Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.
November 21, 2013 at 12:19 PM
JPMorgan Chase has agreed to pay $13 billion, including $4 billion for consumer relief and $6 billion to investors who lost big during the bank’s risky mortgage securities schemes. This settlement with the U.S. government is larger than any other Wall Street settlement and is roughly equivalent to half the bank’s annual profit. JPMorgan also agreed to a statement of facts, in which the bank admitted to key failures in buying toxic mortgage securities from 2005 to 2008. This NPR report offers a breakdown of the settlement and who gets the money.
A number of institutions will receive money in the settlement. Investors in JPMorgan appeared positive about the settlement. Shares of the New York-based bank rose 41 cents, or 0.7%, to $56.15 on Tuesday, as major U.S. stock indexes edged lower. This Los Angeles Times story offers more investor details.
I’m glad JPMorgan gave up trying to argue that it should not be held culpable for problems that came from the banks it acquired, including investment bank Bear Stearns and thrift Washington Mutual. But this does not end the anger and emotion surrounding the bank. Critics of the settlement call it a sweetheart deal engineered by a Wall Street-friendly Obama administration. Defenders call it precedent-setting, comparing it to the $4.5 billion in fines and penalties paid by British Petroleum over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. A Seattle Times editorial welcomed the BP settlement.
The JPMorgan settlement could become a template the federal government would use to guide future action against other banks. If so, is the settlement letting JPMorgan off too lightly or is it in proportion to the bank’s transgressions? Take this poll. (more…)
October 31, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Are we so blinded by our love of sports that we’re willing to be fleeced by the most profitable sports league in the world and its billionaire team owners?
In Virginia, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, who styles himself as a budget-slashing conservative crusader, took $4 million from taxpayers’ pockets and handed the money to the Washington Redskins, for the team to upgrade a workout facility. Hoping to avoid scrutiny, McDonnell approved the gift while the state legislature was out of session. The Redskins’ owner, Dan Snyder, has a net worth estimated by Forbes at $1 billion. But even billionaires like to receive expensive gifts.
Throughout the report, Easterbrook provides an exhaustive look at how American taxpayers have financed “70 percent of the capital cost of NFL stadiums,” in addition to many ongoing infrastructure and operating costs. Here’s a tidbit about the Seattle Seahawks:
CenturyLink Field, where the Seattle Seahawks play, opened in 2002, with Washington State taxpayers providing $390 million of the $560 million construction cost. The Seahawks, owned by Paul Allen, one of the richest people in the world, pay the state about $1 million annually in rent in return for most of the revenue from ticket sales, concessions, parking, and broadcasting (all told, perhaps $200 million a year).
The Seahawks are a great team, but this is just plain wrong, especially when we’re struggling to fully fund public education and to sustain the cost of essential services such as the Metro transit system and health care.
Here’s the kicker: The National Football League is tax exempt. To the IRS, the NFL has been known as the Nonprofit Football League for decades. NBC News reports it gets away with this by only claiming tax immunity for the main office, which operated in 2011 with about $255 million worth of revenue. The NFL’s main function is to distribute billions generated from licensing and television deals to its 32 for-profit teams, each worth on average $1.2 billion according to this Forbes report. Still doesn’t pass the smell test. How many trade or charitable organizations pay their top official (in this case NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell) nearly $30 million? (more…)
October 1, 2013 at 3:56 PM
The federal government shutdown could affect up to 50,000 federal employees in Washington state.
National forests and monuments, including Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens, closed Tuesday.
And U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray shuttered their district offices statewide.
Unless Congress strikes a deal, thousands of civilian workers considered nonessential to the federal courts and military bases are expected to be furloughed.
That means smaller paychecks and less money to spend at a time when the economy is experiencing a fragile recovery.
Have you seen any effects of the government shutdown? Tell us about it:
July 22, 2013 at 6:15 AM
Mayor Mike McGinn and the Seattle City Council agree that all money raised from the $189 school-zone traffic cameras should be used for road and pedestrian-safety projects near schools.
But according to a Times story on Sunday, the question dividing the council and mayor is how to ensure the money is only used for school-related projects. The Council may vote as early as today on a bill creating the School Zone Fixed Automated Cameras Fund. Ticket revenue would be kept in the fund and could be spent only on operating and maintaining the cameras or installing new ones; safety education; and capital-improvement projects in school zones, such as repainting crosswalks, new sidewalks and lighting.
Proponents, who include Sally Clark, Tim Burgess and Mike O’Brien, argue that a separate fund would offer transparency and assauge skepticism that the cameras are less about safety and more about new revenue. My editorial page colleague, Bruce Ramsey, makes similar arguments here. Bruce may be a bit biased, he recounts being on the receiving end of one of those tickets here.
The mayor’s office counters that keeping the money in the city’s general fund keeps it accessible and flexible for a variety of important needs. Targeted spending may ensure money gets to where it has been earmarked, but those same strings can doom more important needs in the case of, say, a recession. Councilman Nick Licata understands the mayor’s point, saying in the Times story, “You want to have flexibility so you can pay for what is most needed — there’s an attraction to that.”
But ultimately, Licata notes in the same story, a dedicated fund is the best way to provide transparency to a citzenry suspicious that the cameras are a revenue tool rather than a safety effort. That’s why he co-sponsored the bill before the council.
I support the traffic cameras. People too often zoom through school zones with no regard for the lives of children nearby. Less than a month after the cameras were installed, nearly 6,000 drivers were caught on camera breaking the law by speeding in school zones.
What do you think is the best way for the city to handle the funds? Weigh in through the poll below or offer your solution.
