Last November, Washington voters passed Initiative 1351, which directed the Legislature to allocate funding for smaller K-12 class sizes, with extra class-size reductions in high-poverty schools. That was the law. But what did our Legislature do? After refusing to fund the law, they changed it.
In our state, black citizens are six times more likely to be incarcerated and lose their right to vote than whites. The net worth of white households is thirteen times the net worth of black households. Among fourth graders, only 50 percent of low-income African Americans are reading at grade level. One-third of African Americans don't graduate from high school. So the question before us is not merely that symbol of oppression, the Confederate flag.
It's a good time to talk about money, who has it and who doesn't, especially with the Legislature at loggerheads about the budget. Why? Because the taxes that fund our state's budget come largely from the money we all spend. Notice I said “money we all spend,” not “money we all make”?
As this Father’s Day approaches, I’m reminded that just as struggling moms need fair pay and paid family leave a lot more than flowers, fathers need these policies, too –more than a new tie or camping toaster.
It's an ode to cognitive dissonance when pundits come out swinging (rhetorically) against a strong minimum wage or decent pensions for everyday working people but don't even bat an eyelash at big-time CEOs who take home millions of dollars a year or outsource local jobs — especially when the economic evidence for the former, and against the latter, is so strong.
As John Burbank of the Economic Opportunity Institute wrote in an opinion piece for The (Everett) Herald: "Pensions did not make retirees wealthy . . . but they did keep retirees economically secure."
While we may think that the Legislature is stuck in limbo, it is good to recognize that it enacted a new policy to make it easier for workers and employers to establish retirement savings plans and put money into those plans.
Could we in Washington state make it possible for all citizens to earn enough for a good quality of life and be able to enjoy an peaceful retirement? Of course. The problem is that most money is migrating to the very top, leaving middle class incomes stagnant.
Neither party has a long-term plan for fully funding K-12 education, higher education, mental health, public employee contracts and teacher cost-of-living adjustments. Why not? Because neither party has the will to implement systemic changes in our tax system. But, as our state treasurer, Jim McIntire, states, “it is mathematically impossible to sustain any education system with our state's shrinking tax base.”
Our state’s public structures and services are the oil of our economic engine. From roads to bridges, preschool to college, veterans benefits to senior services, and protections for our air and drinking water, we’re all better off when we invest in strong communities. But there’s a big red warning light on our dashboard: Low Oil.
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