Causes for despair in Corvallis

T.A. Barnhart

I know a lot of people have great hopes for this election; we could win back the Oregon House, maybe even the House of Representatives. We could start a downward trend for the neocons. November 7th could be a happy day.

I'm not very hopeful.

The Corvallis City Council, faced with the usual budget crunches, decided that one way to address the need for additional money was to place the same tax on call phone companies as they have on "traditional" phone services. Many places already do this, so it's not an outrageous move. In fact, just to prove they were being a bit more than knee-jerk in throwing out a new tax, they also lowered the existing franchise fee from 7% to 5%. Some people in Corvallis whinged, of course, but we just accepted the need and decided to move along.

The cell phone companies, however, were less sanguine. They just spent $100,000 to crush this tax into the ground. Their ads were full of lies and scare tactics: that Internet access would be taxed, or the money would just go into the general fund and god knows what would happen to it then (almost all tax money goes into the general fund; that's how we fund the fire dept). The sad thing is that so many people bought the lies. And therein my source of fear.

I remember other issues brought before Oregon voters. After M5, there was a move to make businesses pay their fair share of property taxes (that no longer occurs; homeowners pick up 2/3 of the tab in Oregon these days). A massive spending campaign beat that into the dust, even though most of the people who voted against the change were actually voting to pay higher property taxes. The attempt to ban 3-trailer trucks; defeated by money. Oregon voters, in fact, react more to big spending campaigns than almost anything else. On a few issues, primarily choice, they'll vote their consciences, but if the corporations decide to spend the money, Oregon voters line up and buy.

So when some say it could be a Dems landslide in November, I'm thinking we'll be lucky to pick up a few seats here and there. 41 & 48 will pass; no way the same people who fell for M5 and M37 will have the smarts to see through these. On the day after election day, we'll feel like we did in 2004: gob-smacked. We'll see before us another two years of struggling just to not have things go totally to hell. And we'll have the insistence in our gut that they are going to go to hell.

A small tax in Corvallis that would have made things fair for cell users was beaten, $100,000 - $8,000. An easy-to-understand issue, and no one bothered to figure it out. They save $5/month, the city cuts even more services, and the cell phone companies get richer. This is Election 2006. The stupid and the corporations win.

Unless we stop them. I know we can, but I'm running out of that kind of hope. Not when the people of my town are so freaking selfish and dumb.

  • Buckman Res (unverified)

    The author seems to equate an acceptance of increased taxes with the likelihood of progressive candidates winning office. Maybe what this means is that progressives are becoming just as discriminating in their acceptance of new and increased taxes as other voters.

    Here in Portland the idea of automatically replacing the I-tax with another tax for area schools didn’t make it out of the gate once the mood of the voters became clear to Mayor Potter and other politicos. And that’s in Little Beirut, hardly a bastion of conservative, anti-tax thinking.

    Being progressive means not having to accept every tax thrown at you.

  • lw (unverified)

    Well said, Buckman Res. A democrate that agrees.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)

    I share much of TA's pessimism about the election, though I'm more worried about candidates than ballot measures. There may be enough Oregonians who, like one constant poster on blueoregon, will just vote "no" on everything and thus stop the ridiculous ballot measures.

    The Republicans, having nothing but a record of corruption and incompetence to run un, are ramping up "Swift Boat" attacks in almost all the close elections, such as the porn smear that Chuck Adams has done to Rob Brading.

    Democrats ought to pool their resources to produce some ads that point out all the Republican lies and warn voters not to believe the crap they see and hear on Republican campaign ads. List the lies, list the corruption, list the favors to corporate interests (okay, cherrypick these, as there isn't enough time in a 30-second spot), and then leave a few seconds at the end to tie each Republican House or Senate candidate into this mess and promote the Democrat.

    The time to do this is now and it should be done everywhere in Oregon. In fact, it would be great to attack in advance of the Republican sliming that will inevitably occur as the election grows nearer. occur

  • (Show?)

    I will agree with the comments above--rejection of new taxes does not mean rejection of progressive candidates.

