WPC, Right on Cue

Dear Group,

It is as if the Koch donor group-funded Washington Policy Center and its local Republicans anticipated last week’s series on the origins and details of the Washington school funding crisis. On April 21 the WPC came out with a half page ad in the Spokesman on page 10 of the Northwest Section. Their ad extolled their featured speaker this year for their Tuesday, May 14th, “Solutions Summit” at the historic Davenport Hotel, running from 7:30AM to 5:30PM. Who is this famous man? None other than “Governor” Scott Walker of Wisconsin. (WPC also placed some “sponsored content” in the online version.)

You can read the whole agenda here. For me the standout among many choices is “Government Reform: Protecting Washington’s Competitive Advantage: No Income Taxes!” I thought that was especially pertinent in a forum sponsored by Koch libertarians in Washington State, the State with the most regressive state tax system in the nation, a State where  “… the lowest 20 percent of income earners (families making less than $24,000) contribute almost 18 percent of their annual earnings to state and local tax coffers, while the top 1 percent (those making over $545,900) pay just 3 percent of their income.” This is a State where Republicans crow about having stonewalled against any sort of progressive tax to “amply” fund the State’s biggest obligation: to educate its children, opting instead to rearrange existing revenue sources, pretend they’ve done a lovely job at school funding, and blame teachers and the teachers’ union for the pain they’ve produced.

I grew up in Wisconsin in the 1960s. I am a product of what was then an amply funded public education system that prepared me well for higher education. I have many friends still living in Wisconsin who tell me the quality of public education suffered miserably under Scott Walker and his Republican-majority Legislature. The Washington Policy Center bills Scott Walker as “Governor.” They crow that he is the only governor in United States history to survive a recall election. The WPC neglects to mention the spark for the recall was his defunding of public education after they set the stage by demonizing teachers and the teachers’ union. Nor does the WPC mention Scott Walker was voted out of office in 2018, once enough citizens realized the damage he had caused. The Washington Policy Center, of course, would prefer its audience to think Mr. Walker either stepped down voluntarily or was term-limited, not that he was voted out of his incumbency by disgusted voters.

In September of 2017 the Washington Policy Center had Nigel Farage, “Mr. Brexit,” to Spokane as their featured speaker I never imagined they could top their bad taste. Never underestimate. In bringing Scott Walker to town they may have outdone themselves.

Keep to the high ground,


The Spokane SD81 Levy

Dear Group,

The basic math is pretty simple. One cannot increase funding for public schools and cut taxes at the same time. That’s what State Senate Republicans sold the legislature in 2017. That is the reality most Washington State school districts are now facing. Shame on us for believing their preposterous math.

The 2012 McCleary Washington State Supreme Court Decision told the State Legislature to live up to the State Constitution’s promise to provide “ample” funding for basic education. The Court agreed with the plaintiffs: it is the responsibility of the State, not local governments, to provide this funding for basic education and the State was falling short. The Court made no pronouncement prohibiting local governments from supplementing the districts for personnel and assistance beyond basic education. 

Broadly speaking, there were two solutions: 1) Find additional revenue for the State and apply that revenue to the disadvantaged districts or 2) Stick with sales and property taxes as the main sources of revenue and cobble together a system to redistribute existing property tax revenues between districts.    

The Republican reflex? Mount a campaign to unseat State Supreme Court judges who disagreed with McCleary. That failed. Since there is no recognition among Republicans that the Washington State tax system is the most regressive in the nation, revamping the tax system with a capital gains tax or a modest progressive income tax was simply not on the table (since they controlled the State Senate). Similarly, no Republican was going to stand for increasing the property tax, the sales tax, or the B&O tax to pay for increased funding for the common good of public schools. So they chose option #2, backed a “levy swap equalization” as a solution, and stonewalled it through an exhausted legislature in 2017. Behind the “levy swap equalization” is a simple truth: It offers little or no new money to education. It just subtracts money School District voters had already approved (to supplement inadequate State funding) and puts that subtracted money into State coffers to fund basic education. Once this money was removed from the districts it was touted as “new” State funding for basic education. 

