On Saving Social Security

The government is now referring to our Social Security checks as a “Federal Benefit Payment.” This isn’t a benefit. It is our money paid out of our earned income! Not only did we all contribute to Social Security but our employers did too. It totaled 15% of our income before taxes.

If you averaged $30K per year over your working life, that’s close to $180,000 invested in Social Security. [This assumes you only worked 40 years prior to retiring; most people work substantially longer.]

If you calculate the future value of your monthly investment in social security ($375/month, including both you and your employers contributions) at a meager 1% interest rate compounded monthly, after 40 years of working you’d have more than $1.3+ million dollars saved!

This is your personal investment. Upon retirement, if you took out only 3% per year, you’d receive $39,318 per year, or $3,277 per month.

That’s almost three times more than today’s average Social Security benefit of $1,230 per month, according to the Social Security Administration. (Google it – it’s a fact).

And your retirement fund would last more than 33 years (until you’re 98 if you retire at age 65)! I can only imagine how much better most average-income people could live in retirement if our government had just invested our money in low-risk interest-earning accounts.

Instead, the folks in Washington pulled off a bigger “Ponzi scheme” than Bernie Madoff ever did. They took our money and used it elsewhere. They forgot (oh yes, they knew) that it was OUR money they were taking. They didn’t have a referendum to ask us if we wanted to lend the money to them. And they didn’t pay interest on the debt they assumed. And recently they’ve told us that the money won’t support us for very much longer.

But is it our fault they misused our investments? And now, to add insult to injury, they’re calling it a “benefit”, as if we never worked to earn every penny of it.

Just because they borrowed the money doesn’t mean that our investments were a charity!

Let’s take a stand. We have earned our right to Social Security and Medicare. Demand that our legislators bring some sense into our government.

Find a way to keep Social Security and Medicare going for the sake of that 92% of our population who need it.

Then call it what it is: Our Earned Retirement Income.

Conservative logic

Women: “Can I have birth control?”
Republicans: “No.”

Women: “I couldn’t get birth control so I got pregnant. Can I have an abortion?”
Republicans: “No.”

Women: “I had the baby, but I’m out of work. Can I have WIC and food stamps until I get back on my feet?”
Republicans: “No.”

Women: “I found a job, but it doesn’t offer me insurance. Can I have government guaranteed insurance?”
Republicans: “No.”

Women: “My kid got sick and I got fired because I missed time caring for him. Can I get unemployment?”
Republicans: “No.”

Women: “I’m having a hard time getting my kid from school consistently. Can we fund after-school programs?”
Republicans: “No.”

Women: I’m prepared to work to support my family. Can you make sure that a full-time job’s minimum wage is enough to do that?
Republicans: No. But what’s the matter with you and your family, that working two jobs can’t lift you out of poverty? And can’t you keep your kids off the street? Oh, and make sure they’re doing well in school.

Don’t repeal what’s working; fix Affordable Care Act

I am a lucky person. My jaw is broken, but that is not why I am lucky.


I have good health and dental insurance. So when my jaw was fractured last month, I didn’t have to worry about how I could afford to fix it. Sure, I will pay some significant cost-sharing, but it will not make me poor. And this final fact overrides all the inconveniences of having my teeth wired and banded so the jaw can heal.

That’s why I am lucky.

Before the Affordable Care Act, millions of people in our state did have to worry about the cost of health care. If they had “pre-existing conditions” they were forced to get their coverage through the state’s high-risk pool, which was very expensive. If they had insurance, their premiums or their share of premiums went up and up every year. The deductibles and out-of-pocket costs went up as well. If they didn’t have insurance, they lived in fear of being sick or getting hurt, or they simply played the odds and thought they could get by. Some did. Others didn’t. They were saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of costs for their care. And the hospitals to which they went for emergency care accrued hundreds of millions of dollars in costs for uncompensated care.

The proportion of people without insurance in our state has fallen by 10 percent between 2010 and 2015. That’s means that about 700,000 people now have health coverage that they did not have before passage of the Affordable Care Act. Our rate of uninsured is at an all-time low – 5.8 percent in 2015. It has fallen further since then. This is an equal opportunity benefit. The uninsured rate for whites fell 7.5 percent between 2013 and 2015. For blacks it fell 10.2 percent. For Hispanics it fell 13.2 percent. For Native Americans it fell 14.3 percent.