    However--I do agree with the author regarding ballot measures 41 and 48. I have a sickening feeling they are gonna pass. Any ballot measure that promises to restrain the 'big, bad, evil guvment' in some manner starts out a length ahead out of the gate. It is very difficult to explain to voters in concise, easy statements why these measures are harmful. BM-5, BM-47 and BM-37 all have/will cause long-term damage to how our State funtions and will develop. This is what we get when voters make policy at the ballot box based on information they receive from 30-second advertisemnts. Sad but true.

  • someonesane (unverified)

    This post is a textbook example of the left's nihilistic elitism and chronic fiscal ineptitude. "Vote for higher taxes or you're a flippin' idiot."

    What it really shows is the intellectual bankruptcy afflicting the "progressive" political mindset. Their answer to every perceived government revenue shortfall is always, evermore, "higher taxes, new taxes, more taxes."

    How many times do voters have to reject this broken-record approach before out-of-touch local officials, pie-eyed lawmakers and boorish pundits get a simple message through their numb skulls: Find creative and effective ways of paying for government that don't involve attempting to force people to pay more for the same level of "service."

    What's the definition of insanity again?

  • (Show?)

    This post is a textbook example of the left's nihilistic elitism and chronic fiscal ineptitude.

    hmmmm...our country is 9 trillion dollars in debt to China, the Saudis, and numerous other 'nice creditors' around the planet. This is due to the fiscal wizadry of what crew??

  • someonesane (unverified)

    hmmmm...our country is 9 trillion dollars in debt

    Point taken. However, I don't live in Benton County -- do Republicans control the Corvallis city government, too?

  • Jim Pozey (unverified)

    Jimbo: Wrong. Trade deficit is not debt. Quit tossing around terms that you do not understand.

    If trade deficit was debt, how much are you in "debt" to your grocer? I'm guessing you buy a lot more stuff from him than he does from you.

  • (Show?)

    TA, it's interesting that the national punditocracy is so unified in predictions of a Dem victory in Nov. I'm with you. Although there is evidence of (dare I say it?) malaise, it seems to permeate politics--it's not directed at our current elected leaders. I expect to make small gains in the House, Senate, and remain about even in the state House. Worse, I'm worried about the governor's race. I feel that in Oregon, liberals are the beleaguered group. If they fail to show up on election day, Saxton--despite Starrett--could win. I hope all liberals decide to opt in this midterm.

    48 is so bad I think it's going down, however. We'll see.

  • (Show?)

    Jimbo: Wrong. Trade deficit is not debt. Quit tossing around terms that you do not understand.

    uhhhhh, I realize the word 'debt' is complicated, but I had to toss the term around. Sorry to say Mr. Pozey, but our country is almost 9 Trillion Dollars in debt. Simple as that.

  • Ampersand (unverified)
    Wrong. Trade deficit is not debt. Quit tossing around terms that you do not understand. If trade deficit was debt, how much are you in "debt" to your grocer? I'm guessing you buy a lot more stuff from him than he does from you.

    The grocer and I are using the same currency, and neither one of us issues bonds that obligate us to pay interest to the bond-holders.

    In contrast, when China ends up with a huge amount of spare US currency due to the trade imbalance, that makes it very attractive for them to purchase US treasury bonds, meaning that we end up being obligated to pay interest to them. So yes, in practice, a big trade deficit does mean debt.

    (I'm not saying a trade deficit is always a bad thing. Sometimes it's not.)

  • Robin Ozretich (unverified)

    Todd, I'm not sure I agree that the cell phone tax vote bodes poorly for Dem chances in November. Cell phone tax proponents were outspent by more than 10-to-1. Most Dems around the state and around the country won't be outspent like that, and they'll have much more visible campaigns. There's a lot of anti-government, anti-incumbant, anti-everything sentiment around right now. That may have led some folks to vote "no" on the cell phone tax, and might some of those same folks to vote "no" on every statewide ballot measure this fall (I'll be voting "no" on almost everything, Measure 44 excluded).

    That said, I'm interested to see proposals for recouping the tax revenue lost to the city because of this vote. I'm soliciting proposals to be published at my site Corvallis Scene. If any of y'all are interested drop by the site, or email me at [email protected]

  • paul (unverified)

    I don't know about research done in Oregon, but lots of work done in California (google Lupia and Gerber) shows that big money campaigns aren't as effective as t.a. describe. Most often, voters rely on high profile interest group and political endorsements when making a decision on a ballot measure. It's certanly not the case that the best-funded campaign always, or even often, wins.

