Dinging Seattle’s Mega Rich: The Scorpion and the Frog

“A scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a river. The frog hesitates, afraid of being stung, but the scorpion argues that if it did so, they would both drown. Considering this, the frog agrees, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When the frog asks the scorpion why, the scorpion replies that it was in its nature to do so.”  Wikipedia

You may have never heard of Kshama Sawant before reading this column and when you finish reading you may never want to hear of her again. Ms. Sawant is a Socialist who is a member of the Seattle City Council. She is not a Bernie Sanders Socialist rather she is better described as a “bomb thrower”. She has been involved in one far-left controversy after another and insistently aggravates the situations by reckless personal attacks on those with whom she may differ. Like many on the far left and particularly adherents to Post-Modernism, Ms. Sawant cannot defend her positions with facts and logic and, therefore, resorts to personal attacks, class warfare, and demonization – identity politics. As I noted in last week’s column:

“Identity politics seeks to delegitamize diversity of thought by ascribing a monolithic ethos to each category of humans – African-American, Hispanic, gay, lesbian, Jewish, Muslim, male, female, financial class, young, elderly, etc. And anyone seeking to deviate from the ethos of his or her ascribed class is deemed to be unworthy of trust.”

Ms. Sawant deems herself to be the “representative” of the poor and the “working class” and, therefore, anyone with whom she disagrees is fair game. In reality any one who has accumulated wealth is the “enemy.”

Currently, Ms. Sawant is vigorously pursuing a “head tax” on every employer who generates $10 Million annually in gross receipts for purposes of building public housing – ostensibly for the poor and the working class. She has chosen in large part to target Jeff Bezos and Amazon as her punching bag. GeekWire, a Seattle based publication that tracks technology noted in a March 2018 issue:

“Seattle councilmember Kshama Sawant helped organize the town hall event, where more than 200 people packed a room lined with posters that read “Unionize Amazon; Tax Bezos,” and “Tax Amazon; Fund Housing & Services.”

“A proposal that would have taxed Seattle businesses earning more than $10 million in gross annual receipts was narrowly voted down by the City Council this past November.

“But now the tax, also known as the employee-hours tax or ‘head tax,’ is back on the table at City Hall after a task force earlier this month recommended that City Council pass a tax that would generate $75 million per year in funding — and as much as $150 million per year with additional ‘progressive revenue options’ — to alleviate homelessness and housing issues in Seattle.

* * *

“Sawant said the city is facing a ‘social crisis’ with rising rent costs and a growing number of people who can’t afford a home. She said Seattle has ‘become a deeply unequal city.’

“There are several huge corporations in Seattle, but Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos were clearly the target on Tuesday.

“’Is everybody facing this crisis?’ Sawant asked the crowd. ‘Who isn’t facing this crisis? Jeff Bezos is not facing this crisis. Jeff Bezos now owns $100 billion and he has the distinction of being the wealthiest man in the world.’ Sawant said the tax would allow the city to build 750 permanently affordable, high quality homes every year. She also said the head tax would affect the top 5-to-10 percent of companies in Seattle.

“’That means not small businesses, but the Amazon’s, the Facebook’s, the Macy’s, the Nordstrom’s — all the companies that are not suffering in any way and can easily, easily afford to pay a small portion of their profits so that we could build affordable homes for everyone.’”

Never mind that this kind of mindless socialism has never succeeded anywhere – anywhere. This is as old as the Pilgrim’s failed attempt at a “cooperative” and as new as this year’s sociology courses in virtually every high school and college in America. And yet, despite its consistent failure, it is re-churned, re-edited, and re-broadcast for every succeeding generation as if this would represent Utopia. Only someone as dumb as Ms. Sawant and her Post-Modern elitist would believe elsewise. But that’s not the point of this column.

For at least thirty years, Seattle based businesses – like their counterparts in Portland – have played footsie with the far-left reaches of the Democrat Party. They include companies like Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Costco, Starbucks, the major hospitals and even Boeing – more about Boeing later. I’m never quite sure whether the leadership of these companies are true believers in the Democrat policies – taxpayer funded abortion on demand, redistribution of wealth, primacy of public employee unions, and increasing the size of the welfare state – or that they are simply paying “green mail” to keep the wolves from the door. (When I was the Oregon Vice-President for US WEST I remember being dismayed as business groups to which I belonged met each year to hammer out a business legislative agenda that never seemed to include elements effecting business – taxes, regulation, land use, etc. – but always included the agenda of the then current Democrat governor.) We have seen the Democrats use the Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management to punish their opponents. And even when those agencies fail, they have the resulting effect of exacting significant pain through additional costs for lawyers, accountants, and experts.

Regardless of the reason, these companies regularly provide financial contributions to the Democrat Party and any number of Democrat candidates. Liberal advocacy groups are among national and local non-profit groups funded by several of these corporations. And the leaders of these corporations regularly criticize President Donald Trump and other Republican leaders. And just as importantly, these same corporations and their leadership are nowhere to be found in opposing the excess of the liberal/progressive agenda – higher taxes, more regulation, and privacy rights.

Through direct and indirect support (and even benign silence) these corporations bear a responsibility for the rise of the liberal/progressive movement in the Pacific Northwest. They know that most of the liberal/progressive agenda – like the scorpions – are an anathema to their business interests and economic growth and stability. And yet like the frog they have carried the liberal/progressives choosing to believe their assurances and ignore their nature. It should come as no surprise to these corporations and their leadership that like the scorpion they will attack their hosts – that is their nature.

And all of this despite the history of Boeing in the Pacific Northwest. Washington State politicians treated Boeing as if it were a bottomless purse available for no end of liberal/progressive programs. They railed against Boeing before the cameras and demanded support behind closed doors. For everyone there is a breaking point and Boeing’s came in September of 2001 when it moved its world headquarters from Seattle to Chicago. Today Boeing manufactures parts of its airplanes all throughout the United States. Washington is left to assemble those parts in Everett and Renton, Washington.

But the left never learns. Today Ms. Sawant and her band of liberal/progressives are engaged in the same kind of abuse with regard to Seattle-based Amazon. All of this at a time when Amazon is conducting a search to locate its second headquarters campus – HQ-2. Continued abuse of Amazon could in fact make HQ-2 become HQ-ONLY with the flick of a wrist. Even Jeff Bezos has a breaking point and he still remains the largest shareholder in Amazon.

I am of two minds when it comes to Ms. Sawant’s threats – and neither applies to the lunacy of Ms. Sawant’s proposal. On the one hand this seemingly implacable belief by major corporations that it they cooperate they will be treated fairly by the liberal/progressives of the Democrat Party makes them deserving of what they get. And on the other hand, these continued demands by the liberal/progressives may hasten the day when major business exit abusive states leaving Democrats to ponder how they will pay for their irresponsibility. Washington and Oregon may soon reflect the California experience: while the population increases in each state the net migration will demonstrate that more people and businesses are leaving than arriving. Call New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut and see how that is working out for them.