How did this happen? The Affordable Care Act enabled coverage of young adults under their parents’ employer-provided health insurance until age 26. The act disallowed insurance companies from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions.

The act expanded our state’s Apple Health coverage up the income ladder, so that all citizens with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level could get health coverage. (That’s $16,400 for a single person and $33,500 for a family of four.) The act created the individual health insurance exchange and enabled immediate tax credits for people with income up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level who purchased their coverage through the exchange. That comes out to subsidize coverage for individuals with incomes up to $47,500. The act created subsidies for out-of-pocket costs for people up to 250 percent of federal poverty level — $29,700 for a single person and $60,750 for a family of four.

Today 1,838,000 people get their health coverage through Apple Health and another 173,000 get their coverage through the health benefit exchange. Apple Health now covers over 136,000 people in Snohomish County. The individual exchange covers another 16,500. So in Snohomish County, as is true for the entire state, 1 out of every 4 people get their health coverage through the Washington Benefit Exchange.

We all know the Affordable Care Act is not perfect. Out of pocket costs can be up to $6,000 per person. When your income goes up from $16,000 to $20,000, you have to go from Apple Health, with zero cost, into the exchange, which, even at that income, will cost you almost $1,000 for your share of the premium and up to $2,500 more if you get sick and need care. As your income further increases, your health care costs get more out of whack.

So, the Affordable Care Act could and should be improved. But it does work. Millions of people in our state alone have health coverage that they did not have before.

What we need to do now is to decrease health care costs and eliminate wasteful unnecessary care. That means driving down the costs of pharmaceuticals, hospitalization and specialty care. But that would mean taking on the “swamp” of special interests in Washington, D.C. Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress swim in that swamp. They want to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They don’t have a replacement. That’s their plan for making America great again. But that’s not our America.

Original: Everett Herald »

Health Coverage in King County: Progress to date – and steps still to be taken

King County residents, especially those with U.S. citizenship, have benefitted greatly from the expansion of health coverage via the Affordable Care Act. Between April 2014 and March 2016, the number of residents covered through Apple Health (Medicaid) and the Qualified Health Plans offered through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange grew by 55%, from 256,000 to 396,000.[i] As a result, one out of five King County residents now has health insurance through Apple Health or Qualified Health Plans.[ii]

Health Coverage in King County - graphic01

These expansions have driven a noteworthy decrease in the number of uninsured residents in King County. Data from the Washington State Office of Financial Management (OFM) and Public Health – Seattle & King County shows a systemic decline in the number of uninsured across the board: by ethnicity, age, employment status, citizenship and income level between 2013 and 2014[iii] (prior to the 140,000 person increase in health coverage through the Health Benefit Exchange in 2016.)

Between 2013 and 2014, King County realized a 38% proportional decrease in the number of uninsured, as the number of people without health insurance decreased by 82,000. Compared to a 35% drop in the uninsured across the state, and a 20% drop in the uninsured nationally, this makes King County a high performer relative to other jurisdictions.[iv]

Of particular note: disproportionate drops in the rate of uninsured occurred among African Americans, Asian Americans, people with incomes below 138% of federal poverty level, the unemployed, and naturalized citizens. These numbers indicate the success of the Affordable Care Act across all population cohorts, while highlighting those cohorts which still disproportionately lack health coverage.

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Who Doesn’t Have Coverage in King County

In spite of the advances in coverage made possible through the Affordable Care Act, 139,000 residents of King County still did not have health insurance as of 2014.[v] These individuals are particularly concentrated among adults not in the labor force (35,546), non-citizens, those who with incomes below the median income (112,040), Hispanics (35,785), and people between the ages of 25 and 45 (75,233). These are overlapping cohorts. For example, thousands of Hispanics reside and work in Washington state are both poor and do not yet have citizenship status.

It is important to note that since 2014, over 140,000 additional people have gained health coverage through Apple Health or the Health Benefit Exchange (an additional 60% on top of 2014’s totals). At the same time, King County’s overall population has grown by 89,000 people. Without knowing the numbers of employees who have been switched from employer health coverage to coverage through the Health Benefit Exchange, we can only imprecisely estimate the number of residents who remain uninsured in King County. Our estimate is that of the 2.1 million residents of King County, fewer than 80,000 people, or less than 4% of the County’s population, lack health coverage.

