Monday, January 25, 2010

Oregon voters consider taxing the rich

I'm not sure what to say about this Los Angeles Times story:

In mail-in voting that ends today, Oregon is considering measures to raise taxes on households earning $250,000 or more and on individuals earning at least $125,000, as well as hike corporate taxes. About 39,000 of the state's 1.5 million taxpayers would be subject to the higher tax, and some big companies could see their annual bills go from $10 to $100,000.

The success or failure of Measures 66 and 67 will be a concrete test -- one of the few in the country this year -- of how willing voters are to accept tax increases targeted at those theoretically best equipped to pay them.

The LA Times article reports that polls are showing both measures are ahead, although the gap is tightening. A New York Times article reveals that the referendums could raise around $727 million in tax and fee increases. What is more, the Oregon legislature "has essentially already spent the $727 million in projected revenue by incorporating the anticipated tax increases into the current budget. If the measures fail, lawmakers will have to make new cuts or find another way to raise revenue." The Oregon legislature is betting that the tax measures will pass, and are staking it with more IOUs.

Then again, are we seeing an upsurge in populist anger against big corporations, the ubber-rich, or even the political establishment? For the past couple years of this recession, we've seen the government spend billions bailing out the big banks with taxpayer money. At the same time, the same bank CEOs were collecting huge multi-million bonuses as their banks were going down the toilet and were collecting TARP taxpayer money to keep the banks afloat since they were "too big to fail." While the bank CEOs were collecting their multi-million bonuses, ordinary Americans were losing jobs as the unemployment rate spiked to over 10 percent. It is not hard to imagine how this populist anger can explode during this election year--look at the special election in Massachusetts. The more I've read on that election, the more I'm thinking Republican Scott Brown's upset win over Democrat Martha Coakley is really another sign of voter anger against...whatever? List what you're angry about--be it the Obama administration, health care, the economy, jobs, bank bailouts, bank CEO bonuses, Republican obstructionism. The list can go on. What is important for this 2010 election is that any politician that can tap into this voter anger, can possibly ride it to victory. I think that the voters are angry at the direction that this country is heading to. But this is simply not an anger directed against President Obama or the Democrats, but possibly also against the Republicans and corporate interests. It is a fluid anger that can be tough to pin down. If the situation in this country doesn't change in the next several months, that anger will flare up. The 2010 election is certainly off to an interesting start.

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