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Jan-12-2010 16:35printcomments

OP ED: Distorting Initiative Will Californicate Oregon's Tax System

Perverting strong legislative action is first step.

Welcome to California
Is Oregon policy heading south?

(EUGENE, Ore.) - The “Californication” of our Oregon taxation and budget system is clearly ONE major result of the vicious attack on nationally-praised economic leadership by a courageous Legislature.

The major tool is knowingly malign and desperate distortion NOW well underway via cunningly-produced tv-ads and perverted public statements --some so flawed and transparent they have brought on embarrassing coverage in the State’s leading media. Malign rigidities denigrating every reform/action are paralyzing our sister state, wrapped in the initiative process.

Taken en masse they demand manifold messy policy directions, each perpetrated by special-interest demands. Chief Justice Ronald George recently stated the initiative process has “rendered our state government dysfunctional” in California.

Similar desperately futile massive diversification of wise policy, wisely achieved, threatens Oregon lifestyle if Measures 66 & 67 are killed off on Jan. 26 by impact of cunningly created misunderstanding and dollar driven perversion.

IF distorted tv-ads and perverted public statements are allowed to sabotage what our elected Legislature did by lawful budget-process demanded by Oregon law, that surely distorts and perverts the democratic tool of true initiative action. Ironically, the “citizen’s initiative concept” was first generated right here in Oregon --designed to correct and counter “monied interests that controlled the Legislature.” (See Reader’s Note.}

Now, to our everlasting sorrow, we find those same “monied interests” using that very same once-flawless initiative process “to go around the Legislature”. They thus pervert the power of the representative Legislative process --the heart of democracy-- by ever more radical resort to the power of the dollar,the power of communications technology.

We used to be nationally-known for common-sense management and effective leadership at State level. That was a major reason we won so many solid job creating industries, incoming to our State. Good-by that image NOW!

We’ve become known already as a State no longer rational and reasonable in our tax-system, open to easy manipulation -- notorious nationally and internationally via joking reference in Doonesbury, famed “comic strip” distributed around the world.

Our continued failure to reform our tax-system, as currently applied to Oregon business and corporate operations, is clearly destructive of our formerly famed work-force, long shaped by solid access to levels of education now demanded for the 21st Century.

Oregon, once a leader in community college creation of learning opportunities for the common person seeking out a strong foundation for creative work, now finds those essential job-building agencies weakened and still further-threatened --at much greater cost than the 70,000 lost-jobs claimed by opponents.

Our university system, seeking to provide higher education for all, has already becomes another major victim of this latest perverted process for shaping “public opinion” -- at horrendous loss of future leaders with strong ties to keep them producing right here.

Meanwhile Oregon’s public schools --foundation for any future still possible! -- are already suffering badly even BEFORE possible slashes if these measures fail: Oregon's class sizes are among the nation's largest - these cuts will make it worse.

Our school year is already 3 weeks shorter than average - these cuts will make it even shorter. That very damaging shaping-process depends upon providing still further cover for factual distortion,, building malign misunderstandings by misinformation manufactured to fit requirements, by communicators skilled --and thus very well-paid-- for a conscienceless task.

The corporate website itself reverses their stance on previous similar assignments concerning the same issues, the public press has reported.

Fair share for all is surely now the simply-obvious answer to what Oregon must HAVE --and thus DO. Any honest, open dialog with many thousands of Oregonians will prove up that indisputable fact of true public opinion.

That was WHY our courageous Legislators this time --after SEVENTY YEARS !-- undertook comprehensive review and rational, reasonable reform of our business and corporate tax system.

Their examinaion was honestly conducted by due process of Legislative procedure, clearly and cleanly on the public record, with their conclusions and their deep and consequential reasoning right out there for all to see and understand.

They chose to move to small tax-rise on overall revenues because that action recognizes the massive mischief created by “creative” usage of tax-breaks by business and industry generally.

Some so-applying “breaks” manage somehow to do so repeatedly --claiming no profits, but continuing their everyday business operations anyhow --thus finding finally a wonderful way to “socialize the risks while privatizing the profits.”

That’s Measure 67.

The “massive mountain of tax-break application” -- the notorious SEVENTY YEAR-UNTOUCHED “$10 minimum corporate tax” measure-- reflecting 48 “tax breaks”, with 40 created since 1980, became our first Oregon step in seeking fair-share burden from every Oregon business and corporation operating in Oregon. That’s Measure 67.

