Measure 50 Foes Skirt the Law; Pro Forces Strike Back

You've probably seen the ad already--using an anti-tax angle against Measure 50, Big Tobacco has crafted a commercial that is targeted, effective, ... and highly misleading.  It's so bad the Eugene Register-Guard reports that some stations have pulled it:

Four TV stations in Oregon, including two in Eugene, briefly refused to continue airing an anti-Measure 50 ad until the tagline indicating the ad's sponsor was revised. The change was to have been made Monday evening.

The TV ad initially identified Oregonians Against the Blank Check and Reynolds American as the ad's sponsor. Reynolds American is the parent company of the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co.

But some Measure 50 supporters and TV viewers contend that Reynolds American should be listed as the sole sponsor since the tobacco company is, to date, the sole contributor to Oregonians Against the Blank Check. Reynolds American has contributed about $1.8 million.

In another article in the Register-Guard, political analyst Bill Lunch says that Big Tobacco really has no other play but to try to mislead and confuse--because in a fair matchup of kids versus tobacco, the kids are going to win:

That was part of a scattershot of arguments against Measure 50 in a television ad that debuted last week and briefly stirred controversy on Monday. It also sought to raise doubt among viewers about whether the money would be spent properly and said HMOs and the insurance industry were behind the push.

Political scientist Bill Lunch called it classic strategy for such a campaign.

"That's absolutely the playbook--to sow doubt and make a ballot proposal seem more complicated than it really is," said Lunch, chairman of Oregon State University's political science department. "The question is whether it's going to work or not."

Elsewhere, the Oregonian also condemned the RJ Reynolds piece:

Oregonians will be exposed to millions of dollars worth of such oily spittle between now and the Nov. 6 election. Last year, the cigarette makers spent a staggering $70 million to beat back tobacco tax increases by narrow margins in California and Missouri, and it’s clear they’re spending big to fight the Oregon plan.

The industry’s strategy? It’s an old and reliable one: Muddy the waters, leaving voters so confused that enough will vote no to defeat a measure that would have passed easily without the disinformation campaign.

The pro-Measure 50 folks have a new ad online.  You can watch it hereDiscuss.

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    The requirement that broadcast political ads identify their sponsor is an FCC rule. There are no Oregon laws requiring that a political ad disclose who wrote it or who paid for it. That "tagline" requirement was repealed by the Oregon Legislature (in 2001, as I recall), at the request of Secretary of State Bill Bradbury. I think I was the only person testifying in favor of keeping the requirement that political ads in Oregon (whether on TV or radio or newspapers, or elsewhere) identify who was responsible for the ad.

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    Cue the chorus of people mindlessly screaming how this is a regressive tax on the poor.

  • James X. (unverified)
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    I think the best response from pro-50 folks would be a candid one. Something like:

    "We won't have enough money to correct all of RJ Reynolds' lies about Measure 50. Some of their ads are so bad, stations have refused to run them. But unlike what their ads say, HMOs did not write Measure 50. Measure 50 is sponsored by us: the Oregon Nurses Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, Stand for Children, the Oregon Food Bank and more. The reasons are simple: to reduce smoking, and increase children's health. We won't have enough money to counter all of big tobacco's lies, so we just ask you: Every time you see their ads, consider the source. (Brought to you by...)"

    While the ad that's running now is good (and similar), it does nothing to counter the claim that M50 is sponsored by HMOs to enrich themselves. For all a viewer knows, HMOs are funding this ad and writing the script for the mystery voiceover woman. A direct appeal by a very trustworthy person (with a name, who we see on the screen) to just consider all future anti-M50 ads as tobacco industry propaganda ("because we don't have the money to correct all the lies") would be very effective, I think. Because, really, they won't have the money.

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    Cue the chorus of people mindlessly screaming how this is a regressive tax on the poor.

    Say what you want but it in fact is just that. The statistics speak for themselves no matter how you slice and dice them. M50 is a regressive tax. That it's "on the poor" is self-evidently redundant.

    Why do you equate speaking the truth with mindlessness? If you want to argue that the cause M50 seeks to address (health care for poor kids) is worth the cost (embracing a regressive funding scheme) then that would at least be an honest, respectable counter-arguement. But to preemptively try to frame anyone speaking to an inconvenient truth with a derogatory label like "mindless" is unbecoming of you, IMO, and reflects very poorly on "progressives across the board.

    We should never be afraid of the truth. The moment that we begun running from the truth ought to raise gigantic red warning flags that something ain't kosher in Progressiveville.