Health Coverage in King County - graphic11

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Price Walls and Affordability

A decrease in the number of uninsured does not mean the Affordable Care Act has “solved” problems with the nation’s health insurance coverage. Current coverage rates still don’t match the levels found in other developed countries around the world. And even King County residents who have health insurance remain vulnerable to losing coverage or being financially unable to meet their “cost-share” for health coverage.

The price wall people encounter when their income exceeds 138% of federal poverty level is another significant problem. With an annual income of $16,284 or less, an adult is covered by Apple Health, with minimal, if any, cost to the individual.[vi] But if that same person gets a wage increase and thereby earns $20,650 (175% of federal poverty level), the combined premium and out-of-pocket costs can exceed $2,300 – more than 12% of their income – even after receiving federal subsidies. For a person earning $23,600 (200% of federal poverty level), the combined premium and out-of-pocket costs can exceed $2,800.[vii]

Health Coverage in King County - graphic16

The Price Wall Problem

Imagine a hypothetical community college student named Brenda, who is working 32 hours a week at the minimum wage in Burien. At $9.47/hour, her income is $14,773 and she qualifies for Apple Health (i.e. no-cost health insurance.) The following year, she takes a job in Seattle that pays $12.50/hour. Her income goes up to $20,800, a bit above 175% of federal poverty level.

Brenda now no longer qualifies for Apple Health, and so moves into the commercial health benefit exchange. While premiums and out-of-pocket costs are subsidized by the federal government, they can still be sizeable. If she gets ill and needs care, she can lose 40% of the increase in her wages – over $2,300 – to payments for her health insurance coverage. If her income increases to $29,500, she could pay as much as $6,152 for health care in premiums and out-of-pockets costs – more than 20% of her total income.

Solutions for Advancing Health Coverage in King County

King County can improve health insurance coverage by paying particular attention to those populations with continued high rates of uninsurance and underinsurance – that is, individuals below 138% of federal poverty level (who qualify for Apple Health but may have difficulty accessing it), and those between 138% and 199% of federal poverty level.

For people in the former category, that corresponds to: less than $16,284 for a single person; less than $22,107 for a two-person family; less than $27,820 for a three-person family; less than $33,534 for a four-person family; and less than $39,247 for a five-person family. The county should make every effort to expedite coverage for this population through Apple Health, while recognizing that many residents and workers at this income level will still not be able to gain coverage due to citizenship status.

For those with incomes between 138% and 300% of federal poverty level, there is not a straightforward solution regarding affordability – particularly for premiums and out-of-pocket costs that challenge family budgets. One avenue is for the county to explore re-instituting Washington state’s Basic Health Plan at the county level, using the same parameters for cost-sharing that were in place when the people passed Initiative 773 in 2001 to expand Basic Health coverage.

The county could also work with the state and federal government to increase the threshold for coverage under Apple Health from 138% to 150% of federal poverty level. If this were to happen, about 13,000 people currently in the commercial exchange could move into Apple Health.[viii] Another possibility is for the county to work with the state in developing a federal Basic Health option, as provided by the Affordable Care Act’s section 1331.

The county could also continue to dedicate and increase resources to providing care for those excluded from coverage under the Affordable Care Act, particularly recent immigrants. King County has already laid out an agenda for action, outlined in the July 2015 report, “Access to Health Care After the Affordable Care Act”[ix] and the October 2015 report, “Affordable Care Act Enrollment in King County: Early General Population Impacts.”[x]

King County, Washington state, and the United States have embarked upon systemic and significant advances toward achieving health coverage for all. While progress has been made, there is much more to do. This work will take innovative and creative policy development, increased public funding, and, most importantly, the political will to meet the health needs of and establish health security for all residents.


[i]     Washington Health Benefit Exchange Enrollment Reports: http://www.wahbexchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/HBE_EN_140422_April_Enrollment_Report.pdf, http://www.wahbexchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/HBE_EN_160607_March_Enrollment_Report.pdf

[ii]     Population grew in King County from 1,981,900 to 2,052,800 between 2013 and 2015, an increase of 70,900, or 3.58%. See http://www.ofm.wa.gov/pop/asr/default.asp Washington state Office of Financial Management, Population, Estimates of April 1st population, county data tables.

