Stop the so-called Freedom Foundation from bringing bigot Dinesh D’Souza to Bellevue

I got this email from the Northwest Accountability Project. D’Souza sure is a despicable bigot. I don’t think it’s “censorship” to oppose his appearance. I do not propose denying his free speech rights. I just oppose giving him a platform to spread his disgusting views.

The Freedom Foundation has sunk to a new low. Their annual fundraising event is scheduled for later this month and they’ve chosen outspoken bigot Dinesh D’Souza as their keynote speaker. We’re calling on the Hilton Bellevue, the hotel hosting the scheduled September 28 fundraiser, to respect workers and the community, and cancel D’Souza’s appearance.

D’Souza is a convicted felon who has been pardoned by President Donald Trump. D’Souza has made millions from his racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and anti-working class writings and movies. He opposes the Civil Rights Act, called President Obama a “boy” from “the ghetto,” said that American slaves were treated “pretty well”. In college, as the editor of the student newspaper, he publicly outed LGBTQ students without their permission. He was even deemed too radical for CPAC, the annual gathering of Republican ideologues, after he repeatedly mocked teenage survivors of mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

He may be too extreme for most conservatives, but according to the Freedom Foundation’s CEO Tom McCabe, he’s the “perfect fit for the Freedom Foundation.” For once, we agree with McCabe’s assessment.
The Freedom Foundation may endorse his brand of bigotry, but our community businesses should not give a platform to this kind of intolerant hate mongering.
D’Souza is an extremist provocateur whose hateful rhetoric is inconsistent with our shared Northwest values. By choosing D’Souza as their keynote speaker, the Freedom Foundation have shown us all their true colors. Will you join us in taking a stand against the Freedom Foundation and D’Souza? Tell Hilton to cancel D’Souza today.

In solidarity,

The team at the Northwest Accountability Project

KCTS9: What’s Up With Washington State’s Tax System?

Washington state’s vibrant and diverse economy doesn’t hint at it. Neither does Seattle’s red-hot construction and tech boom, nor the sheer wealth of some of our residents. You’d never know it by the tens of thousands of people moving to Puget Sound for the plentiful jobs and outdoorsy lifestyle. But, Washington has a tax problem. It simply can’t seem to raise enough money to fund basic services. Especially not in ways that feel fair to most people or even meet what courts say are the fundamental expectations for important services. Read more: https://kcts9.org/node/55446

My-Linh Thai for 41st LD State Rep Position 2!

My-Linh Thai has earned sole endorsements from the 41st District Democrats, King County Democrats, The Seattle Times, NARAL Pro-Choice WA, Children’s Campaign Fund, WA Education Association, WA State Labor Council, OneAmerica Votes, FUSE Washington, Win With Women PAC, etc. Also endorsed by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility. And more sole endorsements – Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Lt Governor Cyrus Habib, WA Sup’t Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, 41st District State Senator Lisa Wellman, King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci, and many local elected officials and supporters around our region.

My-Linh Thai for 41st LD State House position 1: many endorsements

See https://www.my-linhthai.com/

Please vote for My-Linh Thai for 41st District State Representative, position 2.

Her “Democratic” opponent is funded by many of the same corporate interests that backed Republicans in recent elections.  Hence the numerous fliers they’ve been sending out.

Resolution in Opposition to Rodney Tom’s candidacy for State Senate

Note: the 5th, 41st, 45th and 48th LD Democrats have passed versions of this resolution.

Resolution in Opposition to Rodney Tom’s candidacy for State Senate

WHEREAS in 2012 then State Senator Rodney Tom began caucusing with the Republicans and formed, with Republicans, the so-called Majority Coalition Caucus — despite having been elected as a Democrat;

WHEREAS Tom’s action did great damage to Democratic priorities, as evidenced by the fact that in February of 2013 he was censured by the state Democratic Party for “gross disloyalty” and “perfidious behavior”;

WHEREAS Tom was harshly denounced by the 5th, 43d and the 48d LD Democratic organizations, as well as by the Pierce County Democrats;

WHEREAS Tom is running this year as a self-proclaimed Democrat for the 48th LD State Senate position, despite having failed to even seek endorsement of the Democrats and despite his earlier betrayals;

WHEREAS Various Democratic organizations, including the 48th LD Democrats, have endorsed Democratic Senator Patty Kuderer for re-election;

WHEREAS The Democrats have a one seat majority in the state Senate;

WHEREAS A victory by Tom would put at risk the recent legislative successes by the Democrats in Olympia and would empower Republicans;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that we, the 41st LD Democrats declare our vehement opposition to the candidacy of Rodney Tom and our deep regret that he is calling himself a Democrat.

