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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 15, 2007 10:13 PM. The previous post in this blog was With friends like these.... The next post in this blog is Oregon strategic plan: Don't buy stuff. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Blowing smoke

In 29 years as an Oregon resident, I've voted on ballot measures that covered pretty much all of the most contentious issues on the planet. Abortion. Assisted suicide. Gay marriage. Mandatory sentences for serious crimes. Medical marijuana. Legalized gambling. Pornography and nude (gynecological) "dancing." The list goes on and on.

Out here we get to vote on everything. And with our spiffy vote-by-mail system, we get to fill out our indifferent spouses' and friends' ballots, too. All they have to do is sign. Even the dead people get to vote, which is a kind of egalitarian touch.

One of the worst aspects of the constant flow of policy choices being made directly by the voters is the depressingly low level of discourse that precedes most of the elections. Often the campaigns for and against ballot measures seem designed to mislead the electorate, or at least distract it from what's really at hand.

Today in the mail I received a ballot measure campaign flyer that ranks right up there with the most obfuscatory that I have seen over those nearly three decades:

Hmmmm, what can this ballot measure be about? Something to do with law? That's supposed to be a lawyer, right? (Nice tie.)

Let's flip it over to the back and see what it says there:

Still not many clues. Something about "ignoring economics" and an "entitlement program." Sounds pretty University of Chicago to me. That grocery guy Joe Gilliam is against it -- maybe it has to do with the bottle bill, I know he hates that. And new taxes! Uh oh. Those have been dirty words since the Gipper. Still, pretty mysterious...

But hey, wait a minute. This thing opens up into a four-pager. Wow, must have cost a pretty penny. Let's see what's inside:

Whoa! Disrespecting the constitution? Deliberately avoiding taxpayer protections? Must be something horrible. But gee, I still can't figure out what it actually does. The punchline must be on page 3. Let's turn over to there and check it out:

Is that Abraham Lincoln? Wow, more "entitlement" stuff. Plus, risk to taxpayers! Risk -- that sounds bad. And yikes! Pandora's Box! I thought she smoked soft pack.

Anyway, the fact that Measure 50 is all about a tobacco tax increase appears only once in this fine document, and you'll have to look really, really hard to find it. Indeed, the words "cigar," "cigarette," "snuff," or "pipe" can't be found anywhere in it. Fill out the business reply card -- maybe they'll write back and tell you what the ballot measure actually does.

It's only when you look at the fine print on the back that you might actually begin to sense the truth:

You go, Philip Morris! The same people who sold us "safe" cigarettes are now selling us "save our constitution." Are we that gullible?

Don't get me wrong. The whole "for the children" pitch for this tax increase royally turns me off. Up until today, I was only mildly in favor of Measure 50, and inclined to stand on the sidelines. But after reading this tripe, there's no question in my mind. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Comments (37)

I especially love how the postcard lets you publicly declare your opposition to Measure 50 before anyone's explained to you any of the basics of what it does.

YES on 49.
HELL YES on 50.

I'd also appreciate it if you'd join me in voting YES on measure 428-36-09.5. It's the right thing to do.

Oops! I guess we can't post links here like that. It was supposed to say a goofy ballot measure linked to something I wrote. Jack, you mentioned how we vote on just about everything in this state, and it's so true. Sometimes we go a bit overboard with it, but I suppose that's just the Oregon way.

I'd love to see a printed copy of our constitution with all of its amendments. I bet it's hysterical.

That's not a criticism though... I love Oregon, and I'm all for voting by mail.

I also like how they use a union print shop (the "bug" on that last bit under the Phillip). Sort of a bait-and-switch on a traditional political shorthand. Lots of union members simply say, "Is there a union label? If so, I'll support them."

Rob:

I fixed the link. Click on "View" and "source" or "page source" to see how it was supposed to look in your comment.

Here's that union "bug" -- straight out of L.A.:

It's kind of hard to tell but it looks like there is mention of the word tobacco on the third image (end of second sentence). What is that word?

Same image -- is that woman supposed to be sitting on the floor in front of a chair? What is that?

These people all look very stern -- sort of like that Stop 49 couple on that website. Hmm...

You're right. "Tobacco" is in there, once, on the second page. Hard to see within the breathless libertarian manifesto.

The gal on the back looks like she's jonesing for a cig.

And what's with the view behind the guy on the cover? Are they trying to appeal to the Hooters crowd?

Who the hell is James Huffman and how did it escape his notice that the Oregon Constitution already makes tax policy, such as requiring a uniform property tax (making a rational Georgist tax verboten), requiring that gas taxes go to roads, etc.

I like the way Big Tobacco threatens to bury any legislator who votes for a tax increase directly AND calls it risky business if that same legislator follows the Oregon Constitution and refers the tax increase to the voters.

These people are scum. If 50 goes down the Lege should put it back on the ballot immediately, and keep doing it every election until it passes, just to thank Big Tobacco for pumping so much money into the state each time.

pumping so much money into the state each time.