July 11, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Senate Majority Coalition Caucus Leader Rodney Tom wants to motivate lawmakers to get their work done on time or face fines. Sounds like a gimmick. A bad one that doesn’t reflect much pride in the final budget passed by lawmakers earlier this month.
The Washington Legislature certainly tested our patience when they failed to reach a budget deal by the end of the regular session. That they teetered on the edge of a government shutdown is unfortunate. But there’s a bottom line: The final bill lawmakers passed turned out to be better than the alternatives considered in earlier weeks. (Why? Read more analysis in this July 2 editorial commending lawmakers for finding the “political center” in the final bill.)
Here’s an excerpt from Seattle Times reporter Andrew Garber’s Wednesday news story:
Tom created a buzz after broaching the idea of a $250-a-day fine for each day lawmakers go past the time allotted in the regular session.
“We need a forcing mechanism, and right now, there really is not one,” Tom said Tuesday. “I think it’s crazy that it comes down to notices to state workers that we’re going to shut down state government as the only forcing mechanism that gets us out of town.”
House Appropriations Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, disagreed with Tom’s idea. “I just don’t think it works,” Hunter said.
Is Tom trying to apologize in some way for taking too long to adjourn sine die? They definitely took way too long to compromise, but I don’t buy the idea that lawmakers will ever penalize themselves for taking a few extra weeks to understand a complex state budget that affects millions of Washingtonians over two years. (more…)
June 17, 2013 at 6:00 AM
This Seattle Times news story caught my eye over the weekend because I spent my first several months in Seattle without a car. I relied heavily on a combination of my own two feet, buses, trains, taxis, Uber, ZipCar, Car2Go and, of course, my driver friends. The costs really added up, but I enjoyed for a time the convenience of not having to pay for gas and insurance or having to park a car every night in Capitol Hill.
Now I see a dilemma on the horizon. I want the drivers of innovative services like Lyft and Sidecar to succeed. They’re doing well because they’re responding to Seattle’s heavy demand for quick, responsive ride-share car services. At the same time, I don’t think their success is necessarily fair to taxi drivers who are heavily regulated by the city and subject to licensing fees.
Of course, the Seattle City Council is weighing its options.
While I formulate my own thoughts on this issue, what do you think? Give me a sense of your opinion on this. Take our poll.
June 10, 2013 at 7:13 AM
In case you missed it, our Saturday guest column by Danielle Campoamor is a must read. In “What’s wrong with Seattle’s dating scene,” Campoamor says the problem is the men:
“Much like a Seattleite merging onto a freeway, our men’s apprehensive tendencies leave them incapable of finding either the open lane or the open bar stool.”
When I pitched the op-ed idea to Campoamor, I was thinking back on my own dating life before I got married, and how I realized after a year of living in Seattle that I would have to ask men out if I wanted to go on any dates at all. Seattle men I encountered at social events were too passive to make the first move.
For awhile I wondered whether I was just unattractive, until I left town for other cities. Living in Seattle was like residing on the planet Krypton. As soon as I went to elsewhere, total strangers would strike up conversations with me. My average of getting asked out on the road was 1.0000.
I once got asked out on a Los Aneles freeway. A car repeatedly flashed his brights at me, then pulled up alongside and pointed for me to pull over. I pulled off the freeway, thinking my headlights were out. The driver got out of his car, knocked on my passenger window and said, “Would you like to go out sometime?”
The circle of passive men extends to my husband, Danny O’Neil. (more…)
April 19, 2013 at 6:09 AM
The Washington House Transportation Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing Friday morning on ways to raise revenue for roads. Lawmakers will consider a gradual 10-cent gas tax increase over the next four years, as well as several local options to help counties pay for regional transportation needs. The proposed ideas deserve thoughtful — and cautious — consideration.
Weeks after Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, released a much larger package of ideas that raised plenty of eyebrows, she’s scaled down those plans to a few key points outlined in this news report by The Seattle Times’ Mike Lindblom. (He uploaded a summary of Clibborn’s revised proposal to DocumentCloud.)
There’s no doubt we need the money to preserve the infrastructure we have and to invest in projects that are critical to our state’s economic vitality. Increasing the fuel tax is a viable option, but lawmakers should weigh their decision against the likelihood that any increase will have consequences for someone, whether they be business owners or drivers trying to get to and from work. Extra money at the pump means less money spent elsewhere. At some point, we’ll probably have to have a substantive public debate about other revenue options that include the T-word. (Yes — tolling.) (more…)
April 10, 2013 at 12:20 PM
Does a Richland florist have the right to provide service to a gay man for years, then decide she won’t do business with him when he tells her he’s using the flowers in his wedding ceremony to another man?
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson doesn’t think so. Discrimination is discrimination, and Washington treats the institution of marriage the same for all after the passage of Referendum 74 last November.
March 21, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Now that Washington legislators know how much money they have to spend, the real work of setting the state budget begins.
As The Seattle Times’ Andrew Garber reports in this news story, lawmakers have different philosophical views on the issue of closing an estimated $1.3 billion shortfall and fulfilling a court-ordered mandate to better fund K-12 education. Generally speaking, Democrats want more revenue while Republicans say the state should find a way to live within its means without raising or extending taxes.
You know what? I say it’s time for a civic gut check. Here’s two things you can do to think about this debate:
1. Check out this nifty Seattle Times interactive and tell us how YOU would balance the state budget and pay for schools.
2. Share your opinion by participating in our poll.
Here‘s a link to the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council‘s official revenue report. Watch the 45-minute video below. The first half features comments from state economist Steve Lerch. The second half is a spirited Q&A session with the media.