Taxes

Seattle City Council's Lone Socialist Is Reintroducing Her Amazon Tax

A previous version of the tax was repealed a month after it was passed in 2018.

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Seattle's Amazon tax is trying to come back. On Wednesday, the Rainy City's lone socialist councilmember, Kshama Sawant, announced a plan for a tax on the city's largest employers to fund affordable housing and Green New Deal–style home renovations.

"This will not only transform the lives of Seattle's working people, it will set a historical marker for cities around the nation," said Sawant. "It's more than reasonable for the biggest, richest companies in our city to pay zero-point-three percent of their revenue to do their part to address our city's crushing housing crisis."

Her tax proposal would levy a 1.7 percent tax on the payrolls of Seattle's 825 largest businesses. She expects this to raise $300 million a year.

This money would fund the construction of 8,000 new affordable homes and retrofit an additional 47,000 units to meet "Green New Deal" standards, which involves converting them from gas or oil to electric systems.

Grocery stores, public employers, and nonprofits would be exempted from the tax, but Seattle's largest private employer is very much targeted by it.

"Companies here have reaped billions because Washington state has the most regressive tax system in the nation. It's time for Amazon and other major corporations to pay their fair share," said Sawant.

Sound familiar? It should. In 2018, the city council unanimously passed a slightly different version of the Amazon tax that applied a $275 levy on every employee at companies grossing over $20 million a year. This was predicted to raise $50 million a year.

That proposal attracted nearly unified opposition from Seattle's business community, as well as from some labor groups, and it was repealed a month after it was passed.

Sawant vowed to bring back the Amazon tax, laying the blame for its defeat on the "blatant lies" of big business.

The 2019 city council elections—where Sawant retained her seat in a close race, and most other Amazon- and business-backed candidates lost—have given the her latest tax drive a tailwind.

Unlike the last version, Sawant's new Amazon tax is not a literal tax on jobs. That's an improvement, says Garrett Watson, a policy analyst with the Tax Foundation. But it still has its flaws.

"Payroll taxes ultimately harm employees themselves. Economists generally across the board agree that employees fully bear the burden of the payroll tax," says Watson, telling Reason that employees at firms targeted by Sawant's measure "will earn less money, see fewer raises, and bear that additional tax."

A city-level levy could also encourage firms to relocate outside city limits to avoid the tax.

Mayor Jenny Durkan has already come out against Sawant's measure, pointing out that the city rejected a similar but smaller tax just two years ago, pointing out that it's "six times bigger than the failed Council head tax proposal" and that it would only lead to a "failed, divisive fight."

Sawant has already said she's planning on routing around any city council opposition by introducing a parallel ballot initiative, which could have more success in Seattle. (Last week the city's Ethics and Elections Commission determined Sawant violated city elections law by using city resources to promote an Amazon tax ballot initiative.)

At the same time, a bill pending in the Washington Legislature would authorize counties of over two million people (meaning only King County, which contains Seattle) to impose a tax on wages that large companies pay to workers earning more than $150,000.

The tax itself is generally in line with what Sawant is pushing, but there is strong speculation that a preemption clause will be added that would forbid a city government from imposing a payroll tax if the county has already passed one.

To counter this threat, Sawant sent an angry letter to Rep. Nicole Marci (D–Seattle), the sponsor of the state payroll tax bill, telling her that any preemption clause would be an "egregious selling out of working people."

A county-wide payroll tax would avoid some of the risks of companies leaving Seattle, says Jason Mercier, of the Washington Policy Center. It would still be yet another cost that business would have to bear.

"It's still setting up a situation where these businesses are already paying [business and occupation] tax, they're already paying sales tax, they're already paying property taxes, and now you are going to tax them for how much they pay their employees," says Mercier.

All attempts to make Washington's tax code more progressive on paper through additional taxes on big business would make state revenues less predictable, he adds, saying that the state has "one of the most stable tax structures in the country because it's a property-, sales-, gross receipts–based tax code. It doesn't have the volatility of corporate or personal income tax code."

Leaving these myriad policy and political problems aside, there's also the question of what Sawant wants her Amazon tax to pay for: affordable housing. More good could be done at less expense to taxpayers by removing restrictions on private developers building new homes.

Seattle has famously strict density restrictions in much of the city, and state law requires King County to maintain an urban growth boundary that restricts housing development in rural areas.

Sawant, to her credit, has voted in favor of recent successful city bills to legalize accessory dwelling units in residential areas and to upzone certain neighborhoods. (She has also tried to undo other upzoning plans to stop particular housing developments.)

