Posted by: bkivey | 27 January 2010

Not my problem

Although it’s early days yet I’m going to predict that this year there is going to be a lot of ink spilled on stories detailing the exodus of ‘the rich’ and corporations from the state. I am also going to predict that there will be at least a few stories lamenting a reduced rate of business start-ups. In the wake of yesterdays election, I’m pretty sure that folks of means and those whose business’s aren’t tied to a geographic location are at least thinking about making a run for the border.

Supporters of the tax increases successfully convinced a majority of voters that it was OK to increase the state tax burden, as long as the increase didn’t affect them right this moment, as long as the increases only affected the evil ‘rich’ and ‘corporations’. The very entities that have never, and apparently will never, pay ‘their fair share’.

The state fish-wrap of record blames the passage of the tax increases on the state Legislature, and there is some truth in that. Human nature being what it is, state legislators have a habit of kicking uncomfortable issues back to the voters via the initiative process to avoid taking an unpopular stand. This allows them to use the electorate as a scapegoat when confronted with tough decisions or angry constituents. It is a legislative sytem that invites neither accountability nor responsibility.

Curiously, the print media doesn’t seem to be holding to account the very folks who are accountable: the voters. Indeed, we are treated to much hand-wringing about how legislators and business need to ‘come together’ to find solutions. The message is that no matter what happens, it’s always someone else’s problem. Not enough money to run the state? Blame ‘the rich’ and evil corporations. Tax increases passed? Blame the Legislature for not taking responsibility. Unemployment not coming down? Blame business and the Legislature. Starting to sense a pattern here? In a state where policy is set to a large degree by popular vote, it seems that no-one wants to hold the voters accountable.

The state paper of record makes a call for the Legislature to repeal the “kicker” tax refund so that the state can build a surplus fund to deal with just the sort of problems we have today. Of course, this law was passed by voter referendum and the state Legislature has succeeded in diverting the (evil) corporate kicker payments to the state. Again, no-one is holding the promulgators of this measure to account when the state has budget problems.

We have a dysfunctional realtionship between the citizenry and the reality they create. When things don’t go according to expectation the enablers in the print media and the Legislature are insulating the voters from the consequences of their decisions. They tell folks that no matter what happens, it’s always someone else’s fault, it’s always someone else that should take the responsibility of cleaning up the mess du jour. This is immature and it’s irresponsible.

Oregon is a beautiful state with abundant natural resources. Over the years a vocal minority have slowly choked off the ability of productive people to take advantage of these resources: can’t fish, can’t mine, can’t cut down trees. But oh, by the way, we want government (read:other people’s) money to go to the very folks we’ve deprived of a livelihood. And we’ll tax the hell out of anybody that somehow manages to eke out a living. Then they look around and wonder whatever happened to the economy.

But it’s not their problem.

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