Councilmember Clark left office on April 14, 2015.
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Starting the new year with way too many people on food stamps

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The New York Times Sunday edition carried this wake-up piece about the record high number of people using food stamps. The piece notes that the surge has happened under the radar which seems hard given the numbers cited in the article:

The public development authority model for coordination of action is interesting and works well for Pike Place Market and the International District. Each of the other PDA’s owns property, though, and that’s the bedrock of their reason for being. We need a central coordinating committee for Pioneer Square.

“About 6 million Americans receiving food stamps report they have no other income, according to an analysis of state data. In declarations that states verify and the federal government audits, these people described themselves as unemployed and receiving no cash aid: no welfare, no unemployment insurance, and no pensions, child support or disability pay. Their numbers were rising before the recession as tougher welfare laws made it harder for poor people to get cash aid, but they have soared by about 50 percent in the past two years. About one in 50 Americans lives in a household with a reported income that consists of nothing but a food-stamp card.”

One in 50 is an incredible statistic. The article states later that the number rises to 1 in 17 in Yakima County. Some of the rise in numbers is due to states like Washington getting smarter and more aggressive in signing people up for food stamp help. The numbers are over-whelming, though, and further drive home the difficulty of speedily “correcting” the economy. We need jobs so people can ditch food stamps, right? Seattle wants new, green jobs. Professional jobs, construction jobs, research jobs, manufacturing jobs. In order to create jobs, companies need to see demand for consumption of their product. Or do companies just need tax breaks?

“ ‘This is craziness,’ said Rep. John Linder, R-Ga., the ranking minority member of a House panel on welfare policy. ‘We’re at risk of creating an entire class of people, a subset of people, just comfortable getting by living off the government.’

He added: ‘You don’t improve the economy by paying people to sit around and not work. You improve the economy by lowering taxes’ so small businesses will create more jobs.”

Part of me believes Linder is correct in that national and state tax policy could use an overhaul, but lowering taxes has become an easy thing for national-level figures to espouse. Maybe we should lower local and state business taxes “so small businesses will create more jobs.” The problem is small businesses also need adequate garbage service, a dependable power supply, clean water, good sewers, buses and trains shuttling around their workers, responsive police and fire services, high quality schools producing skilled, smart workers, and a safety net that strives to take care of the people who can’t yet or never will be successfully employed or fully independent.

Even without lowering taxes we’ll be cutting city services further this year. Mayor McGinn’s announcement today of mayoral review of all new hires (essentially a hiring freeze), mayoral review of every amended or new contract, and trimming higher level staff numbers by 200 won’t get us to the point of needing less tax revenue, just a little closer to the balance point for current income.

So exactly what is the right mix of tax breaks and consumer confidence that will get more people jobs and fewer people needing food stamps?

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