Working to expand on these positive reforms would be a lot more constructive, and potentially more politically palatable, than agitating for yet another high-stakes brawl with Seattle's business community.

NEXT: How the Government Is Using Nonsense Rules to Keep Out Immigrants

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  1. Would somebody please kidnap this cunt and her posse, and drop them in Venezuela (or maybe North Korea)?

    1. Sending her dumb ass back to India would be punishment enough.

      1. What has India done to deserve that punishment?

    2. why not just take her for a helicopter ride?

    3. There is a very small country in the middle east, I cannot mention for fear of having my post censored, that is totally socialist and the US gives away billions of your tax money to that country every year. While we have homeless here, no one is homeless there. Health care is free, college education is free, housing is subsiidized and in some cases free. From the huge amount of free money and military weapons it receives from all over the world, but mostly from the US government (you the taxpayer), that country can be considered one of the largest welfare states in the world. However, that type of socialism however, funded by your tax money, to a foreign country, does not bother you? But taking care of your own citizens does? You are indeed a brainless chump.

      1. I like how you slid in here after everybody else was done commenting. Good job trying to be the last word. Not that great in terms of knowing what you’re talking about, though.

        A quick google search gives you this:
        “Since 1985, the United States has provided nearly US$3 billion in grants annually to Israel, with Israel being the largest annual recipient of American aid from 1976 to 2004 and the largest cumulative recipient of aid ($142.3 billion, not inflation-adjusted) since World War II.”

        But I don’t see you complaining about this:
        “The U.S. federal government spent over $15 billion dollars in 2010 on the War on Drugs, at a rate of about $500 per second.”

        Are you so blind, deluded, or stupid that you can’t tell the government is the issue here? How many people could we house for $500 per second? I’d say at least a few, maybe even a dozen, yeah?

        Take your horseshit elsewhere, this is a place for facts and snark.

      2. Victor Whisky
        February.15.2020 at 11:43 am
        “…You are indeed a brainless chump.”

        You are indeed a scumbag bigot.

        1. So Misek now has a sock to complain about Joooooossssss?

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    5. “Seattle City Council’s Lone Socialist…….,”

      Bullshit. They’re ALL socialists.

  2. They need kill the goose to get the golden eggs.

    1. One might expect productive people to flee a city dominated by the Left, but that has not happened in Seattle. Property values are still going up, despite a homeless and criminal-justice policy that sounds nuts. Washington is the only Left-leaning State without an income tax, providing some cushion of tolerance for payroll taxes.

  3. This money would fund the construction of 8,000 new affordable homes and retrofit an additional 47,000 units to meet “Green New Deal” standards, which involves converting them from gas or oil to electric systems.

    So 8000 “affordable” homes, and make another 47,000 units more expensive to live in

    1. But when all the windmills, solar panels, and tidal generators have been installed, electricity will be much less expensive. Think of all the free electricity that could be generated just by pumping sea water into the volcanoes.

      1. Great idea. Then where are we gonna sacrifice our virgins?

        1. In your backyard or your garage if it’s big enough. Last I checked this was still a free country.

        2. We’ll continue using the Congressional intern program.

        3. What virgins? This is, after all, the Left Coast.

          1. I bet that you wont find virgins at https://sexwollongong.net/ so have fun

      2. “when all the windmills, solar panels, and tidal generators have been installed, electricity will be much less expensive.” — Demonstrated to be completely FALSE on every occasion.

        And to pretend it’s big business doing all the lying!

    2. They really don’t know what affordable homes means.
      Like free health care.

      1. Sure they do.

        Free/affordable is relative to righteous woke people.

        “Cost” is for evil capitalists and Nazis.

  4. the Rainy City’s lone socialist councilmember,

    Correction: this should read the Rainy City’s lone admitted socialist councilmember,

    1. Same thought. Maybe the only one to self-label as such, but certainly not the only one there

  5. fuck off, slaver

  6. It is amazing that no one seems to want Amazon’s jobs. I’d so love to see them just say “OK, bye.”

    1. Would you want an Amazon job? They treat people like worker ants.

      1. Obviously not.

      2. Quite obviously, Amazon and its employees are happy enough with each other to voluntarily remain employee and employer.

        Voluntary agreements, how do they work?

      3. They also pay well and pay overtime.

        Maybe their warehouse workers have it rough, but that’s unskilled labor and that’s the name of the game. I have a former coworker who left our company to work Amazon doing cybersecurity stuff, he made a lot more money at Amazon but that was because he was working 70 hour weeks and raking in overtime.

