Rantz: In latest stunt, Sawant shows she doesn’t understand what ‘free’ means
For a former economics teacher, Councilmember Kshama Sawant sure has some basic concepts wrong. Take for example this doozy: She doesn’t seem to understand what “free” means.
Taking advantage of the inevitable pain commuters will feel thanks to Viadoom, Sawant asked Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine to make transit free for all users. Beyond that, she’d like to see the service completely free for everyone, all the time, paid for with a nebulous wish that it be “paid for by taxing big business.”
First, it should be noted that in her demand, she also just endorsed a bus subsidy for wealthy Amazon workers — not the working class she claims to always champion. Under her proposal, a computer programming pulling in $250,000 a year would get free bus service.
Second, Sawant has no authority to tax businesses to provide free service across all of King County. A Seattle tax to give subsidies outside of Seattle? That would never fly. This is action that would need to come at the county level, where she won’t have support.
Third, nothing is “free.” The service has a cost, and that needs to be paid for. And even if she better defined her bumper sticker talking point of “tax big business,” it still wouldn’t be free.
We’ve seen this time and time again. Whether businesses are big or small, they pass on the cost to the consumer. If you taxed, for example, grocery stores to cover the cost of free transit, the grocery store would raise prices to pay for the new tax. It turns out businesses don’t like being burdened with fees to cover subsidies that don’t directly help their bottom lines.
But let’s say, under Sawant’s pie-in-the-sky idea, they literally only targeted the “big business” she likes to demonize. How is that different than the epic failure known as the Amazon head tax? Seattleites spoke loud and clear: we don’t want these types of taxes.
The reason why Sawant seldom puts out many details with her ideas is because they’re ill-defined by design. The goal is to brand herself, not actually come up with policies that make sense. She had some big policy wins when she was specific. But when she’s not, it’s because she’s just looking to score some points. In this case, she’s trying to score points when she becomes deeply unpopular with labor unions that once provided for her considerable support. That support has dwindled considerably which is why she hasn’t yet publicly declared if she’s running for re-election. She’s weighing her options and she needs some public good will to help her decide where she’ll end up leaning.
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