Election Predictions: Initiatives

I think it’s time to make some OFFICIAL ELECTION PREDICTIONS. Washington has 6 statewide initiatives on the ballot this year. Here’s my forecast on them (bonus at the end):
I-732 (carbon tax)
This is pretty certain to FAIL. The left being divided is a major hit to it, and I don’t see moderate or conservative support making up for that. Taxes do best in presidential election years, and WA should easily see 80% turnout next month. There’s some chance that people who don’t know much about it might read the voter guide and think it sounds good, putting it over the top, but that’s a decidedly unlikely possibility.
I-735 (resolution on Citizens United)
I think this will PASS, partly because there’s little real opposition, and partly because it just doesn’t do anything–it’s symbolic.
I-1433 ($13.50 minimum wage/paid sick leave)
This will PASS easily. It gets at least 55%, possibly 60% or more.
I-1464 (public campaign financing)
This is basically I-735, but with teeth and at the state level. There doesn’t seem to be much polling on it, I haven’t heard much about it other than from its own advocates, and I suspect many people will be unsure or confused about it. Given our record as a progressive and largely good government state, and the high presidential turnout, I’m inclined to say this is slightly more likely to pass than fail. But overall, I don’t feel like I have a good read on it yet, so I’m going to hold off on making an official prediction.
I-1491 (extreme risk protection orders/guns)
This will PASS easily. Two public polls show it with 64% and 79% support. In 2014 (a midterm year), I-594 on background checks passed 59%-41%. The underlying issue is the same, but this presidential year favors the yes side even more. A 2:1 victory here would not be surprising.
I-1501 (identity theft penalties)
This, too, will PASS easily. Who doesn’t want to protect seniors from identity theft? You can quibble about what the initiative really does, but that’s how the vast majority of people will see it.
I strongly believe in accountability for these predictions, because people need the ability to compare before and after the election, and because I find it improves my ability to make good predictions. Before the August primary, I predicted that Pramila Jayapal would win the 7th congressional district primary with at least 40% of the vote. She won with 42%. I also predicted that Seattle’s housing levy would pass with at least 65% if not 70% of the vote. It passed 72%-28%.
PASS. This horrible dumpster fire should not pass, but it will–easily. Separating what you want to happen from what appears likely to happen is important to making good predictions.
Stay tuned for further predictions in other races.

What’s Wrong with Sound Transit 3

Seattle Times article

How telling that ST3 would build as many miles of rail as DC to serve 50% fewer daily riders. The article doesn’t mention this, but the proposal would extend Sounder (commuter rail) service in the south from Lakewood to Dupont, and it would lengthen platforms to accommodate longer trains. But it wouldn’t go to Olympia, it wouldn’t try sending any trains *through* downtown Seattle, and it adds no trips to move toward all-day Sounder service.

Everett light rail makes no sense. Tacoma light rail makes no sense. The $5 billion Ballard tunnel is a ludicrous boondoggle that bypasses Fremont and Seattle Pacific University. The Ballard Spur is missing even though it’s cheaper, faster, and would carry more riders. I don’t know why West Seattle’s line would end at Alaska Junction, though I predicted it wouldn’t serve White Center or Burien. More car-based park and ride stations, no Burien-Renton crosstown line, no Kirkland (though I know local officials and ST are fighting there), no Denny Way subway to unclog that mess. I can support the short extension of East Link to downtown Redmond.

This is the wrong modes the wrong way in the wrong places. It’s a ridiculous amount of money ($50 billion!!!) that takes 25 years–if their predictions hold (they’ve had 2 big failures here)–to deliver what it promises. I would be 65 when it’s complete. It wastes precious infrastructure investment to serve far-flung areas where people will drive to stations and leave trains empty half the time–it won’t increase walkability or improve bike conditions, it won’t increase transit use much for the cost, and it won’t reduce car dependence. It doesn’t create a comprehensive urban rail network at all.

An MVET (motor vehicle excise tax) increase is fine, but further sales tax increases just pour salt in the wound of our mostregressiveinAmerica tax system. Sales tax in Seattle would be 10.1%. The poorest 20% of us are already paying 17% of our incomes in sales tax (higher than federal income tax), while the rich pay 4%. Seniors are fed up with high property taxes forcing them out of their homes. It’s not as bad as sales tax, but it’s not progressive. And they have authorization for other funding sources that would be more progressive and better for the environment like an employee hours tax (which Seattle repealed in 2009 as Tim Burgess pandered to Joe Mallahan).

There’s almost nothing to like here. It’s better than a stick in the eye, though that would be a comparative bargain. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.


UPDATE: The Ballard extension would NOT serve Belltown, where we’ve built a massive amount of tall, dense development. And the package would build the horrible new “transit center” Renton wants at a highway interchange (I-405 & SR-167) instead of breathing life back into their downtown.

A Look at Inequality from a Temp Job in Payroll

I had a temp job today that was kind of cool. It paid more than the mailings they’ve sent me on before, though it’s in Renton with an hour commute (would be 90 minutes on 2-3 buses from the building SHA wants to put me in). It was at a payroll company whose office suggests they’re new or expanding. The other temp and I had to enter a bunch of payroll data for about 100 employees at a yacht club. I was slower and clumsier than usual with my cast, but numbers and data entry are up my alley, as temping goes anyway. Memorizing random numbers is easy for me. My coworker was bored to death by it, and I think made more errors than I did. It’s not as meaningful as social justice work, or as exciting as a lot of other jobs, but I found it at least tolerable–if I kept doing the same thing and got in a groove, it’s something I could do while listening to podcasts or audiobooks. I was tempted to offer that I’d be happy to return if they wanted. There’s a lot of making sure numbers on the page match what you enter(ed) in the computer, then some less fun reconciliation when they run the aggregate report, and you have to hunt down various errors. (In one case, we were a penny off on someone’s Medicare deduction, but we didn’t know whose) They had 3 rounds of paychecks to enter for this client, and they didn’t seem to know how far we’d get. We finished 2, the second one much more quickly.

