College is a Right for All, Testimony to Olympia City Council, July 12 2016

Testimony by Peter Bohmer to Olympia City Council, July 12, 2016 in favor of Opportunity for Olympia Proposal!

Olympia has a chance to stand up and take a step towards the right to education for all, paid for by those who have benefited by the obscene growth of the inequality of income and wealth. Almost  all of the gains in income since the supposed  end of the great recession in 2009 have gone to the top 3%, approximately the percentage of  households  who would pay this tax.

In fall, 1987, I moved to Olympia to teach Economics and public administration at The Evergreen State College. Tuition and fees that year were $1272 for in-state students.  For the coming year, 2016-2017, tuition and fees at Evergreen are $7500 a year, six times more than 1987.  Tuition has risen many more times than wages. The minimum wage was $3.35/hr in 1987; in 2016 it is $9.47 an hour. The minimum wage has gone up by 180% since 1987while tuition has grown at almost three times the rate of the minimum wage. This increase in tuition is true for all of higher education. Students are being priced out of higher education. Passing this proposal will begin to reverse this growing lack of affordability.

The right to college is a necessity today, not a luxury. High school became a necessity for most jobs, 100 years ago, as college is today. Having more people being able to attend college is not only a question of fairness but will also increase their productivity and incomes which will decrease poverty and increase spending and employment here.  Increasing access to higher education will also make for more informed citizens and a better Olympia. College education is a basic right today, as higher education became that in the past and was free.

The cost of this proposed tax to the top 3% of the income ladder is minimal Any household making up to $200,000 will not pay any additional taxes. For example, a household making $250,000 a year will pay a 1.5% income tax, only on their income above $200,000, or 1.5% of $50,000 = $750 a year. That is not much of a burden; much less than their gains in income over the last seven years.

I urge you to pass this modest proposal of a 1.5% tax on incomes over $200,000 to fund students going past high school.  Rather than waiting for change at the federal or even state level, let us support this Opportunity for Olympia proposal, maybe with the small change of  using federal income tax returns to measure income. We can and should take an important step here in Olympia for fairness and increased access to higher education. This will be leading by example, which is likely to spread to others places in Washington State and then nationally.  We need this type of change at the national level but tactically, we are more likely to be successful by starting locally. Be courageous! It is urgent that you take a stand, a step towards education for all, paid for by a fairer tax system. Let us start with the Olympia City Council. Thank you!

Postscript-The Olympia City Council, taking the side of the wealthy, voted on July 12, 2016 against supporting this proposal or passing an alternative proposal that would have taxed higher income people to support students who want to go to college.  Let us actively support this Opportunity for Olympia proposal and vote for it in the November 2016 election!

Voting in 2016 is both a strategic and a moral decision!

July 14, 2016

What I find missing from my friend, Michael Albert’s commentary in the Left Unity section of Znet, is an acknowledgement and a validation of the moral outrage felt by many people, mainly but not only young people, that they are being told to choose between  Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  Michael Albert is  right that Hillary Clinton will do less harm than a Trump presidency but the harm of her militaristic, imperialist  and neoliberal administration will  be major to people inside the United States, and probably even worse for  those living in other countries.

So I think people who say they cannot in good conscience vote for Hillary Clinton, even in contested states such as Florida, Ohio, etc. should not be criticized nor pressured to change their mind.  I know many, many people in this category and when I ask them what they are likely to do in November, besides talking about their anger at the mainstream media promotion of Clinton and the marginalization of Bernie, and the daily and massive  coverage of Trump;  almost all of them also tell me  they will either not  vote or vote for Jill Stein and the Greens.  I do not criticize this decision although if they ask me what I believe, I say that voting for Hillary Clinton in states where it is not clear who will win, also makes some sense and is defensible.

Reducing voting to a strategic decision leaves out the moral dilemma felt by so many newly politicized and radicalized people, who are a natural base for the growth of an anti-capitalist transformational politics.  My point is not so much that I totally disagree with the analysis that Michael Albert and others put forward; I disagree with the way they are presenting it.. This is important because it makes building social movements and anti-capitalist organizations that include both those who are making a tactical decision to vote for Hillary Clinton in some states and those who absolutely refuse to vote for her, more difficult, now and after the November, 2016 elections.


Let’s Learn From the Past and Welcome Syrian Refugees!

Talk at Forum at The Evergreen State College: After Paris: Responding to Islamophobia and the Refugee Crisis

by Peter Bohmer, December 2, 2015

Let Us Learn from Our Past and Welcome Syrians to the United States!

First, a little first about my parents and grandparents! My family is from central Europe; my parents were born and grew up in Vienna, Austria as assimilated Jews. In March 1938, the Austrian government welcomed the invasion of Nazi Germany although there was some popular resistance. Germany immediately annexed Austria. My dad who was 22 years old was arrested and imprisoned in late March 1938 for being active in the Jewish community. He was also beaten by the guards but was released in August 1938. My father and mother immediately fled Austria for France which let in many Jews in although they also limited entry; e.g., from Poland which had the largest Jewish population in Europe…

Read more:
Let’s Learn From the Past and Welcome Syrian Refugees (.docx)

Connecting the $15 an Hour Movement to the Movement for Racial Justice and other Social Movements

Connecting $15 an Hour to Movement for Racial Justice and to other Social Movements.

by Peter Bohmer, September 26, 2015

At the Working Washington organized Gathering and Rally at Heritage Park, Olympia, Washington

Working Washington and the fight for $15 an hour is a very important movement and I want to thank the organizers and all of you for attending this gathering. You are involved in this necessary struggle for economic justice. I recently returned from a month in Greece where because of inhuman policies forcing Greece to cut government spending, cut pensions, lower the minimum wage and raise taxes on basic goods and services, unemployment, poverty, low wages and job security are even worse than in the U.S. Many Greek people asked me about important issues and social movements for justice in the United States and I usually mentioned the ones for climate justice, $15 an hour and a living wage, and the Black Lives Matter movement that has focused on exposing and stopping police shooting of Black people.

$15 an Hour: Its Time has Come!

First a little about significance of the fight for $15 and the statewide Working Washington organization. Since the 1970’s, the gaps between the rich and poor have grown significantly in the United States. The top 1% today takes more than 20% of national income; the average household in the poorest 20% of the population earns about 1/100th of the top 1%. The 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement made public the obscene inequality in the United States between the 1% and the 99%. In Olympia, four years ago, Olympia residents occupied the land where we are standing for more than two months as part of the national Occupy Movement. … (Connect to link above to read the entire talk)


Interview of Peter Bohmer by Kourosh Ziabari

Interview on Solidarity, Occupy and U.S.-Iran Relations.

What follows are my answers to a written interview from  Kourosh Ziabari, a writer and reporter for the Fars News Agency,  an Iranian foreign policy news and analysis website. I submitted the following answers to Kourosh Ziabari’s six questions on August 4, 2015 and slightly revised them on September 18, 2015.


Question 1- For many years, you’ve been a political activist protesting racial discrimination across the United States, as well as other forms of social injustice. You’ve also organized solidarity movements with the people of crisis-hit countries like Vietnam, Puerto Rico and Cuba. How does the US government perceive your activism and how does it react to you? Are such egalitarian and liberal movements ever taken seriously by the White House? Do they leave any impact on the major decisions of the US government and its institutions?

My answer.
My own active opposition for many years to the U.S. war in Vietnam is probably what I am proudest of in my life. The millions of people in the United States outside the military but also inside the military deserve credit for actively opposing their government’s waging of a murder, immoral and illegal war. Of course, the people who deserve the most credit are the Vietnamese people who opposed the U.S. occupation and war. … (see link above)