Hooray For Washington State

You don’t have to be a “leftist” or a socialist to support higher taxes for the very wealthy and obscenely rich, but the GOP remains steadfastly–even hysterically–opposed to proposals to tax those they misleadingly call “job creators.”

(Actually, jobs are created by increasing demand–if no one is buying your widgets, you aren’t going to hire more people to make more of them, which is why putting more money into the hands of the poorer folks who will spend it rather than hiding it in some tax haven, is what boosts employment. But I digress.)

A reader recently sent me a fascinating article about Washington State lawmaker’s decision to raise taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents.

The article began by quoting a 1933 Washington State lawmaker named Wesley Lloyd, who had proposed to  “bring up the poor and bring down the rich into the class of the average man, where all may find real happiness and where we may know a widespread national prosperity.”

It then noted that–over the ensuing dozen years or so–FDR’s New Deal had caused “unprecedented progress” toward greater equality. One measure that helped achieve that equality was  a 94 percent marginal tax rate on income over $200,000.

But Lloyd’s tax-the-rich spirit lives on, especially today in his home Washington State. Earlier this year, 19 of the state’s senators and 43 state reps introduced legislation that would fix a first-ever 1 percent annual tax on stocks, bonds, and other forms of “intangible personal property” worth over $250 million. The Evergreen State currently hosts over 700 grand fortunes that top this quarter-billion mark.

That legislation failed, but as the article noted,

that failure hasn’t left Washington’s deepest pockets feeling like celebrating. The reason? They’ve just become subject to another new tax, a measure that Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat is describing as the state’s first-ever “wealth-related levy.”

The levy–a 7-percent tax on asset-sale profits over $250,000– has turned out to be a windfall for state coffers. Analysts had predicted that the tax would raise $440 million dollars. Instead, it has so far raised $849 million, almost double the take originally anticipated.

I hardly need point out that the mega-rich who paid a 7% tax on massive profits were hardly impoverished by them.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities–based in that other Washington–has been working to produce a package of tax reforms that would prioritize “equity and fairness; it  has pointed to the experience of Washington State.

The Center is now hoping to nudge state lawmakers nationwide further in that direction with a new online tool for developing “State Revenue Options for Advancing Equity and Prosperity.” State policymakers, the Center notes, don’t always understand “how much revenue different policies might raise, whether a tax will fall more on families with low incomes or people at the top.” The new Center tool aims to build that understanding.

Understanding, of course, only takes lawmakers so far. They still have to overcome the opposition of the richest among us to paying anything close to their fair tax share. Lawmakers can certainly do that overcoming — if enough of us push them. And if we do enough of that pushing, maybe our lawmakers will start sounding like Wesley Lloyd back when he proposed to limit the personal wealth of our super richest.

“I do not seek to destroy wealth or industry,” Lloyd told his fellow members of Congress, “but I do propose to place the burden of public expense and national development upon the shoulders of those best able to bear that burden and those who have profited most. I would have the strong help the weak rather than have the weak forever carrying the strong.”

There are seemingly two fundamental questions that all American lawmakers confront: what should government do and how should government pay for doing it? We aren’t doing very well answering either question.

This blog–among many others–tends to focus on the first question, because so many of our current government policies are arguably counter-productive (or, in the case of our ongoing culture wars, insane). But the second question is inextricably entwined with the first, because the way we decide to pay for the decisions we make has an enormous effect upon how (and whether) those chosen policies work as intended.

Do we want the strong to help the weak? Or do we want to deepen the already massive divide between the haves and have-nots? Do we want to build and maintain a physical and social infrastructure that serves all citizens, or do we want to see only to the comfort and prosperity of the fortunate few?

Wesley Lloyd was asking the right questions, and Washington State is (slowly, incrementally) moving toward the right answers.


  1. As usual, the left shoots itself in the foot coming out of the starting gate with its verbiage designed to make themselves feel good when they actually turn off the very support they need from the right. “State Revenue Options for Advancing Equality and Prosperity”. Really?
    Does the right give a rat’s ass about “advancing equality”? Do the rich and the powerful care about “prosperity”? Hell NO! They already got it, and they don’t see any reason to share it.
    This is the same kind of language and posturing that turns off voters on both sides…. just look and listen to Mike Pence.

  2. As a retired college professor who was raised by working-class grandparents I find it difficult to watch our nation’s almost religious worship of money. I am now fortunate enough to share my good fortune – yes I worked hard, focused on what I thought would help my family most – and cannot understand or condone the total absence of empathy or even sympathy for those struggling to keep a roof over their heads and feed their children. Sorry – SHAME!

  3. As long as the rich line the campaign coffers and treat our legislators to luxury goodies, the legislators will continue to do their bidding. And with Indiana’s World’s Worst Legislature being unabashedly self-serving and wearing conflicts of interest like badges of pride, the thought of putting taxes upon the sleek shoulders of wealthy folks is anathema.

