Big Swing-State Tax Win - Yes, It Could Be A Harbinger of Similar Fights Throughout the Country

by: David Sirota

Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 09:00

NOTE: We'll be talking to Kevin Looper, who ran the campaign in support of the Oregon ballot initiatives, on my radio show on AM760 this morning at 9:30 am Colorado time (11:30am ET). Tune in at

Just to follow on Chris's post last night, Oregon is perennially one of the most contested electoral swing states in the country. And this week, it delivered a powerful message on taxes - namely, that Reagan's corpse can be defeated when progressives get bold. Check out this excerpt from the Oregonian (and I know Chris printed it last night, but it's important enough to be reprinted again):

Oregon voters bucked decades of anti-tax and anti-Salem sentiment Tuesday, raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy to prevent further erosion of public schools and other state services.

The tax measures passed easily, with late returns showing a 54 percent to 46 percent ratio. Measure 66 raises taxes on households with taxable income above $250,000, and Measure 67 sets higher minimum taxes on corporations and increases the tax rate on upper-level profits.

Campaign ads by supporters highlighted banks and credit card companies and showed images of well-dressed people stepping off private jets. They also hammered on the $10 minimum tax that most corporations have paid since its inception in 1931.

The policy and political importance of this victory cannot be overstated - it comes in a swing-state whose earth has been scorched by right-wing anti-tax/anti-government arguments for decades. It was opposed by all the usual suspects, including celebrity corporatists like Nike CEO Phil Knight. And yet progressives won - resoundingly.

The victory may be a harbinger of tax fights coming up in other swing-states as well.

Take Colorado as a good example: Right now, our governor is pushing a modest proposal to temporarily suspend a bunch of corporate tax giveaways. In the process, he has effectively baited corporate lobbyists into opposing it and actually  advocating for a statewide grocery tax - a wildly unpopular proposal that exposes these lobbyists as disgustingly greedy. In that sense, he is changing the frame of the tax debate, moving it away from the "tax vs. anti-tax" question to an argument about what kind of tax reform is needed.

These are tough fights - but Oregon proves they can be won, and Colorado proves they are worth fighting, if the fight is waged in a smart way.

David Sirota :: Big Swing-State Tax Win - Yes, It Could Be A Harbinger of Similar Fights Throughout the Country

Tags: (All Tags)
Print Friendly View Send As Email

"what kind of tax " ( ( Four, Mr. Sirota ) ) (4.00 / 3)
The powerful have always held up a powerless person as a shield to prevent criticism. The innocent are only ever noticed when dangling from the hand of the guilty. The poor only spoken of when they are used to deflect taxes on the rich. The soldier only raised up to avoid protest of the illegal war.

The question is always what kind of tax. Our system is designed, apparently as said even last night in the State of the Union, to benefit the very well off. Designed, apparently as was regretted last night ever more increasingly, by people with access to unimaginable amounts of money.

The rich use their power to avoid responsibility.
That may be ther first rule, the biggest rule, the most telling rule about democracy in the 21st century.

That must end. If you benefited from the crimes that brought us to this crisis, these crises, you will pay.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

I don't think there was anything mystical or prophetic about it (0.00 / 0)
Oregon is a state that is one-half progressive and one-half conservative (more or less).  At this time the state is in dire financial straits.  In terms of taxes we are quite progressive.  We are one of very few states without a sales tax, which has been defeated numerous times over the decades.  I think the  progressive enclaves were sending a message to the business community and to the upper classes that we are tired of them being the sole beneficiaries of this global economy.  If they are going to stay in Oregon they will need to start paying back some of the rewards they have reaped in this 21st century economy.  

Needless to say, many in the business community are threatening to take their ball and go home. I don't see this as much of a threat as most of them (e.g. Nike) already do most of their manufacturing overseas.  

"Oh. My. God. .... We're doomed." -- Paul Krugman

As I wrote else where (4.00 / 1)
What you describe is true of almost every state. You seem to be arguing that Oregon is unique, but in actuality when you get into the facts, it doesn't sound unique compared to other states.  

[ Parent ]
Well I think you might wish this were the case (0.00 / 0)
But in reality, what has happened here will most likely only happen in similar states.  I doubt that you could reproduce these results in "Red" states. States like Washington, California, and possibly the northeast could put together campaigns that might be successful.  Even here 45% of the people vote against their own economic interests because they hate taxes and government.  Ironically, this vote against the measures came from areas of the state where the working class economic conditions are the worst.  I suspect that there is a direct relationship to community literacy.  I do think that what is being suggested is worth a try, but success would probably be more likely in states that are demographically liberal.

The one thing that would make this a more significant possibility would be a coalition of working class left and right.  White collar workers need to learn how to communicate with blue collar workers.  This can be most easily accomplished by coalitions of unions.  At any rate.  I think it would take some years to accomplish and probably not change the immediate problems.  

But, then, who would have thought Iowa would be a leader in gay rights?  

"Oh. My. God. .... We're doomed." -- Paul Krugman

[ Parent ]
If Democrats can replicate this victory (0.00 / 0)
in blue and purple states, but not red states, it would still be pretty big.  Also, you're wrong about taxes. Polls have shown for years that Americans will support higher taxes for all sorts of things. Broad majorities - not just Democrats but independents and even significant numbers of Republicans. The key is that they get a clear sense of where those taxes are going, that it goes towards things they support, and that they believe the taxes are fair.

I agree with some of the other things you say, like "White collar workers need to learn how to communicate with blue collar workers."  But this is ripe right now, and could be the means for creating the kinds of coalitions you suggest.  

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
With fusion voting in Oregon (4.00 / 2)
and the Working Families Party starting up there, Oregon's progressivism is likely to continue. It's done us a lot of good here in New York State because we passed a tax increase on the top income bracket here too. It's especially impressive considering that Wall Street is in New York State.  

[ Parent ]

Open Left Campaigns



Advanced Search

Powered by: SoapBlox