Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.
December 6, 2013 at 10:57 PM
We’ve gotten quite a few responses to our post this morning about which city is better, Seattle or San Francisco. We trumpeted our beautiful summers and our liberal social policies. The San Francisco Chronicle retorted, calling Microsoft a “lumbering” enterprise and poked fun at Amazon.com’s drone idea.
Our readers are having their say as well, with 49 (coincidence) in support of S.F. and 34 in favor of Seattle. That’d better not be the final score of the game. Keep the responses coming. Here’s the best of what has been submitted so far:
December 6, 2013 at 2:02 PM
What is the likely effect of the rise in the minimum wage in SeaTac to $15, or some other increase? I was cleaning out my paper files preparatory to retirement, and under “Minimum Wage” was a study dated January 1991 from the University of Washington’s Northwest Policy Center. The principal investigator was James McIntire, who is now Washington state treasurer, the official responsible for floating state bond issues on Wall Street.
The study’s aim was to judge the effect of a 1968 state ballot measure that increased Washington’s minimum wage in two steps to $4.25 ($7.59 in today’s money) by January 1990. The effective minimum in Washington for most workers had been the federal minimum of $3.35.
This was a 27 percent increase over two years, which was fairly big, but less than half the 63 percent increase between the 2013 state minimum of $9.19 and the 2014 SeaTac minimum of $15.
In its study, McIntire’s team surveyed more than 1,000 employers and interviewed more than 500 affected employees. It also looked at state Employment Security data.
More than 100,000 employees got wage increases in 1989 and 1990 because of the rise in Washington’s legal minimum. Over two years, employers reported laying off 11,700 workers “as a result of the minimum wage increases.” Employees reported about the same number.
In other words, for every 10 workers who got a raise under the law, one worker somewhere was laid off. The most-affected employers were restaurants and bars (the law also eliminated the tip credit), particularly in the lower-wage parts of the state.
The job-killing effect of raising the minimum wage has been controversial. Twenty years ago economists David Card and Alan Krueger published a famous study comparing fast-food jobs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, after New Jersey raised its minimum wage and Pennsylvania didn’t. Said Card and Krueger: “We find no indication that the rise in the minimum wage reduced employment.” Card and Krueger have been cited by the pro-labor side ever since, often by Democrats.
McIntire is also a Democrat, and supports a minimum wage as “a social judgment” about the rewards to work. “Indexing is useful to keep it from becoming a political football,” he says. But he is wary of taking too much from the Card-Krueger study. He says it was a mistake for them to limit it to fast food, because if you raise costs for restaurants and menu prices go up in mid-price restaurants, fast food may gain. Card-Krueger was “a rather flawed study,” he says.
McIntire says the effect of a minimum-wage increase on jobs depends on how big the increase is — and a $15 wage would be a very big one. “Significant increases do have negative consequences,” he says.
“Significant” does not mean every employer. Of all employers surveyed in McIntire’s 1991 study, about 20 percent said they were strongly affected by the change in the law. They either raised prices, cut an expansion plan, cut employee hours or laid off employees. Most common was “a readjustment of hiring and personnel procedures” such as screening more job applicants to make sure they were properly trained. McIntire remembers that of employers that did lay people off, half rehired new employees to take their places.
The new ones, he said, “tended to be a bit older.” Having to pay them more, the employers spent more money to screen them and more to train them.
December 6, 2013 at 6:15 AM
Twenty-three Washington lawmakers have asked Gov. Jay Inslee to “conduct a thorough, comprehensive assessment of the full economic impact of the coal export proposals on Washington State.” A wholly appropriate request and inquiry.
Led by state Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, the legislators want to know the net economic costs of siting coal export facilities in the state.
The job creation potential of coal export terminals near Bellingham and Longview are prominently mentioned by proponents, but the additional infrastructure costs for cities and towns along the statewide path of the trains does not get tallied.
Carlyle and others have asked for the broadest possible environmental assessment of the projects. But as the legislator from Seattle’s 36th District notes, there is no requirement in the permitting process “to develop an objective balance sheet of the full costs and benefits of these proposals.” How much will taxpayers end up paying to subsidize the expansions and upgrades of roads and bridges and other civic infrastructure to accommodate and remediate for daily streams of coal trains?