Michael Baumgartner, a belligerent Republican, was then State Senator from LD6, the district that wraps part way around Spokane from the southwest. He is now Spokane County Treasurer. As State Senator, Mr. Baumgartner was very proud of his and his party’s tax stonewalling. He was equally proud to have engineered the “levy swap equalization,” now a major cause of suffering in school districts all over the state. The quote that follows is taken from a fundraising email from Michael Baumgartner I received on July 21, 2017:

We just finished the longest legislative session in state history. What took so long? Jay Inslee and his radical allies demanded that Majority Senate Republicans accept his absurd proposals for a state capital gains income tax and a carbon tax.  We told Inslee to ‘pound sand’, held firm and fought back. Despite all these months – and Inslee even talking about “water boarding” Senate Republicans while crying to the press – we didn’t budge.  Instead, we triangulated a strategy to fund the state’s K-12 McCleary case through a “levy swap equalization” that will reduce overall property taxes on nearly 75% of households (largely in areas represented by Republicans) and increase property taxes largely in the Seattle area (represented by Democrats).

This snarky quote on its own ought to disqualify Mr. Baumgartner from holding public office.  His “levy swap equalization” has nothing to do with improving public school funding. It is only a means to stick it to communities represented by Democrats. 

Are Baumgartner and his Republican colleagues now owning the widespread dismay in most public school districts? Hardly. They’re busy blaming the McCleary Decision, the teachers’ union and teacher pay raises, pretending that the state provided lots more money and the districts are wasting it.

Let’s look at that. The trick in Baumgartner’s “levy swap equalization” was having the State impose a limit on the amount a local school district is allowed to raise within its district from property tax levies, levies the district had used to supplement “basic education.” The “levy swap equalization” the Republicans held out for simply switches property tax money from the School District pocket to the State pocket. Does this help schools in underfunded districts? Hell, no. All Baumgartner’s lauded levy swap does is hobble the ability of local communities to run their own affairs. This levy cap only makes sense if your whole purpose in dealing with McCleary is to limit taxes, not to improve public school funding. 

Let’s look at District 81 as an example. Prior to 2017, according to Brian Coddington at District 81, the school district was receiving around $4.00 per 1000 assessed value of the local property tax for “maintenance and operations,” a levy level approved by voters. (See Note at the bottom.) Spokane voters appreciate education. Much of that operating money was used to support programs outside “basic education,” including librarians, nurses, counselors, mental health professionals and others who have been working with and supporting teachers in our public schools for years. 

Enter Mr. Baumgartner with his “levy swap equalization.” That’s the $1.50 limit on local school levies you read about in the Spokesman. In 2019 District 81 lost more than half of its local funding, from $3.79/1000 to $1.50/1000, money that cannot be replaced by the money offered by the State. That’s because the State money  by law can only be used for “basic education.” That’s a key concept that most of us don’t understand and the media are doing a poor job of explaining. Why did the District use the State McCleary money for raises and now it’s cutting libraries and counselors? In large part it is on account of restrictions on the use of the State money, apparently a nuance lost on the like of our County Treasurer Mr. Baumgartner. Do his four children even attend public school? Does he have a dog in this fight apart from his antipathy to a fair state tax system?

Keep to the high ground,


Note 1: It takes some digging to ascertain how that $1.50/1000 limit ties to one’s own property tax bill. Here’s the answer: On my 2019 tax bill “SCHOOL DIST 081” gets 35% of the $11.93/1000 total property tax levy. That’s $4.18, not $1.50. What’s up with that? It turns out that $4.18 is the combination of $1.50 SD081 Spokane General levy and the $2.68 SD081 Spokane B&I levy. (B&I is bonds and capital investment in schools, money approved by the voters, separate from the operating budget, and not part of the current controversy.) The B&I went up to $2.68 in 2019 from $1.87 in 2018 because we passed another bond. At the same time the General levy went down from $3.79 in 2018 to $1.50 in 2019 on account of Baumgartner’s “levy swap.” I had to speak with a nice man in the Spokane County Treasurer’s office (not Baumgartner) to learn that I could see this tax breakdown online. Just go to https://cp.spokanecounty.org/SCOUT/PropertyInformation/Default.aspx , enter your parcel number from your tax bill and scroll down on the result to the “Levy” section.