    PS. note that not once have I even attempted to defend Big Tobacco or their arguments. Which is my way of trying to preemptively shut down another derogatory attack that I've seen pro-M50 folks use.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    There is nothing regressive about a tax on tobacco. Studies show that higher taxes and higher prices reduce the amount of cigarettes people buy and smoke. Which is a good thing, not a bad thing.

    I hope the measure 50 folks have good polling and focus groups that show the anti-tobacco company ads will cause people to vote for the measure. But I think they ought to focus on its positive benefits and then end with the tag line "Who could be against that?" and then answer their own question "The tobacco companies" and show them offering a young teen a cigarette.

  • Taoiseach (unverified)
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    This looks almost exactly like my take at Beaver Boundary.

    The twist? The stations that called out the misleading ad were FOX affiliates. It's a strange place, this Pacific Northwest, no?

  • James X. (unverified)
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    Also, people seem to ignore the fact that high prices prevent young people from ever starting, too. It's a "healthy kids" two-fer.

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    Posted by: James X. | Sep 11, 2007 11:01:54 PM Also, people seem to ignore the fact that high prices prevent young people from ever starting, too. It's a "healthy kids" two-fer.

    But but it regressive so it is evil incarnate. Who cares if it reduces smoking amoung the poor or the young? So what if it increases health coverage for kids, and decreases illness? It is "a regressive tax on the poor" so it must be voted down. /snark

  • Jesse Lohrke (unverified)
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    It is too bad that a legitimate discussion on whether Measure 50 is good tax (and Constitutional) policy, is reduced to an argument about big tobacco. The stage is set. Voters can't reject this measure and demand better, without it being considered a win for big tobacco.

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    Well, the nature of the tobacco companies' campaign should at least put to rest the lie that questioning the regressivity and paternalism is only done by shills of the tobacco companies. Their arguments, such as they are, have nothing to do with such questions.

    My problems with it are as much about public health policy as tax policy.

    I am not questioning the honesty of the motives of people who support the referendum, nor the degree of their mindfulness. Nor in saying the tax is regressive in a tax sense am I saying those who support it are not progressive in their motives or broad outlook. I don't believe I've seen anyone do any of those things.

    Is it possible to return the favor? As Kevin says, it is a gratuitous insult, I will add a rather stupid one, to say that anyone who thinks otherwise is "mindless." Any fair-minded person would acknowledge that most of the positions in our debates have been argued with considerable thought behind them.

    While in aggregate the proposed tax will be regressive, it won't be systematically so, like say a flat payroll tax, affecting all lower-income payers more harshly than any all upper-income payers. Some upper-income smokers will pay more than lower-income non-smokers.

    As I have said before, I would support a tobacco tax from which all the proceeds were dedicated to smoking cessation and prevention programs.

    My concerns about the bill are not only about regressivity, but about the distribution of benefits. The addictiveness of nicotine bothers me and limits the persuasiveness of "personal responsibility" arguments. Above all about the possibility that the tax will create an illusion of doing a lot more about the healthcare access and quality crisis than it actually does, and thus become an obstacle to a broad, fair and systematic reform.

    The "don't let the perfect become the enemy of the good" line doesn't persuade me here, because it looks more like the on-balance bad becoming the enemy of the good to me.

    The tobacco industry ads clearly are aiming to mobilize general anti-tax, anti-government sentiment -- hence the "blank check" trope. This is interesting because it reflects how much of a minority smokers have become. It also suggests that big tobacco thinks that the sort of "personal responsibility" arguments about health that TorridJoe was making earlier would trump any sort of smokers' rights individualism.

    The ads are scurrilous enough to make me unsure of what I am going to do. I doubt I'll vote for M50 but I might abstain. Ethically that is a confused standpoint, which means I need to rethink before I decide.

  • James X. (unverified)
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    The reason RJR isn't using "regressivity" in their TV ads is because it doesn't resonate with TV test audiences. It's more of a right-wing talk radio meme. But, really, if this is so unfair to the poor, why aren't any advocates of the poor, or any other social justice activists, involved on the No on 50 side? It's almost exclusively tobacco companies and mini-marts.

  • Mark R (unverified)
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    I remember in California some years back the tobacco firms outspent their opponents by about 10:1 in trying to get a weak state anti-smoking law passed that would pre-empt stronger local laws. People saw through it and buried big tobacco in a landslide. It can happen here!

  • LiberalIncarnate (unverified)
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    Can someone please explain to me what sort of tax WOULD NOT qualify as a "regressive tax" to conservatives?

    I suspect none.

    I see no problem in taxing a product that has ruined my father's life and countless others. I remember living as a child in smoke filled living rooms where it was so thick it was like a heavy cloud layer.