Moving to tax revenues rather than confine taxes to “profits” --however presented at tax-time!-- thus recognizes the indisputable fact that government must provde the surround that makes entrepreneurship work. That must include laws protecting private property, police to enforce, courts for litigation, roads for transporting materials and finished product, schools, community colleges and universities to provide competent work-force, and all other elements of our civilized system.

Many naively overlook this reality; some even now attribute “wealth creation” solely to business operation while --perhaps unconsciously and uninformed--failing to understand and appreciate the role only government can play.

Measure 66 is just as direct. It recognizes the most basic principle of taxation: Progressiveness.

That’s economist lingo for seeking a larger share from those who have profited most from our economic system. (That surely seems fair to me !- hcr) Measure 66 raises taxes “at and above $250,000 (and $125,000 for individual filers)” by a minute percent.

ONLY those with incomes ABOVE $250,000 will pay slightly more: At $260,000, $180; at $300,000, $900. For fairness, it simultaneously “reduces income taxes on unemployment benefits in 2009.”

Dp you really consider that small amount, from these larger incomes, so devastating, painful and openly distressing that the individuals will “leave this state” ? Somehow rational, reasonable consideration -- especially in that illumination so glaringly evident over the past SEVENTY YEARS-- may well intervene.

Oregon law demands a balanced budget. Their actions in creating this one have now been subjected to an initiative providing actions under which “97.5 percent of taxpayers will NOT see their taxes increase:” if Measure 67 is passed; AND “over 97 percent of Oregon businesses will pay $150 or see NO change” while “Oregon will continue to have the LOWEST business taxes on the Wes Coast.” (Source: Legislative Revenue Office. See Reader’s Note.)

You can check that process out; the facts for decision are right there in the public record.

It is how our tested, proven governance process works --designed by our Founding Fathers, tested and proven throughout our history, as we gained world prominence as leader in democratic action.

That’s WHY opponents to Measures 66 & 67 seek to kill off its rational, reasonable consequences by fear, distortion, and misdirection --anything that will work with the UN-informed and MIS-informed.

Choose wisely and well for yourself and Oregon; then support payment of their fair share by those evading that most essential burden:



Reader’s Note:

Chief Justice George quote and initiative history from Editorial 10/23 in Register-Guard, Eugene, OR. Doonesbury reference from memory; unfortunately cannot locate my copy of the famous strip. Oregon educational system references from personal and professional experience as longtime participant. Corporate tax-share facts from various preceding Op Eds over last four years, ten-year Chicago tour as communications consultant with corporate clients. Legislative Revenue Office references from Our Oregon; see their statewide mailer Voter Information for Measures 66 & 67.

Legislative move to tax revenues rather than rely on questionable statement of “profits” from personal conversations with authoritative sources and from public records of Legislative process.

Distortions/perversions in opposition tv-ads and published statements from content analysis of images on-air by HCR, using propaganda/persuasion/product techniques.

More than 70 references, in wide variety of formats and sources, were consulted in preparation for this Op Ed.


At 21, Henry Clay Ruark was Aroostook Editor for the Bangor, Maine DAILY NEWS, covering the upper 1/4 of the state. In the ‘40s, he was Staff Correspondent, then New England Wires Editor at United Press-Boston; later Editor for the Burlington, Vermont 3-daily group owned by Wm. Loeb, later notorious at Manchester, New Hampshire UNION LEADER for attacks on Democratic Presidential candidates.

Hank returned to Oregon to complete M. Ed. degree at OSU, went on to Indiana University for Ed.D. (abd) and special other course-work; was selected as first Information Director for NAVA in Washington, D.C.; helped write sections of NDEA, first Act to supply math, science, foreign language consultants to state depts. of education; joined Oregon Dept. of Education, where he served as NDEA administrator/Learning Media Consultant for ten years.

He joined Dr. Amo DeBernardis at PCC, helping establish, extend programs, facilities, Oregon/national public relations; moved to Chicago as Editor/Publisher of oldest educational-AV journal, reformed as AV GUIDE Magazine; then established and operated Learning Media Associates as general communications consultant group. Due to wife’s illness, he returned to Oregon in 1981, semi-retired, and has continued writing intermittently ever since, joining S-N in 2004. His Op Eds now total over 560 written since then.

