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May, 4th 2010

The most important point to note about Suzan DelBene in the P-I's latest write-up

– Liz Mair

The P-I has a post up this morning about Suzan DelBene attacking Rep. Dave Reichert over his leadership on economic policy and sounding remarkably pro-business for a Democrat.  In fact, a lot of what DelBene has to say is completely unobjectionable from my perspective, and indeed constitutes good policy.  Here are some examples:

Among DelBene's goals:

- Making the Research and Development tax credit permanent, something she said would help local tech companies.

- Expand tax deductions for start-ups.

[...]

- Modernizing the patent system to ensure that applications are considered in a more timely manner.

[...]

- Increasing funding for community college for low-income students and workers who've been laid off.

But surprisingly, that DelBene has some sensible ideas such as these is not the really important point to note about her arising from the piece.  No, that's actually buried right at the bottom: DelBene supports the institution of an income tax in Washington:

Asked about perhaps the biggest measure that will be on the fall ballot, DelBene said she was supportive of Bill Gates Sr.'s Initiative 1077, which would create an income tax for the wealthy to pay for education and health care. "I think he's trying to do the right thing. I think he's trying to address our very regressive tax system and create something that's more fair."

This is a pretty big deal folks.  I can count the number of self-described Democrats, liberals and progressives I know in Washington who are not part of either the Democratic party establishment or employed by an explicitly liberal advocacy group and who also support the institution of an income tax on literally one hand.  One. So far as I am aware, they all live in Jim McDermott's district (i.e., the much more liberal Seattle) and not Reichert's, which is pretty moderate but substantially more conservative by comparison.

So, the real headline here is: "DelBene takes stance on controversial issue likely to prove exceedingly unpopular with swing, many of her own voters," or "DelBene boxes herself in as bog-standard liberal, despite efforts to prove her pro-business bona fides."

I would bet money that by the end of the week, DelBene's staff are at least attempting to walk this back on background, by telling reporters that her position on I-1077 is not really relevant, because she's running for federal office, and it's a local matter.  That's true.  Kind of.  However, the message has, unfortunately for DelBene, already been transmitted: If you're willing to back a rather unpopular income tax institution effort at the state level, it's reasonable for people to assume that you'll be a big tax-hiker in Congress, or indeed support such controversial measures as the institution of a VAT.  And methinks that isn't going to fly in the 8th district-- especially if you're trying to argue that Reichert doesn't know anything about job creation and hasn't shown any leadership there when, whether or not Reichert may be the most outspoken member of Washington's delegation on the matter, he does understand that you don't raise taxes at a time when economic recovery is fragile, and unemployment remains exceedingly high, unless, that is, you're OK with the status quo.

DelBene should have stopped short of voicing approval for I-1077 and said something along these lines: "Honestly, I'm so focused on running for Congress so that I can help institute policies at the federal level that will create jobs and help put people back to work, I haven't really delved into the detail of I-1077 all that much.  I do think that education and health care are important priorities, but I also think we need to be careful about instituting policy that could jeopardize our economic recovery, so I will take a view on that later on, when more debate has occurred, and before I personally cast my ballot."

As it is, she's basically set up a potentially very nasty attack ad for Reichert that is likely to play very well for him in his district. [intro]

 

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