Note 2: So if the local SCHOOL DIST 081 funding dropped $2.29/1000 in the levy “swap,” what increased to make it a swap? I looked back at my property tax bills for 2015-19. Over that period the total levy per thousand assessed value dropped from $14.24 to $11.93/1000. Of that total the portion of those dollars going to the State (mostly for school funding) increased only from $2.26 to $2.52/1000, that is, only $0.26 dollars. The dollar/1000 numbers for the State portion of the levy are uniform state-wide by law, while each School District faces its own abrupt drop in local supplementary funding.

Note 3: In doing this research I did an internet search on “levy swap equalization of washington state.” The result was instructive…and worrisome. A majority of the hits offering analysis and explanation came from the Washington Policy Center, the Washington State mouthpiece for the Libertarian, staunchly anti-tax, Koch-funded web of “think tanks.” Under the guise of authoritative non-partisan research WPC pumps the internet with Libertarian bias. WPC “research” then finds its way into local newspapers when hurried reporters look for background and perspective.

WA School Funding and Taxes

Dear Group,

We elect people to represent us in Olympia. The biggest issue they wrestle with in Olympia is the state budget, and more than half of the state budget is funding for public schools.The rest of us pay little attention until either schools are disrupted or taxes rise. It is time to change that.

A budget has two sides, revenue and spending. On Monday I made the point that about 60% of the Washington State budget’s spending side (in 2017-19) went to Education. That’s roughly 26 billion dollars, 22 billion of which is devoted to K-12, 4 billion to higher education. The next biggest spending item in the budget is Human Services at 14 billion. Nothing else comes close. Take-away: When you hear about the Washington State budget think first about educating our kids…then medical care and social services. All else, all those little ways we interact with government, licensing, for example, all roll up into pocket change by comparison. So when we read about the legislature struggling over passing a budget, recognize the biggest part of that struggle is about funding K-12 education.

First a note: I’m writing here about the “General Fund,” a term you read about in the paper without explanation. The General Fund is simply the part of government money expended in the State of Washington over which the State Government has direct control. The money is raised largely from State taxes and fees. Other money comes to the State from the federal government (think federal income tax). That money mostly comes earmarked for a particular purpose and is mostly beyond state government control. That is a different topic. (for more, see P.P.S. below)

Most of the money for the State of Washington’s  “General Fund” budget, a majority of which educates our children (to participate in our society and work in our economy), is covered by revenue from state taxes. Stop for a moment and guess at the major sources of State tax revenue. Is it motor vehicle tabs? Sin taxes (alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana)? Property taxes? 

Sources of Washington State tax revenue:

Retail Sales Tax 17.6 billion

Business and Occupation (B&O) Taxes 7.2 billion

Property Tax 5 billion

Real Estate Excise Tax 1.9 billion

All Other 4.6 billion

The above figures are drawn from the 2017-19 Biennium General Fund Table at http://fiscal.wa.gov/RevenuebyFund.aspx looking at the Actual Revenue through March 2019 on a total of Actual Taxes collected of 36.3 billion dollars.

Let’s examine the three biggest taxes:

Sales Tax: What ever the sales tax in a given locale in Washington State the State gets 6.5 percentage points of the tax charged. (The rest goes county and municipal government. In Spokane we pay 8.9% total.) This is a regressive tax, that is, it is paid on every dollar spent on most goods and services (exceptions include food and prescription drugs), regardless of income or lack thereof. As of 2017 we pay the fifth highest combined state and (average) local sales tax rate in the nation

Property Tax: This is an interesting one. Tax on property is really a form of wealth tax that selectively affects the lower and middle class. Renters pay property tax as an unseen pass through in the cost of the rental. For american families with sufficient income home equity is a major form of savings. Many scrape and save to pay on mortgages in the hope of accumulating equity in a home they believe (less so since 2008) will be a good investment. Many buy homes they can barely afford and neglect investing elsewhere in the belief that property is the better asset. Certainly the wealthy drive up home prices by purchasing homes larger than they need, but the wealthy also have money in stocks and bonds and other investments. The value of those investment instruments is not taxed like real property. The result: Property taxes are yet another regressive tax. The State takes (in 2019) $2.52 of the total Spokane property tax levy of $11.93 per $1000 of assessed value. The rest ($9.41) funds County and Municipal government and the local part of District 81 funding (more on that on Friday). 

