I woke up highly disappointed in my fellow Oregonians.  I had gone to bed hoping our state’s voters would reject the two tax measures on the ballot.  One measure would increase taxes on individuals (“only those who earn over $250,000 per year”).  The other would increase taxes on corporations and add a gross revenues tax on corporations.  Both measures would enact higher taxes retroactive to January 1, 2009.

Both measures passed, and apparently by margins on the order of 8%.

At first I just thought that the “Yes” campaign just had better sales people or, that their lies were more clever than the lies being told by the “No” campaign.  It was a nasty campaign filled with all the worst of politics today.  The “No” campaign harped on how the new taxes would kill over 70,000 jobs.  The “Yes” campaign kept harping on the fact that without the new funds, most of our teachers would be laid off along with public safety officers and those who provide every “vital” public service.

Upon reflection, I guess it just came down to numbers and self interest, or greed.  The Oregon Education Association, the teacher’s union, has 48,000 members.  It is my understanding that there are over 52,000 state employees.  That is 100,000 people who would benefit from the increased revenues for their employers.  That doesn’t count the county and city employees who will benefit, if less directly, from the influx of new money to the State.  If you assume that each of those government employees has a spouse, you can double the number to over 200,000 who have a vested interest in the outcome.  Then you need to count the fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters of the government employees who would likely vote for the new taxes to help their relatives.  All in all, I would not be surprised if their were 500,000 voters who voted in their self interest or that of a near relative not because of the issues solved or created by these taxes.

With just over 2,000,000 registered voters, it would appear that the “Yes” campaign had a bit of a head start.  Even if you only count the 100,000 plus spouses for 200,000 that is more than the 8% difference that the measures secured to win.  Then factor in the 60% voter turnout and the fact that those voting in their own self interest were likely more motivated to vote.

Am I disappointed?  Of course.  Raising taxes in a recession (Oregon has an 11% unemployment rate, consistently one of the highest in the country) does not sound like an acceptable economic stimulus plan to me.  I guess my deepest disappointment is the complete disrespect shown for the people who work for the private sector employers who pay the taxes to support all those government jobs.  Throughout the campaign, every big company and, in fact, every employer was painted as an evil person who wanted to see teachers fired so he or she could line their pockets with more money.  It was political warfare at its worse.  I am ashamed of those, on both sides, who resorted to such a low level of discourse.

I had earlier written that the Democrats who had a lock on Oregon politics (huge majorities in both sides of legislature and every single statewide elective office) had passed these new taxes because they were drunk with power.  It turns out they were not only drunk.  They also had the power.

This, too, shall pass.  But at what cost to the vitality of this great place?

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