        That was his choice though, at that point he was young and single and no kids and figured he might as well make bank while he had nothing better to do. He was never told he had to work 70 hour weeks, just that overtime was available and there was always work to do.

      4. Some people thrive on ant-like conformity. Don’t judge.

      5. They wanted the $15/hr plus benefits for a low-skill job. That means Amazon needs to squeeze out as much productivity as possible. Hence the monitoring, metrics, and ‘gamification’ stuff.

        They treat people like worker ants.

        Like pretty much every business.

        1. The only thing I’ve seen them doing that’s shit vis-a-vis their warehouse workers was the ‘you have to clock out before you go through security’.

          Fuck that noise. If you’re making me stand in line for security that’s either work or kidnapping. I don’t even let the receipt checkers stop me on the way out of a store.

        2. Like pretty much every business.

          How sad that you think that. You must have a history of dismal employment.

      6. I worked for a few years at Amazon corporate. It was okay for a while, then it wasn’t, so I quit and got another job. I took the job willingly and stayed while it was a good situation for me. Basic, no-gun-to-head arrangement in a free market society.

        1. How can that possibly be “fair”?

        2. Maybe someday we’ll have a free market society so we can see how that works.

      7. You obviously do not know what you are talking about. Where I live, we have two Amazon plants close by and they are among the highest paying non-degree jobs in the state. They also have amazing benefits down to a medical care facility on site. Amazon is a great employer if not one of the greatest in the country, but the leftist media would have you believe otherwise.

      8. Me in 2020? No. I’m an established professional in my 50’s. Thirty years ago? Quite possibly.

    2. They’re very feminist. I saw that documentary about their top employee from their Mediterranean island facility. Very impressive. And they appear to hire nothing but hot athletic women there.

  7. So Amazon is setting up plans to find somewhere saner to set down roots, right? They realize that this will just keep happening until it passes and the only option is to leave, right? Who am I kidding, business men have real blind spots when it comes to choosing locations.

    1. Boeing moved some of its manufacturing out of Washington to South Carolina. The move was delayed by the Obama Department of Labor claiming it was union busting.

      1. That’s true. If you’re going to move from these areas. You do need to fo it in the middle if the night eith no announcement, or they’ll find a way to make your life miserable.

        1. Not everyone can be the Baltimore Ravens or Indianapolis Colts.

      2. Yup. And when Boeing was still talking about the SC plant Sawant said that “the people should seize the Seattle facility and give it to the workers to change it from producing ‘weapons of war’ (they make no such thing here), and transform it into producing buses”. She didn’t offer any hints as to who was going to pay “the workers” or how many buses might be needed.

        Yes, she is that stupid. Nails on a chalkboard to listen to.

        1. AOC’s long lost retard sister then?

          On the next episode of Retard Twins….talking shit out of their asses….

          AOC and Sawant rail against fracking while wondering what’s a garbage disposal.

    2. Yeah they chose nyc and northern VA. NYC with AOC leading the charge ran them out of town.

      1. So they are complete and utter idiots then. Shocking they can actually keep the company running with stupidity like that.

    3. Considering most of our manufacturing has disappeared to foreign countries I’d say, “business men have real blind spots when it comes to choosing locations” isn’t quite accurate.

  8. I guess we disagree on what reasonable means.

    1. If you were reasonable, you wouldn’t disagree!

  9. Well, in a glass-half-full sort of way, it’s encouraging that she still feels like she needs some sort of justification for her socialist thievery beyond the usual FYTW. “Greedy evil rich people have too much money they don’t deserve so we’re going to take it and give it to poor people who need the money more” is at least marginally better than “People have money so we’re going to take it”. Not that the first one won’t turn soon enough into the second, but not just yet it hasn’t.

    1. That’s not the point though, it’s all smoke. The point is to punish rich people, not help poor people.

      This is why you have things like our socialists saying “billionaires are immoral and we shouldn’t have them”. That statement says nothing about helping the poor, only punishing the rich. These socialists aren’t altruistic charitable people, they’re jealous cunts trying to tear down those who are more successful than they are.

  10. “Seattle’s Amazon tax is trying to come back.”

    This is a god awful sentence for several reasons.

  11. Seattle City Council’s Lone Socialist

    Someone’s never been to Seattle.

    1. He meant she’s the Socialist-est.

  12. On Wednesday, the Rainy City’s lone socialist councilmember, Kshama Sawant

    You keep saying this as if you’re wishing it were true.

  13. Her tax proposal would levy a 1.7 percent tax on the payrolls of Seattle’s 825 largest businesses. She expects this to raise $300 million a year.

