Remember the Greediest

Washington State has the most regressive tax structure in the nation. Steve Ballmer, Jeff Bezos, and Paul Allen would like to keep it that way.

Comments

1
Dominic Holden proves himself once again to be nothing but a hack. I am glad that you have to pay a greater percentage of your shitty salary in taxes than successful people do. You deserve it and you can then continue to wallow in your self pity.
2
This is a trashy unfair initiative that has been cleverly and cynically crafted. Lofty goals indeed, but why on earth should only a rarified few have their taxes increased, while concurrently reducing taxes for many who can afford to not only pay what they are paying, but pay a bit more. We are not talking about taxing the poor here but single folks making between 50 and 200K for example, who pay to the Feds at a rate far less than the wealthy in terms of percent, are not taxed anything for on their income under the initiative - a state whose services they use at a level equal to the wealthy, who can afford to and ought to pay towards the needs.

How many pious supporters would be supporters of this initiative if it also instituted a tax at some graduated rate for them, perhaps 1-3% depending where they fall income wise, and why on earth are we reducing any property tax as a component of this initiative? Why - to seduce folks into voting for it. If we need money, we should not cut taxes - we should add them for all.

I am wealthy and would think about voting for an income tax if I felt that it would impact all who could afford to give, which includes most working union and professional level people.

And the prior article in the Stranger that talked about taxes paid by folks conveniently ignored Federal taxes. We can agree that State taxes are skewed by sales taxes toward consumption and the poor may pay more relative to their income. But folks like me also pay tens of thousands in B & O tax annually and since I have some nice property, I pay tens of thousands in property tax as well. And to the degree I buy more things like consumables, books and dinners out, I pay a nice chunck in sales taxes. No complaints here and no complaints if we all paid some state income tax. But I don't parse out my tax burden based upon where it goes. I look at how much of my income I pay in taxes. On the Federal level alone I pay 35% or more of my income in taxes, a rate I imagine that is a lot more in percent and certainly absolute dollars than the less affluent. Anyone who is a high earner and lives in Washington pays significantly more in taxes as a percent of income and absolute dollars than a lower earning person.

Weep not for me, and the uber rich like Bezos, Ballmer and Allen. Relative to them I and many other affluent live in tent city. None of us will take it with us when we die. Some will have a few more toys. All of us, Stranger readers and writers included, have an equal responsibility to help the state meet legitimate needs according to their ability - not only on the backs of the very rich! Any of us born in America with a decent job and health have won the birth lottery. Let's call 1098 what it is - a cheap but potentially effective ploy at class warfare, schaudenfreude and greed by supporters on the lower income level and opposition on the upper.
5
How does this tax help the poor? It doesn't make the tax system less regressive. The poor don't pay B&O or property tax.
6
haha I second buttons mcbuttons statement. Hey Dominic go drink your PBR. When you come to terms that Yes on 1098 has more money contributions by gov't unions maybe you will stop being ignorant.
7
@4 What about absolute dollars? You could always look it up: http://www.calculate1098.com/

And to the other commenters... These extraordinarily wealthy people and companies who have no doubt benefited handsomely from a well educated workforce (perhaps earning degrees from public universities), strong infrastructure (those Commuter buses and BMWs need nice roads to drive on) and well regulated economy (not allowing intellectual piracy) really shouldn't return the favor and keep the system sustainable?

Whose kids are going to be the next Microsoft programmers, Boeing engineers, etc? Because either we make the investments here in Washington or it's going to be people from Canada, India and China. Companies benefit more from an educated workforce and healthy society than preferential tax rates, just ask the Dakotas and Alaska (and Somolia).
8
Dominic,

Thank you for writing this story about Seattle’s rich and greedy CEO’s and companies. Not enough people spotlight how little they donate to charity and support the local community. As an executive director of a local arts non-profit, I find it ridiculous that I must travel to other states to raise money from companies to support something that is based here in Seattle.

I can’t understand how this initiative is currently loosing. What is wrong with people? Why should most of us pay over 6 times more in taxes than the rich and comfortable? Why can’t the majority wake up and realize what is happening! Good work Dominic and The Stranger, keep it up!
9
Dominic,

Thank you for writing this story about Seattle’s rich and greedy CEO’s and companies. Not enough people spotlight how little they donate to charity and support the local community. As an executive director of a local arts non-profit, I find it ridiculous that I must travel to other states to raise money from companies to support something that is based here in Seattle.

