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Kshama Sawant argues to tax the rich in Seattle

Kshama Sawant. (AP)
LISTEN: Kshama Sawant compares fight for city income tax to fight for civil rights

Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant is hosting a town hall event this week that calls on the city to tax the rich.

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“Washington state has the most regressive tax system in the entire nation,” Sawant told KIRO Radio’s Jason and Burns. “If you are a household that makes roughly $20,000 or so, then you are paying 17 percent of your income in taxes. But if you are a very wealthy household, you are paying around 2 percent in taxes.”

“And if you are a massive corporation like Microsoft or Boeing, when you add up the subsidies from our regressive tax system, they actually pay negative taxes,” she said. “Why are the poorest households and the hardest working households paying the most, and why are the wealthiest households paying the least?”

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Sawant’s town hall event is set for 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 18, at Washington Hall. It’s co-hosted by 350 Seattle, Seattle Transit Riders Union, and Greater Seattle Neighborhood Action Coalition – Communities of Resistance. The event is part of a movement to “Trump-proof” Seattle. As the city could face funding cuts from the current president and his administration, some in Seattle want to find ways to come up with funds to cover any shortfalls. That generally means taxes.

“Something that could be immediately done is actually a tax on higher income households – tax the rich as we are talking about,” Sawant said. “… You could make the business tax of the city, which is very minimal, more progressive than it is and make sure that the highest-grossing businesses pay much more than the smallest businesses. You can expand that tax base in order to provide increased funding for much-needed social services. You could also pass a linkage fee on big developers and make funding possible for affordable housing.”

Sawant argues that “regular” working people are carrying the tax burden in Seattle and around most of the state. The Washington tax system has often been called regressive for how uneven its tax levels are. For Sawant, the solution is easy — tax the rich.

“If you do not tax where the actual money is, where the real wealth is, then you simply do not have enough revenue to run a functional state,” Sawant said. “Many of the systems in our state are deeply dysfunctional. Look at the public school system, mental health services, public health, affordable housing. This whole system is in shambles because you don’t have enough funding.”

“Seattle is a wealthy city … but what we are seeing is soaring inequality,” she said. “The gap between the wealthiest households and the middle class, regular working people is so high now that it’s just unimaginable.”

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