Seattle’s ‘Eat the Rich’ Economic Strategy Won’t Solve Its Underlying Problems

Jarrett Stepman – July 14, 2018

The left is sleepless in Seattle, working overtime to squander years of economic success.

Seattle is, by many measures, one of the fastest-growing cities in America, if not the fast-growing city.

A few big tech companies, including Amazon and Microsoft, plus other large, successful businesses such as Boeing and Starbucks, have fueled this explosive rise.

But prosperity hasn’t necessarily bred contentment, as the traditionally left-wing city turned on the elements that made it rich.

In the latest move to soak the productive part of the city’s economy, the Seattle City Council voted 9-0 to approve a new “head tax” imposing a $275-per-worker charge on companies making over $20 million a year.

According to The Seattle Times, advocates of the tax said it “will have a meaningful impact on addressing our homelessness crisis by building housing and providing health services.”

Companies such as Amazon and Starbucks, which generally have had no problem kowtowing to the demands of social justice warriors, lashed out when their bottom line was threatened.

Amazon announced that it would continue to build in the city despite a previous halt in construction.

Amazon said in a statement:

While we have resumed construction … we remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council’s hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here.”

This may seem like a reasonable measure by a company that expects a financial shakedown, but activist groups weren’t about to let these corporate cash cows take their business elsewhere.

Predatory Government Action 

The labor group Working Washington called for criminal prosecution of businesses that threaten to leave the city. They argued that this constituted an illegal threat against public officials, a felony.

As libertarian law professor Eugene Volokh noted, such an expansive view of the law would also criminalize activities such as union strikes and boycotts.

This method of intimidating businesses into accepting predatory government action may not have been well considered, but it does reveal the impulses of the hard left.

If you aren’t willing to accept the left’s measures willingly, you will be forced to accept them through punitive government action. There will be no escape.

This is hardly the first Seattle policy to take aim at businesses.

Seattle’s War on the Business Sector 

In 2015, Seattle increased its minimum wage to $15 an hour, which, according to one study, decreased employment and hurt low-income workers.

In 2017, the City Council voted unanimously to stop using Wells Fargo & Co. bank due to its investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline and a fraud scandal.

“Take our government back from the billionaires, back from [President Donald] Trump and from the oil companies,” Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who is openly socialist, said at the time of the vote, according to The Seattle Times.

Sawant, also a strong backer of the head tax, hasn’t just received opposition from “billionaires.”

At a recent press conference she hosted in Seattle, a group of construction workers showed up and began chanting, “No head tax! No head tax!”

Ditching Wells Fargo likely would have cost the taxpayers a significant amount of money, but they were saved by the fact that no other bank would take the city’s business.

Hilariously, Seattle had to go crawling back to Wells Fargo.

It apparently was a surprise to Seattle’s government officials that companies don’t like to be shaken down.

Instead of finding ways to drive down the cost of living, cities such as Seattle and San Francisco have embraced policies that continue to drive up costs.

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