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.

Violence Against Women Act Renewal & CMR

Dear Group,

On McMorris Rodgers’ congress.gov website you can read about her pride in “…Secur[ing] the Violence Against Women Act Extension” in an article posted on September 16, 2018. She casts herself as a “…warrior for human dignity and human value…” and writes of the VAWA as “…critical legislation to provide resources, support, and justice for victims of harassment and assault.” The VAWA authorization expired again February 15 this year. It is peculiar that on April 4 McMorris Rodgers voted against the new reauthorization bill, H.R.1585. H.R. 1585 passed the House 263-158. McMorris Rodgers joined 156 other Republicans and one Democrat voting against, while 33 Republicans voted for the bill, including CMR’s protege, Jamie Herrera Beutler (SW WA, CD3). The bill advanced to the Senate (where it faces an uncertain future).

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) became law in 1994 with bipartisan support (House 235–195, Senate 61–38). According to Wikipedia (a great background article): “The Act provided $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposed automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allowed civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave un-prosecuted. The Act also established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice.” The next year Republican tried to slash its funding, supposedly on fiscal grounds.

So why McMorris Rodgers’ change of heart? I called her Spokane office on Tuesday April 9 to inquire. It was clear the staffer had been asked before. She quickly responded, “She voted against because the Democrats changed it. It became a ‘partisan’ bill.” 

What did she see as a partisan poison pill? Was it guns, money, something else?

National coverage of the vote suggested the major quandary for Republicans was the closing of the “boyfriend loophole” in the H.R. 1595. Under the existing law a convicted abuser who was only a boyfriend did not forfeit his gun rights, whereas a convicted abuser husband would lose his. [See below in the P.S. a quote from Doug Muder for more detail.] McMorris Rodgers might find that objection to the bill hard to defend to anyone not a gun rights nut, although I imagine she is quietly advertising this reason to the rabid parts of her base.

I did not expect a fiscal argument. Exploding the deficit by voting in and crowing about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act certainly would put her thin ice cutting a program on fiscal grounds she had said was “critical legislation to provide resources.”

When I asked for more specifics the staffer went on to say McMorris Rodgers objected to a clause in H.R. 1585 that would “allow biologically male transgender individuals who identify as female into women’s shelters.” McMorris Rodgers, the staffer said, wanted to “protect the women in these shelters.” This is a characterization of biologically male transgender individuals as predators. It excludes them from consideration as victims of domestic violence (the VAWA itself does not exclude men from such consideration.) This is McMorris Rodgers’ shelter version of an anti-transgender bathroom bill.

I am not a lawyer, but neither is McMorris Rodgers. Anyone can read the text of the entire reauthorization bill here. I word searched the text for the term “transgender” using CMD-F (a very useful tool). The word transgender appears seven times. Only once [Section 4051(b)(2)(B)] the term appears in a clause concerning placement of transgender individuals. In that instance the clause pertains only to prison placement, and in that setting the bill mandates consideration “on a case-by-case basis whether a placement would ensure the prisoner’s health and safety.” 

I submit that McMorris Rodgers’ stated reason for voting nay on VAWA reauthorization is governed by her partisan Republican political handlers, not by any critical reading of the actual text of the bill. They may be struggling with their justification: as of today they are two weeks behind in posting their “How I Voted” page on CMR’s website, something I was told by her staffer I would see up by yesterday, Wednesday, April 10.

I encourage you to call McMorris Rodgers’ office and ask for the details of her justification for her nay vote:

Spokane Office       (509) 353-2374

Colville Office         (509) 684-3481

Walla Walla Office  (509) 529-9358

D.C. Office              (202) 225-2006

She may be in area during next week’s recess. If she holds a snap town hall in some outlying village this would be a good question in that setting as well.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Below I’ve copied Doug Muder’s sober analysis of the typical Republican justification for voting against reauthorization of the VAWA:

“The next time somebody tries to tell you that both parties are the same, remember Thursday’s [April 4] vote in the House to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act [H.R.1585]. It passed 263-158. The No votes were 157 Republicans and 1 Democrat. The bill faces challenges in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Here’s the main point of contention:

Under current federal law, only people convicted of domestic violence offenses against spouses or family members can lose their gun rights. The [new version of the] VAWA would add people convicted of abusing their dating partners, closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole.” It would also prohibit people convicted of misdemeanor stalking offenses from owning or buying firearms, as well as abusers subject to temporary protective orders.

