The last two years have been littered with terrible editorial writing about Measures 66 and 67. The Oregonian—under the direction of publisher N. Christian Anderson III—has taken the cake, but they’re getting some competition today from the Salem Statesman Journal.
The SSJ’s editorial board published an opinion today critical of Measures 66 and 67, arguing against national efforts to increase the marginal taxes on millionaires.
They were wrong on all the facts a year and a half ago when they endorsed a No vote, and they’re wrong on all the facts today. It’s disappointing that 21 months after the measures passed, opponents are still ignoring the facts in order to score political points with the corporate lobby.
So, without spending too much time knocking down every one of the SSJ’s tired, inaccurate claims and straw men arguments, here are the basic reasons why they’re wrong:
Fact 1. Since December 2009, just before the passage of Measures 66 & 67, Oregon has added 35,140 jobs. Unemployment dropped from a high of 11.6% in May 2009 to around 9.6% in August. The numbers would be even better, except that budget cuts to schools and critical services have led to a large number of layoffs of teachers and other public employees.
Frankly, the cumulative impact of state and local budget cuts across the country is what is threatening our economic recovery. And now, the U.S. Congress is guaranteeing the status quo by derailing jobs plans that would put people back to work.
Fact 2. Oregon’s budget crisis would be hundreds of millions of dollars worse if not for the passage of Measures 66 and 67. The measures raised between $600 million and $700 million for the budget cycle. Combined with the federal funds we would have lost from those budget cuts, Oregon’s schools and critical services would have faced additional budget cuts of up to $1 billion on top of already deep cuts.
If you think our state budget is in crisis now, try taking another $1 billion out of it.
Fact 3. We still have the fifth lowest business taxes in the nation.
Fact 4. Measures 66 and 67 had nothing to do with the Republican gains in the state legislature last November. Perhaps Dick Hughes and company are unaware of this, but November 2010 saw a gigantic Republican surge across the country. Nineteen state legislative bodies around the U.S. switched hands from Democratic to Republican—and not a single one of them had anything that resembled Measures 66 and 67. By contrast, Oregon Democrats fared well. Democrats won the governorship, kept a majority in the State Senate, and held the House to a tie.
The reason Republicans made gains? They beat Democrats in voter turnout by 4.5 percentage points, fueled by a nationwide surge in GOP enthusiasm.
Fact 5. Businesses have not left the state. And why would they? 97.5% of Oregon businesses either saw no change in their corporate taxes or are paying just $150 per year (up from $10). The remaining businesses are either paying slightly more in taxes on their profits above $250,000, or are paying one tenth of one percent of their sales—a miniscule fraction of what they’d pay in other states, like Washington.
In direct contrast to the Statesman, the Medford Mail Tribune’s editorial board—which opposed both measures in 2010—recently looked at the facts and admitted that there was no evidence that businesses left. In fact, they chastised business owner Bruce Hough and his partner, GOP Rep. Sal Esquivel, for their apparently empty threats to move to Nevada.
Fact 6. A wide majority of Oregonians voted in favor of Measures 66 and 67—by a margin of about 8 percentage points. There’s exactly zero evidence to suggest that Oregonians now believe we should lower taxes for large corporations and the richest 2%. In fact, national opinion polls show exactly the opposite. The Statesman’s vague, unsubstantiated comment about what “many Oregonians” think says more about who the writers spend time with (corporate lobbyists, Republican leaders, and the rich) than what Oregonians actually believe.
Editorial boards are certainly entitled to their opinions, even when we disagree with them. But it’s simply irresponsible for editors to use their opinion page to regurgitate false talking points just to score political points.
If we can offer a word of advice to the editorial boards of Oregon’s major newspapers: Perhaps if you spent less time golfing and back-slapping with your friends in the corporate lobby, and more time interacting with members of the community you’re actually obliged to represent, you might stop the flow of readers away from your paper. And you might be able to speak with authority on what “many Oregonians” believe. Just a thought.