[iii]    The OFM data is for the total population (that is, including Medicare recipients 65 and older, and children under 18 years old, whose coverage is very high, thanks in large part to Apple Health. The King County data focuses on the 18-64 age population. Further, OFM adjusted data to take in account an undercount of Apple Health enrollment in the 2014 American Community Survey (ACS). These differing methodologies and populations account for the difference in the rates of uninsured.

[iv]    Affordable Care Act Enrollment in King County, presentation by Public Health – Seattle & King County, http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/%7e/media/health/publichealth/documents/data/affordable-care-act-enrollment-king-county.ashx, p. 10 and 11.

[v]     American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates on the American FactFinder; Wei Yen, OFM Forecasting and Research Division

[vi]    Washington State Health Care Authority: Apple Health Federal Poverty Level (FPL) Chart – Find out if you’re eligible http://www.hca.wa.gov/medicaid/publications/Documents/19_031.pdf

[vii]    Washington Health Plan Finder: https://www.wahealthplanfinder.org/HBEWeb/Annon_ShowIndividualFamilyPlans

[viii]   Washington Health Benefit Exchange, March 2015, Health Coverage Enrollment Report, page 8: http://wahbexchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/991427407310_2015_Enrollment_Report_2_032615.pdf

[ix]    Access to Health Care After the Affordable Care Act, presentation by Public Health – Seattle & King County, http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/%7e/media/health/publichealth/documents/data/Access-Health-Care-After-ACA.ashx

[x]     http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/%7e/media/health/publichealth/documents/data/affordable-care-act-enrollment-king-county.ashx

Originally published at EOI Online

We can assure a good quality of life for all

What are the elements of a good quality of life? Good, accessible and affordable health care. Being able to pay your bills. Living in a welcoming home. Having a job with a wage that reflects the value of your work. Knowing your kids can get a good education in our public school system, our community colleges and our universities. Knowing that when you have a child, or you adopt a child, you will have the time to care for these infants, and not worry about working for a while. Knowing that as they grow up, you will have the ability to teach them, instilling thoughtfulness, consideration, and, of course, love, into their lives and souls.

A good quality of life means that as you age, you don’t have to worry about having enough money for your groceries and your housing. You are able to have a community of friends and family, not isolated in worry, debt and poverty. A good life includes a vibrant and sharing culture, in which we talk, have eye contact, argue and drink beer and coffee in real time with real people.

How much does this good quality of life cost? When you add in housing, health care, child care, food, transportation, taxes and other necessities like your phone and internet, a very low-ball estimate is about $52,000 for a family with one adult and one child and $70,000 for a family with two adults and two kids. (And this doesn’t include savings for retirement.) In terms of wages, that is about two-and-a-half times the minimum wage for that single mom and her child, and about twice the minimum wage at full-time for both parents working with two kids. Here is the problem: The wage of the average worker is $25 an hour. That means that half of all workers make less than $25 an hour, which means that they are on the margins of insecurity, falling away from a good quality of life.

Could we in Washington state do something different and enable all citizens the ability to earn enough money for a good quality of life and be able to enjoy an peaceful retirement? Of course. This universal good quality of life, adding up all households in our state, would cost about $225 billion a year. Our current state personal income is $350 billion. The problem is that with money migrating to the very top, the incomes of the middle class have been stagnant. That is no way to have a mutually beneficial and good and healthy quality of life.

This increasing insecurity is the product of conscious public policy decisions to act and not to act. For example, there is a law on the books for gradually increasing the wages of child care teachers. Right now these wages hover around $11 an hour, enabling a child care teacher to work her way deeper into poverty! And she will continue to do this, because the Legislature fails to fund the policy for gradually increasing wages which they voted into law in 2005.

Similarly, there is no constitutional prohibition against taxing the income of the very wealthy. By not taxing that income, the incentives encourage piling money on top of money for the already privileged, and create a feedback mechanism that encourages employers to push down wages for their workers. At the same time, public services, such as higher education, are starved for tax revenue and priced out of reach for middle class families.

There are numerous similar acts and omissions of public policy that undermine a good quality of life in our state. It is not enough to get depressed at the insecurity of our neighbors, our children, our parents or ourselves. It is not the natural order of things. We do have the power to create laws that insure elemental things like health care, education, retirement security, a balance of work and family. Legislators won’t act if we cower in discontent and depression. We have to express ourselves and build a new reality, if not for ourselves, then at least for our kids and their kids. That’s possible, in a democracy, after all.

