Friday, December 30, 2016

Where do we go from here?

America is currently in the worst political position we have ever found ourselves in. The current President-elect is not supported by the majority of Americans before he even sets foot in the White House, which hasn't happened for the past three Presidencies. This could help us succeed if he moves forward to destroy our civil rights policies and our economy, which is what he as talked about doing since he started his campaign.

My biggest concern for next month is that there are currently 107 vacancies in our Federal Court System.

  • 1 Supreme Court justice
  • 2 on the Court of International Trade
  • 3 on the DC circuit court (the most prestigious of all the Appellatte Courts, the source of more Supreme Court nominees than any other court)
  • 6 on the Court of Federal Claims
  • 95 from district courts across the country.
When Donald Trump appoints people to fill these vacancies, you can be sure they will not be moderate and be less willing to approve civil rights legislation. They are going to stay on these courts until they hit retirement age (with the exception of the Supreme Court), so you can expect that they will be younger judges in their 40s which will give him a guaranteed 20 years of influence when he enters the Presidency. No other President in history has walked into so many court appointments. This is due to Congress refusing to give Obama any appointees for over a year, and the American People did not punish them for violating the Constitution. In my own district court for the Western District of Washington, Obama was supposed to have three appointtees which were denied from him by Congress. We are going to have a 100% conservative court here in one of the most liberal parts of the country. This concerns me as much as the elimination of civil rights laws in this country, gerrymandering, and the terrible economic proposals by Trump, because these court appointments are going to make it much more difficult to get progressive policy passed after he leaves office.

The gerrymandering which currently exists is going to continue to be a massive barrier to getting progress done. Most of the gerrymandering has been done in states which do not have initiative laws. We can definitely make progress in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, and Washington, on eliminating gerrymandering and implementing ranked voting at the state level. In Illinois, we could implement ranked voting as a constitutional amendment via the initiative process. Implementing ranked voting in these states and putting in laws which eliminate gerrymandering, such as single-split line method, multiple members per district, eliminate voter discrimination, and of course Ranked Voting will make it much harder for Republicans to steal future elections. The states which are the mosdt important to get these passed in are Michigan, Ohio, and Florida given how their elections have been stolen through gerrymandering and voter discrimination will be a significant barrier against Trump getting a second term and eliminate a lot of his support in Congress. Making those legislatures competitive as well will be an important step forward in ensuring democracy lasts in our country. If we get just a few more states we will be on track to matching the progress we made with gay marriage a few years ago and protect our country from more foreign electoral attacks.

This is the first and easiest thing we can do in order to get back our freedoms and improve America for the future.

State governments are vital to getting influence on the national stage. The Democratic Party needs to work hard on locating and raising strong liberal leaders across the country who are ready to be strong leaders of our country at the state and local level. Huffington Post ran an article which listed every Governor from most to least liberal. We should work on replacing the most conservative governors in the country, in Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. These are not swing states, but if we put forward more centrist candidates from these states who will give them better government we could turn the country around quickly. Indiana and Wisconsin are swing states, so it could be possible to flip them. Kansas is bleeding economically and we could put a strong Democrat in office. If these are highly qualified governors who will focus on building strong economies and reducing corruption in these states the Republican Party could be weakened potentially. Social policies can be worked on at the federal level and work on more significant progress in states where citizens already support American values. We have easy gubernatorial pickups in Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Florida in the next cycle. We already picked up North Carolina and if everything goes as I expect, we could make North Carolina a solid blue state in 2020 which will be vital in defeating Trump.

2017 we will pick up New Jersey for a total of 17 governorships
2018 we will pick up 14 governorships in Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Vermont, and Wisconsin for a total or 31 governorships and a majority.
2019 we might be able to pick up Kentucky (economy willing) and will need to retain Louisiana for 32 governorships.