I can’t understand how this initiative is currently loosing. What is wrong with people? Why should most of us pay over 6 times more in taxes than the rich and comfortable? Why can’t the majority wake up and realize what is happening! Good work Dominic and The Stranger, keep it up!
10
since '83 MSFT employees (and the subsequent corporate match dollar for dollar) have donated over $2.5 Billion. This is the largest amount by any company, in any country, ever.

Perhaps you don't get sponsorship from MSFT employees because of your programs, marketing, or attitude.
11
JHarris,

What are you talking about - 6 times more in taxes? Show me the data. Those of us in the top tax bracket pay more than 35% of our income in taxes on earned income. That is both a higher percentage that those making less, and depending upon our actual income, the number can be substantial. What is your percentage and total? Investment income on Capitol Gains is lower but real and again relates to the actual number. The wealthy help pay for the services you receive and the community you enjoy far more than the reverse. I have no problem with that and am not asking for any thanks, but would like the facts to be acknowledged. Can't speak for the uber wealthy but we all know the extraordinary generosity of Gates that is virtually unprecedented in history. Bezos is enigmatic. He has some pet projects but again he can't take it with him and the extremely wealthy understand that if the inheritance tax that lapsed this year is reinstated as expected, that they can give the money away during life or upon death on their terms to society, or give half of it back to the government. Giving away extreme wealth is a given, the how is up to the giver.

Let's face it, the current initiative is a form of class warfare. Look at the posters: Reduce YOUR taxes etc. If the state needs money, why reduce anyone's taxes and shift the full burden onto a few.
12
I read pro-1098 stuff like this and I wonder who could possibly be swayed by the simplistic argument, "Look at how rich these people are! They have so much money they even spend it just to try to prevent you from taking it from them! We obviously need to take more of their money, the greedy bastards!".

Then I see the JHarrises of the world and I start to cry.
13
Oh God I hate Expedia so. Doesn't surprise me they're against this as a company, they're slime. (being against this doesn't make you slime, being Expedia does.)
14
I flew in one of Allen's jets once. Very posh. Tax that fucker.
15
Park Place, you don't pay 35% of your income in income taxes. You pay a 35% marginal rate on taxable income over $373K, assuming that you pay that rate at all.

Rich people like to talk about how they're so smart with their money yet they can't figure out a concept as simple as marginal tax rates.
16
Park Place, you don't pay 35% of your income in income taxes. You pay a 35% marginal rate on taxable income over $373K, assuming that you pay that rate at all.

Rich people like to talk about how they're so smart with their money yet they can't figure out a concept as simple as marginal tax rates.
17
Point well taken Cascadian. I actually paid 31.5% in Federal taxes, and State B & O of 2% of the top line of business revenue (not profit), property tax, sales etc. Likely more than 35% all in. My point remains the same - that the affluent contribute significantly in taxes. By all means raise the rates if we must, but let's all share in the burden. I assume if you and other voters work for a living and have a living wage, that they don't need the tax cut promised by the initiative if we as society need the bucks overall. I did think weeks ago that the initiative would pass, but now I think it will go down based upon it not sitting well with many reasonable people for all sorts of reasons, including those of trust, fairness, and cynicism.
18
Dominic, I posted this for your benefit on a previous Slog post, but here it is again:

Because I'm lazy, from Wikipedia:

"Through the Foundation, Allen awards approximately $30 million in grants annually. Roughly 60% of the Foundation's money goes to non-profit organizations in Seattle and the state of Washington, and 12% to Portland, Oregon. The remaining 28% is distributed to other cities within the Pacific Northwest. Allen has donated US$900 million of his money, as of 2007"
19
I'm going to start a political party over this: The Rich Don't Pay Enough Damn Taxes Party
20
1: You just keep on sucking up to the rich like a loyal little lapdog, and maybe someday they'll give you a treat!

Seriously, why do you tools have such serf-like loyalty to billionaires? You're not one of them. You never will be one of them. And they will never give a shit about you.

Sure, being rich is nice and all, and if public institutions weren't bankrupt (or necessary), I wouldn't care. After all, I make more than enough to get by. But when the income gap and tax-break-debt get so large that major necessities (like schools and roads) have no funding to run, then why should it be important to the OTHER 99.99% of us that Mr. Ballmer will only have 12 billion instead of 13 billion if we start funding these things properly?

