Rantz: To help ‘unbanked,’ Dems made it more dangerous to run businesses

Jul 4, 2023, 7:41 PM

Credit card...

Despite opposition, businesses in unincorporated King County must now take cash. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

(AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

The Democrat-controlled King County Council just made it more dangerous to operate businesses in areas already vulnerable to threats thanks to a ban on cashless businesses.

As county businesses face surging smash-and-grab and armed robberies, the council banned credit card-only retailers and restaurants in unincorporated King County. Now, businesses will be forced to accept cash against their will. Retiring councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles spearheaded the legislation. Using spurious research, she said she wanted to help the “unbanked,” ignoring the pleas of business owners and their staff. But her arguments were specious, at best.

This is a solution in search of a problem, though it does create a new concern. While news coverage came and went, Kohl-Welles put a target on businesses in unincorporated areas of the county that didn’t want to accept cash. It’s why some businesses rejected cash to begin with. Already farthest away from available law enforcement, these businesses will now contend with more of a threat from the county’s culture of lawlessness.

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King County cashless equity argument is specious

The legislation mandates in-person businesses in unincorporated King County accept cash for purchases up to $200. They do not have to accept bills over $20. It’s not yet been determined how the law will be enforced, and it doesn’t go into effect until 2025.

Kohl-Welles cited statewide data that shows approximately 2.1% of the population is “unbanked,” a term that means someone who either chooses to forgo banking services or does not have a bank account, such as the homeless or very low income. When asked if the councilmember had any relevant data from the county she represents, a spokesperson did not respond. But a press release claims that it could represent 7,000 people across the entire county, though not specifically in unincorporated King County.

“For folks who need every dollar to go toward food and essentials, rather than fees, cashless business practices act as a barrier to them accessing those needs,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, according to a local newspaper.

But she failed to present any data showing this was even a minor issue facing residents in unincorporated King County. It’s why four councilmembers didn’t support the legislation: there’s been no documented need for it, beyond virtue signaling in press releases.

“I would prefer that we take some time, inquire into who is unbanked, why, where and what the solutions to that could be,” Councilmember Claudia Balducci announced before the vote. She later accused Kohl-Welles of making “unfair and untrue” statements to support the legislation.

Equity! Equity! Equity!

When pressure to reject the bill mounted, Kohl-Welles used contrived equity arguments that weren’t initially used to justify forcing businesses to accept cash.

She said this legislation helped to support “some of our blind neighbors [who] struggle to use forms of digital payment because they cannot use the screens when they’re checking out.” She did not provide any research to support her concerns and seemed ignorant to credit card machines that have tactile keypads or tech like Apple Pay that make these transactions simple for everyone. It’s also fair to say the grocery store in Cumberland doesn’t have many (or any) blind customers and, if they did, staff would kindly help the person use the credit card machine.

Kohl-Welles also played hero to underprivileged kids who feel shame when their friends use credit cards and they cannot. “Youth who are unable to get cards face challenges of their own, in helping out getting groceries for their families and socializing with other kids,” she claimed. The councilmember may yearn for the days when she and her friends would go to the diner for shakes that cost a nickel, before heading over to the sock hop dance, but, again, she offered no specifics to justify her concern.

In her most disingenuous argument, she cited deeply religious people who do not use cards because they “do not support the concept of interest.” Though this likely impacts 7 people in the county, Kohl-Welles would not support them if they said they wouldn’t design a wedding website for a same-sex couple. Her support for religion extends only as far as she can use it to push a silly bill.

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Democrats initially pushed businesses to go cashless

Ironically, it was COVID hysteria primarily from the Left that led to so many cashless businesses. When we were told that money spread the virus, businesses shunned cash. But after the Radical Left passed criminal justice reforms that defunded police and gave endless chances to criminals, some businesses decided to stay cashless.

Armistice Coffee in Seattle stopped accepting cash after suffering significant losses due to frequent theft. Replacing the broken windows and stolen cash tills, on top of losing actual cash, was too much of a burden. “We were getting broken into every two weeks,” co-owner Rebecca Smith told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.  “And realistically, we still are, but the problem we face is that they smashed our window, which is a minimum of $1,000 to fix.”

After going cashless, she suffered online attacks from the same Radical Left elements promoting Kohl-Welles’ legislation.

“I had a personal attack on the business because of that,” Smith said of the move to cashless. “I was drug through the mud on many Facebook neighborhood groups, because I was isolating homeless people.”

A solution in search of a problem — that creates other problems

All this legislation does is create issues for businesses.

For businesses that choose not to accept cash, it’s about safety. Now, Kohl-Welles just told criminals they have more targets for their next robbery spree. It’s not especially easy or quick to get law enforcement out to a robbery in Skykomish or on Sylvan Beach. During public comment, one woman noted that this puts employees at risk and will lead to more broken windows and vandalism, on top of the theft.

As for the homeless, we’re supposed to pretend that this allows them to finally be able to pay for services! Well, the ones who shoplift won’t stop now that businesses must accept cash.

Kohl-Welles has no clue how many businesses shun cash, but she determined this to be an issue anyway. She had the votes of Girmay Zahilay, Rod Dembowski, Dave Upthegrove and Pete von Reichbauer. They seem to think that there are no alternative businesses for the unbanked. The council’s sole Republican, Reagan Dunn, was joined by Democrats Sarah Perry, Claudia Balducci, and Joe McDermott in opposing.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). He is the author of the book What’s Killing America: Inside the Radical Left’s Tragic Destruction of Our CitiesSubscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: To help ‘unbanked,’ Dems made it more dangerous to run businesses