Finally, state legislatures are extremely important for being able to test out policy and train strong leaders for Congress. There is a lot of work to be done here, which is where fighting gerrymandering and making elections fair is going to make the biggest impact, even more than getting a Congress which represents all Americans. There are a lot of state legislatures Democrats should have control of. Democrats only control 12 state governorships right now. Here are the legislatures we can gain:

  1. Washington, a majority of both houses are held by Democrats, but a power sharing agreement prevents Democratic control.
  2. Wisconsin
  3. Michigan
  4. Ohio
  5. Pennsylvania
  6. Virginia
  7. North Carolina
  8. Florida
  9. Colorado
  10. New Mexico
  11. Minnesota
  12. Iowa
  13. New York
  14. Maine
  15. New Hampshire
This will give Democrats 27 state legislatures for a majority. This can be done by 2018. If we succeed in making elections fair it will be easy to give Americans the government we want.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The issue with joining Canada

Once again The Confederate States of America has elected a horrible human being to the presidency of my country. This time it could be worse than we have ever had before. We have survived Andrew Jackson, we have survived Richard Nixon, we have survived Ronald Reagan, and survived George W Bush. Now these backwards racists have elected a self obsessed mediocre reality TV star who talks about illegally deporting millions of people,  mocks people with disabilities, and brags about assaulting women. He lost by over 2 million votes and won three formerly solid democratic leaning states by a hair, winning the Electoral College. His economic policies are ludicrous and social policies are right out of the works of Nietzsche and Hitler. He is working hard to destroy our relationships with other countries, and had the support of Vladimir Putin. The cabinet he is assembling is the richest cabinet in American history, he promises to eliminate the EPA, cut back on social programs and give himself more tax breaks. We don't even know what his investments are, meaning we cannot know where his conflicts of interests lie. This is hell on earth and will take decades to recover from.

As a response, many liberals are talking about the west and northeast joining Canada. To be realistic, this would not happen because most Canadians will oppose it.

I am in Vancouver right now, routinely ranked as the most liveable city in North America, and I agree with Mercer's assessment. While Seattle, a city of 3.7 million people has only one light rail line which goes from the university which is close to downtown to the airport, Vancouver just finished the line to Coquitlam, which is over a half hour drive from downtown. The Seattle equivalent would be like building a line up to Lynnwood which will not happen for over 10 years. Portland, Oregon is in similar shape to Seattle with the MAX, lauded by Americans as the most European like city in the country, doesn't have the MAX running consistently from 6 am to midnight from the whole metro area, and in New York City crossing the Hudson from Manhatten to New Jersey is far from convenient. There is a reason the city is dominated by taxis. These are also some of the most progressive cities in America and their infrastructure is shit, have horrible vetting programs to keep white supremacists (read terrorists) out of their police force, the roads have literal potholes, and have traffic like no first world city. Quantitative quality of life surveys are dominated by German, Japanese, and Canadian cities at the top of the list. At the state level my home state of Washington has the most regressive tax code in the country, refuses to fund basic education, and can't pass a carbon tax because our media is so biased. We are next to Oregon the least corrupt state in the country as well. It would have cost less for me to go to UBC as a foreigner than my own university as an in state student.

The only people we have to blame are ourselves. The Democratic party's unwillingness to go to court over voting rights has hurt our country, and have not brought the Electoral College to National debates. The party is only as good or bad as its members. So why should Canadians want us to join their country? Even many liberal Americans tend to be uncommitted to no brainer policies like mass transit and carbon taxation. Our most progressive politicians frequently oppose such policies and our best and brightest refuse to run for president. Why should Canadians want us gumming up their election system?

On the other side Canadian politics is not as good as most Americans think. Stephen Harper successfully turned Canada into a petrostate and their currency is struggling as a result, increasing the prices of imports. It is going to take a long time to get out of this rut they are in. Justin Trudeau just approved multiple large pipelines as Obama vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline and Trudeau is making it unnecessarily harder for tourists from Europe to visit. Their election system is so bad that despite never winning a majority in an election Stephen Harper survived as PM for three. No party has won a majority of the vote up here in decades. Canada is wonderful, and I love it so much, but is not the utopia many Americans think it is. If they had an influx of more moderate Americans from California and New York electing members of parliament Canada would probably lose many of the programs like Medicare progressives in America yearn for. Never forget the Public Option was killed when Democrats had a filibuster proof majority and all but one Democrat in the Senate voted for the Patriot Act. Russ Feingold was defeated in his next election, when he should have been a presidential candidate in 2004. Why would Canadians want us to join?

