People are marching in the streets over rising rents, stagnating wages, and sexual predators on the Supreme Court. So, one could expect this year’s general election to offer some rabble rousing candidates.
However, since union militant Steve Hoffman (who ran for U.S. Senate on the Freedom Socialist Party ticket) didn’t make it through the primary, there aren’t any open socialists left to vote for.
Democratic Socialists of America are supporting Sarah Smith in Washington’s 9th congressional race, but she is running as a big “D” Democrat on a platform that doesn’t challenge capitalism. As a result, Smith provides left cover for the Democratic Party, encourages hope that it can be reformed, and siphons off energy that would be better spent building an independent working-class movement. Unfortunately, there are no candidates we can recommend on the ballot.
Ballot measures don’t deliver for workers or the planet
There are four statewide initiatives plus a tax proposal for Seattle residents. Here’s a summary of our recommendations, followed by a rundown, measure by measure.
• State Initiative Measure No. 1631 concerns pollution – VOTE NO
• State Initiative Measure No. 1634 concerns taxation of certain items intended for human consumption – NO POSITION
• State Initiative Measure No. 1639 concerns firearms – VOTE NO
• State Initiative Measure No. 940 concerns law enforcement – VOTE NO
• Seattle Proposition No. 1 Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise Levy – VOTE NO
State Initiative Measure No. 1631 concerns pollution – VOTE NO
I-1631 would enact carbon emission fees on some large polluters. The fees would increase until the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals for 2035 are met and the goals for 2050 are on track. Revenue from this tax would fund air quality and energy programs, water quality and forest health projects. And, because this fee will raise already high energy costs for everyone, a small amount is earmarked to lessen the impact on poor communities. It’s estimated that this measure will raise the cost of gas 13 cents per gallon starting in 2020 and that the price of heating oil will jump 15%.
The most important reason we are opposing I-1631, however, is that it does not limit emissions — which is what the environment needs! Instead, it just makes some of the state’s largest (and richest) polluters pay to keep polluting and lets them pass the cost on to us. It exempts large sacred cow polluters such as Boeing and the airline and marine industries. Bottom line, this initiative lets big business keep polluting indefinitely. And as the bereaved orca mother showed us this summer, time is running out.
State Initiative Measure No. 1634 concerns taxation of certain items intended for human consumption – NO POSITION
I-1634 would ban local governments, such as city or county councils, from levying future taxes like Seattle’s 2017 “soda tax,” but leaves Seattle’s tax in place. The state already exempts most grocery items and prescription drugs from sales taxes. But some prepared food, alcohol, tobacco, dietary supplements and soft drinks are taxable.
Under the pretext of concern for people’s grocery bills, four corporations got together to make it illegal for other cities and counties to tax sugary drinks, because it would cut into their profits. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Dr. Pepper-Snapple Group, and Red Bull North America paid almost $11 per signature to qualify Initiative 1634 for this ballot.
FSP opposes Seattle’s soda tax because it hurts poor people the most and because what we choose to drink is our own damn business.
However, we strongly oppose corporations buying ballot measures to affect questions of tax policy. We cannot recommend voting either way on this Initiative. It is just bad legislation all the way around.
State Initiative Measure No. 1639 concerns firearms – VOTE NO
This initiative extends the background check system and raises the ownership age for semiautomatic rifles, criminalizes noncompliant gun storage in private homes, and waives confidentiality of health and mental health records for gun ownership applications.
We oppose this measure because it does not and will not prevent mass gun shootings, but will make it more difficult for workers, especially those of color, to arm themselves in self-defense. I-1639 also violates the right to privacy by opening up protected health information.
Gun control laws in this country have racist, anti-working-class roots. The first restrictions on gun ownership were passed to keep newly freed African Americans in the South from owning guns to protect themselves from lynching and other KKK violence. During the civil rights era, Black residents protected voting rights activists by sitting on their porches all night, their guns in their laps. Many times in U.S. history, strikers have patrolled picket lines with guns to ward off attacks by scabs and company goons.
A rational gun policy must address the roots of gun violence in U.S. militarism — which pervades our economy, our foreign policy and our culture. A good start would be to disarm the police and the U.S. war machine, undercutting the macho culture they propagate. This would make the country a safer place.
State Initiative Measure No. 940 concerns law enforcement – VOTE NO
Initiative 940 is an attempt to hold police officers accountable for their relentless killings of youth, people of color and the poor. It is supported by families whose loved ones have been murdered by cops. Unfortunately, this measure does very little to correct Washington’s weak laws, and by giving an illusion of justice, takes the pressure off to enact meaningful reforms.
I-940 requires de-escalation, first aid and mental health training for new police officers — but does not fund it. It adds a definition to the “good faith” standard for cops who use deadly force, but this definition remains open to broad interpretation. At the same time, it leaves language in place that allows police officers to escape prosecution for murder by asserting that they acted “without malice.” This will not force the desperately needed changes in police practices.
Experience across the country demonstrates that any measure of community control over police is impossible without a democratically elected independent civilian review board with investigative, prosecutorial and enforcement powers.
Seattle Proposition No. 1 Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise Levy – VOTE NO
This seven-year measure would raise $619.6 million in property taxes to expand preschool programs (over 50 percent of the levy), fund some K-12 programs (about 40 percent of the levy), and assist low-income students who graduate from the city’s public high schools with funding for two years of community college (six percent of the levy).
This levy would replace two expiring school levies. Under this new measure an owner of a Seattle home with a median assessed value of $665,000 would pay $242 in taxes in 2019, with an increase of 1% each year. This tax hike doubles the previous levy.
FSP opposes this levy, not just because it is a regressive tax, but also because it moves toward privatization of public education and services. In expanding pre-school programs, a large portion goes to privately run outfits. It cuts some current K-12 programs benefiting poor and immigrant families while adding others that can be contracted out.
We agree with the League of Women Voters, who oppose the levy due to its “vague language and regressive nature.” This tax is in addition to the enormous property tax increase recently added by the state to resolve the McCleary school funding case, the millions piled on by the “Move Seattle” transportation levies and the $54 billion “Sound Transit 3” package. The county tax assessor already promises the biggest King County property tax jump in modern history!
In comparison, the tiny head tax passed this past spring by the Seattle City Council on large corporations was deep-sixed by the council members after threats by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos.
Enough already! We need a working-class tax revolt that takes on the corporate behemoths, repeals regressive sales and property taxes, and institutes steeply graduated income taxes statewide.
Please feel free to call me or come by New Freeway Hall if you’d like to discuss the positions in this letter and how we can build a movement to tax the rich, defend public education, stop all polluters, and force real police accountability.
for the Seattle FSP Executive Committee