Category Archives: Politics

The Seattle Corporate Head Tax – Social Justice and Reality Combine

Seattle City Hall
Seattle City Hall – Basetti Architects

Seattle has a growing homeless population. In the greater King County area, around 70% of the homeless live in Seattle. The county saw a 4% increase in 2017 to 12,112 homeless out of about 2,200,000 people, which represents about 0.55% of the population being homeless.

This is consistent with national averages, not abnormally high. Many news reports have suggested there has been a recent spike in homelessness greater than ever before, such as The Guardian article America’s homeless population rises for the first time since the Great Recession. This is not true – the homeless rate last spiked in the 1980’s after large cuts to federal social programs, and homelessness has been trending slowly downward since. But not in all places, like Seattle, where homelessness has trended upward.

There are several possible reasons why homelessness is increasing in Seattle. The reason gaining most traction recently is a result of both property prices and rent prices rapidly rising, which in turn is a result of Seattle’s highly successful businesses that draw in affluent workers from around the world.

It is true that property values are increasing remarkably. And landlords, as a natural course of market forces, raise rents accordingly by what the housing market will support. This can displace tenants. And if these tenants do not find higher paying jobs, they are displaced from their current residence. And if they then do not leave King County for less expensive places, they are then counted among the homeless.

Seattle has increased its spending on the homelessness issue at a much greater rate than the increase in the homeless population, spending large sums from housing tax levy funds as well as the general fund, to create a sprawling set of decentralized social programs and services for the homeless, including 5,312 housing units, at a cost of over $120 million, plus ongoing expenses.

In addition to this, the shelter program budget alone in 2017 was $13.8 million and is increasing to $16.8 million in 2018.

Seattle has adopted the approach of “housing first” – making permanent housing available at a low qualification barrier, without preconditions or time limits on how long an individual can stay. This is, of course, a sought-after commodity.

Talk of placing rent control on landlords to keep rents artificially lower than the market would support might help some tenants, but it does nothing to stop the property values from increasing, which causes property taxes to increase, which the landlords must pay. So far this approach has not been given much serious consideration.

The most recent approach was championed by Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant under the banner of social justice. She pressed very hard for a “head tax” to be levied upon any business making more than $10 million annually of around $500 per employee. Her justification, and the justification of those who rallied behind her, was that these companies who were succeeding where the very reason Seattle has a homeless problem – they make the value of the property go up, which increases rent, which people can’t pay, and so they are thrown out into the street.

The so-called “social justice warriors” were very vocal in their support of this head tax, while the loudest adversaries of the head tax were surprisingly the construction workers who were worried they would be out of a job if the head tax were passed, because they believed companies would no longer want to be in Seattle with that much larger tax burden.

This head tax became known as the “Amazon Tax”, and gave both sides on the issue a focal point to argue their case – for the construction workers, Amazon is always building, giving us jobs, and we want that to continue, so drop this head tax talk. And for Sawant, Amazon has done well, and are therefore morally obligated to pay for the homelessness they have created.

Sawant ended up getting enough support on the Seattle City Council through crowds and megaphones to pass the measure creating a head tax, and the mayor of Seattle, Jenny Durkan, after Amazon said they would stop all new construction if the head tax passed at $500/head, managed to get the tax reduced to $275/head instead, mollifying both sides.

Oddly, one of loudest companies against the head tax was Dick’s Burgers, a locally-famous burger joint known for paying their worker exceptionally well and offering excellent benefits.

Seattle may seem to many from the outside to be a bastion of unthinking and rabid liberalism. And there is a lot, admittedly. But the people of Seattle are also pretty smart, and most do not subscribe blindly to any ideology, and are almost always open to reason.

It became clear to some that Sawant’s reasoning was faulty – there is no directly causal link between the success of Seattle’s companies and homelessness. They were not the cause. But they were a factor in Seattle’s success, and subsequent increase in value that has displaced so many. And the link between this displacement and going directly to the street is also not established.

Seattle also came under greater scrutiny for their current spending on the homeless issue, and whether or not their approach was the best. One such example is, why sell off an expensive piece of city property in a central location to a developer when you can use it to create the housing you want to buy?

This scrutiny and the fact that a citizen’s ballot was started to gain signatures to place a people’s referendum up for vote, to revoke the city council’s actions, and the fact that this citizen’s referendum was gaining signatures ridiculously fast, and that citizen polls showed that almost nobody wanted this new head tax, was enough to convince the Seattle City council to rescind the head tax just today.

Sawant and her followers are trying to frame this as corporate greed with their “unlimited funds” being victorious again over social justice. But the fact, instead of this propaganda, is that the people of Seattle decided they did not want this tax.

And the city council listened. Many speculate that the council listened because later this year they want a tax that will give free college tuition to residents. So they question is, offer free housing to a growing number of people, indefinitely, without any other plan, or give people free college tuition? I think I agree.