That provision is too much for the NRA, and so for the Republicans the NRA controls. The gun rights of stalkers and abusers should be protected, even if that means more women will die.

A study comparing abused women who survived with those killed by their abuser found that 51 percent of women who were killed had a gun in the house. By contrast, only 16 percent of women who survived lived in homes with guns.

Even if you don’t care about women, there’s still good reason to support adding this provision to the VAWA: When you look at mass shooters and ask “How could we have known what he would do?”, one strong clue is a history of domestic violence. Keeping guns out of the hands of abusers would probably save a lot of men’s lives too.”

Trump’s Media War

Dear Group,

Trump and his media act in synergy in a war for power. (The Republican faithful and corporate interests gleefully aid and abet because they see their narrow interests can ride along.)

On Monday I posted “Nadine Woodward” and discussed the strikingly positive bias with which the Spokesman announced her candidacy. I had just read a series in the New York Times Magazine on the Murdoch media empire, a series that set the stage for my irritation with the Spokesman bias. The NYTimes series is a must read.. It comes in three parts:

How Rupert Murdoch’s Empire of Influence Remade the World

Part 1: Imperial Reach

Part 2: Internal Divisions, Inside the Succession Battle for the Murdoch Empire

Part 3: The New Fox Weapon, The Future of Fox: An Even More Powerful Political Weapon

[There is even a streamlined version: 6 Takeaways From The Times’s Investigation Into Rupert Murdoch and His Family

And a Video presentation: The Night Fox News and Trump Became One]

If you are a subscriber to the NYTimes.com electronic version these articles are available to you right now. if you are not a subscriber, reading this series is reason to become one. Rupert Murdoch and his sons Lachlan and James play by different rules than the rest of us. By steady application of power, influence, and propaganda over decades they make the rules. I have long been curious about the Murdoch media dynasty. These articles bring all the material together in a readable narrative. Get to know the players. 

I consider this NYTimes series on Murdoch second only to Jane Mayer’s epic work “Dark Money” (See below under References/Deep Background). The NYTimes series covers much less territory and is less well referenced than “Dark Money,” but it is more readable in a shorter time frame.

As if the NYTImes weekend deep dive into the Murdoch media dynasty and Fox “News” weren’t enough on April 6 I received an email from DonaldJTrump.com (a Trump 2020 campaign website to which I am  subscribed) with the subject line “FINAL FAKE NEWS FOUR” looking for a donation and announcing a context to name the most egregious “fake news” outlets pushing the “witch hunt” led by “liars” and naming CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, and The Washington Post as suitable exemplars for the “FAKEST NEWS.”

That Trump continues to work his base by stoking conflict with all media that do not bow down to him I found profoundly chilling, particularly on the heels of reading the NYTimes article on the Murdoch propaganda and influence machine. This is no way to run a country. This is a way to discord and consolidate autocratic power. The Spokesman announcement of Nadine Woodward’s candidacy for City of Spokane mayor is a microcosm of the greater story of the media wars.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. After reading the story of the Murdoch media dynasty I find the Republican propaganda machine’s incessant flogging of George Soros, the right’s favorite wealthy liberal whipping boy laughable. “George Soros” has become a mantra for Republicans, a trigger meant to elicit disgust at the mere mention of his name. Ask the average Republican (including Rep. McMorris Rodgers, who uses the Soros name as a mantra) what exactly they know about the man. You will likely get a blank stare or some mumbling about Nazis. Fox focuses on Soros’ teen years as a Jew in Hungary during the Nazi occupation and on his wealth accumulation as a hedge fund manager, conveniently avoiding mention of the Open Society Foundations and the rest of his long life supporting democracy in reaction to what he lived through as a youth. I urge you to click and read the Wikipedia articles on George Soros and his foundations. You will never hear a Fox commentator discussing the Murdoch media empire or the cozy synergistic relations the Murdochs now maintain with Trump. Read about both and decide who you would rather meet.