Thursday, August 11, 2016

Jamie Spends Real Money

The number of registered voters in this county is 12,379. The average number of working people here is 5,445. Of those, 796 are government workers. Those 796 government workers earn more than all the people employed in agriculture, the construction industry, and health care combined (in excess of 1,000 people).

If you're doing sums in your head, you might notice that the working people in San Juan County are a minority of voters (44%), and private-sector workers are an even smaller minority of voters (38%). 

The taxation policies of our county are regressive in several ways. First, the taxes themselves (sales and property taxes) are regressive methods of taxation. Second, the taxes often fund programs that have debilitating regressive effects that are even worse than the taxes. For example, county requirements for land development impose expenditures of tens of thousands of dollars in fees, reports, and evaluations which are beyond the out-of-pocket funding ability of working class people. None of the burden of development costs can be included in a mortgage. All of it has to be paid for out of pocket.

If you are wealthy enough to own enough land, you might be able to take advantage of one of the special programs to reduce your property taxes (e.g., open space designations or conservation easements). The effect of this is also regressive, since it amounts to cost shifting away from larger parcels towards smaller parcels more typically owned by working people.

And it gets worse every year. The pet "solution" proposed for many of our "problems" is an ever growing call for more taxing districts -- more regressive policies. One "solution" currently being discussed for our affordable housing "crisis" is to create a tax to provide a revenue stream to build more affordable housing. This isn't a solution. In reality, it isn't even intended to be a solution. This is simple vote buying. The affordable housing projects on our islands are going broke because they were non-solutions in the first place. They never were economically viable, and federal and state funding for these unsustainable developments have dried up. The future slums of San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez have powerful voting blocks behind them however ... and if politicians once again stiff workers in the county to pander to these voting blocks, it won't amount to much electorally. 

Without some disruptive economic event to grow the working middle class, private sector workers are unlikely to ever again be fairly represented here. San Juan County will continue to be the playground of special interests that impose restrictions on others, but give themselves a pass. Anyone who professes to believe that new government programs will help workers is either on the make or a complete fool. The last thing the existing patronage system wants is to shift power to workers and the middle class, even if they are willing to pay lip service to it from time to time. In reality, the entire funding and functional purpose of the government apparatus here is to provide special treatment for the connected while keeping workers in their place.

Make sure Councilman Jamie gets special treatment

Dispatch the boat for Sam. She doesn't want to wait for the ferry.