Business and Occupation Tax (B&O): Unless you own or manage a business in Washington State, you might be only dimly aware of the B&O tax. It is a tax paid on gross receipts of a business, a tax on the money received before any of the costs of doing business are subtracted. Certainly different businesses have wildly different cost and overhead. How can that be equitable? Ah, that’s why the State has a complex list of tens of different business types. The Business and Occupation tax is not unique to Washington State, but nearly so. Only West Virginia and Ohio have any kind of statewide B&O tax. (Check out the short Wikipedia article on B&O for perspective.) Tax rates seem small, in the neighborhood of 0.5% (1.5% on the service industry), but, remember, this is on gross receipts, not profits. It strikes me this tax is rife with potential for behind-the-scenes manipulation and odd incentives. From a governmental standpoint the B&O tax has the advantage that most voters are only dimly aware of it. 

Taxes Washington State does not have:

State Income Tax: Only five other states have no tax on any type of income, NV, WY, SD, TX, and Florida. New Hampshire and TN only tax income from dividends and interest. State income taxes are progressive (higher rates on higher marginal income) in all the states that have an income tax (except for  CO and NC, which levy a flat rate income tax).

High Value Asset Sale Tax: It’s being considered right now in the legislature. It would represent a small improvement to Washington State’s rating as the State with the most regressive tax system in the United States. “… the lowest 20 percent of income earners (families making less than $24,000) contribute almost 18 percent of their annual earnings to state and local tax coffers, while the top 1 percent (those making over $545,900) pay just 3 percent of their income.” 

It behooves us to pay attention. We all benefit from an educated citizenry. A majority of our tax dollars are spent on education, and in the State of Washington (more so than any other state) those tax dollars come disproportionately from the least affluent. Let’s not get so lost in the bickering over who is to blame for teacher layoffs that we lose sight of the underlying problem. 

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. The details of the State budget are devilishly complex. I’m deriving data from the Washington State fiscal.wa.gov website. It provides a wealth of information with a dearth of simple explanation.


P.P.S. The numbers I’ve offered are number from the Washington State “General Fund.” Some other money comes to the State from the federal government ear-marked for certain purposes. These monies contribute significantly to the expenditures made in the State in the areas of Human Services and Higher Education, but contribute little to K-12 education. (1.5 billion out of 22 billion cited above.) 

P.P.P.S. Thomas Piketty in his 2013 book Capital in the Twenty-First Century advocated a progressive wealth tax as a means to alleviate some of the wealth and opportunity inequality straining the world today. Property taxes are wealth taxes, but, standing alone without a wealth tax on monetary instruments, property taxes are decidedly regressive, not progressive.

P.P.P.P.S. For a very interesting bar graph of how states fund themselves check this out. It is the types of taxes within each bar that is interesting, not so much the total tax revenue comparison. (After all, what use is there in comparing the total tax revenues of California with those of Alaska without a nod to population?)

The WA School Funding Puzzle

Dear Group,

I started writing this post in response to multiple recent articles (A, B, C) in the Spokesman discussing the layoff notices for the 2019-20 school year sent out by School District 81. Shawn Vestal, an author I generally hold in high esteem, posted an article April 17, “School layoffs and renewed push for higher local taxes show school funding far from fixed,” that falls short of his usual incisiveness. In it he succumbs to the general outrage and irritation other Spokesman articles stoke. His article is a litany of complaint against the work of every judicial, legislative, local, and non-governmental entity that arguably led to the impending layoffs of hard working teachers and the expected inequitable reshuffling of the remainder. By all means, read Shawn Vestal’s article. I share the outrage, the anger, but the sequence that led us to the current impasse involves multiple small decisions, each made within a devilishly complex budgetary framework I wager 99% of voters only dimly comprehend and all the Spokesman articles ignore or inadequately explain. (BTW, I include myself in that tally, an issue I mean to change, starting below.)