  4. Theresa = nail hit on head, hard and true. This stuff could effectively end our democracy in ’24. A Pew poll last week had inequality somewhere around #20 in the list of issues of concerns for voters going forward.

  5. So – which items are the greatest concerns for more than 50% of both DEMs and GOPers – inflation, affordability of health care, drug addiction. The rich and corporations have anything to do with any of these. eh? AND – “the ability of the parties to work together to get things done” – oh well! This one concerns me regarding DEM “optics” – “the state of moral values” – GOPers (OMG with their Former) very concerned, the DEMs, not so much….impressions count at the ballot box.

  6. I agree with Theresa and will offer this sentence that I learned on this very blog.
    “Taxes are the price you pay for a civilized society.”

    As you all know, I don’t have children or grandchildren but I am more than happy to pay a fair share of our household income on taxes that support schools. I don’t want to live among the uneducated so that’s the price I pay. I can grumble all I want over paying taxes, but the fact is, it supports our society. Just like road tax. Make the truckers or shipping companies pay the toll road fees because their heavy trucks cause more damage to roads than cars. It’s a usage tax.

    Theresa is so right about framing. Come on Dems, figure that out.

  7. Raising taxes is only one side of the equation. On the backside, you have to decide how to spend that money.

    Indiana seems hellbent on making sure higher education is unaffordable (an educated citizenry might not be duped into voting for the GOP?). They also seem to want all of the state’s cites fall apart (money might go to THOSE people?).

    So even if Indiana thought that a less regressive taxing system was a good idea, I’m pretty sure we would see most of the money heading to the rural counties.

  8. Ayn (Nostradamus) Rand!

    Sounds like the Atlas Shrugged argument to me!

    BS laced stupidity is where proactiveness goes to die. BS laced stupidity that’s always reactive.

    Look at the BS laced reaction to the Wagner group in Russia. The opinions on the outside are so convoluted, they don’t even make any sense.

    Common sense would tell you, that this is the ruse in Belarus. The nuclear tipped missiles, now Wagner group, The pundits mouths couldn’t be open any wider to swallow this hook along with its line and sinker.

    Now you’ll have the Wagner group in Belarus waiting to come across the border of Ukraine to the north northwest. Talk about Putin and the Wagner group pulling the wool over the pundit’s and political prognosticators eyes.

    Sometimes all you can do is face palm.

  9. Now that Hunter only got his hands slapped for not paying $200,000 in taxes, while anyone else would be in jail, I vomit at your selective outrage of “the rich paying their fair share”.
    Most of this blog is just that: SELECTIVE OUTRAGE
    Tony Katz has one of the best commentaries going – 93.1 FM radio – talk about pointing out peoples blind spots…. he’d make mince meat of most of the arguments posted here.
    His show is always a highlight of my day.
    If you want to be “enlighted” about the other side, you’d learn something. You won’t agree with him -because, you know , you hate conservatives, but you’d at least get a better perspective than “selective outrage”.

  10. Oh Gail, so many who are hiding their income Do Not Pay taxes at the same percent level as we lower and moderate income people do. Do you?

    Perhaps the Government might want to look at The Trump Sons also. Let’s look at Both Sides of the Political Divide.

    You seem to not like those of us who are more moved by social equity. With your negative attitude toward many of us, why would I/we desire to look at what you offer for more information?
    Your attitude tends toward division of those of us who live together in this country, doesn’t seem like a positive way for sharing information and ideas.

  11. Calif has a measure to charge more to the mo re affluent for their electric..the bitch is, they dont feel its fair. after all, their money in todays econ,more than likely was a result from profits generated by the workers,of wharever investments or ownership. . waking up the economy/the workers/ gen z to what it should be seen as the same as woke.

    bumper sticker:

    better woke,
    than a bad joke.

  12. We are, more than ever, inextricably liked to the rest of the exceedingly complex world in a network web of impossible to understand interrelationships. If we are to maintain the rank that has traditionally been so beneficial to us, we must keep up with the explosive growth of human knowledge that comes from every node on that network. Of course that’s challenging, number one always has been, but we are either number one or we’re some lower number. Whoever earns number one will have because they committed more of their national resources to earning it than anyone else.

    Do we want to merely be home to the wealthiest few people in the world or be the leading country?

  13. Barb,
    but by design,over 40 plus years the
    rich has conned the syetem to believe, or falsify the idea of they,the rich make the jobs.
    well, if they want money,they will make jobs.
    they the rich have,designed and hired,a whole,politcal party to bid and call.
    they the rich have paid to have their way and changed the banking,private lending, leaderships
    to demand,and sought to place the working class as mere economic slaves in theory by design.
    the social media world has propagated this enviroment by allowing no fair slant against it in
    even half fold. as long as social media is a wheel barrow of cash for its investors and makes firehoses of money into the shareholders of this scam.
    people who shove their ideology of whatevers about hunter,etc,etc,etc,,and any other flack, dont read the context or follow the story by, genuine journalists. its them wanting to be on top of headlines while distrorying our democracy with cheap rants. social media/fox like news is the issue. its a think tank design to, well, not think about
    who has all the toys and power..

