladder and forcing everyone to climb. And if they say they never took advantage of the government services, the minute they stepped into a public school or drove their car onto the road, they took advantage, and by now they should know that nothing comes for free, not even lunch. Taxes are the price we pay for society, as Wendell Oliver Holmes said, and unless they plan on buying a personal island in the Caribbean and moving out there (which they are welcome to do if they want), they’re just gonna have to act like an adult and pay taxes like everyone else. And to him who is given, more is required. $1,000 from someone who makes $20,000 is much more of a cost than $50,000 from someone who makes $500,000.

    Don’t worry; they’ll still be plenty rich.

  3. Ted

    Oh man, one more thing –

    I am not a fan of income tax. I’m really not. But in the case of an income tax that only affects those who can afford it in exchange for significant property tax decreases across the board and elimination of B&O taxes for small businesses, I think it’s a really fair trade. Income taxes are onerous. But (at least in my opinion), property taxes are downright immoral and B&O taxes are worse ideas than income taxes for job creation. You have to tax people somehow. I think this initiative is an improvement in how the state raises funds.

  4. Ted

    Also, big businesses are not being taxed with an income tax. If the big cheeses want to keep their money, keep it in the business. That, more than anything, will stimulate job creation more than that second yacht will.

  5. E-rock

    I still don’t know your stance on whether or not small businesses should grow to become large ones.

    ‘To him that is given’? Wealth in the private sector isn’t ‘given’ its earned. If someone earns a heap of cash good for them. Why should they be taxed a larger percentage of their income if they earned it just like anyone else? Its really not our business if ‘they can afford it’ or not (just how would like someone telling you how much taxes you could afford?). They earned it, and its theirs, not some benevolent gift from the government.

    Also, a second yacht would provide shipbuilding jobs, maintenance jobs, materials and design jobs, etc. The reason a yacht is expensive is because it takes a lot of educated, high earning people many many hours of work at their jobs to make it.
    And maybe if that rich guy has some money left over after buying that awesome yacht, he might just expand his business, add another story to his mansion, go golfing, all of which create/maintain jobs.

  6. Ted

    Small businesses should grow into large businesses if it’s profitable and desirable to them.

    Taxes are a fact of life, and my desire to see B&O taxes eliminated for small businesses but not for large businesses is not because I hate big businesses, but that I think it’s smart to encourage the creation of small businesses. Large businesses not only benefit more from the many resources society provides, but the very fact that it is large and has more resources of its own means it can absorb some of the costs of living within that society.

    I would argue that is disputable whether wealth is necessarily “earned” in the market. Undoubtedly, many times people do earn their living honestly, but I think it’s documented fact that there are many unscrupulous, severely underqualified people who make millions of dollars not because they have any value to contribute to society, but because they have learned to game the system (see also: Origin of the most recent recession). In addition, usually, one person does not spontaneously generate wealth. If we lived in, say, a Japanese RPG, yeah, I guess we could all go out and “earn” wealth by slaughtering the wolves in the forest and picking up the inexplicable pieces of gil inside their carcasses. But in our interconnected society, if you get rich, it’s because you participated in the market, and if you did so, you “earned” your wealth with the help of many, many others. I would say that most importantly, you earned your wealth within a stable market economy made possible through competent police protection and a relatively safe and fair corpus of business laws that promote fair practice and competition, as well as protections from abuse, and this corpus of laws is enforced. None of the benefits of a post-industrialized democratic market are for free. They need upkeep. If you’re profiting off of the system, I would think you are obligated to help take care of it. The more you profit from the market, the more your obligation in maintaining its future and security.

    I would also argue that spending money in the luxury business is much less useful to the economy as investing that money into R&D or other financing business ventures and industrial endeavors. But I guess that’s my personal opinion.

    I think we disagree on a fundamental principle, and that is that you believe businesses, corporations, and individuals heavily involved in the market should maintain some degree of privacy. I do not believe so, because I believe when people have that sort of influence and power, their ability to make decisions that affect many people outside of their immediate sphere of contact makes their privacy forfeit. This is why companies must disclose financial documents to the public, why they make announcements every quarter about how they did for the benefit of the public looking to invest in their stock. It’s the same reason why we get all up in politicians’ grills about where there money is coming from and what they’re doing with it – this kind of information doesn’t just impact that person and his family or his friends; it impacts society as a whole, and because of that, they forfeit any privacy they might have had as a private individual.

    As to where exactly that line is drawn, well, that’s why we have democracy and debate, I guess.

    It’s the trade-off of being big – if you’re a small business, you get to endulge in a lot of different perks because you’re small. When you go big, you make obscene amounts of money but you give up some of that privacy because suddenly, you’re not so small and insignificant and you can make waves in society and society wants to hold you accountable for that.

  7. http://mensengagementrings.ca

    Thanks for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do a little research on this. We got a grab a book from our local library but I think I learned more from this post. I’m very glad to see such great info being shared freely out there.

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