Amidst all the odious wingnuttery-infused bills now being filed by Republicans in advance of next month’s legislative session in Olympia, one in particular, House Joint Memorial 4000, filed by Reps. Bob McCaslin Jr. (R-Spokane Valley/Jurassic), Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley/Pliocene), and David Taylor (R-Yakima/Pleistocene), caught my eye. After a few “Whereas”‘s, the “Therefore” reads like this:
NOW, THEREFORE, Your Memorialists respectfully pray that the Congress of the United States consent to the formation of a new state to be named and known as the state of Liberty whose western boundary follows the crest of the Cascade mountains and the western borders of Okanogan, Chelan, Kittitas, Yakima, and Klickitat counties, and whose eastern, northern, and southern boundaries are the existing state borders.
In other words, they want the portion of Washington State east of the Cascades to secede, becoming the new state of “Liberty.” [sic]
At last, a Tea Party idea I can enthusiastically support. Please proceed. Don’t let the door hit you, etc.
Yesterday was the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, an annual remembrance much loved by these sorts of self-styled patriots. But amidst all the media remembrances, the most immediately relevant aspect of this year’s anniversary was all but ignored. The bombing of Pearl Harbor was a seminal event for a generation of Americans whose sensibilities were forged by surviving a global depression followed by a global war against fascism. That generation broadly understood the need for shared sacrifice, that as a society we truly all are dependent upon each other. That generation created a vibrant middle class, an extensive safety net for those less fortunate, and mechanisms like the GI Bill that promoted unprecedented opportunity and class mobility. That generation, in the ’30s, was given the opportunity to embrace fascism. They rejected it so decisively that it’s taken 80 years to become a serious prospect again.
For decades aging hagiographers have called people of the Pearl Harbor era the “Greatest Generation,” but in reality it was just a generation responding to circumstance: the messes, here and in Europe, left by preceding Gilded Age hedonists. They weren’t particularly heroic; they just applied the lessons at hand, learned at the price of enormous human suffering.
And once they died off, over the last 40 years people like the sponsors of the state of “Liberty” have been trying to undo their legacies – culminating in the election of Donald Trump and the ascension to power of a generation of fringe ideologues who make the Gilded Age’s narcissists look altrustic. Nationally, we’re now facing rule by a cabal opposed not just to all public policies that help the less fortunate, but the very notion that they should give a fuck about anyone else, ever. That’s their idea of “Liberty,” though it notably excludes repealing laws that restrict the behavior of the many classes of people they don’t like. That’s why, ideologically, they’re less like libertarians and more like a white nationalist strain of fascists.
Which brings us to this week’s proposal for Eastern Washington to secede and form the state of Liberty.
According to the state’s Office of Financial Management, 22 of the 23 counties in this prospective new state are sucking hard at the teat of big state government. The booming economy of Puget Sound – especially King County – subsidizes most of the rest of Washington state. Only six counties – King, Kittitas, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom – generate more in tax revenue than the state lavishes upon them in expenditures – led by King County, which accounts for 42 percent of state revenue and only 29 percent of expenditures. (Thurston County, which includes Olympia, might also be a net positive were it not the seat of state government.)
Of those six counties, only one – Kittitas County, which includes Ellensburg and a number of smaller communities that cater to tourism from Seattle area residents – is east of the Cascades. In general, the state’s more rural counties are the biggest welfare bums, led by Ferry County, northwest of Spokane, a deep red county which gets $3.16 in state money for every dollar it contributes.
The sponsors of Liberty might be fine with this apparent lack of money to subsidize their new state, since they claim to not want to fund government anyway – but they’ll still need plenty of money for their corporate welfare buddies and to pay for locking up Teh Gayz and policing women’s ladyparts. And honestly, why should those of us in Seattle pay for that?
More pointedly, it’s the Republican delegation in Olympia, as typified by these three bill sponsors, which continues to prevent our state from reforming its antiquated tax structure and to block adequate education funding. In the era of Trump, our state face enormous additional pressures to replace lost federal funding for education, health care, housing, and any number of other urgent social needs. If Eastern Washington’s obstructionists go away, we just might be able to do that. If they stay, there’s no chance at all.
So, by all means, politicians from Liberty: Go away. Take half the state with you – the half that’s an economic dead weight on Puget Sound, and the half that prevents the rest of us from applying the lessons in shared sacrifice evoked by Pearl Harbor. We can take care of the social problems caused by explosive economic growth, and you can be West Idaho. Godspeed.
As a gesture of our profound gratitude, we’ll even let you take charge of clearing snow out of the passes. That way, when your new state goes bankrupt and the unplowed snow piles up, we’ll be protected from all the people wanting to flee Liberty.
Of course, a lot of people in Eastern Washington, just as in the states already controlled by politicians deeply opposed to the Enlightenment, will suffer needlessly under Liberty’s new regime. But there’s an easy remedy for that: stop electing reactionary white guys like Shea, McCaslin, and Taylor.
Or, if you insist, go ahead and keep electing them. Just don’t inflict them on the rest of us. Take your state and leave us alone. The sooner the better.
We’ll be just fine. Honest.