Originalinally published at Everett Herald

Carbon Taxes Are Even Better than You Think

Executive summary

The Carbon Washington carbon tax proposal is revenue neutral, with about 70% of the carbon tax revenue going to reduce the state sales tax by a full percentage point and the remaining revenue divided between reductions in manufacturing taxes and funding for the Working Families Rebate, a state-level bump-up of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit.

Household impacts will vary by household (see the carbon tax swap calculator for detailed estimates) but in aggregate the carbon tax and the sales tax reduction will roughly offset each other for each income quintile, with most households paying a few hundred dollars a year more for fossil fuels and a few hundred dollars a year less for everything else. The dominant impact on social justice will therefore come from the Working Families Rebate, which at 25% of the federal EITC will provide up to $1500 a year for 400,000 low- and middle-income working families in Washington State.

Thanks to the sales tax reduction and the Working Families Rebate, passing the Carbon Washington revenue-neutral carbon tax proposal will be the biggest improvement to the progressivity of the Washington State tax system since the 1977 ballot measure that exempted groceries from the sales tax.



There are three ways that climate policy affects social justice. The first, not surprisingly, is as climate policy: everyone seems to agree that global warming will hit the poor harder than the rich, so there is a social justice benefit to reducing carbon emissions. A carbon tax is a great way to do this, as described in my previous posts: “Carbon taxes are better than you think (Part I: Transportation)” and “Carbon taxes are even better than you think (Part II: Electricity)”.

By reducing fossil fuel consumption, a carbon tax will also provide co-benefits by reducing emissions of local air pollutants like particulate matter and sulfur dioxide; these co-benefits will be especially valuable for the low-income communities and communities of color who are disproportionately affected by local air pollution hot spots. These co-benefits are the second way that climate policy affects social justice.

The third way that climate policy affects social justice is as fiscal policy. This is especially easy to see in the case of Carbon Washington’s carbon tax swap, a revenue-neutral approach that uses carbon tax revenues to reduce the state sales tax, fund the Working Families Rebate, and effectively eliminate the B&O business tax for manufacturing.

Tax Swap Poster(mini)

Before diving into the policy, however, let’s provide an overview of state and local tax systems.


State and local tax systems

The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) has a terrific website that describes the state and local tax systems in all fifty states, including a graphical depiction of the percentage of income that different income groups pay in state and local taxes. This depiction includes the bottom four income quintiles (the lowest 20%, the second-lowest 20%, the middle 20%, and the fourth 20%) and a division of the top income quintile into three subgroups, ending with the richest 1%.

The next four graphs show the ITEP results for Oregon, Idaho, California, and Washington State. The first three all have fairly flat tax systems, meaning that households across the income spectrum pay about the same percentage of their income in state and local taxes.





Washington State has the dubious distinction of having the most regressive state and local tax system in the nation, but the ITEP graphs for Tennessee and Florida look fairly similar. What all three states have in common is a heavy reliance on sales taxes and the absence of a state income tax.

This combination almost inevitably produces a regressive state and local tax structure. Without an income tax, the share of income that high earners pay in taxes is likely to remain relatively low because they allocate relatively more of their income to savings, services, out-of-state spending, and other areas that are not subject to sales taxes in their home jurisdiction. It follows that a carbon tax—which is more like a sales tax than an income tax—is unlikely to alter the fundamental structure of the Washington State tax system.

It is, however, possible to use carbon tax revenues to reduce the tax burden on the lowest income households in Washington State, and this is what the Carbon Washington policy does by reducing the state sales tax and funding the Working Families Rebate.


Carbon taxes and sales tax reductions roughly offset each other

The first way our policy addresses financial impacts on low-income households (and more generally on households and businesses across the state) is by reducing the state sales tax. Cutting the state sales tax by a full point reduces the burden of sales taxes by 10-15 percent, depending on how you count it. (The state sales tax is currently 6.5 percent, but local sales taxes bring the current total up towards 10 percent in many areas of the state. If you focus on the state rate, a reduction to 5.5 percent is a savings of 15.4 percent; if you focus on the total state-plus-local rate, the percentage reduction depends on the specific local rate, but a reduction from the Seattle total of 9.5 percent to 8.5 percent is a savings of 10.5 percent.)