  • BothSidesAreDeceitful (unverified)
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    The Pro-Measure 50 side is engaged in as much or more deceit than the anti-M50 people they criticize. In fact their real effort is to turn the glaring spotlight away from the real disgrace of Measure 50 and Senate Bill 3: Further turning our health care system over to private insurance companies and HMOs which protect their business interests by taking away decision making power from patients.

    At the same time, they are arrogant and rude in their demeaning and punitive disregard for smokers. The question the Pro-M50 people don't want you to ask is how bad a health care system they are actively working to create with this system really is, and how they are acutally working against creating a better health care system that actually puts children and all patients first to advance their own self-interests.

    By the way LiberalIncarnate, many of us have had families significantly damaged by tobacco. We don't blame an animate object, we say we need to build an appropriate health care system that affirmatively provides whatever physical or mental health care people need. And a private health insurance/HMO based system which families spend the last days of their loved ones lives fighting for every single thing, rather than spending their time with their loved ones.

    In reality, the Pro Measure-50 side are standing up for a corrupt health insurance system and industry against a corrupt tobacco industry. That kind of slimeball fight has no business being in our Constitution.

  • BothSidesAreDeceitful (unverified)
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    The last statement

    "And a private health insurance/HMO based system which families spend the last days of their loved ones lives fighting for every single thing, rather than spending their time with their loved ones."

    should have read

    "And ABOLISHING a private health insurance/HMO based system which families spend the last days of their loved ones lives fighting for every single thing, rather than spending their time with their loved ones."

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    Look, you can accuse anyone who disagrees with you here of being a troll, that doesn't make it true. I post here in my own name & you won't find a troll pattern in my views. If you look at what real trolls write, they tend to either follow the rightwing talking points on the issue, or take the form of "have you people ever seen a tax you didn't like" or some such BS.

    James, if what you say is true, which I don't doubt but hadn't heard before, there's a reason the "regressive" trope didn't fly when tested. The anti-tax conservatives on whom the tobacco companies are pinning their hopes don't like it or care about it.

    I'm not one of them. I'm a left-wing social Democrat who often is frustrated because the Democratic party is too center-right on some things. Including public health and health-care access.

    Who's actively opposing M50? Not me, just writing on a blog about why it's not the greatest thing since sliced bread and raises significant problems to people who I hope might be on my side eventually in going further. Some here write as if there are no problems. Others have said that it's not what they'd prefer, but it's the realistic way to get $ for the kids' health insurance.

    It's not the worst thing in the world, but has real problems. They are worth talking about, especially if we want to stop doing things in a half-assed way, or figure out strategies to avoid getting backed into a corner where that's the only practical thing.

    People who support M50 have real reasons that I respect.

    But it's still half-assed as an anti-smoking initiative and half-assed as a way to fund health care access, and I fear it will encourage complacency on broader health issues. Actually if M50 supporters were saying, well, this is just an interim step because of the urgency of getting more kids covered now, AND talk about next steps, it would make a big difference.

    Attacking people's honest and thoughtful opinions as trollery or mindless is just bad form. If lestatdelc hadn't done so, he wouldn't have induced responses from me that probably from his point of view fall into the category he said he wanted to avoid.

  • BothSidesAreDeceitful (unverified)
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    And I'll add to the last sentence

    "That kind of slimeball fight has no business being in our Constitution. Nor is Measure 50 and Senate Bill 3 in the best interest of actually delivering good health care to children, low-income adults, or special-needs individuals, much less all Oregonians, not even close

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    The argument that M50 is deceitful is absolutely indefensible. It went from the Governor to the legislature and was referred to the people. Evidence and news stories abound that describe exactly what this measure will do and who it will affect. The same can not be said for the incredibily venal, deceitful campaign mounted by RJ Reynolds. Let's be clear, they're opposing it for one reason: they want as many Oregon smokers as possible to smoke, and smoke a lot. This is only about their bottom line. Everything else is--ahem--smoke and mirrors.

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    I have to say as a liberal Democrat I am oppose to Measure 50. It appears I'm not the only one. First I want to address the post and some of the comments made above.

    Last night in Medford the anti-Measure 50 ad ran (I wish I could remember which station I think it was KDRV) and two commercials later the pro-Measure 50 ad ran as well. I also agree the anti-Measure 50 ad is misleading and it is certainly NOT why I am voting against it (more on that in a minute).

    Chris Lowe said:

    My problems with it are as much about public health policy as tax policy.

    I am not questioning the honesty of the motives of people who support the referendum, nor the degree of their mindfulness. Nor in saying the tax is regressive in a tax sense am I saying those who support it are not progressive in their motives or broad outlook. I don't believe I've seen anyone do any of those things.