  14. Pete – we are the wealthiest country in the world. But, compared to the other most developed countries we are last/near last in inequality, healthcare, education. Hmmm

  15. I have been a Keynesian since pursuit of my undergraduate degree in economics began many moons ago, and Sheila’s preliminary observation that demand is a necessary precondition of increased jobs is correct but only part of the story, i.e., Keynes held that aggregate demand is also a necessary precondition of the holy grail of all economists’ models – economic growth.

    I am having to take another look at my Keynesian views in re both the jobs and economic growth arguments while awaiting the effects of AI, which are unknown at this time, but which with their potential to massively affect or even do away with human and even more sophisticated forms of human labor must be considered in an amended model of Keynesianism. I think, though without proof at this time, that such a future will call for government intervention and taxation of AI efforts on a scale we have not seen before in order to afford the human society its continuation.

    I, Robot, and other Asimov-inspired writings should be compulsory reading in our schools today in preparation for such a likelihood unless suppressed by a President DeFascist or Trump.

  16. Yes, the Democrats don’t have a clue about marketing. That’s not news. They’re getting better and keep in mind that the website is directed at legislators, not the general public.

    There are many things that can and should be done. The first thing I would propose is to make all earned income subject to the Social Security tax. That would ensure that the SS program would be funded for about 50 years (maybe more).

    Income inequality isn’t a sexy topic, but addressing it does help with those pesky things like inflation and health care costs. It also fosters democracy. These aren’t small things.

  17. Peggy: Amen! Stiglitz and Piketty (both brilliant economists and whose books are at my bedside) agree with you. Income inequality, of course, fosters all kinds of other inequalities, and taken together amount to policies of indentured servitude, hardly a hallmark of democracy.

  18. Washington, my home, wherever I may roam…(that’s all I remember of the state song). I’m proud of the legislators who managed this. All I want is for the very wealthy (and the “averagely” wealthy) to pay their fair share. What’s so dang hard about that? And yes, for capitalism to work, a healthy middle class is necessary, and we don’t really have that anymore.

  19. Even if the General Assembly managed to pass any legislation that fairly taxed anyone with earned income, I doubt they would spend the revenue fairly across all 92 counties. Subsidies, set-asides, exceptions, special considerations, etc., etc., etc., have been and always will be made for those who have the wealth and its attendant power to make the rules or, more to the point, circumvent the rules.
    While us peons struggle to pay our taxes honestly and fairly, the wealthy and their minions find ways to buy their way out of paying for the very services, infrastructure and goods that have allowed that wealth to accumulate. Apparently, the price of that buy-off is not as much as actually paying their fair share.
    Having been raised in poverty most of my childhood and teens, I have never managed to feel comfortable with, while oblivious to, the privilege of the wealthy. I don’t know the rules and most of the time don’t care to be governed by them when revealed .
    Equality is more than a concept. It may never be something that feels equal as long as some are more equal than others. Birth into a class makes moving to equal status in the rule of law nearly impossible. There are those that are born on third base who will always have a head start and never understand how making it to first is a significant life achievement for others.

  20. Referring to an earlier response, most right wingers loudly disseminate information that is one sided at best. Beating the Hunter Biden decision to death while ignoring Roger Stone’s and Paul Manafort’s evasions and illegalities at a lesser expense (and pardons) show the uneven playing field of the machine steering the cult mentality and drumming up support for a disgraced party and criminal ex president. Now let’s talk about taxing the rich, especially that 2 billion $$$ Jared Kushner was handed by the Saudi’s for what? His expertise? Silence from the right.

  21. Two points, although I hate feeding trolls
    1) Hunter Biden paid his back taxes – people who do, do not get charged with a crime.
    2) The “founding fathers” were adamant about the US not developing an aristocracy. We have no titles of nobility; it is specifically stated in the Constitution. Sadly, as generational wealth is passed on, we have formed an aristocracy of wealth, i.e. a plutocracy. While new people are admitted to the “club”, they still wield an outsized share of the power, and often use it to increase their wealth and privilege, at the expense of everyone else. For all of the inbalance built into the Constitution, these are not the elite that were expected to lead.

  22. Getting the wealthy to pay more taxes is actually getting them to PAY WHAT THEY USED TO PAY a few decades ago. This is what Bernie Sanders and others call “paying their fair share.” Taxes for the rich and infamous have been whittled down by GOPS until they reached a pinnacle of ridiculousness with the huge tax break by Trumpf and his republican cronies, which created more debt for everyone but the wealthy. Remember, the wealthy must pay their fair share on par with everyone else, not less than their workers, and definitely NOT zero.

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