(Resolution by Donald. A. Smith, June 13, 2018)

Documentation:

https://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/2013/02/04/gross-disloyalty-democrats-censure-tom-sheldon/
https://www.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2013/01/16/democrats-further-repudiate-sen-rodney-tom-d-traitor
https://web.archive.org/web/20130126031314/http://www.thenewstribune.com/2013/01/15/2436252/pierce-county-democrats-back-senators.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_Tom

Rodney Tom is a Democrat in Name Only: he was censured by the Democratic Party for caucusing with the Republicans but is running again as a Democrat


Note: this is the version of the resolution passed by the 48th LD Democrats:

 

Resolution: Rodney Tom is not a Democrat

WHEREAS in 2012 then State Senator Rodney Tom began caucusing with the Republicans despite being a declared Democrat;

WHEREAS Tom’s action did great damage to Democratic priorities, to the extent he was censured by the state Democratic Party in February 2013 for “gross disloyalty” and “perfidious behavior” and denounced by the 5th, 43rd, and the 48th LD Democratic organizations, as well as by the Pierce County Democrats;

WHEREAS despite this past behavior, Tom is running this year as a self-proclaimed Democrat for the 48th LD State Senate position;

WHEREAS Tom has made no contact with, nor is he a member of the 48th Legislative District or County Democratic Party;

WHEREAS Tom has declared his refusal to caucus with Democrats should he win the Senate seat, thus imperiling the one seat Democratic majority in the state Senate;

WHEREAS a victory by Tom would put at risk recent bipartisan legislative successes in Olympia and would likely create another four years of gridlock;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that we, the 48th LD Democrats, declare our vehement opposition to Rodney Tom again calling himself a Democrat.

Adopted by the 48th Legislative District Democrats this 20th day of June, 2018.

What’s Missing from What You’re Hearing About Washington’s Budget

Last June, Gov. Jay Inslee made headlines when he signed a state budget totaling $43.4 billion in spending for 2017-19. Which of the following statements about that budget is true?

A. State spending will grow 15.3% by 2019.
B. State spending will grow 6.1% by 2019.
C. State spending will grow 3.2% by 2019.
D. State spending will grow 0.27% by 2019.

If you chose any answer, congratulations: you’re right (technically)! Let me tell you why – and what you can do with the often-contradictory things you hear about the state budget.

A. “State spending will grow 15.3% by 2019”

Washington’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget was $19.6 billion, and the FY 2019 budget is $22.6 billion, which is a 15.3% increase.[1] A “double-digit increase” isn’t only helpful for writing catchy headlines – it’s also useful rhetorical bait for conservative and anti-tax (well, anti-tax for the wealthy) activists. But this easy-to-understand calculation is also a pretty misleading one, as we’ll see below.

B. “State spending will grow 6.1% by 2019”

This figure takes inflation into account. Like every market, the amount the state pays for workers and goods changes from year-to-year – usually upward. So unless we account for inflation, simply comparing one budget year to another isn’t “apples-to-apples”.

Here’s an illustration of the difference – in the graph below, the “nominal” line shows spending in current dollars, while the “real” line show the equivalent amounts in 2017 dollars: [2]

Adjusted for inflation, FY 2019 spending ($20.8 billion) will be 6.1% higher than FY 2017 ($19.6 billion) – less than half the increase shown in answer A). But some important information is still missing.

C. “State spending will grow 3.2% by 2019”

Since Washington is a growing state – with just over 6 million people residing here in 2002, and more than 7.6 million projected in 2019 – our budget and spending comparisons also need to account for the fact that the cost of public structures and services goes up as population increases.[3]

To account for population change, we can use the same nominal and real numbers from above and divide by the state’s population for the corresponding year to get spending per capita:

So: adjusted for both population and inflation, the state spent $2,643 per capita in 2017, and will spend $2,728 in 2019 – an increase of just 3.2% ($85/person). You won’t see that figure in many headlines, let alone hear it in talking points from conservative legislators and activists advocating for budget cuts.