Sales taxes are of course regressive—lower-income households pay more as a percentage of their income because they spend more of their income on items that are subject to sales tax—so reducing the sales tax is a good way to make a carbon tax swap more progressive. (Whether or not carbon taxes are themselves regressive is a matter of some debate among economists, with one of the key questions being whether you should focus on current income or on lifetime income; see here for some details.)

To a first approximation, the household impact of the carbon tax and the sales tax reduction offset each other: most households will pay a few hundred dollars a year more for fossil fuels and a few hundred dollars a year less for everything else. The exact details will of course vary from household to household (see the carbon tax swap calculator to evaluate the impacts on your household) but for aggregate results we can use the Consumer Expenditure Survey and data from the EIA (natural gas prices, retail gasoline prices, home heating oil prices, and electricity prices) to estimate that carbon tax payments for various income quintiles are roughly in line with the sales tax savings estimated from the carbon tax swap calculator: about $100 a year for the lowest income quintile, about $200 a year for the second-lowest income quintile, and about $250, $300, and $450 a year, respectively, for the higher income quintiles.

salesTaxEstimate copy

Source: Based on the 2002 Tax Structure Study Report.


Assuming that the carbon tax and the sales tax reduction offset each other, we can focus on the Working Families Rebate. Stated simply, the conclusion of our analysis is this: Passing the Carbon Washington revenue-neutral carbon tax proposal will be the biggest improvement to the progressivity of the Washington State tax system since the 1977 ballot measure that exempted groceries from the sales tax. (See pp18-21 of the state’s Tax Reference Manual 2010 for a history of tax changes in the state.)


The Working Families Rebate

The largest anti-poverty program in the United States is the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. The federal EITC is a refundable tax credit that benefits low-income working households by providing a percentage match of earned income up to a certain level. (See figure below, and note that “refundable” means that households receive a check if their tax due is less than the amount of the credit.) The EITC provides a maximum credit of $496 for households without children, $3,305 for households with 1 child, $5,460 for households with 2 children, and $6,143 for households with 3 or more children.


Source: Tax Policy Center.


Twenty-five states (and New York City and Washington, DC) provide local bump-ups of the federal EITC; for example, low-income households in Kansas receive from the state government a refundable state income tax credit equal to 17% of their federal EITC. The bump-up rates range from 3.5% of the federal EITC to 50% of the federal EITC.

Washington State has no income tax, but in 2008 the state government created a “sales tax exemption” for working families that equals 10% of the federal EITC. This Working Families Tax Exemption—a.k.a. Working Families Rebate—currently exists in state law as RCW 82.08.0206, but it has never been funded. (For even more details see the great work of the Washington Budget & Policy Center, but note that they’re assuming a bump-up of 10 percent of the federal EITC, while our policy provides a bump-up of 15 percent in year 1 and 25 percent thereafter.)

A 25% Working Families Rebate provides up to $1500 a year for 400,000 working families in Washington State. The impact is greatest for households with children and least for households without children and (obviously) households without earned income. The following graphics show that the Working Families Rebate has a significant impact on the state and local tax structure in Washington State for many (albeit not all) low-income households. (The red numbers in parentheses show the tax savings for a household with the average income for each ITEP income quintile.)







The graphics show that a 25% Working Families Rebate would have a tremendous impact on low-income households with children. In fact, funding the Working Families Rebate at a 25% level would provide the greatest improvement to the progressivity of the Washington State tax system since the sales tax exemption on groceries was passed at the ballot in 1977.

We can use the Consumer Expenditure Survey for a more in-depth comparison of the Working Families Rebate and the sales tax exemption on groceries. Households in the lowest income quintile spend an average of $2500 on groceries, so a 9.5% sales tax exemption amounts to $240 per household, or about $120 million for the approximately 520,000 households in this income quintile in Washington State. Households in the second-lowest income quintile spend an average of $3200 on groceries, so a 9.5% sales tax exemption amounts to $300 per household, or about $150 million for the approximately 520,000 households in this income quintile in Washington State. Total savings for households in the lowest two income quintiles therefore total $270 million a year.

Our 25% Working Families Rebate totals about $200 million a year, which is comparable to (albeit somewhat lower than) the total for the sales tax exemption for groceries.

One major difference is that the sales tax exemption for groceries was not revenue-neutral: it reduced state General Fund revenues. The carbon tax swap is intended to be revenue-neutral, with the carbon tax revenues offsetting the sales tax reduction, the Working Families Rebate, and the reduction in business taxes for manufacturing.