Instead of crying about leaving the United States let's clean our own house first. Call our politicians to build infrastructure and fund education. Fix our election systems and cut carbon pollution. Make a more progressive tax code and call for an open border with Canada. Make it easier for European and Japanese tourists to visit the United States. When our politicians break their promises, kick the bastards out. Turn off cable news and read newspapers written by scientists, not public relations/journalism majors. Call for people to speak reality and end this culture where everyone is entitled to their own facts. When our districts are gerrymandered, use the Voting Rights Act and the courts to make our elections fair. Make us a country which would not pull Canada backwards but push them forward.

Once we do this joining Canada would be possible. Once we do this, we won't have to.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Washington State Taxes

Governor Inslee anounced on Tuesday a plan to finally fully fund our K-12 schools here in Washington State. This is years overdue, and it has been unacceptable for our government to not do their job for so long. Washington currently has the most regressive tax structure in the United States, since we rely so heavily on our sales tax. The B&O is barely any better in its progressivity. We also leave capital gains untouched.

Inslee's plan as the Seattle Times announced will do the following:

  1. Increase the B&O Tax on select professions, accountants, attorneys, real estate agents,and others from 1.5% to 2.5%. This will raise $2.3 billion.
  2. A Carbon Tax of $25 per metric ton raising $2 billion.
  3. A 7.9% tax on capital gains above $25,000 for single filers and $50,000 for joint filers. Retirement plans, homes, farms, and forestry are exempt. It will only raise $821 million.
  4. Several other tax exemptions will be repealed, on water bottles and oil manufacturers.
I personally think the Carbon Tax and repealing exemptions for environmentally destructive activities makes a lot of sense and I wouldn't change them from Inslee's proposal.

The B&O tax is regressive towards small businesses and we are one of only 3 states in the country to tax gross receipts. This is a very regressive tax, and will hurt people starting out in these fields significantly. These are already professions which are heavily regulated and have to pay thousands of dollars to get licensed in order to practice in Washington State which can be prohibitive, as I have learned from experience.

A capital gains tax is a good idea, but this proposal like most capital gains taxes is a flat tax. It also ignores retirement plans which leaves a huge source of income untapped. It would be done better by treating all income equally and then taxing each individual's sum at a progressive rate.

Washington State's Tax Code is so backwards we need to redo a lot of it. I would propose the following:
  1. Income Taxes are done at a progressive rate with a range determined by a formula which I originally saw on Daily Kos and then modified. Taxes go as low as -4% (where you get 4% of your income back at the end of the year) and then go as high as 12% progressively. All income is treated the same under this income tax plan. The point where you switch from receiving money to paying money is at $100,000 per year. This will raise $15 billion per year.
  2. A Carbon Tax as proposed by Carbon Washington and Jay Inslee of $30/metric ton which will increase by $1/metric ton every year until it hits $50/metric ton. This will be scaled to inflation. Increasing the Carbon Tax will keep it from reducing revenue and help end carbon emissions sooner.
  3. Current property taxes raise $10 billion per year.
  4. Fund the Working Families Tax Credit.
  5. An Estate Tax of 10% on all inheritances above $1,000,000 per year per recipient.
  6. Other existing state taxes, (smoking, alcohol, etc.) currently raise $15 billion per year.
The B&O and general sales taxes are repealed in full.

This will balance the budget immediately. Eliminating the sales tax and B&O taxes will be a progressive shift in our tax structure which we desperately need and funding our schools is essential for our economic survival and human rights.

Inslee is on the right step here and this discussion needs to continue to happen. I hope he will succeed at funding our schools and taxing carbon emissions. I hope we will then continue the civic debate to look at our tax code and make it so that poor families stop shouldering the burden of funding our state's programs. Our current system is bad economics which must be fixed. This here is one full plan to do just that. is the spreadsheet including data for my proposals including the federal plan.