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Hank Ruark January 20, 2010 4:23 pm (Pacific time)

M. Seaman: No one denies all possible costs, including legitimate taxes paid by most ethical business, are part of final pricing. What we do document in depth and detail re many, if not most, of Oregon corporations and many small businesses is that their fair share --as determined by an elected legislature-- is not now being paid and has'tn been paid for SEVENTY YEARS. See ANY of some dozen depth mailers with facts already sent to most Oregonian homes. Can you deny with trusted documentation what's shown in every one, described in detail here ? MOTHER JONES magazine, winner of best in nation for several years, documents the same situation across the nation. "Tax breaks" are known notoriously as manipulated means for many to manage NOT to pay fair share. That's been 50-year pattern for pronounced corporate legal and "campaign contributions" work, to my sure, certain and very personal reporter's knowledge. You ever explore in this field for publication open to check by anyone ?? Your guess, sir, is far off mark. Most of us have solid business/entrepreneurship experience, some of us have even taught market management and business direction, with special training to do so. You insult without reason or factual background to know; if any, provide links here to anything except your own word. Have you had special life experience ? Academic trainining in this area ? From what base do you speak except personal bias? This one is extremely simple since Oregon law demands state have a balanced budget: IF these measures fail look for even more monstrous cuts in 90 percent of Oregon state operations, including schools, colleges and univerisities, law and security, and help to those helpless without state funding.

Mark Seaman January 16, 2010 7:43 am (Pacific time)

I am amazed at the misleading info that comes from those who want 66 and 67 to pass. My guess is that many of them are feeding at the public trough and could care less about the hardworking taxpayers out there, much less the consumers who are the final payers. To suggest that business costs (taxes, rent, payroll, etc.) are not penciled into final service/product costs for the consumer is pretty absurd to suggest. If history is the judge, the Oregon voters have a clear record of not falling for the pablum, that is we have always rejected the propaganda. Also these same types of propagandists every so often attempt to change our Constitution, and that also gets knocked down. Voters when informed of all available info will always refute the misleaders.

Hank Ruark January 15, 2010 3:11 pm (Pacific time)

New Lie Made in California: For baker to fire employees, forced to tax-rise, would require millions in sales. "Californication" reigns for opponents of 66and67 since facts strongly support passage !! Remember DC hearing with lawyer asking: "Have you no shame, sir ? "

Hank Ruark January 15, 2010 10:08 am (Pacific time)

Earl: You wrote:"...approximately 2/3's of corporations here in Oregon are small and medium-sized businesses, many just barely getting by. When those large corporations get hit with higher fees and taxes they just pass it on to their customers, for example grocery and retail businesses." That distorts truth of many larger corporations using "tax breaks" to evade fair share, as well as much fewer small guys involved. Revenue Office states 96% of ALL Oregonians NOT TOUCHED by minue tax-rise,unlikely to force ANYone out of business. You peddling propaganda line from private-gainers re NO TAX RISE EVER...Oregonians too sharp to swallow that in face of desperate economic debacle.

Earl January 14, 2010 5:53 pm (Pacific time)

"Do you wish to contend we should govern by initiative vote rather than by elected Lwegislative(sic) representatives ? If so, you need to re/read early American history when that basic financial principle was established." Oregon has a Constitution and the vote on #66 and #67 reflects that. It allows the people to bypass the legislature when the people feel the legislators have acted beyond their authority. So far the state legislature has always been over-ruled in these types of tax/fee raises they have attempted. So yes I sure am glad that our Constitution provides us with the final decision, otherwise we would be in the same fix as California and other similar states. Too bad we can't have a national referendum on what is happening in Washington immediately, but this next November should clear things up for many people who are ignoring the majority will.

Hank Ruark January 14, 2010 8:45 am (Pacific time)

Friend Dan:
Only possible one-word response: "Royally" !
Perhaps need to add one more word:
  "Continuously" --ever since Reagan debacle.
  Re Earl's old corporate propaganda line, peddled ever since then, best answers are given by others already here.
  Nobel Winner Stiglitz is strongly in disagreement with you, so why not argue with him?
  His main point: THIS Second Great Depression absolutely demands different response than usual "cyclical correction" --also well propagandized by same private -gain interests.
  Check out Legislative Revenue Office re about 95% of ALL Oregonians NOT TOUCHED.
  Do you wish to contend we should govern by initiative vote rather than by elected Lwegislative representatives ?
  If so, you need to re/read early American history when that basic financial principle was established.