Carlyle, who chairs the House Finance Committee, and the 22 co-signers of the Dec. 2nd letter make clear their fiduciary responsibilities to taxpayers. A duty the governor has as well. Run the whole tab on these coal terminals.
December 6, 2013 at 6:03 AM
Seattle has for too long been labeled a “smaller San Francisco.” We see the similarities. Like San Francisco, Seattle is made up of neighborhoods on hills. Both cities are shrouded in grey. The politics of both are proudly left.
But Seattle is not a lesser San Francisco. It’s a better San Francisco.
A San Francisco editorial writer seems to think differently in a post that went up this morning. As if. We’ll still continue to proclaim our superiority this week as the Seahawks prepare to take on the 49ers. Seattle trounced San Francisco earlier this season at CenturyLink Field, when the fans broke the sound record. Two S.F. fans called for the NFL to punish a team for fan noise in a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle. I called the letter-writers wussy babies in an earlier blog post. We’re not only louder, Seattle is better in a number of other ways:
San Francisco, we have news for you. You’re no longer the leftiest city on the left coast. In 2012, our state voters legalized same-sex marriage with Referendum 74. (California voters rejected same-sex marriage with Proposition 8.) Washington state also legalized recreational marijuana with Initiative 502. Eat your liberal heart out. (more…)
December 5, 2013 at 6:00 AM
The Michael Walter King story reads like a Shakespearean tragedy: Golden boy lands his dream job as executive director of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee. Two years later, he’s cleaning restaurants and living in a “sober house.” Democrats lose their majority in the Washington Senate. Then a judge sentences him to 25 months for embezzlement.
(Read The Seattle Times’ initial account of what happened in this February story by Andrew Garber and Brian Rosenthal. Reporter Jim Brunner followed up on the investigation in September. And here’s Sara Jean Green’s Tuesday report on King’s sentencing.)
Washington Democrats must be kicking themselves. If they’re not, they really should be. Don’t politicos hang out together in bars just as much as they do in board rooms? How did no one question King’s absences from work? Or that he perhaps drank a little too much during happy hour?
Humans tend to do a good job at hiding their vices. King had no prior record. Clearly, he knew he had a problem when he reportedly confessed his transgressions to an associate.
The sad irony is Senate Democrats didn’t lose their majority during the 2013 legislative session because of failed legislative policies per se. They simply didn’t pay enough attention to the guy handling their campaign money, and that mistake may have cost them dearly.
Several sources say the $330,000 or so King spent to fuel his habits could have been funneled into some critical races. The most notable election, of course, is former state Rep. Tim Probst’s failed attempt in 2012 to unseat conservative Republican state Sen. Don Benton in the Vancouver area. Probst lost by 78 votes. That outcome set the stage for two Democratic senators, Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon, to join with Republicans to form the Majority Coalition Caucus. (more…)
December 5, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Remember District Judge G. Todd Baugh? He’s the Montana judge who remarked that a 14-year-old rape victim appeared “older than her chronological age” and was probably as much in control of the situation as her rapist, a teacher at the girl’s school – before sentencing the rapist to one month in prison.
The public furor that ensued had even Baugh admitting he had crossed an ethical line.
But yesterday, the judge told the Associated Press that he should not lose his job. Censure would be enough, said the 72-year-old who was first elected in 1984 and has not decided whether he will seek a sixth term next year. Baugh apologized, saying that while he should not have made the remarks, his views did not influence the sentence he handed down.
I beg to differ. The teacher, Stacey Rambold, was 47 in 2007 when he assaulted the young girl three times over several months in 2007. Deepening the tragedy, the girl killed herself before the case went to trial. The office of Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, calling Rambold’s sentence illegal and too lenient, has appealed to the Montana Supreme Court.
The Montana Judicial Standards Commission has yet to rule on Baugh, but the judge told the AP Tuesday that he expects to be censured by the judicial ethics panel over his comments. Do you think the judge should be censured or removed from office?
