I am a baseball fan with a strong interest in history, economics and economic history. As such, I am a sworn enemy of the year 1973. I am also an Oregonian and a progressive, so I am a big fan of Governor Tom McCall. So it was with great pleasure that I belatedly realized yesterday that in fighting for Measures 66 and 67, we are fighting to revive one of Tom McCall’s dreams … by reversing the unfortunate outcome of an election in 1973.
If none of that made any sense, let me explain. As Paul Krugman pointed out in “Peddling Prosperity,” from 1947 to 1973 America had a “magic economy,” with the standard of living of the American middle class steadily improving. In 1973, in Krugman’s words, “the magic went away,” and no one really knows why. Productivity growth has never recovered to 1947-73 levels, and the benefits of what growth we have had have gone overwhelmingly to the people at the top of the income and wealth pyramids.
was also in 1973 that the American League adopted the designated hitter rule.
As former Red Sox and Expos pitcher Bill Lee – another progressive
traditionalist – wrote in “The Wrong Stuff,” this abomination robbed the game
of much of its late-inning strategic drama and made every pitcher into half a
player. I have always suspected that there is a connection between the adoption
of the DH rule and the disappearance of the economic magic. As Lee wrote, “baseball is the belly button
of America. Straighten out the belly button, and the rest of the country will
It was also in 1973 that Tom McCall presented a tax reform plan to the people of Oregon. McCall sought to change the way we fund schools by reducing property taxes and raising taxes on corporations and rich people. As Brent Walth explained in his brilliant biography of McCall, “Fire At Eden’s Gate,” McCall’s plan was defeated by the same kind of entrenched corporate interests that are fighting Measures 66 and 67.
the years since, courtesy of Measures 5 and 47, we have certainly cut property
taxes – but we never had any replacement, as McCall envisioned. Tonight, we can
take a big step toward fulfilling McCall’s vision.
plan was more dramatic than 66 and 67 – he would have raised the corporate
profits tax rate to at least 9% (not 7.9% or 7.6%), and raised the top personal
rate to 13%. So he probably would say we aren’t going far enough.
there is no doubt in my mind that he would agree that we’re going in the right
direction. And there is no doubt that Tom McCall, who enjoyed his victories and
took his losses hard, would like the fact that we are winning.
According to Walth, after the tax reform defeat, McCall roared in anguish: “God damn it, it was for the people!”
Well, god damn it, Tom, this one’s for the people, too.