Earl January 14, 2010 8:25 am (Pacific time)

Editor there is probably an endless list of causal variables on why we are in this financial mess. I also would'nt be surprised that for every economist Phd. you inquire for the reasons you would get a different response. I frankly view how the size of government has been increasing and the amount of private sector jobs (shrinking) that are needed to fund this growing government as a significant cause. We have not been able to keep up with the rate of funding needed for both current and new government programs. As new taxes and fees are raised, the less profitability for private businesses. If you look back over time at the economic cycle you will see many ups and downs. These ups and downs happen during both war time and peace time. Maybe we're at a perfect storm situation right now? I sure don't know the answer on what policies should be taken, but to raise taxes just doesn't make sense. Also approximately 2/3's of businesses out there are small to medium sized. They are not hiring new people. As per the Labor Department for every new job created last month there were 6.4 people looking to fill it. The previous month it was 6.1 people, so the gap is widening. And yes, all costs are ultimately passed on and are reflected in product/service and costs/rates. How else would it work? Yeah there are some fat cats out there, but their numbers are diminishing. Have you seen the growing number of federal jobs in the last year? And what their average salary is? We need private sector jobs. The stimulus bill was promised to keep the unemployment rate below 8%. Do you trust the government to run things in the private market? Governments, al least ours, is suppose to be limited in what they can do, so as it continues to grow expect things to worsen if DC continues with the same policies which are obviously wrong-headed and failing.

Daniel Johnson January 13, 2010 12:14 pm (Pacific time)

Californicate. Is that another way of saying that the citizens are being screwed?

Earl January 13, 2010 8:59 am (Pacific time)

francfist approximately 2/3's of corporations here in Oregon are small and medium-sized businesses, many just barely getting by. When those large corporations get hit with higher fees and taxes they just pass it on to their customers, for example grocery and retail businesses. Of course many are laying off people, cutting back work hours and going out of business. States like California have been increasing taxes and fees for many years now, so how do you think that has worked out? We have economic models that show when you cut taxes you increase revenue for the government and the services they provide. Increasing taxes during a downed economy with a high unemployment rate is not the way to create long term private sector jobs, the kind you need to fund government services. We may get a temporary increase in tax funds, but that would be short-lived, as one can see what has happened in many other states like California, New Jersey, Michigan, etc. What is the solution? In my opinion use past models that have worked and the only ones are those that cut taxes and reduce government spending. We are all in a tough situation, it won't be easy to get out of this hole we're in, but we don't want to go the way of California by increasing taxes do we? Lots of slick arguments going on, so just look at the past to see what has worked and what has been harmful. Please consider that the ones who support these tax increases claim hundreds of millions would be raised. So if you take all the businesses in Oregon and increase their corporate fees by an average of one hundred dollars, at most you would raise a few million that way. This corporate tax minimum is just smoke and mirrors, a distraction to make people think that that is all the taxes corporations pay, which is absurd. That few million from the corproate tax scheme does not go very far. This is essentially a consumer tax that will reach into everyone's wallet. Just think how will they raise these hundreds of millions and who is paying it? Why do you think we have had so many jobs go overseas?

Editor: That is an old line about how everything is passed along, why should we even continue this system then if it is that close to disaster at all times.  Funny, for barely making it there sure are some prosperous shareholders out there with a lot of money in the bank.  It seems to me that the only people having a hard time are the poor people and that these "small businesses" you reference are not all on the verge of collapse as you suggest.  People are just sick of the huge significant advantages always being handed to the big corporations that you describe as small.  Maybe if we weren't strapped with the cost of a needless war in Iraq, courtesy of the prior neocon administration, we would actually have the money we need to pay our debts.  

francfist January 12, 2010 11:49 pm (Pacific time)

Where are the jobs business has had tax breaks to create for years?!

francfist January 12, 2010 8:38 pm (Pacific time)

I am an older American and all I know is I have been told for years that corporations must have these huge tax breaks so they could "create" jobs. As I look around at my jobless friends, I wonder why they keep lying to me and expecting me to believe them. Now their ads on TV, threaten us that if this tax increase is enacted, Oregon will lose more jobs. As I already have no job such an attempt to threaten me with the loss of jobs is pretty meaningless. I am really getting tired of the lies of business that are only concerned with keeping profits up, with no concern for their own country or communities. I WILL vote for any tax increase on business or couples that make more than 200,000 a yr, or whatever the amount is. You can all take your threats of no jobs and stuff them. I am entirely sick of you and your promise of jobs and your threat of their being less jobs if you have to pay more. My income is under 22,000 a year, and that is from alimony and not from any job business has provided. And I have tried to find a job. And I pay more taxes than these corporations. More and more Americans are going to get tired of listening to the lies of business and their promise of jobs, or their threat of taking away more jobs if we don't allow them to not pay their share of taxes..

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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