A few facts: 

1) School funding is a big deal in Washington State. In the 2017-19 biennium (budgets are done in two year chunks, it turns out. Who knew?), the State government’s education budget was 26 billion dollars, representing 60 percent of a roughly 43 billion dollar total 2 year budget. The education budget is, at the WA State governmental level, a big deal. It behooves us to try to understand how it works.

2) Article IX (Education), Section 1 of the Washington State Constitution (enacted in 1889, one hundred years after the U.S. Constitution) states: It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex. The McCleary Decision (2012) and a Doran decision (1977) rest on this Article of the State Constitution.

3) Among the summary findings of McCleary (worth your time to read) one finds: Ample funding for basic education must be accomplished by means of dependable and regular tax sources. and The word “ample” in article IX, section 1 provides a broad constitutional guideline meaning fully, sufficient, and considerably more than just adequate. 

Ever since the McCleary Decision in 2012 the Washington State legislature has struggled to comply. You can read a concise summary of the struggle under the the sub-title Subsequent Developments in the wikipedia article on McCleary. All of the news coverage of those efforts I have read is head-spinningly difficult to follow, mired in opaque terminology, and most of it, including Shawn Vestal’s article, misses the point, simply this: Washington State has failed its own Constitution by not providing “ample” funding from “dependable and regular tax sources.” The current disturbing and sad circumstances of teacher layoffs in District 81 stem not from the McCleary Decision itself, but from the tax system of the State of Washington. Who, we might ask, is responsible for that? 

Here’s my answer: We the voters are responsible. We the voters who recoil in horror at any mention of the word “tax.” We the voters who have swallowed a diet of discord telling us government spending is always suspect and unionized teachers are lazy, tenured, pampered dead wood awaiting a cushy retirement. 

On Wednesday I want to review the funding sources for the Washington State budget, 60% of which is spend on education. 

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. A visit to the language of education funding as presented by the local media is dizzying. The “McCleary Court Decision” (2012) is routinely confused with the “McCleary fix” (legislation passed in December 2018) as if the Supreme Court had mandated the solution (it didn’t). One learns haphazardly from other articles that “basic education” doesn’t include either “special education” or the salaries for school librarians. Somewhere along the line the “McCleary fix” capped local levies at “$1.50” and that’s the proximate cause of the looming shortfall. How does that work and what does it look like on my property tax bill? All that said, the elephant in the room is our tax system. In the midst of all this State Senator Mark Schoesler (R, LD9, the mostly rural district south of Spokane) is given a platform by the Spokesman to opine that it’s not the legislature’s fault, it’s the school district’s. Schoesler is the Republican minority leader in the State Senate, a man who never met a tax he thought was justified or a salary for a state employee that was low enough.

The Beginnings of Climate Science

Dear Group,

Carbon dioxide is the major regulator, the thermostat, of earth’s atmosphere. That fact was demonstrated by John Tyndall, a British physicist, in experiments done in his laboratory in the 1850s. Using an apparatus one could reproduce today for a few thousand dollars, he showed infrared radiation (heat) passes unimpeded through 99% of the atmosphere (oxygen and nitrogen gases percentages combined), whereas carbon dioxide, even in low concentrations, absorbs infrared wavelengths, i.e. traps heat. (Light energy from the sun [literally a spectrum of wavelengths] passes to the earth’s surface with little absorption, bringing the energy that carbon dioxide then traps as heat, hence the name “greenhouse gas.”) Far more sophisticated research has been done since, but Tyndall’s work was the original demonstration. 

It is with sadness and alarm I encounter people today who parrot “but carbon dioxide is just a trace gas” as a fundamental objection to the whole of climate science. Are these the same people who claim the earth is flat? Worse, otherwise respectable media publish such inanity, lending uncritical approval to misinformation and doubt. The basic science is irrefutable, repeatable by experiment. That is how science works. No amount of bloviation from people who missed out on a basic physics education can change that, but offering them an uncritical forum will endanger us all. (By all means offer them a forum, that is their “first amendment right,” but how about a little checking of basic fact?)

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Another tack is to offer an analogy. If you are looking for a monumental effect of something present only in “trace” quantities, consider Fentanyl, an intravenously administered rapid-acting opiate useful in medicine, but also the causative agent in many drug overdose deaths.

