Oregon voters to rich: Pay up
For the next few weeks, I listened as the two sides spent millions and made more and more melodramatic advertisements. My favorite: three employees of a coffee shop mourn how they're shutting down due to the new taxes in Measure 67; which would only be $150, up from the previous $10 minimum, unless the business was making a substantial profit or over $500,000 in revenue (and then, the business pays a minimum tax of 0.1% of revenue, or $500 on $500,000). I tried to envision the scenario in which a coffee shop would have to close over a tax of either $150 or $500. Couldn't they just cut back on soy creamer? I thought to myself.
But the fact that I, like 54% of the voting electoral populate, decided on Jan. 26th to raise taxes in a bad economy sets us up as the radical trendsetters for the nation. Never mind that the "Yes" campaign spent a few million more than the "No" campaign; never mind that, without the $727 million legislators expect the measures will raise, teachers at public schools and community colleges will lose their jobs, class days will be cut, and social services will be reduced. This is the first tax increase passed in Oregon since 1930. Pundits are saying that "Oregon is a ... bellwether state" and this is a key shift in the "narrative" of the country. In other words: we're not going to continue the belief that rich getting richer is the best possible way for all we serfs to continue to enjoy our crumbs.
"There's been something of a populist reaction to those perceived to be responsible," said political analyst Bill Lunch, recalling the recent election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts. "Here, the reaction is against the affluent and businesses." In the Wall Street Journal, Joel Millman writes that the "ballot measures also served as a gauge of anti-business populism and highlighted a nationwide debate over whether to fix state budgets by targeting the affluent."
Are we crazy? Is this a token of an upcoming swing in our national attitude toward businesses and the people who start, and run them? Or is this just the messy result of a liberal-leaning passel of voters and a bloody, expensive campaign? Either way, Oregonians have told the rich: pay up. And, come April, they'll have to put their hands in the pockets of their tailored suits and fork over the cash.