December 4, 2013 at 6:30 AM
The Northwest Passage has captured my imagination since my Pacific Northwest childhood as a final frontier for marine expedition, ambition and, well, cannibalism. That last part loomed large in my recollection of school lessons, so as the famed passage across the north coast of North America began opening in the past two centuries, I’ve been jarred back to images of the ultimate adventure gone wrong.
More news today: the National Academies of Science has a new report about the potential effects of climate change, including projections about the mid-century prospects for more routine sailing of the Northwest Passage. Overall, it’s a sobering report on the “tipping points” for abrupt impacts on societies, as The New York Times’ Andrew Revkin reports.
The 900-mile Northwest Passage, which skitters among the Canadian archipelago and above the Arctic circle, is one of the winners in the global lottery of climate change. The report suggests that the 900-mile passage will be navigable in midsummer by “moderately ice-strengthened ships” by around 2050, opening up a much shorter shipping route. Here is an excerpt:
The shipping distance between Shanghai and Rotterdam, for example, is approximately ~19,600 and ~25,600 km, respectively via the Suez or Panama canals, but only ~15,800 over the northern coast of Russia (the Northern Sea route) or ~17,600 km through the Canadian archipelago (the Northwest Passage).
December 4, 2013 at 6:03 AM
Barry Welch of Ferndown in the United Kingdom created this mock delivery receipt from an Amazon.com drone. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told “60 Minutes” that the company is testing the use of drones for delivering products, according to a Bloomberg story. Follow Welch on Twitter @quantumpirate.
We’re always looking to reinvent opinion commentary for a digital world. If you’re interested in sending us visual commentary on local topics, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
December 4, 2013 at 5:38 AM
On the eve of my retirement, Times Editorial Page Editor Kate Riley suggested I pick my favorites from the 342 columns I’ve written for The Times since 2000. Here are 10, with my own headlines:
1. “Games With Words,” April 12, 2000. This was my takedown of the World Trade Organization protesters, who used loopy logic to justify their disruption of an international conference.
2. “A Republican War,” April 9, 2003. I hated the Iraq war and wrote three columns against it before President Bush started it. This one was written while U.S. soldiers were on the way to Baghdad. In it, I predict that the conquest of Iraq would result in an electoral disaster for the Republicans in 2004. I was wrong; the disasters came in 2006 and 2008.
December 3, 2013 at 6:15 AM
Moral paragon and ethical authority Rush Limbaugh is wagging a finger at Pope Francis for his essay calling on church leaders and lay persons to use their faith to empower efforts to help the poor and needy.
Just imagine a spiritual leader going off like that.
“Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel) has ticked off Limbaugh, a conservative entertainer with lots of airtime to fill. No doubt his talk-show producers saw the pope’s 224-page statement as something of a blessing during a slow season for news. They could turn out an indignant script faster than a Christmas wishlist.
I did not read every word of the document. Of course, neither did Limbaugh. Much of the message asks the leaders and members of the Roman Catholic Church to look around them and acknowledge the economic conditions that grip so many people. Pope Francis challenges the faithful to rethink how their parishes and community organizations might better help others.
The pope wants his readers to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality:
“Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless.”
Such prose certainly grabbed the attention of Limbaugh’s topic-fodder minions. The pope was preaching “pure Marxism,” Limbaugh faithfully repeated. Rush must have dropped his bacon-clad maple bar and eggnog latte a couple of paragraphs farther down in the papal missive:
“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories, which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”
Well, maybe the pope did get a bit cheeky as the U.S. economy was in the throes of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping frenzies: “In the prevailing culture, priority is given to the outward, the immediate, the visible, the quick, the superficial and the provisional. What is real gives way to appearances.”
Limbaugh might have lost a few of his ardent listeners to the pope’s truth speaking in light of bursting economic bubbles that did not discriminate by political ideology. The pope counseled his followers to say no to a financial system that rules rather than serves. Amen.
Rush and I both got something out of Pope Francis’ treatise. And we are each, in our own way, grateful.