Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Cheap cigarettes and a Win for Tom McCall

Well, progressives, we went 1 for 2.

Measure 50

First, the bad news: Measure 50, which would have imposed an 85 cent tax on a pack of cigarettes to finance a health insurance program for Oregon's children, was defeated. The measure was drowned in a sea of big tobacco money ($12 million).
Light up, kids! Big Tobacco is keepin' 'em cheap.
The lesson here is this: the "no new taxes" mantra of groups like FreedomWorks that front for corporate and billionaire interests has yet to be exposed as the ruse it is. Although the tax that would have been imposed by Measure 50 was certainly regressive, it set a dangerous precedent (from a billionaire's perspective): if people start to imagine that tax dollars can provide good things for the citizenry, things like children's health care, who knows where that line of thinking might end? An estate tax? A capital gains tax?

I view the defeat of Measure 50 as residual malaise from the regressive policies that "movement conservatives" have successfully masked over that past 20 years. As progressives, we won't just wake up one morning and find that all the evil schemes of the greedy corporate interests have been exposed.

We'll just have to keep working. The public appetite for national health care is growing. And, at the very least, we can make it expensive for corporations to peddle their lies.

Measure 49

Now, the good news. Measure 49 passed with 61% of the vote. Measure 49 reverses most of the worst effects of the shameful Measure 37, from 2004. Measure 37, the "property rights" measure, was a sham perpetuated by developers and timber interests. These monied interests claimed that Oregon's land use policies harmed land owners by constraining their ability to develop property.

Fortunately, the truth will out, and these same interests could not restrain their greed after Measure 37 passed.

Shortly after the disastrous (on so many different levels) election of 2004, landowners filed some 7500 development claims for strip malls, hotels, and gated subdivisions on Oregon's farmlands and forests.

As voters became aware of the unbridled avarice that was actually behind the Measure 37 scam, they rejected it.

The passage of Measure 49 means that, while rural property owners will have the ability to build individual homes, corporate interests and greedy land developers will be unable to construct their monstrous subdivisions.

It's as if Oregonians took to heart the lament of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi":

They paved paradise, put up a parking lot,
With a big hotel, a boutique, and a swingin' hot spot;
Don't it always seem to go
hat you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?
Be still, my heart!
Be sure that the greedy developers will be back with some new scheme to get their hands on our beautiful homeland. But I'm hopeful that people are starting to wake up and see that corporations and the ultra-rich really do not share their interests.

For now, and for some time to come, land use planning is safe. Somewhere, Oregon's revered governor, Tom McCall, who once said he loved Oregon more than his own life, must be smiling.

This one's for you, Governor.


Shus li said...

ain't no one loves Joni MORE than I do!!!!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I think we all knew that 50 would fail, but 49 was the more important measure, at least in terms of the long run.

Unfortunately, I know the issues that the uninsured and underinsured face in this state, all too well. M50 might not have been perfect, and the tax may have been technically regressive, but... I have a hard time with definitions of regressive and progressive taxes that fail to consider the necessity of the products being taxed. I guess my point is that I have no real problem with luxury taxes. Please tax my beer and my wine, if that's what it takes to provide health care to those who need it. I might drink a little less, but that's probably not a bad thing.

Oh, Greetings Dade! I hope all is well!