    Chris, I've never seen you before, but let me take this chance to welcome you to BO. I agree with what you've said, as I too am sure the reasoning behind the measure is well meaning, but there are some troubling things about it. I also agree with the comment later in your post about a better usee for the cigerette tax being used for helping people stop smoking.

    A few people mentioned the fact that they have lost loved ones because of the addiction. I too have suffered that fate as my father died at age 56. Both of my parents smoked (my mom quit thankfully over 10 years ago) when I grew up, so I would hold myself up as about as anti-tobacco as they get. If you haven't figured out by now, I'm a non-smoker.

    The reason I suspect mini-marts are opposing the measure is because a large amount of their income comes from selling tobacco products. My guess is they had a little help in terms of a push from the tobacco companies as well.

    Now, the two reasons I am personaly opposed (and in terms of BO I and a few others stand in the minority) is first that I believe there could be something better that this put together. Second, I have a problem with this being in the Oregon Constitution. I'm sure there was a reason for it being drafted like that (and I'm curious why), but that makes me uncomfortable as a voter.

    It's too bad this campaign has gotten so muddled instead of discussing the real pro's and con's of the measure.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    Some here write as if there are no problems

    What are the problems? The "they are both slimeballs, vote no" argument is a troll argument of the worst kind.

    Who's actively opposing M50?

    The tobacco companies.

    It's not the worst thing in the world, but has real problems.

    Maybe, but what are they? You don't mention any. You can't just say they exist, you have to say what you think they are.

    It's too bad this campaign has gotten so muddled instead of discussing the real pro's and con's of the measure.

    No, its not just "too bad". The argument that there is something "muddled" about the measure is a tobacco company talking point.

    first that I believe there could be something better that this put together.

    Better how? This is not an argument. Its just a statement you could make about anything. What would you change? Is the tax not high enough? Are not enough children going to benefit? Should tobacco be outlased instead of taxing it? You can't leave the details to the imagination of the reader unless your intent is just to sew doubt, rather than persuade.

    Second, I have a problem with this being in the Oregon Constitution.

    Why? The only way you change things that are in the constitution is by amending it. How else would you do it?

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    Ross and Jeff (and anyone else), first, I disassociate myself with the "deceitful" claim, both in general, an more specifically with discussion on BlueOregon, which I think has been quite substantial and honest.

    <h2>My only beef with the discussion on BlueOregon is the unwarranted ad hominem & name-calling arguments from certain quarters against people who disagree with M50.</h2>

    Ross, I will reply to those of your quotes that come from me. Please do not attribute anyone else's positions to me. I'll let David E. reply for himself if he cares to.

    Regarding what's wrong: Actually I did talk about the key problems for me above. Also I have done so in previous debates. Your accusation is baseless.

    To quote myself above: My concerns about the bill are not only about regressivity, but about the distribution of benefits. The addictiveness of nicotine bothers me and limits the persuasiveness of "personal responsibility" arguments. Above all about the possibility that the tax will create an illusion of doing a lot more about the healthcare access and quality crisis than it actually does, and thus become an obstacle to a broad, fair and systematic reform.

    Since that apparently wasn't enough, here is explication:

    1) (Not my biggest concern, but where L. started us off.) I think that the bill is regressive in the tax sense, by drawing revenue more from the lower income sections of the population than the higher income sections. However, it is less so than payroll taxes -- see above.

    2) Who benefits? The price-deterrent anti-smoking benefits of the tax will go to the section of the population that smokes or is at risk of smoking, not a problem per se except for a little uneasiness about paternalism.

    But the revenue benefits will go mainly to others than smokers. This includes uninsured children of non-smoking parents, including children in families whose income in many cases will be higher than that of those paying the tax.

    But also, TorridJoe argued on another thread that the tax could lower the overall expenditures on healthcare in Oregon significantly, by getting a large number of kids more appropriate times at more appropriate places. Most of those costs are private.

    If TJ is right, most of the overall system cost savings will go to either hospitals, private insurance companies, or privately insured people. That will depend on how much the hospitals pass on their savings on costs currently built into overhead charges on unrelated procedures, and on how much the insurance companies pass on any savings from hospitals to premium payers. If the pass-through is high, it could benefit a lot of insured people. If it's not, it could go to the bottom lines of hospitals or insurers.

    Does covering kids is a way of rationalizing our irrational healthcare system a bit? Is it intended to have broad benefits across society? If so, it should be paid for on a broad societal basis with an equitable tax base on principles of progressive taxation. I would support that.

    To me it is a problem to pay for a general benefit by imposing the financial burden on a disfavored and often despised minority.