    As to November, the numbers seem a lot better to me than to Jeff and t.a. There are a given number of seats in play (I hear figures between 35 and 45). More of these are Republican than Democratic; more of these are places where Bush trailed behind his national total than places where he ran ahead; etc.

    Things do look good for the Dems. I think they'll squeak out a majority in the US House. The Senate is even looking promising, what with George Allen's continued attempts to stick his foot deeper into his mouth (Look! I'm Jewish! I can't be a racist!)

  • (Show?)

    Odds and ends: *The national debt--public and private--is indeed around 9 trillion. Why someone thought it was confused with the trade deficit, I have no idea.

    *I think extrapolating from a single bill in a single Oregon city, to a barometer for state and federal elections, seems like rank nonsense. I understand the point by itself, and in Oregon's context it makes sense, but I don't see any evidence of electoral transferance to actual candidate races.

    *To the person who claimed that the left's response is always for more taxes: well shit--of course it is NOW. Since the mid 90s both the state and federal coffers have been drained by the CUTTING of taxes. Did people really think we could get something for nothing, ad infinitum? The piper is now ready to be paid. We're behind on our bills, and do not accept the level of services we're currently getting as the result of cuts.

    *I don't know what barometers other people have been using, but I'm tracking lots of individual (federal) House and Senate races, as well as generic ballot responses and voter interest. Taken as a whole, the simple facts are that many more House races are in play than expected--at least 40, as many as 60--and the vast majority are Republican-held. In those districts, according to an indepth study by Pew, the mood is sour, and the interest among GOP voters much lower than among Democrats. And as I said, those are REPUBLICAN districts. No party ever sweeps the table even in great years, but there literally are no more than 1-3 House races that Democrats fear losing.

    On the Senate side, three pickups are almost a lock: Burns, DeWine and Santorum. Post-primary polling gives Whitehouse a decent edge and good trendlines for #4. Bob Corker is falling like a rock, and has something approaching criminal indictments facing him in weeks before the election...that's #5. Talent and McCaskill are neck and neck, there's #6. Allen is now quite beatable, that's #7. AZ and NV are reachable but only in a truly massive wave. Once again, there is only one vulnerable Dem seat, and that's in NJ, where polls always understand the Dem turnout.

    The governorships will flip easily to the Dems; about 28 or 29 seems to be the number.

    I think M45 has a decent chance of passing, but the No editorials are starting to appear (Trib, Gresham Outlook). M48 I think is in trouble. The breadth of opposition is huge, and covers a wide swath of constituencies.

    In 2004 there was a lot of "if things break our way" feeling. This year, there are far fewer hurdles to overcome. Almost all of the factors favor Democrats.

    So buck up, little pardner!

  • Dan E. (unverified)

    So, if a citizen doesn't vote for a new tax, they are either stupid or selfish?

    Are those the only possible choices, you elitest hemorrhoid?

    I am sure if you put your little thinking cap on, you could probably come up with some reasons WHY folks don't want another tax. Perhaps one of those reasons might be they are sick of being labled ignorant or greedy by the liberal intelligencia.

    If you folks are truly smarter than everyone else, as you genuinely seem to believe, why in the world have you not figured out how to manipulate us mental midgets into voting for your tax-raising offal?

    An eager electorate awaits your response....

  • byard pidgeon (unverified)

    This discussion got a bit far afield, with some name calling added, too. Well, I think the original point is well taken...big money promoting big lies seems to win more often than not. Goebbels said the secret to successful propaganda was "constant repetition of mutually reinforcing messages", and that takes big money, which is primarily in the hands of corporate interests. However, the answer to our public funding problems isn't "new"'s changing the tax codes so those who benefit most, pay more. Something simple, like eliminating the ludicrously regressive corporate minimum tax, would be a great start. The right may call it "class warfare", which, to me, is a good thing.

  • Kevin (unverified)

    People are sick and tired of being taxed to DEATH by liberals that can't seem to balance a check book !!!

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