This particular chart also highlights why it’s important to know how a reference year fits into the bigger picture. Even using these population- and inflation-adjusted numbers, you could truthfully say that in 2019, Washington is a) budgeted to spend 12.6% less ($395/resident) than it did 17 years ago; or b) spend 14.9% more ($355/resident) than it did 5 years ago.

It all depends on the story you want to tell.

D. “State spending will grow 0.27% by 2019”

Political rhetoric commonly cites spending as evidence government is “too big” – but what exactly is the ruler used to make this judgement? Compared to Washington’s economy (Gross Domestic Product), state spending is well below what it was 10 years ago, and will rise just one-quarter of 1% (0.27%) from 2017 to 2019 [4]:

It’s the same story when you measure by state total personal income – state spending is at historically low levels, and is projected to rise a mere 0.16% from 2017 to 2019 [5]:

Why It Matters and What You Can Do

The old adage that “statistics can be made to prove anything – even the truth” seems applicable here, if a touch too cynical for my taste. And media coverage of Washington’s budget too often revolves around political wrangling, last-minute deal making, or short-term analysis, which doesn’t help.

The case I’m making is not to ignore the numbers or the news, but to remember: without the context of inflation, population, and historical perspective, budget numbers don’t tell us nearly enough about what our government is doing.

So the first thing you should do when you encounter news or opinions on the state (or any other government) budget – whether from a legislator, media outlet, or other source – yes, I’m looking at you, sketchy Facebook meme! – is pause to find out:

  • Are the numbers adjusted for inflation?
  • Does it account for population (or change in enrollment, number of people served, etc.)?
  • What’s the time period of reference for a particular percentage/dollar change? What happens if you use a different year for comparison?
  • Who came up with the source data, and is it public so I can I see it for myself?

If your source can’t or won’t give you those answers, they haven’t done their homework (or they don’t want to tell you the results), and you really can’t rely on them to provide a useful perspective.

Second, remember that Washington’s budget is really a list of public values. For example:

  • In our current society and economy, every child needs a lot more education than they did 50 or even 30 years ago – starting before they’re 5 and continuing after they’re 18. So we fund pre-K, K-12 and higher education.
  • A healthy community and environment are essential not just for our health, but for our quality of life and economic development – so we fund the Department of Ecology, Department of Health, and similar agencies.
  • We consider beautiful natural spaces a birthright for current and future generations to enjoy – so we fund State Parks and the Department of Natural Resources.

When you read or hear someone opine that “the budget” for something is too big or too small – or that some unit of government is spending too much or too little on something – they’re actually telling you something else: that it’s a lower (or higher) priority than it ought to be.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that – just don’t get bogged down in their numbers (unless they haven’t given any, which ought to be a red flag!). Instead, think about the needs and priorities of the wide variety of families, neighborhoods, and communities in (as the case may be) your city, state or nation.

Then ask that person to explain exactly how their proposal will affect the structures and services necessary to deliver on the public values you care about. See what they have to say for themselves. You’ll learn more from that conversation than any graph or spreadsheet can tell you.


[1] Nominal budget data provided by fiscal.wa.gov, Historical Spending (annual), “Near General Fund – State” (NGFS). NGFS includes the General Fund, Education Legacy Trust Account, Pension Funding Stabilization Account, and Opportunity Pathways Account. The largest of these is the state general fund, which is the fund in which most general revenues are deposited; the other funds have more specific purposes. Washington receives additional federal funding (not shown here) that is reserved for specific services, such as Food Stamps, Medicaid, and children’s health. The state legislature also adopts separate budgets for transportation (using the gas tax and other dedicated revenue) and capital projects.

[2] Real (inflation-adjusted) numbers calculated by the author using the Implicit Price Deflator (IPD) provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis and economic estimates from the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. The IPD is a measure of inflation, similar to the Consumer Price Index – however, the IPD includes a measure of inflation specifically for state and local governments, which is used here.