    3) Piling extra taxes on lower-income smokers seems especially unfair because of the addictiveness of nicotine as a drug. The addictiveness factor greatly weakens the argument that smoking is purely a choice. We don't live in a world where it's choice or no choice. Most of our choices are constrained. Addiction is a severe constraint. That's why a tobacco tax dedicated to cessation and prevention would be better -- if the point is to discourage new smoking and encourage smokers to quit, then pay for what it takes to make that a more real choice for more people.

    Paying for general benefits by milking a disproportionately lower-income group and substantially addicted who already are being exploited by tobacco companies doesn't seem morally right to me.

    4) I am deeply concerned that "Healthy Kids" will be seen as "doing enough" to meet the coverage crisis, which is only a piece of the health and healthcare crisis.

    Voicing this problem is troubling to me. I do see the issues about not taking up an actually-existing way to fund uninsured kids' insurance now for the sake of some abstract future better general system.

    But I would have a much easier time getting on board if the pro-M50 campaign was arguing explicitly in public something like "We believe there should be universal access to effective healthcare, and will continue to work for that, but in the short term we call for this because it is so urgent." Some individual politicians say this, often not in very public contexts, but as far as I know the pro-referral campaign does not.

    If I'm mistaken, I'd be pleased to learn that & it would affect my thinking.

    5) A problem which is less important to me than to some others is the constitutional amendment aspect. Clearly the system is out of whack when it's easier to amend the constitution by referral than to pass a tax statute & changing that ought to be on the progressive agenda.

    However, as I have been thinking about this, a political dimension has come into view. Several times in the last 15 years I have been part of efforts to oppose discriminatory anti-GLBTQ initiatives, in which "don't mar our constitution with discrimination" was a major argument.

    So I am starting to worry that if progressives lower the bar about amending the constitution for things that ought to be done by statute, it may come back to bite us, by weakening what has been an important defensive argument for us.

    So, there, I have named a number of problems in considerable detail. Others have responded to all of them in previous threads, except perhaps possibly this version of the constitutional argument. The concern responded to least well in my opinion is the issue of addiction.

    <hr/>

    You misinterpreted my question about who is actively opposing M50. I know the tobacco companies are. Duh.

    It was a question about who on BlueOregon has said they were doing so, in the context of accusations that those who disagree are merely shills for the tobacco companies spouting their talking points. We're not. My impression is that most if not all of us are talking about our own votes, and/or trying to connect this to broader healthcare politics.

    Nor are we trolls (I'd have to go back to see if I think there are any exceptions), or mindless, and it is insulting, unjustified and scurrilous to say we are. None of my arguments above are remotely like the tobacco companies'.

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    Ross,

    First, it's disappointing that you would accuse me of tobacco talking points. It severely hurts your own creditability and makes me question your reading comprehension.

    Second, I don't think the measure necessarily had to be part of the Oregon Constitution as it could have been a statutory law. The only reason I can think of was to make it more difficult to repeal it. Maybe there are other reasons that I personally am not thinking of, but I think regardless of who puts measures on the ballot constitutional amendments should be done when they absolutely necessary. As a voter, it is my right to take that into consideration.

    Third, while I support health care for children I think raising the tobacco tax is the wrong way of doing that. I realize the legislature was working with limited resources and a razor thin majority, but that doesn't mean there aren't other solutions. What are they? I don't know. I am saying I don't like this one as a voter.

    Fourth, I realize certain politicians have staked their future on this passing. However, the attack dog mentality only puts you in the same category as those funding the anti-measure 50 ads. I personally believe there should be a discussion why certain things were done with this measure, not a well it's done and you have to vote on it mentality that some have tried to pass off. If there is a real discussion of the measure, the those who support it should be willing to discuss these questions not insult people.

  • andy (unverified)
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    I'm going to vote against m50 just because it is too cynical of a law to be supported. The Dems are attacking smokers since they view them as a weak minority that can be penalized. Not much different between the thinking behind that and a poll tax, a poor tax, a tax on Jews, or any other political minority.

    If you want to raise some tax money for kiddy healthcare then tax everyone. If you can't get a broad based tax to pass then take the hint.

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    David,

    The legislature originally tried to pass a cigarette tax to fund healthy kids as a statute. Under Oregon law, new taxes laws automatically get referred to voters. But they also have to pass with a 60% vote in each house (I believe).

    But constitutional amendments can be referred to the voters with only 50%+1. So, weirdly, it is harder to pass a tax than to amend the constitution, which is ridiculous.

    Once in the constitution, repealing it by initiative would be harder than repealing a statutory tax because of higher signature requirements. But the legislature could refer a repeal to the voters as easily as they referred the tax/constitutional amendment.

