The New Face of the Oregonian, Part 3: "Down with Taxes (Unless You are Poor)"
Last month, the Oregonian announced that they had hired the Bend Bulletin’s Erik Lukens to be the paper’s new Editorial Page Editor. At the time, we wrote that it signaled a further shift to the right for the state’s “paper of record.”
In the weeks since, we’ve conducted research into the editorials that came out under Lukens’ direction and have found that it’s even more extreme than we originally thought. On every issue that matters to most Oregonians, Lukens and the Bulletin editorial board took a far-right position that is completely at odds with the Oregonian’s readership.
This is part three of a five-part series.
During Lukens’ tenure as Editor of the Editorial Page, the Bend Bulletin published ideas on taxes and concepts of “tax fairness” that run contrary to the opinions of most Oregonians.
Leading up to the vote on Measures 66 and 67 in 2010, Lukens and Co. released editorial after editorial with anti-tax rhetoric about the measures. Now, they weren’t alone in their ‘no’ endorsement; in fact, the Oregonian Editorial Board also published a ‘no’ endorsement. By hiring Lukens as their new Editorial Page Editor, the Oregonian shows that they will continue to be completely out of touch with their readership. (After all, 71% of Multnomah County residents, the bulk of the Oregonian’s readership, voted ‘yes’ on each of the measures.)
But where Lukens differed from other papers with his M66, 67 stance was his propensity for publishing misleading statements and, at times, outright falsehoods to back up his stance, even after the measures passed.
In May 2010, Lukens published a piece alleging that it was the fault of Measures 66 and 67 that businesswoman Tara O’Keeffe was moving her business from Oregon to Ohio.
In the greater scheme of Central Oregon’s economy, Tara O’Keeffe’s hand-cream manufacturing business was relatively small potatoes. Yet, it’s businesses like hers that form the backbone of the state’s business community, and in just a few short days it will be gone, moved lock, stock and barrel to Cincinnati, Ohio. To some degree, you can thank the passage of Ballot Measures 66 and 67 in January for that.
Of course, the truth of the matter was that O’Keeffe’s business was not affected by the measures at all. In truth, O’Keeffe’s small business reaped the benefits of Oregon’s business environment and grew to become so successful that a national company, Gorilla Glue Company, offered to buy them. O’Keeffe accepted this bid, and production of O’Keeffe’s business was thus moved to the national company’s headquarters. Which happen to be located in Ohio.
Never deterred, Lukens and Co. came back with the same argument a few months later, this time couched in vague language and no direct names or businesses, perhaps to avoid fact-checking.
In fact, Measure 66 will affect both those who pay its new income tax rates and those who don't. The measure's most conspicuous effect, of course, is the damage it will do to the state's economic climate. Why would any high-earner or small-business owner move to Oregon when Washington state, just to our north, has no personal income tax at all?
This idea that people won’t move to the state is blatantly false. According to the latest reports, Oregon had the second fastest growing state economy in the nation. And as we’ve shown time and time again, there are no reports of Oregonians moving north to avoid paying state taxes.
Well. Though it was a long time before M66 and 67, there was the one…
During the 2010 gubernatorial race, allegations emerged that Republican candidate Chris Dudley lived in Oregon while claiming Washington residence in order to avoid paying Oregon state income taxes during the 1990s.
Oregonians were outraged. The public response of anger and disappointment showed that this was an unusual stunt and not in line with Oregonian values.
So how did the Bend Bulletin editor respond? Lukens published an editorial suggesting that it was good, common sense for Dudley to move out-of-state in order to avoid paying income taxes. He argued that Dudley’s ploy was a “rational choice” and to think otherwise is to adopt a “strange view of human nature.”
Lukens and Co. refused to acknowledge that what really happened – Dudley took advantage of opportunities provided to him by Oregon (Oregon provided the sports team that gave him his paycheck, the roads to get to his job, the police and security forces to get him safely in and out of crowds, etc.) and manipulated the system so he could take the most while giving the least.
Lukens and Co. later endorsed Dudley for Governor.
One last note on Lukens’ concepts of “tax fairness.” In case you missed it in yesterday’s post, this is the same guy who promotes raising taxes on the poor. So while Lukens will use misleading reports to defend the rich against taxes, he’s got no problem raising taxes on those who are most vulnerable.
Bottom Line: Erik Lukens thinks that “tax fairness” means lowering taxes on the wealthy and increasing taxes on the poor – and if you don’t like the tax code, it’s perfectly acceptable to cheat the system.