Five hundred micrograms of Fentanyl will kill a person by shutting down respiration. The classical “standard” man is 70 kilograms (154 pounds). If you do the math, that dose of Fentanyl represents 0.000000714% of this man’s body weight, or about 0.7 parts per million (ppm), roughly 1 ppm. Tell me again why 400 parts per million is too small to be causing a problem. The CO2 in the atmosphere is at a concentration 500 times higher than the lethal dose of Fentanyl.

Let’s take the analogy further. Under the guidance of an anesthetist 50 micrograms of Fentanyl (a tenth the lethal dose) is very safe and very useful in relieving the discomfort from injecting anesthetic behind an eye to lay down anesthetic for eye surgery. (Even so, respiration is carefully monitored.)

Similarly, a small dose of CO2 in the atmosphere has been good to us. The 250 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere has been the concentration of CO2 in the last few thousand years of recorded history. That is just enough concentration of CO2 to keep us in the sweet zone of temperature we’ve mostly enjoyed several thousand years (8000 years from the close of the last ice age—when CO2 levels were even lower). Since the industrial revolution we’ve added another blanket to our atmospheric bed clothes by burning fossilized carbon and spiking the concentration to over 400.

Taxes and the Ultra-Wealthy

Dear Group,

You probably just finished the annual ordeal of filing your income tax. I did. The Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act simplified nothing. Nonetheless, if you pay close attention to the directions it is possible to fill in the boxes and get it right. There are few judgment calls for most of us, just diligence and the need to follow directions.  

It was in this recent context Trump continued to stonewall releasing his tax returns, tax returns he bragged about on Twitter, saying “I know our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president and am the only one who can fix them.” In the last few weeks his tune is different. His tax returns are “feet high” and so complex Congresspeople “aren’t smart enough to understand.” He now says a “very powerful firm” prepares his taxes.

For the ultra-wealthy, income taxes are a matter of negotiation, of stretching the limits of the law, stretching done by armies of accountants and tax attorneys they hire to wring out every last penny they think they can defend (or hide) from the IRS, pennies the average citizen doesn’t have in the first place and certainly doesn’t have to spend on elite professional help.

Remember Mitt Romney’s “hundreds of pages” of income tax disclosure in 2012? “Mitt Romney paid $1.9 million in taxes on $13.69 million in income in 2011, most of it from his investments, for an effective rate of 14.1 percent.” At the time it was noted that Mr. Romney paid a lower tax rate than his secretary, and this of a man whose net worth was around 250 million dollars, a mere pittance compared to the tens of billions of the Murdoch clan or the Koch brothers. (In all three cases net worth is only an estimate, a fluid number.)

In the case of the Murdochs the NYTimes recently made the case that, using their media influence and wealth, they are able to make the rules by which they prosper. As the U.S. shifts toward oligarchy with Trump at the helm, the ultra-wealthy have a new tool: work behind the scenes to defund and defang the IRS, the people tasked with scrutinizing the tax avoidance schemes an army of tax attorneys and bankers has dreamt up. 

These people, and the banks and business entities with which they are intertwined, may play by the same rules as the rest of us, but their extreme wealth gives them tools to bend and stretch those rules ever more in their favor. In this effort they are aided by the privacy rules preventing disclosure of their returns.

While the ultra-wealthy benefit from the money they have to finance their defense, and while the Republicans are gutting the ability of the IRS to enforce the tax law, the working poor are put under ever more scrutiny. (See “IRS Cuts Audits of Rich, Steps Up Audits of Poor After Budget Cuts”  

From a NYTImes Editorial on December 25, 2018:

The undermining of the I.R.S.’s enforcement capability coincides nicely with the Republican playbook: Enrich wealthy individuals and corporations with tax giveaways that balloon the deficit, justifying spending cuts for health care, education and infrastructure, then amplify the process by not holding high-end taxpayers accountable for the amounts they owe.

It is a grand strategy. Focus the IRS on working poor voters, encouraging them to consider the IRS as overreaching and needing to be reined in, even as ultra-wealthy not only have their tax rates lowered but their machinations less scrutinized. 