    I'd like to see either a legislative referral or an initiative to amend the constitution to take out the supermajority for statutory taxes requirements. However, I'm not sure if this may have been tried recently so that timing isn't right, or if the supermajority for taxes constitutional clause may be hemmed around with special higher hurdles for amendment.

    But basically, this is going the constitutional route because the Republicans in the legislature were too scared that the people would pass it to let us have a vote on it.

    It was not the preference of the legislative Democrats and does not represent any sort of nefarious plot on their part.

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    Chris,

    I understood the part about why they referred it, but I didn't know they had to refer it as a consitutional amendment. If I understand what your saying, there is no way from them to refer it as a statutory measure? Can someone clarify that one?

    The supermajority I believe was passed by ballot measure if I remember correctly (in fact I was looking at Oregon Ballot Measures on Wikipedia a few days ago). The chances of getting that overturned are slim to none, although I agree it would be easier if it was a simple majority.

    A disclaimer of sorts, (and I have stated this numerous times) I was out of the country for 3 1/2 years, I did try to stay up on what was going on in the state, it was sometimes difficult.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    David -

    First, it's disappointing that you would accuse me of tobacco talking points.

    I am sorry, but it is disappointing to see you repeat it here. This is what you said: "It's too bad this campaign has gotten so muddled..." That is a tobacco company talking point when. "...instead of discussing the real pro's and con's of the measure." Yet you, yourself, make no arguments pro or con for anyone to discuss.

    I am saying I don't like this one as a voter.

    And that isn't an argument, it is just an expression of an opinion. One that, again, seems to have no arguments to persuade anyone to your point of view.

    the attack dog mentality only puts you in the same category as those funding the anti-measure 50 ads.

    Frankly David, that is just plain insulting. The fact is you aren't making any arguments to debate other than attacking me and others. The very thing you appear to be trying to criticize.

    The only reason I can think of was to make it more difficult to repeal it.

    It appears to me that a constitutional amendment is the only way the voters can dedicate a tax to a specific purpose. I think there is a good argument for not dedicating taxes in that manner, but it is something that has been done in several places in the Oregon constitution. I don't see any reason that parks, salmon and roads are special and children's health shouldn't be.

    Chris --

    Sorry, you are right. I missed your arguments and tarred you with the same brush.

    Piling extra taxes on lower-income smokers

    I think that it is unlikely that "low-income" smokers will end up paying most of the tax. The market will require tobacco companies to reduce their prices and that money will come out of tobacco company's pockets, thus their campaign against it. In addition, if the tax does raise the cost of tobacco that will reduce the amount people smoke, a good thing and one that has benefits for both them and society. As you say smoking is addictive and giving people incentives to stop is not being "paternalistic". This is a win-win. Either the tobacco company's cough up the taxes or the amount of tobacco they sell will be reduced. Or a little of both. Either outcome is desirable.

    4) I am deeply concerned that "Healthy Kids" will be seen as "doing enough" to meet the coverage crisis, which is only a piece of the health and healthcare crisis.

    Voicing this problem is troubling to me.

    It should be. It assumes that voters will ignore remaining future problems based on having passed this measure. I don't think that is really true. But it also sacrifices the immediate health of some children for your broader political agenda. One that we have been struggling over in this country for at least 20 years.

    if progressives lower the bar about amending the constitution

    This is hardly lowering the bar. There are numerous dedicated taxes in the constitution already. The arguments about gay-marriage have nothing to do with this measure. Its hard to see how anyone argues with a straight face "If you can dedicate a tobacco tax in the constitution, you can certainly discriminate against gays."

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    Ross,

    In regards to the reason the measure was a constitutional amendment, I had no idea that was the only way the legislature could refer it. Which is why I was trying to clarify the reasoning behind how it was referred. Although that clarifies the reason it was done, I still disagree with the measure in principle.

    I've said why I am voting against it, yet it is YOU who attacked me. As for the attack dog label, you got what you deserved.

    I honestly don't think raising the tobacco tax increase is a good solution. At the same time, I have acknowledged, I don't have a magic wand to give you a better one. My feeling is that it was the most convenient way to fund it and Democrats in the legislature given the fact they couldn't convince anyone else of other options, went with the easiest solution.

    Certainly my feeling is BO is not meant for singlar opinions, but to discuss and disagree. On this issue, I personally disagree with most of the BO readers and contributors. While this isn't always the case, I (as I have stated) have my personal reasons.

    While I may not have the best debating skills on BO, I WILL stand up for my opinion and my right to air them and not be walked over Ross. If you don't like that, then your choice is to simply ignore me.

