Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Steve Ballmer, Jeff Bezos join Tim Eyman and Frank Blethen's free lunch league

The list of wealthy captains of industry who talk a good talk about investing in vital public services but aren't willing to put their money where their collective mouths are keeps getting longer. And longer.

Its two newest members are Microsoft's chief executive officer, Steve Ballmer, and founder Jeff Bezos. Both have now contributed $100,000 each to the coffers of the campaign that's trying to defeat Initiative 1098. (I-1098, for those unaware, is Bill Gates Sr.'s uncommonly sensible proposal to levy an income tax on high earners and dedicate the revenue to public schools and healthcare coverage.)

As I have often written here on The Advocate, actions speak louder than words, and Ballmer and Bezos are sure failing to practice what they preach by helping the folks who want to starve our common wealth.

Not a decade ago, Ballmer went on record as saying, "Taxpayers in this state have to come to grips with the notion that says we need to invest more in our education system overall." (That sentence is a direct quote from a speech he gave at an alumni breakfast for one of our underfunded public universities).

This is exactly what Initiative 1098 is all about: Embracing the notion that we need to invest more in our education system overall. But evidently, when Ballmer was talking about "taxpayers in this state", he wasn't including himself.

Initiative 1098, if enacted, would begin to mend our horribly broken, regressive tax system. All it does is slightly level the playing field. Sadly, many of our wealthiest citizens, who were let off the hook during the Bush error, can't abhor the thought of their taxes going up even one penny.

Some of them - Ballmer, Bezos, Barry Ackerly, John Stanton, Martin Selig, John Nordstrom, Jeff Carnevali, Kemper Freeman Jr. — are so selfish they're willing to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in an attempt to prevent themselves from being subject to a modest tax increase.

They want everyone else to carry the load even though they are the most well-off. Their sense of entitlement is simply appalling.

They used America's infrastructure, paid for by the taxpayers of America, to make their money, yet they are unwilling to give back.

If they truly loved their state and country, they'd realize it's patriotic to be a taxpayer. A real patriot happily pays his or her membership dues in America, with the knowledge that our qualify of life depends on a strong common wealth.

Admittedly, there are folks on the far right who are honest about wanting to get rid of public services as well as the taxes that pay for those services. But they do not tend to be candidates for office, captains of industry, or even initiative pitchmen. Conservatives falling into such categories want to at least appear respectable and credible to biconceptuals, so they pay lip service to progressive ideals, or, failing that, they keep their message fixated on the costs of government and ignore all the benefits, hoping that no one will challenge them.

I became an activist eight and a half years ago because I realized the free lunch league was going to keep on winning as long as they could succeed in deceiving voters and injecting ignorance into our political discourse. I could not, and still can't, abide the thought of them succeeding in turning Washington into a ruin. That was why I began to fight, and it is why I continue to fight today.

I realize that many folks out there feel disillusioned and frustrated that the economy hasn't turned around faster, that the change promised by President Barack Obama hasn't fully materialized.

I'm angry, too. I think these tough times call for something bolder than creeping incrementalism. That said, I know the worst thing we can do is follow the pied pipers of the free lunch league right off the cliff and into the abyss.

Want to punish greed? Want to use that ballot to vent? Then vote NO on the corporate initiatives — I-1053, I-1082, I-1100, I-1105, I-1107 — and YES on I-1098. Take satisfaction in the knowledge that your vote is crucial to helping spoil corporate lobbyists' cocktail parties on November 2nd.


Blogger donebe said...

You might also mention R52 which will put people to work doing energy upgrades to public schools.

September 22, 2010 9:41 AM  

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