I-1053 shouldn’t even be necessary, but sadly it is

The great French historian Alexis de Tocqueville famously observed that, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”

On the state level, that’s precisely the reason why Initiative 1053 shouldn’t be necessary but is.

I-1053 proposes requiring a two-thirds majority vote of the Washington State Legislature, or a statewide popular vote, for any tax increases.

Again, you’d think our leaders in Olympia would understand by now that tax increases always achieve precisely the opposite of what they promise. Rather than raising state revenues, they have the effect of depressing business and personal investment, which results in less tax money collected rather than more.

But that’s a counterintuitive case to make, and it’s much easier for politicians to sell a simple fallacy to the voters than the complicated truth.

Which is why the majority party in Olympia spent this past year’s session dickering over a laundry list of different tax increase packages rather than seriously addressing budget cuts as the deficit balloooned to more than $4.5 billion.

Initiative critics say a two-thirds requirement undermines representative democracy, but there’s nothing especially representative about a system in which the top 10 percent of wage earners already pay 68 percent of the taxes and the bottom 50 percent pay only 3 percent.

Fully 27 percent of Washingtonians pay no taxes at all.

It’s even worse than de Tocqueville feared. The public isn’t being bribed with its own money; it’s being bribed with someone else’s.

Given that I-1053 puts the brakes on politicians who can’t seem to discipline themselves while making it a tad more difficult to vote yourself a share of your neighbor’s purse, it seems a thing worth doing — and quickly.

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