    In terms of exchanges with you Ross, I have no further use for you if you chose to be rude and dismissive.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    I've said why I am voting against

    No, you haven't. And that's my point. All you have said is you don't like it, we could do "better" and repeated the measures opponents talking points. You have given no arguments to support that position and yet you are busy criticizing other people for not discussing them.

    I still disagree with the measure in principle.

    And what "principle" would that be? Here are the two "reasons" you gave:

    Now, the two reasons I am personaly opposed ... is first that I believe there could be something better that this put together. Second, I have a problem with this being in the Oregon Constitution.

    Those are anti-Measure 50 talking points. But you give no reasons why anyone should join you in your opinion.

    If you don't like that, then your choice is to simply ignore me.

    I think that is your choice. I also have a right to express my opinions whether they conflict with yours or not. My opinion is that you are just repeating a message. The theory is that if you repeat a message often enough some people will come to agree with it without the need to actually persuade them. They will come up with their own reasons.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    Ross, both David and Chris have laid out reasonable arguments why they oppose M50, so you're out of line. I think you'll also find that trying to tar those who oppose M50 with the "you must be tobacco shills" approach is totally counterproductive.

    You're also wrong about the constitutional amendment being the only way to dedicate a tax to a specific purpose. That can be done statutorily, but as already explained it requires a supermajority to refer it to voters and Republicans blocked it. The constitutional amendment did not require a supermajority. So it's true that this is the Republican's fault because they blocked what was a better statutory change. But Democrats also had the option of compromising with Republicans, or simply mounting an initiative campaign to make it a statutory change. Instead, they chose to play hardball in the hopes that Republicans would be tarred with the "anti-kids" label. It was a political gamble made by the Democratic leadership, and what we're finding here is that some progressives (although still probably a small number) aren't willing to go along.

    Chris's point about lowering the bar to amend Oregon's constitution is a powerful one. Yes, our constitution is chock full of stuff that doesn't belong there, but progressives have generally argued that's a bad thing. Now, due to political necessity, we're going along with it. During the next campaign by social conservatives to enshrine some horrible idea in the constitution, like a ban on all late-term abortions, they're going to say "Democrats amended the constitution simply to tax smokers. Certainly we should amend the constitution to protect the lives of the unborn children." How will you counter that?

    Personally, I'm extremely troubled by M50. I want all kids to have health insurance, and I want to see the tobacco companies lose whenever possible, but a constitutional amendment that taxes a small minority to pay for a new broad-based social program is a bad idea. It will harm the poor more than it harms other income groups, and that's certainly not a progressive policy.

  • (Show?)

    Also, people seem to ignore the fact that high prices prevent young people from ever starting, too.

    The facts say otherwise.

    There is nothing regressive about a tax on tobacco. Studies show that higher taxes and higher prices reduce the amount of cigarettes people buy and smoke.

    Studies show that a disproportionate percentage of those folks can afford to pay the higher prices (per the link above) which means that in fact it is regressive... by definition.

    If you are going to challenge rightwing freaks on disseminating misinformation then it behooves you to get your own facts straight, otherwise you're just another hypocrit.

  • Nina (unverified)
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    Enough tax increases on the people. If the Dems truly wish to fund health care for our children, (or for us all for that matter), they'll raise the Corporate Minimum in this state. PERIOD.

    While I am a non-smoker, I do not support how this measure is to be funded. ENOUGH ALREADY. MAKE BIG BUSINESS PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE.

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    Nice point Nina. Dismissers, misreaders & distorters please note: Nina in NOT a knee-jerk Republican anti-taxer -- she's advocating a tax that would be fairer.

    Ross, your argument that companies will eat the tax & not reach smokers contradicts the pro M50 argument that the tax will decrease smoking.

    Addiction makes for low elasticity of demand for addicted smokers. That means companies will mostly be able to pass the costs on, and have done so historically here and in other states.

  • dddave (unverified)
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    Stable funding. Help the children. Free health care.

    Do you think the cig tax is a stable funding source? Are "children" the good reason to do anything? If health care is needed, why aren't we just purchasing care instead of a funds delivery system, like insurance?

    40 mil out of 150 mil actually going to "children" The children are so damn important they are only worth 29% of the tax? Huh?

    And if you really want people to stop smoking, then limit all funds supporting medical care for smoking related illnesses. Cut'em off. This is really crappy law and tax. Hell, tax milk, then we can all feel good about drinking it cuz we're supporting other peoples children.