For years I have had an occasional glimpse of this process, but it was this article that crystallized it:

The IRS Tried to Take on the Ultrawealthy. It Didn’t Go Well” by Jesse Eisinger & Paul Kiel, writing for the non-profit investigative news organization ProPublica. In 2011 Jesse Eisinger (and Jake Bernstein) won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for their series, The Wall Street Money Machine. I encourage you to take the time to read the Elsinger and Kiel article It is an eye-opener.

Candidates who advocate a much higher marginal income tax rate and better funding for the IRS are looking better all the time. 

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Mitt Romney was only the second wealthiest candidate for President in our history, Ross Perot was, by a factor of ten. (Adjusted for inflation, and considering family assets, Presidents Washington, Jefferson, and Kennedy might be in contention, but the calculations are challenging.) Is Trump the richest candidate and President ever? He would like you to think so, but he would like you to think a lot of things that aren’t true.

Spokane Becoming Seattle?

Dear Group,

I like Seattle. There are a lot of good things going on over there. Do I like the traffic? Of course not. Is it more expensive than what I’d like? Of course. Is it my cup of tea? Well, as huge metropolitan areas go, I think Seattle is pretty nice. If the Spokane metropolitan area grows in population to become as huge as Seattle metro being like Seattle would be pretty good, (Truth is, I’d probably move to a smaller town, but that’s just me.)  

So what sense does it make for Nadine Woodward (newly announced as a City of Spokane mayoral candidate) to say, “We’re not Seattle, but we need to get a handle of the situation before we become a Seattle.” She is fear-mongering, riffing on images of homeless camps offered on the nightly news. How do we know this?

“Seattle is Dying,” offered with no contrasting view. is the sort of conservative polemic that apparently informs Ms. Woodward’s worldview. Is “Seattle is Dying” biased? Is it pushing a point? This “documentary” offers repetitive scenes of trash, heaped shopping carts, and the tents of the homeless, accompanied by ominous music, plus interviews with selected homeowners, shopkeepers, policemen, one conservative Seattle City Council candidate, and two homeless people, clearly selected to fit the narrative. Conspicuously lacking are interviews with current city officials, social workers, drug treatment specialists, and no housing providers. They conclude Seattle has a drug crisis, not a homelessness crisis, in spite of the fact 7 out of ten of Seattle’s homeless have no addiction issues. KOMO’s solution for the problem of homelessness: incarceration and mandatory drug treatment. 

Here’s the link if you have the time and stomach to watch a sad polemic on homelessness presenting Seattle as a city in crisis. Before you do, though, I strongly encourage you to watch this much shorter video on Facebook entitled, “The Reports of Seattle’s Death are Greatly Exaggerated

KOMO, the producer of the “Seattle is Dying” excuse for a documentary is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, made famous by John Oliver in 2017 for requiring its local stations to parrot certain Republican propaganda. (Start at 2:00 minutes if you’re short on time.) KOMO’s documentary quickly got national play: Tucker Carlson of Fox News featured “Seattle is Dying” as an example of the general degradation of all “liberal run” cities.

Nadine Woodward has found a bandwagon to jump on. Tonight, April 15, at 6:30PM at the Fairfield Inn on Argonne and Mission the “Republicans of Spokane County” are holding their April meeting. Part of the discussion is around “Seattle is Dying” and its meaning for Spokane and Spokane City Council. I urge you to click the link and read their blurb. Propaganda, well planted by a media giant like Sinclair, travels fast.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Eric Johnson, the “writer, producer, reporter” of “Seattle is Dying,” is a Spokane native who attended East Valley High School. His early career was as a sports broadcaster. Mr. Johnson offered a lengthy rebuttal (buried on Facebook) to criticism leveled at him over the bias of his hour long KOMO video now making the rounds in conservative circles. This rebuttal is an interesting read. It reveals a man who clearly did some heartbreaking homework among drug addicts in Seattle. However, his writing tells us nothing of the biases that led him to the “law and order” solutions he offers from the soapbox of his documentary, nor does it shed light on his neglect of those already engaged with the problem of drug addiction or of the broader problem of homelessness. Like Trump, Mr. Johnson’s “solutions” invite division, not collaboration.