Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tax Measures Win; Right-Wing Whining Begins

Posted By on Wed, Jan 27, 2010 at 8:53 PM

The dust hadn’t even settled after the stunning victory of Measures 66 and 67 when the whining from Oregon conservatives started.

In fact, Larry Huss, writing on the Oregon Catalyst blog, started wailing “We wuz robbed!” before the ballots were even counted.

“This column is written before the election results on Measures 66 and 67 are known,” Huss wrote. “According to the polls it is a very tight race, so let me make a prediction as to the outcome.

“The opponents of the massive tax increases will lead by a comfortable margin outside of the Portland Metro Area, but after late reporting by Multnomah County, the proponents will prevail. 

“My prediction is based on three factors. First, it has happened before. Second, the largest concentration of public employee union members (the sole beneficiaries of the massive tax increase) are in the Portland Metro area. And third, the vote by mail system in Oregon is so easily corrupted that it is a virtual invitation to cheat on election results.”

Unfortunately for Huss’s credibility, the election wasn’t close at all. Measure 66 passed by more than 90,000 votes and Measure 67 won by more than 74,000 votes. It would’ve taken one hell of an effort for proponents to stuff that many ballot boxes in Multnomah County.

Oregon Republican Chairman Bob Tiernan indulged in a different whine. He didn’t charge fraud, but blamed his side’s defeat on Oregonians being stupid.

Anyway, that seemed to be the implication of a remark he made to the Eugene Register Guard. Asked if the Oregon vote would set a pattern for other states, he replied: “I think only the truly stupid states would follow that model.”

Thanks, Bob, we love you too.

It would be unwise, of course, to draw sweeping conclusions from the “overwhelming” (that’s the word The Bulletin used in its front-page headline today) victory of 66 and 67. But there do seem to be several clear messages in it.

First, the rural-urban divide in Oregon is as wide and deep as ever. All of the 11 counties where the measures passed are in the northwestern part of the state. Every county east of the Cascades, plus seven rural counties west of the Cascades, voted against them.

Second, low-income rural Oregonians seem still determined to vote against their own interests. With a few exceptions, the poorer a county is the more likely it was to vote against tax increases that will only hurt the most affluent Oregon taxpayers and biggest corporations while paying for state services that poor rural areas especially rely on.

Harney County, with a per capita income of about $16,000, went more than 65% against the measures. Grant County, per capita income roughly $17,000, went against them about 70%. Deschutes County, with a per capita income of almost $22,000, also voted against the measures, but by less than 60%. Benton County, which has the state’s highest per capita income at $21,868, voted over 60% for the measures.

Third, the victory for 66 and 67 – the first time since the early 1930s that Oregon voters have supported a tax hike – seems to show that people will back tax increases if they’re targeted at those who can well afford to pay them, i.e., affluent individuals (Phil Knight, are you listening?) and big businesses. As Montana liberal activist Matt Singer tweeted:  “Progressives campaigned as populists. This is how we win.”

Progressives across America, take note. And don’t be scared off when conservatives scream “Class warfare!” Conservatives have been waging war against the American middle class for more than 30 years, but they only holler when the other side starts shooting back.

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