The Oregon Trail (to Ruin)

oregon supporters_
When I was a volunteer firemen, one of the guys on the department worked in a gas station. In those days of full service only, the attendant cleaned your windshield, and checked your oil and tires. There wasn't much in a small town that was sacred, so one time he asked, "You must make a lot of money as a writer. How much?"

"I made $17,000 last year."

For a moment he was dumbfounded. "That's what I make."
Since then I've cleared more, but my career yo-yoed between feast and famine. In the best of times and in the worst, I always wanted more. That was the compelling reason for me to never envy the people who did earn more by the sweat of their brow or who by luck of the draw were golden sperm babies whose money came from inheritance. No matter how it was made, if someone else had big bucks in the bank account, there was the possibility that ol' Jeff could too. Even though I am now retired, I haven't given up my dream of having a money bin, like Scrooge McDuck, but unlike him, blowing it on prostitutes and dog racing.

Good. Now I have your attention.

Oregon's month-long, mail-in balloting on Measures 66 and 67 is over. Misinformation and greed are the victors.

The measures' cheerleaders said that taxing rich people would pay for education and the necessary services of other public employees. What they didn't say was that public workers in Oregon average incomes of $83,000 a year or about 30% more than private sector counterparts. In the last three years the state racked up a $1 billion deficit, lost 40,000 private sector jobs and added 25,000 new public employees. This year the Democratic-controlled legislature gave public workers a $259 million pay raise, then backed Measures 66 and 67 so that Oregon's infrastructure wouldn't go kaput.

Targeted to fix it all up were fat cat corporations headquartered out of state. The loudest tax-the-rich cheerleaders were unions for teachers and for other public service employees, both within the state and all across the land. They spent $6.5 billion, two million more than business and tax payer groups. The same money was 61/2 times more than would have been needed to wipe out the state's deficit. Instead, the unions launched media blitzkriegs and hired community organizers to help the elderly and prisoners fill out ballots. The appeal had greatest affect on the Medford-Portland corridor of the state. There the left-of-center populous is far more numerous than in rural areas and much more open to looniness.

The out-of-state fat cats may be less numerous than initially claimed. Regardless, they will pass on increased taxes by upping the costs for goods and services, pushing consumer prices up in Oregon, as well as killing jobs. Individual Oregonians who make a $125,000 a year have to retroactively pay higher taxes. If a mom-and-pop business—say, a corner gas station with some pumps and service bays, a tires and parts inventory, maybe a convenience store and certainly big tanks of petrol underground—has more $500,000 in gross assets, it too must pay higher taxes. Or cut costs by firing people like my fellow volunteer.

Finally, public service employees, particularly teachers who work only nine months of the year, will retain retirement packages that are some of the highest in the nation. Measures 66 and 67 weren't so much about fixing anything as allowing public workers to continue living very high on the hog.