  • Cedwyn (unverified)
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    oh my gawd...where to start. wow

    In another article in the Register-Guard, political analyst Bill Lunch says that Big Tobacco really has no other play but to try to mislead and confuse--because in a fair matchup of kids versus tobacco, the kids are going to win:

    fair matchup, eh? fair, like positioning this as a constitutional amendment so that it does an end-run around the required approval of new taxes cited above?

    beyond that, isn't it in all of society's interest that children have comprehensive medical care that prevents the need for expensive treatments later in life? why in the world shouldn't the funding tax be levied against all the citizens of oregon? A: it should, but smokers just make such an easy target.

    if health care for kids were important enough and people were serious about funding it, they'd come up with something a little better thought out than a tax base that, by design, will dwindle. to wit:

    There is nothing regressive about a tax on tobacco. Studies show that higher taxes and higher prices reduce the amount of cigarettes people buy and smoke. Which is a good thing, not a bad thing.

    this naturally begs the question: what, precisely, is the goal of this legislation?

    because when cigarettes get too expensive and people quit, the tax base dries up. then what? what other personal lifestyle choice will be taxed to give children health care? perhaps something you enjoy?

    even before i smoked cigarettes, i was staunchly opposed to efforts to restrict/ban it, because it opens up the slippery slope of "what next" - what societal boogey man will be the next target? and it also makes zero sense.

    no; parents should never smoke in the house, around kids, etc. but to pretend that anybody occasionally exposed to cigarette smoke is any more endangered than by what they inhale from cars as they walk down the street is just absurd.

    I remember in California some years back the tobacco firms outspent their opponents by about 10:1 in trying to get a weak state anti-smoking law passed that would pre-empt stronger local laws. People saw through it and buried big tobacco in a landslide. It can happen here!

    you're seriously celebrating authoritarian creep? whatever one's feelings about smoking or children's health care, it's just unconscionable to amend the constitution to impose a cigarette tax. that's wack beyond belief.

    I see no problem in taxing a product that has ruined my father's life and countless others.

    great! let's impose an 80-cent surcharge on every fast-food meal sold. a nickel tax per candy bar! soda? at least 25 cents - nothing but empty calories, there. and let's just forget snack chips altogether - ban those deep-fried slivers of sin outright, just to be safe.

    and hey...all those nintendos, HDs and plasma screen TVs encouraging a sedentary lifestyle? tax 'em to hell and back. Comcast and DirecTV, too...effin' misanthropes! lack of exercise is a contributing factor to heart disease, you know. as is obesity.

    speaking of such, this [email protected]#$%& canard that smokers drive up the costs of health care, and therefore it's appropriate for them to shoulder disproportionate costs of healthcare, is pure, unadulterated hooey.

    last time i checked, hospitals were having to order specialty equipment to accomodate larger patients. that's not smokers introducing those costs; it's obesity. so, yah...let's tax the hell out of things contributing to obesity, since smoking and obesity pose the same health risks, but smokers can at least use existing medical equipment.

    It is too bad that a legitimate discussion on whether Measure 50 is good tax (and Constitutional) policy, is reduced to an argument about big tobacco. The stage is set. Voters can't reject this measure and demand better, without it being considered a win for big tobacco.

    thank you!

    it blows me away how the emphasis on cigs/tobacco can make even the most reasoned progressive forget him/herself and support what is in actuality incredibly unprogressive policy.

    peace

  • Mike Henry (unverified)
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    How about raising taxes on Beer and Wine. I just got a spreadsheet from the OLCC that shows that taxes on Beer and Wine have not been raised since 1983. Plus I found out that there is "NO" tax on distilled spirits, ie: vodka, Jim Beam ect. I am not a smoker and never have been, I detest the habit...but I really think it is unfair for a small segment of the population to bare such a burden. Besides, this tax will definitely decrease cigarette consumption...how can you fund a program with a declining tax base?

    Mike Henry Hillsboro, Or

  • inessa (unverified)
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    It took getting to the bottom (literally) of this discussion to point out the most obvious of arguments... Kudos to Cedwyn and Mike.

    Posted by: Ross Williams | Sep 11, 2007 8:46:08 PM

    There is nothing regressive about a tax on tobacco. Studies show that higher taxes and higher prices reduce the amount of cigarettes people buy and smoke. Which is a good thing, not a bad thing.

    The market has shown over and over: if you increase the cost of a product, then consumption will decrease by those unwilling to bear the cost. If Measure 50 were to pass, we could immediately see a drop in the tax revenue. Then what? Increase the tax again, more people will quit smoking-reducing the tax base even more. It is a cycle that is unfavorable for the program's sustainability. And, even if the tax doesn't influence anyone to quit smoking, inflation will get the best of us eventually and we will have to get (errr, steal) the revenue from somewhere else. Be logical, sin taxes are not stable sources of income and sin taxes ARE regressive. Period.

    If we want to help the children, this is not the legislation to use!

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