Ah, the midterms. In the long two years since 2016, we have seen a war on poor people, immigrants, women, communities of color and LGBTQ rights. Seldom has so much hung on the results of a single election.
This is where the clash of money and ideas goes to the people, and we get to decide.
Witness statewide Initiatives 1631 and 1634, the carbon tax and the misleadingly named “grocery tax.” If unlimited corporate cash is the disease infecting the body politic, then these two initiatives are what terminal illness looks like.
Just five soda companies — Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Keurig Dr Pepper, PepsiCo, Inc., Red Bull North America, and The Coca-Cola Company — have raised more than $20 million to ensure that new taxes like Seattle’s Sweetened Beverage Tax can’t take hold in other communities.
As of Oct. 5, the campaigns against this measure had reported $8,650 to the Public Disclosure Commission.
The No on 1631 campaign, sponsored by the Western State Petroleum Association, shows a similar imbalance, with 99 percent of their nearly $22 million war chest flowing from major-energy concerns.
I can’t watch an hour of Hulu without seeing three ads explaining why the carbon tax is the most corrupt deal ever to flow from the sewers of Olympia. And according to No on 1631’s most recent campaign disclosure, they’ve spent only $2 million so far. We can anticipate a renewed deluge of ads in coming weeks.
Voters to decide the future of carbon taxes, sugary beverage taxes, gun control and how police shootings are prosecuted
When we asked Real Change vendors which of the state initiatives concerned them the most, we heard mixed thoughts on both of these. The class-biased soda tax, for example, hits many of our vendors squarely in their undernourished pocketbooks.
The fact is not lost on them that sugary drinks favored by higher-income people are exempted by Seattle’s sweetened beverage tax. A 16-ounce Salted Caramel Mocha Frappuccino, for example, contains 58 grams of sugar, as opposed to 42 grams in a the same amount of cherry cola.
Those who can easily afford to pay “sin tax” are off the hook while the poor get dinged again. Just one Frappuccino typically costs more than a six-pack of soda. The poor and the affluent increasingly inhabit different worlds.
It’s fair to say that this raises a certain amount of class resentment. The opportunity to push back on the judgmental nanny state for those who are too often targeted by regressive taxes has its appeal.
Some also fear that 1631 might raise energy costs. For people who struggle to pay basic bills, even in a good month, this is not an insignificant concern.
And yet, whenever we see corporations dumping huge amounts of cash into politics, we can assume it’s not about political fairness or love of low-income people. This isn’t about values. It’s about profit.
George Carlin had it profanely right: “They don’t give a fuck about you.”
On Oct. 23, Real Change will hold a forum on these two statewide initiatives, so people can hear the facts and make an informed decision during this crucial midterm election.
The event will be held at the Prospect Congregational United Church of Christ at 1919 E. Prospect on Capitol Hill from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., and both sides will be there to represent. Real Change will be there to moderate and keep things civil.
In the battle between people and money, the good news is that people, armed with facts, get to decide.
Tim Harris is the Founding Director Real Change and has been active as a poor people’s organizer for more than two decades. Prior to moving to Seattle in 1994, Harris founded street newspaper Spare Change in Boston while working as Executive Director of Boston Jobs with Peace.
Check out the full Oct. 17 - 23 issue.
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