I love Oregon.We have this beautiful state, rich in all the bounty of nature and human artifice, in the wealthiest nation on Earth, at the height of technological civilization. What could be wrong?
Well. Um. We are.
Oregonians are stupid. In all the ways that people are stupid the world over, we are pig-ignorant stupid. World-class stupid. We're stupid to all fields; we can run stupid, hit stupid and field stupid. We're All-Stupid.Now this hasn't happened by accident. Our "leaders" have helped us down the well-lit, smoothly paved path to abject stupidity. But we've gone ourselves, skipping and singing, because to think and act responsibly, like adults, would have caused us suffering and some hardship. We might have had to sacrifice, or even had to have a difficult discussion about wants and means.
Here's a great example. Take a close look at Tuesday's Oregonian cover.
Enlarge the little blue pie chart in the lower left corner of the box in the center, that goes with the story titled "Oregon fears even deeper cuts". The story, mind you, is about why the coming Great Recession is going to slam my state with the Big Hammer of Budgetary Doom. Now look at the little blue pie chart.
Okay. Now; what percentage of Oregon's state income is derived from personal income?
Go ahead, do the math. I'll wait. Hummm hummm de humm. Humm. Got it yet?
Did you get 82% give or take a percent? Then you're right. Eighty cents on the dollar of Oregon's revenue comes out of your and my pocket.
Now here in the Beaver State we have two big offices of the three or four tennis shoe giants in the world: the Nike world headquarters in Beaverton, and adidas' North America office right in my own home of North Portland. Plus dog knows how many other corporations. Okay, now look at the little blue pie. How much do those corporations kick into the pot. Got your calculator?
That's not an error. Four fucking percent. That's it.
This wasn't always so. But for more than twenty years, for the entire time I've been here in Oregon (eighteen years this Labor Day), the "business community" here has worked tirelessly to shift the cost of bridges, cops and junkies onto the individual and off of the businesses.Did you notice the NEXT biggest slice of the blue pie after personal income?
Yeah. The goddam Lottery. Now THERE's a hell of a productive revenue source: The Tax On Stupidity. Thank the Big Sky Beaver that there's no shortage of that here in Oregon!
One change that you DON'T see is the massive shift from property taxes to income taxes. Back in 1990 we passed something called "Ballot Measure 5". This beast capped and then lowered property taxes to a penurious point, a point where counties without real property, especially urban and rural areas, couldn't pay for their schools. The Oregon Legislature has become the default School Board for the state.Meanwhile the usual coalition of business and political conservatives rolled back corporate taxes - the property tax limitations helped immensely; I saved $400 on my tax bill for 1995, while Portland General Electric saved 400 million - and along with the usual tax dodges many Oregon corporations pay the legally mandated minimum corporate income tax.
No shit. Ten bucks. The corner shoe store? Ten bucks. Multi-billion dollar Flavr-Pac frozen foods?
Not surprisingly, this hugely-income-dependent state treasury is utterly fucked. The economy tanks, people get thrown out of work, get stressed, get sick, get foreclosed, thrown on the street - need help, food, medical care, a place to stay...and the state's got nothin'. Those same incomes were floating the fiscal boat. Economy tanks, income tanks, Oregon tanks.Over the years all sorts of ideas have been suggested to fix this. Every one has foundered on Oregonian's impenetrable solid bone skulls. We want our parks. We want our roads, bridges, zoos, policemen, firefighters, we want our kids to be healthy and smart, we want our businesses to be safe and competitive.
But we don't want to pay for any of this.
And we have a system that ensures that we can have it all, everything we ask for, all the goodies we need, and the Magical Pony Miracle Happy Bunny Wuffy Santa in the Sky will pay for it.
It's called "ballot measures" or "The Oregon System", and that'll be the subject of the second part of this post.