Response to Claudia Balducci and Kevin Wallace column on transportation

In their Nov 22 letter to the Bellevue Reporter, city council members Claudia Balducci and Kevin Wallace called on the legislature to pass a transportation package that eases the gridlock on our roads and protects our economy.

Wisely they write, “We cannot afford the drastic cuts in transit service projected to occur without new funding.”

Less wisely, Balducci and Wallace say they support the proposed “reforms” that the Senate Majority Coalition is demanding in return for agreeing to raise the gas tax.

First of all, the Majority Coalition wants to exempt transportation projects from the state sales tax.

But the state budget is already starved of funds. The State Supreme Court ruled in the McCleary decision that the legislature needs to spend billions more on K-12 education.  Furthermore, funding for higher education and social services has been slashed, causing real suffering among vulnerable people, greatly raising the cost of a college education, and threatening our safety and prosperity.  With education unaffordable, people are left under-educated, unemployed, and unable to contribute to the economy.  Meanwhile, jobs flow overseas via outsourcing while skilled workers are brought in to work at high-tech firms.

The Majority Coalition is also demanding that workers be paid less than the prevailing wage.  This is a blatant attack on unions, which have already been drastically downsized. Republicans want to further disembowel unions, a major Democratic constituency.

Lastly, the Majority Coalition wants to weaken environmental regulations that are needed to protect our precious environment.

The entire conservative ideology in recent years is based on the idea that government can do no good, that regulation and taxes are always bad, and that we need to stop redistributive socialism.

The truth is that government provides many essential services for the common good,  such as transportation infrastructure, scientific research, contract law, environmental protections, and policing. Often government provides services at lower cost than the private sector. For example, health care in the US costs far more than in any other country. Yet our life expectancy and other indicators lag behind most countries with public health care systems.  The problem with the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is that it was designed by the Heritage Foundation — and tested by Mitt Romney — to benefit insurance companies.  A single payer government-run system would be cheaper and fairer.

Reckless deregulation, by both Republicans and centrist Democrats such as Bill Clinton, is what crashed the economy.   Along with tax cuts for gazillionairres, deregulation concentrated money and power into the hands of the few.

Republicans complain of government waste and fraud. Yet when Republicans were in power, during the years George W. Bush, there was unprecedented waste and fraud.

And as for redistributive socialism, I agree completely. We have way too much socialism.  We have socialism for the rich (e.g., the Wall Street bailouts, subsidies for Big Oil, and tax preferences for Microsoft and Boeing) and cut-throat survival-of-the-fittest for everyone else.

This is especially the case in Washington State, where due to a reliance on the regressive sales tax and the B&O tax (which taxes revenue not profit), the rich pay a lower percentage of their income in state taxes than do the middle class and poor.

But I suggest a fix that will allow the Majority Coalition to get one thing they really want.  Let’s exempt transportation projects from the sales tax. To make up for the lost revenue, let’s institute a capital gains tax.

We need a return to the heyday of the middle class, in the 1950s and 1960s, when taxes on the rich and corporations were high and government wasn’t completely owned by Wall Street.

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