Then again, maybe the reason I don't understand is because I've never been a submissive little suck-up who's desperate to please the most powerful guy in the room.
21
When the government gets money and spends it on let's say, giving everyone in Washington state an associates or bachelors degree, the benefit is much greater to society than handouts from billionaires. That's not to dismiss the charity these things (some are corporations, I do consider Balmer human, just a little though) donate to, but let's face it, how many of these noble things would donate money to charity if it weren't for the tax breaks they get because of it? When they see their precious dollars going into the government they panic, donate to some feel good cause in the most generic way possible and then tout themselves as successful caring businessmen.

I'm not trying to put government on a pedestal, clearly there's as much waste and fraud there as anywhere else, but what other entity on our world could build a tunnel? What other entity could put millions of kids through college? What other entity could build a dam? Could help bring enough clean energy into a state to power to whole thing forever? Maybe in a few years everything will be better, we'll grow another bubble and we'll look back on this and laugh at how stupid we were for considering such an option when we're all buying massive amounts of expensive shit we don't need, but I don't think that's the reality. There's going to be another bubble, government is still going to be struggling, and these wannabe kings will demand that we dance to whatever tune they play for their dollar. At least when the government helps us, they actually give us a hand up, and not this charity bullshit. Struggling people don't need charity, they need a chance, they need a helping hand so when they pull themselves up by their own education and person they can aspire to one day pay the income tax (or maybe be so rich at that point to have tax shelters). But the way I see it? With the way this shit is going? I'm never going to get to the point of earning more than a quarter million a year even in my most wildest fantasy 3 full time jobs, and even if I did, I'd be way too busy working hard and trying to figure out what to spend it on to give a fuck about my taxes. If life is a game, you win at a quarter million a year, helping others get to that point is your prize. Oh, and that little bit about living on top of the world, I mean it's soooooo hard to live at the top of the world.

This is really about preserving the oligarchy, it's the same when they rail against the billionaire death tax, oh poor poor poor billionaires being treated so unfairly, if only we could make the world a little more fair for the richest people in the universe more people would aspire to be like them! If taxes are the only reason you're not trying to be a billionaire, you're horrible at trying to be a billionaire, and you're making it easier for everyone else. So in a way, to the people who constantly grip about how "unfair" taxing wealthy people are because you're making them want to work less, I thank you. The less people out there wanting to make money because they're unhappy with the government, the more there is for me. Do you cop out on other things in life because the government does it? Oh I'd so go to work and earn my own money if it weren't for that damn government food program! I mean it's just so easy to struggle through life not knowing if you'll be able to eat before you sleep, why participate in the human experience at all?
22
I think this is a fabulous initiative, I voted yes. I think it makes absolute sense. It's disgusting for 1% of the population to hoard all the wealth. If I was making $200,000 per year Id be happy to pay the extra taxes to help schools and health care programs. How much money does one person need??
23
hey paul no amount of billions will make you live longer than another decade or so

lol cancer

starting to think you deserve it
24
troll
25
They say its reasonable to ask young men and women to die for wars that produce and protect such massive profits for a few, maybe we should simply consider the same for a few to save the future of the many.
26
The wealthy and corporations have no end of excuses for failing to pay their part of the tab, despite leeching off of the infrastructure and human capital that accrued from earlier decades when they paid much higher taxes.

The gold-plated responses here are lame attempts to redirect from the truth: the tax structure in the US is heavily regressive and Washington has the greatest tax inequality. That's dead last in a field of 50. Not even the Mariners suck that hard.

So, you goddamned billionaire, centimillionaire, and decimillionaire skinflints: pay up. You've had an easy ride on taxes for decades, had a wild party of speculation and offshoring. Now the tab is due and you're on the hook. And spare me the bullshit about charity, which is just another form of greedhead lobbying.

The alternative is the great unwashed returning your cannibalistic favors, and we know where you live.
27
Bravo, Mr. Holden; you have outdone yourself with this ill-conceived article. Why you continue to be employed by this paper I'll never know.

This bill does NOTHING to address the regressive nature of our state's tax code. If it passes on Tuesday we will still have the nation's highest sales tax on Wednesday. I voted yes on 1098 because I believe in graduated income taxes not because I have deluded myself into thinking this will address or change our regressive tax structure.

28
Yo Kirk,
The poor pay property taxes -- that is, except for the homeless. Everyone who lives in an apartment or house pays the property tax directly or indirectly.

