Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Oregon says YES to taxing the rich

Oregon has just passed a referendum measure that increases taxes on corporations and the wealthy in order to stop cuts to education and other public services. Both measures 66 and 67 passed by wide margins (53% in favor, 45% against).

Organizing got rolling in October when the measure got enough signatures to be placed on the ballot. The Secretary of State’s office said then that “[supporters of the measures] filed more than twice as many [signatures]. It’s unusually high for a statewide ballot measure.”

The gist of the measure is as follows.
Measure 66 "raises tax on incomes above $250,000 for households, $125,000 for individual filers. Tax rate increases 1.8 percentage points on amount of taxable income between $250,000 and $500,000, 2 percentage points on amount above $500,000 for households. For individual filers, the rate increases begin at $125,000 and $250,000 respectively. Eliminates income taxes on the first $2,400 of unemployment benefits received in 2009. Raises estimated $472 million to provide funds currently budgeted for education, health care, public safety, other services.

Measure 67 raises the state's $10 minimum corporate income tax.

Together Measure 66 and Measure 67 are estimated to generate $727 million, which 2009 Legislature has already put in their budget for public schools and other state services.
Now, can anyone say "duh"? Doing this sort of thing makes so much sense, yet discussions of budget crises are often talked about as though they were natural disasters in which we can't do anything except try to manage damage control.

But the math here is really simple. When there is a budget shortfall, public institutions can do one of two things: (1) Cut services and layoff public workers, or (2) tax the rich.

If you go in for (1), then you hit the hardest-hit even harder by cutting the most essential services when they're need most.

For the majority of ordinary people, that (2) is the way to go should be a no-brainer. The people sitting on top of massive surpluses should cede some of it in the spirit of solidarity so that there are no cuts to education, public transit, and so on.

And if you're worried that you'll have a hard time convincing some of your wealthy friends that this is the way to go... don't worry. You don't have to. That is the beauty of democracy.

Those earning more than $250,000/yr are less than 5% of the population. If everyone else thinks that social justice endorses taxing the rich, that's 95% in favor.

The moral of the story: Tax the rich. And then tax them some more.

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