[3] Yes, I hear you there in the back, and I get that not every person uses everything our state has to offer, and different public structures/services cost different amounts. Here’s the thing: in general, everybody benefits, directly or indirectly, when our state government delivers on widely shared/supported public values. Think of it like going to a buffet dinner. Everyone pays at the door, and everyone has access to the entire buffet (in this case, our state’s public structures/services). Maybe you may only eat salad and jello, while others enjoy turkey and potatoes.

[4] State Gross Domestic Product data through 2017 via U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, “Annual Gross Domestic Product by State”; 2018-2019 are author’s estimates, based on 3-year rolling average of prior years.

[5] Per Capita Income data through 2017 via U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, “Annual State Personal Income and Employment”; 2017 data based on Q1-Q3 average of same year, 2018-2019 data are author’s estimates based on WA Economic and Revenue Forecast Council reports.

Originally published at Economic Opportunity Institute

Dishonest, negative campaign ads by Republicans in Bellevue

I got a flier in the mail today from Friends of Jared Nieuwenhuis, Friends of Steve Fricke, and Friends of Phil Yin that says “STOP THESE CANDIDATES FROM BRINGING HEROIN INTO BELLEVUE.” The candidates referred to are Karol Brown, Lynne Robinson, and Janice Zahn.

What a scare tactic! If this isn’t negative campaigning, I don’t know what is.

Karol Brown has repeatedly said (including in comments on nextdoor.com, at a half dozen candidates forums, and on her website) that she opposes bringing safe injection sites into Bellevue. The City Council has effectively banned such sites from Bellevue for the foreseeable future. Besides, it’s a medical issue and shouldn’t be politicized!

The flier makes it appear that the candidates, or people who support such sites, want to bring heroin into Bellevue. Ridiculous and not true.

KAROL OPPOSES BRINGING SUCH SITES TO BELLEVUE and has repeatedly said that!

Lynne Robinson voted against safe injection sites when the issue came up for a vote on the city council.   Janice Zahn too said she opposes them, on nextdoor.com. The headline “WRONG ON HEROIN” is hitting below the belt. It gives the impression that these candidates want to bring heroin into Bellevue.

Image of back of campaign flier by Friends of Jared Nieuwenhuis, Steve Fricks, and Phil Yin

Such dishonest politicking (swiftboating, fake news) is customary at the national level. How unfortunate that we have it locally too.

Please don’t degrade local politics in a similar way. The three females have stated they oppose safe injection sites in Bellevue. The three male candidates are playing a transparently dirty trick. Besides, there is an epidemic, and addicts are dying. The people who propose safe-injection sites in King County are trying to save lives. They’re not trying to “bring heroin.” Heroin is already here. The City Council has voted against the sites for Bellevue. Please stop exploiting this issue for political purposes.

As further evidence of the politicization of the issue: “Chris Vance, a former state Republican Party chairman, said he believes those leading the I-27 campaign sincerely believe safe-injection is bad policy. But they also see it as a way to make political gains.” https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/bellevue-bans-safe-injection-sites-for-heroin-users/

Image of back of campaign flier by Friends of Jared Nieuwenhuis, Steve Fricks, and Phil Yin

Opponents of safe injection sites passionately oppose/attack any politician who even refuses to agree to ban the sites in King County. And if the politician votes against the sites or announces their opposition, they are accused of lacking the courage of their convictions and of wanting to bring heroin into Bellevue. Heads you win, tails I lose. Meanwhile, people are dying and the homeless languish on the streets.

Wanting to leave open the possibility of safe injection sites in King County is very different from wanting to bring heroin to Bellevue, which is what the ads claimed. The fact is: people are shooting heroin every day — it’s a national crisis — and people are dying from overdoses every day. A safe injection site makes a lot of sense for the addicts who are still using. It’s not encouraging addiction, any more than condoms encourage unsafe sex. Abstinence programs do not work in either case.

Some more attack ads

This one is paid for by Friends of Steve Fricke:

And here’s an ad by the Master Builders:
Master Builders attack ad

"another $500 million regressive sales tax increase"

The Official Local Voters’ Pamphlet for the primary election in King County includes statements for and against Proposition 1, which would impose a 0.1% increase in the sales tax in order to fund arts, science and cultural enrichment programs.

