(Originally appeared 01/23/10, Portland IndyMedia)
“It then becomes obvious why the spectre of a successful campaign in Oregon to raise taxes on the rich and business interests is so very terrifying. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.”
Jan. 10, 2010, Portland Indy Media
“What happens here may be closely watched elsewhere . . . Oregon will be the first this year to ask voters to raise taxes on themselves — or at least on some of themselves.”
Jan. 23, 2010, The New York Times
A terrifying spectre is haunting America, the real possibility of a little socialism in Oregon.
In a few short days, the 2.8 million registered voters of this idiosyncratic Pacific Northwest enclave will actually decide whether to ever so slightly raise taxes on wealthy residents and the two-thirds of companies here which pay the minimum annual state business tax of $10, an embarrassing, indefensible number that has not changed since 1931.
The reason for the proposed tax increases? Education, public safety, health care, law enforcement, and other public services. You know, the common good.
After decades of failed attempts to even out the social responsibilities to those most able to pay, the state legislature, dominated by Democrats, finally passed legislation in 2009 to raise the income tax rate by 1.8 percent on households making at least $250,000, and increase the minimum annual state business tax to $150. And just for good measure, the proposed legislation actually eliminates state taxes on the first $2,400 of 2009 unemployment earnings, affecting an estimated 270,000 Oregonians unemployed last year, according to published reports.
Of course, the wealthy and financial powers that be here in the Beaver State were having none of it. They assembled a high-priced signature gathering campaign to have the whole package come up for a special statewide vote, measures 66 & 67, on January 26 under the rubric of Oregons Against Job Killing Taxes.
BlueOregon.org says that according to a new survey from Portland pollster Tim Hibbitts that was conducted for the Portland Tribune, Fox 12 and Oregon Public Broadcasting, Measure 66 is supported by 52 percent with 39 percent opposed. Another 9 percent are undecided. On Measure 67, 50 percent are in favor and 40 percent are opposed. Another 10 percent are undecided.
Can you believe it?! Something near a majority of state residents in fact favor raising taxes on the rich. Now, whether that translates into actual votes by election day is anybody’s guess. But if it does, the people of Oregon — a place where they take Presidents’ Day seriously and drivers are courteous to a fault — may soon be responsible for the most glaring and glorious case of a people’s class-warfare victory in quite some time.
New Dealers, Eugene V. Debs, The Wobblies, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., The Haymarket Martyrs, Upton Sinclair, Robert Kennedy, and even Karl Marx himself would be proud.
Class warfare you say?! In the words of one recent famous American reactionary sod, I say, with all the passion I can muster, “Bring it on!”
The American working class has been taking it in the wallet, and the gut, ever since the dark days of Reagan with his reactionary attacks on the hard won victories of the New Deal and Great Society programs. Led by the US Labor Movement, the working people of this country fought and died for the rights to Social Security, minimum wages, the right to collective bargaining, workmen’s compensation, unemployment insurance, workplace safety legislation, food subsidies, and more.
But ever since the 1980’s, the Republicans, and too many Democrats, fronting for the corporate interests have been attempting to once again force American workers down on their knees and dragged back under our bridges. In the ’30’s they were called Hoovervilles. Over the past forty years, the updated versions are known simply as homeless camps. Hey, don’t fool yourselves; the wealthy want you broke and homeless. They want you under the bridges and in the shelters. Otherwise, they just might have to face an electorate intelligent enough to vote their own self interests and demand adequate taxation and social responsibility from the financial elites toward the common good.
I have not seen one yet, but if someone had a clue, they’d hand out bumper stickers in Oregon with something like the following: “Rich or Stupid: Voters Against Measures 66 & 67”
It then becomes obvious why the spectre of a successful campaign in Oregon to raise taxes on the rich and business interests is so very terrifying. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere. Just think of it: during the depths of the Great Recession, out of the Cascadian backwaters, rolls the firestorm of an uncontainable working class demand for financial fair play. Banksters, wealth managers, trust funders, corporate raiders, tax cheats, oppressive employers, energy traders, and pension fund gamblers for once feeling the heat of progressive, liberal reform that will hit them square in the pocket.
But the tax referenda here in Oregon are far from certain. Many working class voters will lose their nerve between now and January 26. American society left its revolutionary roots a long time ago. Can anyone here imagine thousands of young men and women volunteering to go abroad to fight for real freedom, as in the Lincoln Brigades during the Spanish Civil War? Or the thousands who once manned picket lines across the nation, fighting police and company goons to the death? What about the Americans who once organized resistance to unfair companies to the point they cooperated by enforcing general strikes that shut down entire cities? We can’t even maintain forceful and regular street protests today to the point our mothers and fathers did a generation ago to finally shut down the Vietnam War.
All we really have the nerve for these days is the ballot box. Enough people had the balls to vote in a black man promising real change: end the war, health care reform, and revive the economy. The jury is still out on all those things, but the people of Oregon have the honest chance to help push the nation kicking and screaming back down the liberal progressive road.
The American workers have been getting kicked in the teeth during the ongoing class conflict for the past 40 years. Our enemies dare us to even call this conflict exactly what it is: class warfare. Because they know that once people realize they will never get rich, once they no longer fantasize about the Jersey Shore lifestyle, then the rich had better watch out.
Before he was murdered in his sleep by Chicago police in 1969, social activist and leader of the Illinois Black Panther Party Fred Hampton said, “We’re gonna fight capitalism with socialism. Socialism is the people. If you’re afraid of socialism, you’re afraid of yourself.”
Let’s hope the voters of Oregon aren’t afraid to look in the mirror and not back down from what they see. 
According to the Oregon Secretary of State results, the voter turnout was 60.36%, with 1,246,057 ballots in total.
Oregon’s State Measure 66 will “raise tax on household income at and above $250,000 (and $125,000 for individual filers). Reduces income taxes on unemployment benefits in 2009. Provides funds currently budgeted for education, health care, public safety, other services”. Measure 66 got 54% of Yes votes.
State Measure 67 will raise “$10 corporate minimum tax, business minimum tax, corporate profits tax. Provides funds currently budgeted for education, health care, public safety, other services”. Measure 67 got 53% of Yes votes.
Continue reading at NowPublic.com: Oregon Election Results: Measure 66 and 67 Results Out | NowPublic News Coverage http://www.nowpublic.com/world/oregon-election-results-measure-66-and-67-results-out#ixzz2GlGhckPA