Likewise, there are plenty of poor business owners who pay the high B & O tax. A lot of these folks earn less than minimum wage (if you count how many hours they work) but are trying to live the American dream.

The poor also pay the sales tax. This law wouldn't do anything to directly reduce the sales tax, but the money raised by an income tax could be used to reduce the sales tax (or reduce the need to raise it).
29
@5: Yes, they do. Both of those taxes get passed onto the poor by property and business owners.
30
In many states when an income tax has been brought in, the sales tax goes down. I haven't heard anything about that. The bill is counting on the gullibility of WA residents so they can make a land grab for income tax across the board in the coming years...

For years we've had inititives that supposedly fixed school, roads, bridges, etc... we're still in the same crappy situation - paying for nothing from Olympia.

The govt should not be allowed to enact ANY new taxes or fees until the whole place is audited for waste.

Vote no on income tax!
31
@17 I'm kind of late to the party, but you can't use the word 'burden' for rich people the same way you do for poor people.

For poor people the burden is groceries and rent. For rich people it's 1 fewer Lexus or a 10 foot shorter yacht.

You seem to be operating under the illusion of upward mobility in this country. It doesn't matter how smart or industrious you are, you are not skipping up the tax brackets. The only sure way to make millions in this country is to be the product of millionaire sperm and millionaire eggs.
32
Whats to keep them from moving. That's right, nothing.
33
I know the Stranger's opinion is trash....so why do I keep reading the articles? I don't know.

But I do know that Paul Allen has pledged to donate his net worth to charity upon his death.

I know that Jeff Bezos and Steve Ballmer both employ thousands of hipsters (read Stranger target audience.)

I know that The Stranger has no plans on donating billions of dollars to charity, or hiring thousands of well payed employees.

So, based on what I know, I confidently voted NO on I-1098.
34
This article demonstrates the all-too-common thinking of the unthinking masses. As much as we wish we had the money that the Ballmers, the Allens, and Bezos' of the world have, we don't. Let's face it: they earned it, and if we vote it out of their pockets, it's nothing more than legalized stealing. Personally, I am happy I have excel and can order all my holiday gifts in 15 minutes (thank you microsoft, thank you Amazon). The rich of the rich, in most cases, provide more value to the world (via the items they create), than any charity or government organization could dream of. We have cars, airplanes, $100 laptops, MRI machines, and advanced cancer drugs thanks to these "greedy" individuals. We should exult their success; not denegrate them for keeping THEIR money. That evil money is an exact measure of the value they have provided all of us. The top 10% already pay 40%+ of all tax revenue. If 10 people were stuck on a desert island, would the 9 weakest be just in enslaving the strongest to do 40% of the work to survive?? The attitude demonstrated in this article is nauseating at best and truly dangerous at it's worst. Dominic, learn to think beyond the easy reaction. Being liberal doesn't have to mean you can't think beyond the obvious.
35
@#9 "As an executive director of a local arts non-profit, I find it ridiculous that I must travel to other states to raise money from companies to support something that is based here in Seattle."
---------------

Maybe nobody wants to pay for your shitty art. If your shitty art can't sell or make a profit all by itself, don't expect that rich people (who you hate all the rest of the time) to give you any money for the toilet messes you call "art".
37
@ 34 Well spoken.
38
Our state government is broke and needs more money. There are no more significant services left to cut. Everyone agrees we need more education funding. The economy is so shitty the middle class doesn't have anything left to give and everyone is stressed out and paranoid that what little they have is going to be taxed a little more. (this is the fear-tactic being used against this initiative already).

Who else can we tax, but the folks who have exceeding, egregious amounts of excess, in a time and place when so many have so little?
39
I enjoy reading the stranger because it's funny and entertaining as is this article. But informative - no way.
For instance,
Net worth: $13.1 billion*

Increase in net worth in the last year: $2.1 billion**

This is ridiculous. By that measure he shouldn't have to pay any taxes because he's run the price of Microsoft stock in the ground for 10 years. The price today is lower than it was about 11 years ago. There is no way that Ballmer made $2.1 billion in income in the last year so he wouldn't have to pay 9% of that in tax. Idiot.
40
Ahh. 1098 goes down in flames. I have regained some faith in the people of Washington.
41
"Microsoft's top public priority within Washington State has been our work to strengthen public education at both the K–12 and the higher education levels,"

If Microsoft truly wants to help Washington schools, they could register their company IN Washington state instead of ultra-low tax haven Reno, Nevada.
42
#38

Why cut services? We pay taxes for services like fire and police response.

