Submitted by John Alessio, Steilacoom.
Bruce Dammeier, current Pierce County Executive, is circulating a letter claiming “The Seattle Machine” is out to get him. He thinks he lives in Chicago. There is no machine in Seattle or anywhere in this state. What Dammeier fantasizes as a “machine” is nothing more than people organizing to protect their rights and important social services. It’s the general public holding its elected leaders accountable for providing healthcare, a healthy environment, badly needed services and infrastructure upgrades. Perhaps Dammeier should pay less attention to Seattle and more attention to Pierce County, where he has failed to provide badly needed leadership.
Dammeier somehow associates AG Bob Ferguson and House Speaker Laurie Jinkins with this mysterious non-existent “Seattle Machine.” Ferguson and Jinkins protect the rule of law and the common good respectively, and they do their jobs very well. Beyond that, they face the same expectations as every other politician in Washington State. If they don’t serve the public the way they are supposed to, they could be voted out of office. We, in Pierce County, also hold politicians accountable for serving the interests of the general public. When they don’t, we should (and often have) vote them out of office. Continuing to force reliance on regressive sales taxes, that squeeze the middle and working classes in order to protect the rich, is not serving the common good, and is not acceptable. If a politician is taking money from corporate donors, like Dammeier is, he/she is probably compromising the interests of the general public.
Dammeier attacks the Democrats, claiming they are planning an “October Surprise.” What is he talking about? It was the actions of Ronald Reagan, a Republican, that led to the creation of that term. Reagan allegedly made a deal with Iranian rulers to keep 66 American hostages in Iran until after the presidential election – thereby assuring he would be the one elected. There is no October Surprise here. What a foolish thing to say. The surprise may come in November when people like Dammeier, who believe they own their office, will be voted out.
In addition to an irrational fear of a “Machine” and a “Surprise,” Dammeier’s attacking letter also mentions a fear of being called a racist. Well, perhaps it is really his own record that he fears. It is Dammeier who is responsible for the serious mishandling of the Manuel Ellis case, where he failed to correct the official record claiming Ellis attacked the police, and where he failed to disclose the existence of critical evidence related to the case. An investigation of his communications shows he was publicly appeasing the community while privately pledging unconditional support to the police. It was also Dammeier’s decision to leave the Medical Examiner’s office underfunded so as to prevent them from doing their job adequately in the Ellis case and beyond. And it was Dammeier’s decision to use the County’s Emergency Operations Center to surveil citizens rather than attend to true emergencies, like the Covid-19 pandemic – for which he has basically been AWOL.
In 2016, when Dammeier was running for office, he said he would enact the 1/10th of 1% bipartisan sales tax bill passed by the state legislature in 2005 to allow counties to raise money for mental health programs. He has yet to provide the leadership necessary to make that happen, and the mental health problems in the county continue to worsen. He hides behind the Republican majority vote on the County Council.*
Sales taxes are not preferred by Democrats, but Republicans have left that as the only state tax option over the years. Since Democrats became the majority in the state legislature in 2017, they have rightfully been trying to raise taxes on the rich so as to pay for our needed services and provide tax relief for the rest of the population. Yet, Dammeier and his Trumpian colleagues, like State Treasurer Davidson, try to scare the public with lies. They tell the public that Democrats want to raise their taxes. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Politicians like Dammeier and Davidson are protecting the status quo (which protects the rich), and the status quo looks like this:
- the bottom 20% of our state population currently pays 17.8% of their income in taxes,
- the middle 20% pays 11% of their income in taxes,
- and the top 1% of the state’s population pays only 3% of their income in taxes.
The reason for the above up-side-down tax distribution is not complicated. It is because when we rely almost entirely on sales taxes for our state income, the rich practically get a free pass. After all, how many cigarettes can they smoke, how many times can they put gas in their car, and how many televisions and cell phones do they buy? It is obvious that middle and working-class people carry the tax burden by struggling to buy the basics of what they need, while the rich hardly notice they are paying taxes at all. That needs to change. We need to stop depending on sales taxes and find ways of taxing wealth and extremely high incomes. The people of Washington State are figuring this out and compromised politicians, like Dammeier and Davidson, are going to have to change their ways if they expect people to vote for them.
So, there you have it, Mr. Dammeier. It is pretty simple actually. There’s no “Machine” – no “October Surprise” — just the commonsense interests of the general public – interests you have failed to serve.
*Most of the information in this paragraph and the previous paragraph came from Seattle Times investigative reports: Sept. 20, 22, 25 of 2020