Every big problem that Seattle's Occupy protesters are upset about runs through the state capital, Olympia. Unfair tax policy, slashed education funding, our frayed social safety net—these are not issues that can be solved just by occupying the lawn in front of Seattle Central Community College or confronting the Seattle police, or taking over the University Bridge, or moving your money from Chase to a credit union.
Yes, of course, there's value to all of those actions—and to the general consciousness-raising that Occupy Seattle helps achieve merely by its existence. But it's time for Seattle's occupiers, and all who support their aims, to get down to Olympia, where a special legislative session opens on November 28 so that lawmakers can decide how to deal with yet another multibillion-dollar revenue shortfall.
"A sea of tents will cover the grounds by Capitol Lake directly in front of the Capitol," declares OccupyOlympia.org, which calls for a week of action aimed at state lawmakers.
Over the past three years, these legislators have cut a total of $10.5 billion from Washington State's budget, and almost all of those cuts have hurt the 99 percent. At the same time, the state legislature has refused to raise enough new revenue to keep funding programs that help the working poor.
You want to talk about green-lighting corporate giveaways while not looking out for the rest of us? Olympia hands out billions of dollars each year through tax loopholes that benefit the likes of Wall Street banks and private-jet owners—and despite the Great Recession, lawmakers still haven't gotten serious about closing any meaningful number of those loopholes (though they've been quick to cut benefits for state workers, medical care for vulnerable citizens, and scholarships for poor students). You want to talk about upside-down tax priorities? Our state has the most regressive tax structure in the nation, according to an analysis by the Sightline Institute, with poor people paying 17.3 percent of their income in taxes while the filthy rich pay only 2.6 percent of their income in taxes. Yet there's been no leadership from Olympia on moving us away from our overreliance on a regressive sales tax. Instead, Governor Chris Gregoire's big idea, released on November 21, is to temporarily raise the regressive sales tax by half a penny.
It's better than no revenue at all, but it shouldn't be the only reaction to the problems we currently face.
So be part of a bigger reaction.