Another major difference is that the sales tax exemption for groceries is likely to provide roughly equal benefits to all households in a given income quintile. In contrast, the Working Families Rebate concentrates benefits on households with earned income and on households with children. (According to the Census Bureau, about 55% of people in poverty are in households with children.) The minimum Working Families Rebate is $100 a year, so qualifying households with children will receive a Working Families Rebate of between $100 and $1500. In contrast, qualifying households without children will receive a much smaller Working Families Rebate—the maximum is only $125—and of course households do not qualify for the Working Families Rebate if they don’t have earned income or otherwise don’t qualify for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. These households will receive sales tax reductions that are likely to offset their carbon tax liabilities, and they will benefit from the climate policy impacts of the Carbon Washington proposal, but the main fiscal policy benefits will accrue to households with children.

Originally posted at CarbonWA

Press Release: Black Friday: Boycott Microsoft and Picket to Demand Tax Fairness

Contact: Julianna Dauble

November 12, 2014


“Black Friday: Boycott Microsoft and Picket to Demand Tax Fairness ”

Seattle – Washington Badass Teachers Association (WA-BATS) a grassroots group of career educators protecting our public education system from further degradation is holding a public protest on Friday, November 28th, 2014 at the overpass on NE 40th St in Redmond, a block from Overlake Transit Center and near 156th Ave and 136th St. (Here’s the google map location). The public is encouraged and welcome to attend from 5:30-7:30.

Because the average citizen is unaware of how public schools are funded and how regressive Washington state’s tax system is, organizers will be artfully drawing attention to the corporate tax loopholes enjoyed by Microsoft through creative messaging.

Microsoft has avoided paying at least $5.34 billion in state taxes since 1997 thanks to dodging the state royalty tax. Microsoft admits to holding $92 billion in earning offshore to avoid paying $29 billion in U.S. taxes.

The theme of the picket is similar to a funeral procession. Attendees will carry candles for the lost lives and lost learning due to the underfunding of safety net programs and our public schools.

Large lit signs will be visible to traffic on the freeway below. A chorus will perform. Solidarity with all workers will be demonstrated through planned activities on the public sidewalks.

A mock trial and dramatized ‘conviction and sentencing’ of greedy profiteers will be held to signify the injustice to citizens at 4:00 on this day. An audience is encouraged for this event as well.

As public servants and compassionate humans, protesters are demanding the following:

1. Microsoft pay back taxes owed from their manipulation of licensing laws and moving certain financial operations out of state specifically to avoid their tax responsibility.

2. The public boycott Microsoft products including: Microsoft Office, Minecraft, Surface Tablets, Windows, Xbox, Skype, & Nokia phones until Microsoft pays their fair share for Washington State services.

3. Legislators reform tax laws! Each and every legislator swore to uphold their paramount duty when they were sworn into office. Demand legislators change revenue policies to eliminate tax loopholes for corporations. Fully fund basic education. Support students, teachers, small class sizes, and all workers in Washington with a fair budget and sustainable revenue. Support our most vulnerable citizens across the state.

Other social justice groups will be joining the Badass Teachers. Because the event will be in the dark on a non workday for Microsoft employees guest speakers will be using bullhorns and videotaped so messages will be disseminated on various media. Activist leaders will be made available for interview.

For more information about WA-BATS, visit us on Facebook:
Event Invite (public): https://www.facebook.com/events/708053752620832
Contact: Julianna Dauble, (206) 856-1357
Email: BATSrally@gmail.com

Physicians for a National Health Program annual meeting, July 17 at UW

Physicians fora  National Health Program, 2014 Annual Public Meeting, Sat July 17, Kane Hall, UW

We’re all aware that U.S. healthcare outcomes are still lagging way behind those of other countries, even though we’re spending twice as much.

Several states are now grappling with making healthcare a human right – a public good, not-for-profit.

Here in WA State, a coalition of organizations has come together determined to get this done. A federal waiver allowing states to become healthcare innovators will be available in 2017.

Please join us for our Physicians for a National Health Program, Western Washington Chapter, annual public meeting. Hear Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant talk about organizing for social justice in the age of austerity. Another speaker will emphasize the clear advantages of single payer healthcare in Canada and internationally. We’ll also hear about how the campaign for healthcare as a human right in Maine and other states can inform our actions here. There will be plenty of time for Q&A.