Oregon Locals Take On Corporate Power With ‘Tax Corporations’ Measure 97

Dave Johnson

Much of Congress is captured by corporate money. So literally nothing gets through Congress if it interferes with the corporate/1% -boosting agenda. Many in the federal regulatory agencies are captured by promises of corporate payoffs after leaving government, so these agencies do almost nothing to crack down on corporate abuses of We the People.

At the state level, the corrupting power of corporate and billionaire money can have an even greater effect. For example, after the Republican-dominated Supreme Court opened up the floodgates of corporate money with the Citizens United decision, that money helped Republicans take over statehouse after statehouse.

In these states, taxes on corporations and the wealthy were cut, and schools, roads, healthcare and the rest of the things government does to make the lives of We the People better were gutted. In other states, corporate money blocks needed taxation and essential government programs.

With corporate and billionaire money determining the outcome of policy decisions at the national and state levels, people in the cities and states are using ballot initiatives to try locally to take back power. Around the country we’ve seen successful efforts to pass measures such as minimum wage increases, fracking bans and anti-tobacco initiatives.

Oregon’s Measure 97

Oregon’s Measure 97 ballot initiative is one example of We the People trying to take back control of government from the 1% and their powerful corporations.

Oregonians will vote soon on taxing larger corporations to protect programs that help Oregon’s people instead of just the wealthy and their corporations. Specifically, Measure 97 would increase the minimum tax for large and out-of-state corporations with more than $25 million in annual Oregon sales.

This is not a tax increase, this is requiring corporations that might otherwise dodge taxes to pay a minimum tax to generate money to cover the state’s budget needs.

The NY Times summed up the effect Measure 97 would have in September’s report, Measure 97, Seeking to Raise Corporate Taxes, Splits Oregon Voters,

If approved by the voters here in November, Measure 97 would create the biggest tide of new tax revenue in any state in the nation this year as a percentage of the budget, economists said — and one of the biggest anywhere in recent history. Oregon’s general fund would grow by almost a third, or about $3 billion a year, through a 2.5 percent tax on corporate gross receipts. The initiative language says the money would augment state spending on education, health care and senior services, but does not bind the Legislature to a specific plan.

Summary:

Make large corporations — many of which take the profits out of the state — pay at least minimal taxes.

With that money Oregon gets to maintain or increase programs like:

● special education,
● hire 7,500 teachers,
● provide PE & Arts classes and make sure there is a nurse at every school,
● add 2 weeks to the school year,
● fund a statewide, modern public health system
● maintain Oregon’s Cover All Kids, a Basic Health Program,
● expand health insurance subsidies for working families
● provide mental health and substance abuse care,
● providing in-home assistance to 15,180 more seniors, and
● fully fund Adult Abuse Prevention to investigate every case of possible abuse or neglect.

Supporters

That’s good trade-off, which brings out lots of supporters. The Vote Yes On 97 website says that, “6,000 volunteers, over 1,250 endorsements from community organizations, economists, parents and teachers, local leaders, and over 435 Oregon businesses.” Click here to see the list of businesses, educators, community groups, labor unions, elected officials, and community leaders

Supporters include People’s Action affiliates Unite Oregon and The Main Street Alliance of Oregon. OurRevolution also supports Measure 97.

Darlene Huntress, associate director of Unite Oregon, says of Measure 97,

“This is about corporations investing in communities. With the budget shortfall that we have this is about taxing corporations, many of which aren’t paying taxes now. what this could do for education, health care and senior services is a real gamechanger.

On top of that Unite Oregon works with communities of color, immigrants and refugees. Many of these corporations are the same corporations that have invested in private prisons and detention centers. We’d prefer this money was invested in our communities instead of invested in separating families.”

Opponents

The Times’ report also lays out who is for and against Measure 97, (hint: the usual suspects)

Labor unions, led by teachers, are leading the fight for passage, arguing that decades of erosion in education funding are the cause of the state’s dismal high school graduation rate, among the lowest in the nation. Opponents have raised about $8 million — four times as much as supporters — through contributions from large companies like Amazon, General Motors and the grocery chain Kroger/Fred Meyer.

Corporations are doing what they always do: pouring millions into the campaign, and extorting citizens by threatening to raise prices, cut jobs, or just leave the state.

CAN Corporation Raise Prices To Cover Taxes?

A short examination of just one of these arguments — can corporations really raise prices to “pass on taxes to customers?” — shows that the corporate arguments against taxation have little credibility.

● Companies try to price ‘optimally,” meaning they already charge as much as they can. If they could raise prices, they already would have.

● Taxes are determined long after a sale takes place and are not a cost to be added into the pricing of a product. There is no way to know what the taxes might be later.

● Companies have competitors. If “Company A” raised prices, competing “Company B” would get more business, which would mean that “Company A” loses sales, which would mean they have lower profits and therefore lower taxes, which would mean they would have to lower prices…

● Suppose a company could raise its prices regardless of competition. That would mean the profits would be even greater, which means the taxes on profits would be greater, which would mean they have to raise prices even more. But that would mean profits would be even greater, which means the taxes on profits would be greater, which would mean they have to raise prices even more. But that would mean profits would be even greater …

People in corporations know they can’t raise prices to “pass on taxes to customers,” yet they are making the argument anyway. Other corporate arguments against raising taxes have similarly low credibility.

If you live in Oregon, take a look at Measure 97. If you don’t live in Oregon, learn from Oregon’s amazing activists and organizers and organizations like the coalition behind Measure 97. You can how power in your state to take on corporate power and restore government of, by and FOR the people.

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