Of course I’d never heard of the client or any of the employees, but it was telling, validating, and disconcerting to see up close what we already know and experience of the larger economy. The pay, benefits, and I think job security were very pyramidal–lots and lots of people at the bottom, very few at the top far above them. This place must not be in Seattle or SeaTac based on many of the wages. They had a bunch of sailing instructors earning what struck me as a surprisingly or dangerously low wage considering the importance and safety issues involved in sailing (I assume–I can’t even swim). These people earn above the poverty line but definitely not enough to live on in Greater Seattle. Lots of $10-15 an hour. A few servers/bartenders make low wages and rely more on tips, but they still don’t come out much better. A few people make about $15-22 an hour, which is better but still too little, and too few workers make that. Then there is the small handful of more professional workers on salary. They might start around $35,000, but what jumps out at me is the very few people who get almost $100,000. Or the guy (you can’t be surprised it’s a man) who makes ~$125,000. I don’t know their family or financial situations of course, but that kind of money strikes me as having it made. They can afford all kinds of things and not have to worry about money. They can basically afford the best of everything this country has to buy. But I have a hard time understanding how a couple people deserve 6 figures while many more of their workers are barely above minimum wage. It shows up in the deductions too, which must hint at their qualities of life. The low-wage people mostly just have workers’ comp at about $1/paycheck, and federal income and payroll tax. As you get into the white collar people and highest earners, they have those plus 401(k)s–Roth and conventional–health insurance premiums, medical savings accounts, bonuses, 401(k) loans, probably more vacation time… Not only is their pay better, but their benefits are much better, and with the ability to save or invest for different purposes or lengths of time (in tax-advantaged instruments!), they’ll also remain secure in the future. It’s as economically myopic as it is morally wrong and cruel. Part of me is tempted to redistribute numbers from higher to lower paid workers. Of course, your job in payroll is just the opposite; total accuracy. The one partial comfort is the progressive income tax, where poorer employees have little withheld, and I feel safe assuming that when someone has a lot of withholding, it’s because they can afford it and deserve to pay that. But ultimately, we need Bernie Sanders. At this point, as fucked as we are, he is this country’s last best hope.

I Was Right! Again! Mexico’s Sugar Tax Works

Admittedly, I didn’t know Mexico had already enacted a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks and junk food (Washington State tried this in 2010, but a misleading $22 million campaign from groceries and junk food companies promptly reversed it by initiative). Mexico’s tax took effect in January 2014, and preliminary results seem to show pretty clearly that people are consuming less of this toxic “food” as a result. This is a critical tool we need to use if we’re serious about fighting–and preventing–diabetes and obesity. I hate diabetes, and we need to be doing everything we can to keep more people from getting it.

But according to the researchers, who analyzed data on household consumption in 53 Mexican cities, purchases of sugary beverages dropped 6 percent on average in 2014 compared with pretax trends. And by December 2014, they’d gone down by 12 percent, compared with previous years. The study adjusted for other factors, like the overall downward trend in soda consumption, wages and unemployment.

Mexico’s Sugary Drink Tax Makes a Dent in Consumption, Study Claims (NPR)

If You’re Poor, Your Time Has No Value

Email I sent to Gov. Inslee and my state legislators:

45 minute expected hold time (it ended up being a 52 minute call) to update my address with DSHS for Medicaid & SNAP. After I just gave it to my health insurance company. Assurance Wireless only gives you 250 peak minutes per month. When you’re poor, the “social safety net” treats your time as worthless.

You NEED to raise revenue (income tax, MVET, highway tolls, estate tax, capital gains tax, luxury tax) and properly fund agencies like DSHS. Or better yet, abolish all these wasteful, bureaucratic, inefficient, classist, demeaning means-tested programs and replace them with a guaranteed basic income for all. It’d be more efficient, more effective, and actually reduce or eliminate poverty. Plus it would have broad political support like Social Security if you made it universal. Put a 3-year residency requirement on it to prevent lots of people from moving to WA just to get it.

Why was voter turnout so low this election? As they do abroad, people are boycotting elections that force them to choose between two bad choices, that aren’t truly free and fair. They know their voice doesn’t matter when corporations are people, and big money is the determining factor–studies (Demos et al) find that politicians overwhelmingly do what the richest 1-20% want, and the bottom 80% is powerless. Princeton said we’re not a democracy earlier this year–so why bother? Our political and economic system isn’t working for most Washingtonians. Give them a reason to vote–make the system work for them–and they will.

Washington is One of Just THREE States Where Poverty is Increasing

Thanks, Gov. Inslee and Democratic legislature!!


Stop taxing poor people at a rate higher than any other state. Washington state has the most upside down tax system in the nation. Low income families pay a far greater share of their income in taxes than the highest income families – in fact, the poorest families pay 6 times more than the richest 1 percent. Relying on those with the least ability to pay to keep our revenue system going is neither responsible nor sustainable.