As divided as Americans seem to be about the role of government, we’re pretty united around the notion that quality public education should be accessible to all. Businesses and our economy can’t operate without an educated workforce – and educated customers. Democracy itself depends on citizens who can reason and understand the issues they vote on.
Last week Snohomish County state representatives Mike Sells and June Robinson, D-Everett, Cindy Ryu, D-Shoreline, Derek Stanford and Luis Moscoso, D-Shoreline, and Mary Helen Roberts, D-Edmonds, joined Jesslyn Farrell, D-Seattle, in proposing to increase our state’s minimum wage to $10 in 2015, $11 in 2016, and $12 in 2017. It is about time. Our minimum wage has steadily fallen away from its high point in 1968. That was 35 years ago. And yet, worker productivity has almost doubled since then.
The slow recovery from the great recession has heightened stark inequality in Puget Sound. Corporate profits and the stock market are soaring (think Boeing) but wages are stagnant, workers have lost their company pensions (think Boeing) and job growth is still lagging. Even with the 777X, think of Boeing again — they pushed 1,500 engineering jobs out of our state last year. The middle class is besieged.
The stark inequality in our nation is on display here in Seattle – high-end restaurants and food banks, shops full of pricey designer gear and homeless folks. A few enjoy prosperity and seemingly boundless opportunity, while in nearby neighborhoods people struggle for the basics.
Looking back a year from now, will we be content with a couple of isolated islands of good minimum wages in our state, or will we be embracing a better universal minimum wage, one that keeps up with inflation and productivity, embeds paid sick days into law, and applies to all workers across our great state? Will we be catering to an aerospace manufacturer that repeatedly threatens to run away and sucks jobs out of our state, or will we be celebrating a company that respects and values the workers who build its planes and create its profits? Those choices are not just someone else's. We can make those choices ours.
What happens if you lose your job because of an illness? How about if you are an older worker in poor health, staying on the job despite your illness because this is the only way to keep health coverage until you turn 65? With Obamacare, you will be able to buy affordable and comprehensive insurance, not dependent on employer coverage. That lessens the fear.
The Republicans in D.C. seem intent on doing everything possible to dislodge health-care reform. Just last month, in their 40th Obamacare repeal vote, every single Republican voted to prevent enforcement of the Affordable Care Act. That includes our state's Republican members of Congress -- Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Doc Hastings, Dave Reichert, and Jaime Herrera Beutler -- all who receive government-paid health care coverage for themselves and their families.They should be panicked. Once the Affordable Care Act kicks in for good with affordable care, we are not going back.
We elected these public servants. What do we expect our governments to do, from local fire districts and water districts to libraries to school boards, city councils, public utility districts, and county governments?
Republicans in the Congress have lost. The numbers in our state tell the story: In just five days, 9,500 people completed their health care enrollments. Of these, 2,600 got immediate coverage. For the rest of the new enrollees, coverage kicks in on Jan. 1. They want this coverage. One thousand have already made their payments -- two and a half months in advance. It is a story of hope and promise for our state and our country ... that is, if you believe that American citizens should have the right to affordable health care.
As the biggest welfare recipients in the history of our country, these banks have gained political power. They can ignore the long-term consequences of bad risk taking, knowing that before they fail, they will be bailed out. They can lean on government in times of crisis and make off with tremendous profits once the crisis is averted. Enough is enough.
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