Who Pays for the Poor?

Amazon and the City of Seattle are engaged in a standoff over who pays for the poor and homeless. The numbers of homeless people throughout our city are huge and growing. We are a prosperous high tech urban hub — in part due to the fact that Amazon is headquartered here — and that drives up the cost of living. Lots of people can’t keep up.

In addition to the proposed 75M tax on larger employers, Seattle is in the courts over a high earner tax that would be applied to individual taxpayers. Both are to address widespread poverty in our city.


This isn’t just a Seattle problem; it ‘s a much larger issue of who pays for people who can’t keep up in a fast moving global economy. That would have included my mother, who competed as best she could in the job market without a high school diploma. Like many casualties of the Depression, she dropped out of high school to go to work to help support her brothers and sisters. It includes people in current time with poor or mismatched skill sets, people with physical and mental health problems, people on the low end of the Bell shaped curve in terms of innate talent and ability. Who is responsible for those left out?

Paul Ryan frames it as a matter of makers v. takers, and says people like me should not have to pay for people who can’t keep up. The Trump/Ryan/McConnell tax cut codifies that philosophy into law, and if the Republicans keep their majority in Congress in November, middle class entitlement “reforms” aka cuts, will be added to the tax cut. People who now rely on Social Security, Social Security disability, Medicare, will be sharply squeezed.

This really is a societal question: “makers v. takers” or “we the people”.

Amazon is resisting the employer tax, and has put on hold the construction of a large new building intended to bring even more jobs here. I have mixed feelings about the high earner tax, but believe that if I want the benefits of living in a high tech and thriving city, I have to kick in for those who can’t keep up.

Time will tell where the majority opinion lies.

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