    She needs to explain how that is different from a 1.7% income tax on the employees of Seattle’s 825 largest businesses

    1. She also needs to understand that last time they tried this, it got repealed because businesses called Seattle’s bluff and said “fine, I guess we’re leaving then”. Amazon got a bunch of sweetheart offers from various less stupid jurisdictions that decided having Amazon in town would be a good thing. I don’t think anywhere should be subsidizing Amazon, but I can see why a mayor would want them around.

      Her $300 million estimate is based on the idea that all the existing businesses are just gonna shut up and pay the tax, which is not what is going to happen. Much like the wealth tax, the people who advocate for them don’t understand that those wealthy people didn’t get wealthy by paying more taxes than they had to. They have the means to leave town and avoid the tax, and that is exactly what they’ll do.

      1. I’m trying to find the vote breakdown on the original tax. I believe it was unanimous, but I’m not 100% sure. I like this ‘the lone socialist’ on the city council.

        When you see how many council members vote with Sawant, and how often the council votes unanimously on all issues– the crazier the better, you realize that Sawant’s declared socialism is really a label, and nothing more.

        100% of the council is openly sympathetic to socialism. The only time they dither is when they finally anger people enough that their seat starts to get in jeopardy.

        1. Yeah, the “lone socialist” bit got me too. A lone socialist can’t implement these policies, that it passed last time says there are far more socialists on that board than they’re claiming.

          And yeah, the only thing containing the hard left right now is that they still have to win elections and thankfully most Americans aren’t stupid enough to elect these people. Once the revolution is complete however, they can have Top Men appoint people to these positions and some real “progress” can get made.

          1. On election night Sawant was down nine points and word around town was that she lost. Thank Ganesh for recounts!

            Haha.

              1. WTF is a Democracy Voucher?

  14. I know this is pointless but I can’t help trying to figure out how she thinks the math will work.

    $300 million a year to build 8000 new houses and refit 47000 existing houses. No time given for how long to build and refit.

    Assumption 1 – She means 8000 new houses and 47000 existing houses a year.
    If that’s the case, it costs about $5000 to install a new electric furnace. That leaves enough money to pay $8125 for each “affordable” house. Is she proposing to make them out of cardboard?

    Assumption 2 – She means 8000 new and 47000 existing in perpetuity.
    If this is the case, a) it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the city’s housing needs and b) assuming a 6% discount rate, the perpetuity value of $300M/year is $5B meaning that after replacing the furnaces on those existing homes, the new homes will cost just under $600,000 each. Definitely not cardboard anymore.

    Assumption 3 – She’s using some governmental fiction about 10 years or so.
    This scenario seems most likely – and translates to those 8000 new homes costing a mere $350,000 each. Wow, what a bargain…

    1. I’m going with Assumption 4: she pulled the numbers out of her ass.

      1. To add onto this: asking her to do actual math is both racist and misogynist and how dare you.

    2. The money from this tax will never EVER be spent on ‘housing’. Not ever.

    3. Yup, she is always lacking on the details.

      She did manage to organize a “pots and pans” demonstration against war in the Middle East. Idiots got together downtown to beat on pots and pans in protest.

      No shit, this chick is fuckin nuts!

  15. Hey at least she’s a cutie, WOULD am I right fellas ?

    1. Only if I had a (C) after my name.

      1. This guy gets it.

    2. Careful, I heard she takes a dick tax from every transaction. And the guys don’t pay in cash if you get my drift.

    3. At the first sound of that voice you would run away as fast as possible.

    4. According to Liberal logic, that is “sexist”.

  16. Seattle City Council’s Lone Socialist

    Good one, Christian.

  17. Bear in mind that when she was first elected, Sawant wanted to seize a Boeing factory and use it to make electric buses.

    When she’s blatantly calling for seizing the means of production, I think we can dispense with the socialist label.

  18. … that applied a $275 levy on every employee at companies grossing over $20 million a year.

    Hm. It seems we only grossed $19.999 million this year. Oddly enough, each of our wholly owned subsidiaries also grossed the same. What a coincidence!

    1. Our Seattle office only grossed 19.999 million. But our subsidiary in Everett doubled that.

  19. Maybe she’s actually an ‘idiot Sawant’?

    1. Haha. Yup.

  20. “This will not only transform the lives of Seattle’s working people, it will set a historical marker for cities around the nation,”

    Well, she’s not wrong. Taking the biggest provider of jobs in Seattle out of it will transform a lot of lives, and will definitely set a marker of what not to do. Amazon’s already looking around for an exit strategy, and has outright said it would if they tried this shit. Some people never learn until they get burned though.