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Now, Airbus A380’s Only Wanted for Spare Parts

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380
Image by https://www.flickr.com/photos/aero_icarus/

Gosh, Airbus A380’s aren’t even wanted on secondhand markets or even for lease. They’re starting to scrap them for spare parts. After so many illegal EU subsidies!

I’ve tried several times to find out the real costs of A380 development, and you just can’t. What’s even harder is finding out who paid for it.

“In 2000, the originally projected development cost was €9.5 billion. In 2004 Airbus estimated 1.5 billion euros ($2 billion) would be added for a €10.3 Bn ($12.7 Bn) total. In 2006 at €10.2 Billion, Airbus stopped publishing its reported cost and then provisioned €4.9 Bn after the difficulties in electric cabling and two years delay for an estimated total of €18 Bn”.

Hehe. Airbus stopped publishing the cost ?

“In 2014, the aircraft was estimated to have cost $25bn (£16bn – €18.9bn) to develop. In 2015, Airbus said development costs were €15bn (£11.4bn – $16.95 Bn), though analysts believe the figure is likely to be at least €5bn ($5.65 Bn) more for a €20 Bn ($22.6 Bn) total. In 2016, The A380 development costs were estimated at $25 billion for 15 years, $25–30 billion, or 25 billion euros ($28 billion).”

The quotes there were taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airbus_A380

That’s just development costs. Production costs are completely different, and they are hoping to maybe break even. An absolute disaster though.

If you look at the company’s financials… well, there’s just no room for a blunder like this. And what’s VERY interesting is looking at how much tax deferment they get — Boeing is practically $0 in comparison.

This just makes me incredibly proud of Boeing for having such foresight, breaking into new frontiers with the Dreamliner while Airbus was so sure of themselves on things that would never be. But even more than that, I’m proud of Boeing for realizing that, even though it’s our only major commercial airplane company, they still must take full responsibility for their decisions and actions. Unlike some banks and car manufacturers (not Ford though). And Airbus.

Source article: How the Airbus A380 superjumbo went from an airline status symbol to being sold for spare parts in just 10 years

Investigator and Critic Murdered – Some “Unions” You Can Never Leave

Arkady Babchenko served in and reported from several of Russia’s modern wars, and became a bitter critic of the Kremlin’s military entanglements Credit: Vitaliy Nosach/AP

Some “families” you can’t leave. Countries like Romania, Moldova and Ukraine managed to leave the Union but when Chechnya tried, Russia, the dominator of the Union, forced them to remain by military force. Now Putin has decided Ukraine needs to come back, and he’s invaded and conquered territory he wanted and thrown the rest of the country into disarray and suffering.

Whenever you break up a Union there’s going to be issues. How parties deal with these issues is very telling about their true character, especial when one is more powerful than the other.

This guy was involved in the Chechen struggles and also became an investigative journalist who was willing to dig into the more powerful side’s true actions, motives and character. Now he’s been murdered.

You look at these players like Putin, Trump and Junker, and it’s always about how they need more authority to get things done that need to be done for the people. It’s always about fooling people into believing what they want them to believe, so that they are not hindered and even helped to achieve their goals.

Putin’s won all he needs, except for freedom to do what he wants in the world with impunity. Trump is desperately flailing, hoping to land some deals mostly for himself while he can, and trying his best for the dumb luck of even more power, as he plays his Rosanne Barr character aimed squarely at those who would be easily manipulated enough by the New York billionaire. And Junker, pettily doing all he possibly can to spike the bloody head of the UK in the field to show the fate of any country who would even consider leaving the Union and diminish his chances for even more sovereign powers to be invested in him, in the EC, this also friend of Putin.

Transparency my ass. It’s just medicated smoke and mirrors. And Xi is right there smiling.

Another Russian Journalist Murdered

EU Punishing the UK by Withholding Galileo GPS System

The Galileo satellites are the European equivalent GPS, except they say it’s “for the people” with no military shutoff switch like the US one “unless under extreme circumstances” 😉 It’s been in the making for almost 2 decades, starting off with a private/public partnership that failed (which included China) and they were finally convinced to use different frequencies than GPS was already using after very long arguments.

After the failure of the private/public partnership, the EU decided to fully “nationalize” the project. Eventually in the last few years they managed to get a few satellites up there. Unfortunately their Swiss-made atomic clocks have been failing. No worries though, spend some more money and – the Swiss have been working on better ones, and they’ll go up with in subsequent launches.

The EC with Junker decided that the UK should no longer have access to Galileo’s special military powers (which Galileo doesn’t have of course because it’s “for the people”). They won’t even listen to the UK about the issue. Even though the UK funded around £1.4 billion.

Again, the “family” you dare not leave.

Germany agrees with this and is adamant that the UK be denied access. France, amazingly, is siding with the UK. As is Span, the Netherlands, Sweden and the so-called Baltic states.

Here is the source article from The Times article on Galileo EU UK issue