It’s December. The days are shorter. The nights are darker. Washingtonians across the state don their warmest clothes, grip their coffee cups a little tighter, and try to remember what it’s like to see the sun set after five o’clock.
With the cold weather comes a potent reminder of the effect the upside-down tax code has on Washington: a severe, statewide, and deeply troubling affordability crisis is playing out in our communities. Working people are pushed further from city centers by high rents. Our parents struggle to retire. Young families can’t afford childcare. These are some of the many symptoms of the worst tax code in the country. That’s not an exaggeration.
When we talk about Washington’s tax code being upside-down, we’re not just talking about data points on a graph. We’re talking about what it means to work together and be a national leader for change. Tax codes and budgets are moral documents; the way we raise revenue and the public services we choose to invest in say everything about our shared values. As it stands, the morals of our tax code are deeply flawed.
Washington is home to the world’s top two wealthiest people. In October, Jeff Bezos added $9 billion to his personal wealth. Overnight.
Meanwhile, nearly 12,000 people experience homelessness in King County according to this 2017 report.
If Washington is so prosperous, why are so many unable to afford the basics? It all comes back to our upside-down tax code that benefits powerful special interests and the top 1% at the expense of low- and middle-income families.
Working people pay a share of state and local taxes seven times higher than that paid by Washington’s wealthiest. That means millions of parents must work multiple jobs just to afford rent and food. Thousands more find themselves in unstable housing situations, or unsheltered entirely. Our communities depend on things like food banks, transitional housing, and childcare assistance so families aren’t forced to go hungry and cold.
But powerful special interests have manipulated Washington’s tax code with hundreds of wasteful tax breaks and loopholes that siphon resources out of communities and into the wallets of big corporations. We lose millions in state revenue to these special deals, revenue that should be invested in services that benefit all of us.
It should not -- and does not -- have to be like this. If we work together, we can raise our voices and fight for a tax code that works for all of us. We could invest in multi-faceted solutions to homelessness by supporting shelters, transitional housing, emergency medical services, and more. We could make college and job training programs free for a more skilled workforce. We could ensure that every Washingtonian has access to affordable health care and mental health care so no one has to choose between seeking help and staying housed. We could invest in early childhood programs to give every kid the best start possible.
This vision is within our grasp, but it’ll take all of our communities staying strong and working together to create change. As news about the GOP tax bill trickles in -- a bill that transfers wealth and power from working and middle class families to powerful special interests -- we at All In For Washington can’t help but feel disappointment and anger. But we’re hopeful, too. Across our state and country, more and more people are coming together to push back and demand a tax code that works for everyone, not just the rich and powerful. We’re ready to fight for a tax code that actually reflects our values, right-side up. 2017 wasn’t an easy year, but it showed us the true character of our communities: courage, compassion, and a fiery commitment to building a better world.