June 15, 2014 in Washington

Spin Control: Business magazine gives Washington top score again

By The Spokesman-Review
 

OLYMPIA – Workers of Washington rejoice. You’re in the best state in which to make a living.

At least that’s the view of MoneyRates.com, an online business magazine that put the Evergreen State at the top of its annual rankings for the second year in a row. We finished second the two years before that, so all you workers feeling ill-used can either start looking for a better job or rejoice that you aren’t worse off in some second-rate state.

No doubt that when Al Gore invented the Internet, it was to give us the ability to find a list of the best, worst, smartest, stupidest or weirdest things on almost any topic. But such rankings are of limited news value.

Some organization or another is always grading some aspect of the states’ economic activity. If Washington ranks highly, the list generates cheers from Democrats as the party mostly in power; if it does poorly, it prompts “told-ya-so’s” from Republicans as the party mostly not in power.

Those responses are quickly followed by a counter ranking from another list, which allows both sides to return undeterred from long-held economic positions. The danger of such lists rests not in their existence, but in their casual use by people who don’t read past the headline.

Take, for example, MoneyRates’ Best States To Make a Living list (the publication avoids “in” and the choice between stilted construction or a dangling participle by skipping the whole thing). Being No. 1 would seem a good thing for Democrats to tout when Republicans start their perennial push for more business-friendly legislation and less regulation. But not if those Democrats have ever complained about the state’s regressive tax system or pushed for a state income tax.

One criterion that gives Washington and some other Top 10 states their ranking in this list is their lack of a state income tax. Coupled with higher-than-average salaries, that helps Washington overcome slightly higher-than-average cost-of-living and unemployment rates. To be sure, a lack of an income tax means you take home more of your pay. But to make up for no income tax, the state has higher-than-average sales taxes, which isn’t factored in but could be considered more onerous when applied to the taxable items the average worker must buy at a higher cost-of-living rate. If you make a living by operating your own business, and have to pay the business and occupation tax on your gross receipts, you also might have a different take on things.

Campaign question

Washington residents can expect the volume to go way up on the gun control issue with dueling initiatives on the November ballot. I-591 wouldn’t allow any changes in background checks unless they are national; I-594 would extend background checks in Washington to private sales.

The recent shooting at Seattle Pacific University predictably generated discussion on the issue. But it also raised an interesting political question: Is it OK for a campaign to piggy-back on a tragic event? And if so, how far can you go?

The Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which runs the Yes on 594 campaign, recently sent out an email call to “Send a Message of Support to SPU.”

The email is tasteful, with a photo of a lighted vigil candle rather than a blood-spattered scene, and neither the email nor the link asks for campaign money. The link features fill-in boxes for name, email address and personal message. But it’s a simple click to the main Web page, which also carries a message of thoughts and prayers being with the Seattle Pacific University, and a red “Contribute” button – to the alliance – close at hand.

Some politicians have been criticized in the past for using other tragedies like 9/11 in campaigns. Acceptance often depends on your feelings about the candidate or the issue.

There’s also a problem trying to link the incident too closely to I-594. One can say the SPU shooting is just another example of too many guns in the wrong hands of too many people. But even if it passes in November, it wouldn’t prevent a similar incident in the future. Although suspect Aaron Ybarra has serious mental health problems now, he legally purchased the shotgun used in the shootings years ago. The new law wouldn’t force a future gunman to give his up.

Spin Control, a weekly column by political reporter Jim Camden, also appears online with daily items and reader comments at www.spokesman.com/spincontrol.

Get stories like this in a free daily email


Please keep it civil. Don't post comments that are obscene, defamatory, threatening, off-topic, an infringement of copyright or an invasion of privacy. Read our forum standards and community guidelines.

You must be logged in to post comments. Please log in here or click the comment box below for options.

comments powered by Disqus