So many posters talk about the need for higher education, but why is that the State's responsibility?

We are only guaranteed a free education through our eighteenth year, after that it is our individual responsibility to seek out advanced learning.

State colleges cost the taxpayers of Washington $6,000,000,000 a year. I would advocate that these institutes should be released from state care and given to the general public by making them stand alone non-profits. The savings will solve our current budget deficit.

Why do we have more than one police, fire or EMT agency serving this state? Accountability? Roll every department into the state “Emergency Response Services”. During the next five years, start cutting the redundant administrative positions. This may actually cost more right now, but should save us $400,000,000 a year by year five.

Get rid of the Governor's office in Washington D.C. We don't need it, 35 states don't have one either. Savings, $300,000 per year.

Cap elected officials wages at $2,000 per year. They really shouldn't get anything, but it just seems right to do that. Savings, $800,000,000 per year. That's right, almost a billion dollars.

It is amazing what you'll find by reading the state budget, yes, you should read the state budget. It is that important.

I bet others here could come up with even more cuts without reducing a single essential service.
43
I didn't vote for 1098. Why? Mostly because of so many unfounded claims. The big one to me is the often cited regressive tax nature of our state.

Ok, fine. Now, give me the numbers. If you take sales tax, for example, I figure (inquire if you want data) that a couple making about $30K a year pays about 3% of their income as sales tax. A wealther person will pay a higher percentage, until you get to the super wealthy who don't spend most of what they earn.

What about other taxes? Property tax? Yes, technically regressive, but poorer people live in smaller, lower valued places and, thus, pay an effective lower rate.

So, let's get an indepth article about this and clear up the real data. Alright, already!
44
Corporations don't have souls or values, so quit looking for them.

Microsoft may be full of good people, but the company itself doesn't give two shits about anything besides felating shareholders. The extent to which it pretends to care about education is classic worm-tongued PR.
45
@42

"Cap elected officials wages at $2,000 per year. They really shouldn't get anything, but it just seems right to do that."

Will you take $2k/year for whatever it is you do for a living? If not, shut the fuck up.

Clearly you don't have the aptitude to run a lemonade stand, much less a government.
46
Assuming they aren't lying about their income (never a safe assumption with this state and national tax system)how did some of these self-proclaimed wealthy posters manage to accumulate any assets with such piss-poor knowledge of grade-school math?

The upper 1 percenters should pay more because we can afford to pay more, you greedy jackasses. No amount of contrived sophistry is going to conceal the fact that your selfishness is what is running the country into the ground. MS execs talk a lot of BS about education, out of one side of their mouths, then go and get the cheapest educational systems overseas(that they don't pay for either)to supply them with cheaper labor. Why shouldn't the disloyal bastards be penalized for screwing the country that made them filthy stinking rich. Even Carnegie eventually grew a conscience...Bugeyes Bezos and the rest of his country club haven't found theirs yet.

BTW the soldiers, cops and firefighters risking their asses every day (to preserve that Holy Birthright to extreme wealth claimed by the greedy few) are all from the working class, with very rare exceptions.

So now let's hear some of your anti-union country club rants,including the part about how those police and firefighters are overpaid for their high-risk work. Bring it, bitches...
47
@46

"Career" firefighters are underachieving glory-whores who fight very few fires. Mostly, they scrape broken hipsters off the floors of retirement homes, whose own fucked up policies prevent staffers from doing so themselves.

When these so-called "firefighters" get the odd real-deao inferno every three years or so, they practically want to smother the flames with their own failed jock asses. They are only heroes if they die in the course of duty, after all.

And oh, those motherfucking "firefighters" HATE the "volunteers", people with real jobs who also do THEIR jobs in their spare time, for a pittance.

Brought it, bitch.
48
Standing Ovation for Vlad (#46)
49
Before any posters bring up the Founders to justify their opposition to a graduated income tax, here's what Jefferson had to say about the subject in Notes on the State of Virginia: "To have all public expences, whether of the general treasury, or of a parish or county, (as for the maintenance of the poor, building bridges, court-houses, &c.) supplied by assessments on the citizens, in proportion to their property." And Jefferson was an ANTI-federalist!