  21. “”Some people never learn until they get burned though.””

    And some of them blame the fire.

    1. Yup, they won’t learn anything. Amazon packing up and moving on would just be further evidence of their greed. They wouldn’t even hand over a measly $300 million so they literally want you to die in the street.

      1. That’s exactly the way they would see it as they wait for their next delivery from Amazon Prime.

    2. After the fire, the fire still burns.

    3. And them some of them put their other hand into the same fire.

  22. If Rainy City’s lone socialist councilmember, Kshama Sawant would lower the city’s taxes on people and businesses and lower the controls that they have on all aspects of people’s lives and businesses there would be more houses built. If investors could invest in housing and expect to make a reasonable profit they would build more housing, both houses and apartments. But the more you try to control what people do with their own money and property the less they will invest.

  23. Good. Then Amazon can move all it’s business to Northern Virginia, and we can reap the benefits of more and better jobs.

  24. I imagine she is paid well to be a socialist.

  25. “This money would fund the construction of 8,000 new affordable homes and retrofit an additional 47,000 units to meet “Green New Deal” standards, which involves converting them from gas or oil to electric systems” So how does she propose to generate all that extra electricity? Nuclear perhaps? It seems there is a proliferation of political morons in this country.

    1. This also jumped out at me.
      She’s probably making the assumption that the Federal Green New Deal will pass next year, and there’s tons of free clean energy available to anyone who wants it.

      My question is whether a gas furnace has a benefit over an electric furnace which is provided electricity by a natural gas power plant.

  26. she reminds me of the crazy cult lady from the Batsh*t Valley episode of Documentary Now

  27. “This will not only transform the lives of Seattle’s working people, it will set a historical marker for cities around the nation,”

    Most likely, but not in the way she imagines.

  28. “This will not only transform the lives of Seattle’s working people, it will set a historical marker for cities around the nation,” said Sawant. “It’s more than reasonable for the biggest, richest companies in our city to pay zero-point-three percent of their revenue to do their part to address our city’s crushing housing crisis.”

    So much to unpack here. First, about the historical marker….yeh….no. Maybe for Latin and South America where they keep to the socialist script and still revere a psycho murderer like Che.

    Second, ‘More than reasonable’ as YOU define it, honey. Actual reasonable minds, and their seems to be a few in the article, don’t agree with you plan of misery.

    Last, I’m pretty sure the housing crisis has its origins in government interventionism. It usually does.

    Socialists are committed nihilists.

  29. our city’s crushing housing crisis

    Seattle spends $600 million every year on her ~6,000 homeless, meaning $100,000 year/homeless. If Seattle has a crushing housing crisis then they can safely shoot their city councillors in the head.

  30. Remember when people said that we should not be allowing so many people from non-western cultures into this country, because they would mess everything up, and others thought that was outrageous?

  31. “…47,000 units to meet “Green New Deal” standards, which involves converting them from gas or oil to electric systems.”

    Has anyone done the numbers to show that burning natural gas and converting it to electricity over there and then ‘shipping’ it for use over here is ‘more efficient’?
    Including the amount of energy involved in the retro-fit and the amount of energy wasted waiting for an electric stove to get hot enough to cook anything.

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  35. [R]etrofit an additional 47,000 units to meet “Green New Deal” standards, which involves converting them from gas or oil to electric systems.

    It’s a good thing electricity production from natural gas and coal isn’t governed by the Carnot cycle. Otherwise heating homes and businesses with electricity would be roughly 2/3 less efficient than heating directly with natural gas. Fortunately for us, regulators can repeal the laws of thermodynamics.

  36. Amazon is the ultimate progressive company with progressive employees. The proper way for Amazon and other such companies to deal with this Seattle “payroll tax” (assuming they don’t relocate) is to charge the EMPLOYEES for the tax. Reduce each workers’ pay (ON THE EMPLOYEE’S PAY “STUB” SO THEY CAN SEE IT) by the percent of the tax relative to their pay.

    The Amazon employees SHOULD be DELIGHTED to pay the tax for the homeless, the Green Plan, or whatever. If not, then at least they will have been schooled.

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  40. What ever happened to the concept of all laws applying to all equally? First discrimination is the progressive income tax, this proposal is discrimination on business taxes. It only gets worse when another location will give them lower tax rates then existing businesses to get them to move.
    Fairness would end this government give and take power.

  41. Sawant probably believes those ambitious souls will suddenly become thriving entrepreneurs and transform their new town into a profit center where everyone lives happily ever after.

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