The statement against Proposition 1 states, “it is unwise and inequitable to impose another $500 million regressive sales tax increase on overburdened King County taxpayers.

The interesting thing about this statement is that one of the co-authors is state Senator Dino Rossi (45th LD), a Republican who ran for governor.  Republicans are, with few exceptions, adamantly opposed to fixing our regressive tax system.  In the latest session of the legislature, they refused to agree to a capital gains tax and instead insisted on raising real estate taxes to fund education. Real estate taxes are more regressive than a capital gains tax, though not as regressive as a sales tax.

It’s disingenuous for politicians who oppose progressive taxation to use an argument about regressivity to attack a ballot initiative that increases the sales or real estate tax.

At least they acknowledge that the problem exists.

I note, by the way, that the legislature, including Republicans, voted, in 2015 to raise the regressive gas tax by 11.9 cents.   See http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/politics-government/article43025553.html  and Gas tax increases by 7 cents in Washington state.

Republicans raised regressive taxes

Is K-12 education fully funded? Not so fast

In 2009 I voted against an “education reform” bill that, amidst devastating cuts, promised fully-funding K-12 education by 2018. As I asked then, how could we expect future Legislatures to possess the courage of our convictions if even we didn’t possess that courage?

The 2009 bill’s promise was to avoid litigation, now known as the “McCleary case,” over K-12 funding inadequacy. The Washington state Supreme Court saw through the smokescreen and, in August 2015, began imposing a $100,000 daily contempt-of-court fine upon the Legislature for not progressing toward its self-imposed goal.

This year’s never-ending legislative process produced what Gov. Jay Inslee proclaimed “a historic budget that fully funds our schools for the first time in more than 30 years.” Other Democrats echoed his exultations, labeling “Democratic” a budget borne out of a Republican Senate, a claim that ignores nine Senate Democratic no votes, and frothing in a press release that it “adds $7.3 billion to Washington schools.”

Not so fast: Education isn’t fully-funded.

The $7.3 billion figure reportedly fails to subtract billions lost from local property tax revenues. The Legislature has added by subtraction before, as it did in 2013 by shamelessly counting $295.5 million in denied K-12 cost-of-living increases toward a “$1 billion funding increase.” It’s doubtful the high court will be fooled.

 The budget also spreads new funding over four years, when truly meeting McCleary might require $5 billion more just by next year. It relies upon fickle property tax revenue and various gimmicks, like diverting $5.5 million from the litter account. It may also fail to fix a broken mental health system — where federal contempt-of-court fines have exceeded $21.5 million so far this year.

Political triumphalism is inevitable. But Carter McCleary was 7 years old when the McCleary litigation was filed. He graduated from high school last month. My son starts high school this fall. Am I wrong to feel impatient about the state meeting its constitutional “paramount duty”?

I also worry about the budget’s unsustainability. As a House member, I voted against budgets on that basis.

The 2007 budget, for example, was “balanced” by breaking a 1998 pension promise — largely for teachers. The state reacted to the Great Recession by decimating programs and denying state workers’ wage increases for eight years. It was heart-wrenching.

Washington continues to use baling wire and volatile revenue sources for budgets, and we are only ever a volatile president’s actions (perhaps tweets) away from another recession. The Washington state Supreme Court has, rightly, insisted on “dependable revenue sources” for K-12.

You can’t separate a budget from its shaky revenue foundation. So why should the public demand progressive tax reform if even Democrats claim progressive aims were “fully” achieved by regressive means? Settling for less is learned helplessness.

It happened in 2009, when I opposed cuts initially characterized as “cuts that will kill” — in a half-hearted case for new revenue — that rhetorically transformed into “cuts with a conscience.” The next year, Democratic super-majorities mustered courage and finally raised taxes upon … candy. Budget secrecy — culminating this year in voting on a budget no one had read — hardly helps make the tax reform case, either.

The public can handle honesty. While it might not serve the aims of political rhetoric, it would be honest to admit trying hard, as I know many legislators did, but falling short in key respects. The public must, again, hope for that honesty from the state Supreme Court.

Originally published at HeraldNet