Every once in a while an elegant solution presents itself — one that cuts through the noise and seems to make perfect sense. Here's one: the Financial Transaction Tax, most recently proposed by Bernie Sanders. With a tiny fee on Wall Street trades, we could raise hundreds of billions of dollars to fund an array of needs, from infrastructure to paying for college.
This tax is already in place in Britain and Hong Kong, and it's coming to the European Union. According to the Tax Policy Center, 40 percent of the impact would hit the top 1 percent — those who benefit most from playing the stock market. There's even a Robin Hood Tax organization (robinhoodtax.org). I think this idea has a real future.
The other silver-bullet solution coming (slowly) is raising the minimum wage. If you didn't already know this, our federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. That's outrageous. Even Marco Rubio said at a campaign stop in New Hampshire that "you can't live on $10 an hour, you can't live on $11 an hour." Ben Carson supports increasing the federal minimum wage.
Here in Washington state, we can be proud that we enacted the highest minimum wage in the nation (outside of D.C.) at $9.47 an hour. While that's great, it's probably still not enough, which is why Seattle set a $15-an-hour minimum wage to be phased in by 2017. Tacoma, meanwhile, will be voting this week on whether to raise the city's minimum wage to $12 or $15.
Again, with one simple action, raising the minimum wage cuts through the seemingly intractable struggle to pay people better — and since 70 percent of our economy is based on consumer spending, higher pay is good for America. Yes, prices may go up — but really, how cheap do you want your hamburger before you feel like you're exploiting workers? Seattle reportedly has lost 700 restaurant jobs since enacting the new wage, so there are impacts. We need to watch and learn from them.
Instead of having a healthy debate on what the right dollar figure might be here (not $15), we're voting on a sprawling proposal to remake the entire social contract in Spokane. It's City Proposition 1, and we've said no twice already. While increasing the minimum wage is an elegant solution, the so-called Worker Bill of Rights would turn Spokane into a vast experiment that would bring unintended consequences, lawsuits and uncertainty to local business owners.
So let's have that minimum wage debate. But on City Prop 1, there's way too much uncertainty. The smart cities are keeping it simple. ♦