Really? It looks like this flyer was printed in L.A. Most of the media outlets they buy time and space on aren't headquartered around here. The only media guy locally who's getting paid would appear to be Mr. Pamplin, and I don't know if they're buying from his outlets. You don't count Paul Allen as an Oregonian, do you? The Oregon mail carriers get extra ballot measure porn to deliver, but they'd be coming around even without it.

making a rational Georgist tax verboten

Would that be a Henry George School of Social Economics tax? Wow...THAT brings back memories. :-)

Anyway, I'm no fan of the tobacco tax --I think it's regressive and a timid response to a crying social need for health care-- but when the battle cry goes out "which side are you on" it sure ain't Phil Morris'.

The Union Bug

The Bug is supposed to celebrate that the printer is a "closed shop" - nobody working there can opt out of the union without losing their job. The closed shop is a provision of some states' law that mandates all-union workplaces. (In "open shop" states, lawmakers leave that choice up to the individual worker. The open-shop states usually outperform closed-shop states, economically.)

Politicians - including most Republicans (Ron Saxton comes to mind) - typically order campaign print materials with the Bug whether the shop is actually "closed" or not, out of deference to the destructive political power of Big Labor.

If they don't, Labor kicks up a mega-fuss. Who needs it?

Notice the books on the front cover.

They are upside down and backwards.

The blue one is in Spanish. The first word in the top line is "Angeles" and the first words in the second line looks like "Un lago."

Hell NO on 49! We've already voted on this twice but the taxrapers in the legislature think we don't know better.
Hell NO on 50! They ARE LYING when they say it's for our children's health.
Raping taxpayers IS NOT leadership! Don't we have enough failure and disgrace in our state government already? Send these pedophiles in our state legislature a message!

When is enough enough?

No, no, a thousand times no...!! Until the "leadership" (if you can call it that) in the State of Oregon can demonstrate some leadership and prudent use of the funds they already extricate from us taxpayers, they don't need any more money.

"It's for the children......" I could puke.

No on 50. Please.....

I'm glad someone else thought "Abraham Lincoln" about that creepy wrinkly guy.

Hey, even the Am. Cancer Soc. has decided they've milked the anti-smoking schtick to it's max for hysteria.
Supposedly they, altruistically, are designing a new campaign for health care for all. (This would not include Iraq or any of the other countries we test smart bombs on).

Rob: if you want a "printed" copy of the Oregon Constitution, got to: http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/ (it is at the end, after the entire Oregon Revised Statutes, before the text of the less hysterical US Constitution.) Also in the Oregon Blue Book, electronic and printed versions.

Jack: I will vote yes on M50 for the same emotive reasons you gave: if Philip Morris is for it, I'm against it. But -- you're a tax prof -- any thoughts about the whole notion of sin taxes?

And, on the subject of emotive, I filled out the postage-paid return card with "tobacco = death --Shame on you!!!" At least it will take 41 cents from the budget. I was tempted to tape the postage-paid card to a brick, but I'm a grown-up now so I didn't.

I'm voting NO. Its just stupid.
Even the YES folks say they hope people quit smoking...that just boggles the mind. They hope the funding for their own project goes away?
They only went after smoking because people think its "bad", and I agree...I think smoking is disgusting. But this is not the way to fund health care. I don't care who is behind the "no" campaign.
I mean c'mon...now the state's poor, whose kids this is supposed to help, are probably also smokers. What is their incentive to quit now?

You know, I was reading some other blogs, and the funding part of M50 has me wondering. They have to know the funding will dry up if people quit. So where will they go from there? Will they go to the legislature for more funding and argue they have to use the general fund (or raise income taxes) because of it being part of the constitution?

I did read something I like on Blue Oregon. Why not raise corporate taxes to pay for this?

"Notice the books on the front cover.
They are upside down and backwards.
The blue one is in Spanish."

Appealing to the dyslexic-Hispanic vote. These people are very clever.

I think you can find a partial copy of the Oregon Constitution here:

"This Balochistan and Sistan provisional draft constitution"

I wonder if they will update their draft after the M50 amendment?

They seem to have been admitted to the Union in 1859.

50 is just another tax on the poor and uneducated who make up the bulk of smokers. It and the Oregon Lottery are about as regressive as taxes can be. Just another stupid idea from the left.

The first word in the top line is "Angeles" and the first words in the second line looks like "Un lago."

Wow, good eyes. I think it's "Un largo..."

Note that all the books have had the contents of their spines whitewashed out by Photoshop.

Laura has a great idea. You want some business reply mail, Phlip Morris? Here:

What a dilemma! I despise the tobacco companies and the kind of political idiocy that would tie the funding for kids' health programs to the continuance of smoking. I am surprised that the tobacco firms would oppose this measure. Once health programs get hooked on tobacco funding, tobacco will become a protected vice. The outcome may be better health for kids, higher death rates for adults.

If the state ever runs out of cig tax money (which I doubt will happen), it can go back to the quaint practice of actually taxing corporations at a meaningful level on their income.

Since the net effect of this, and the 2009 smoking ban in bars will be less tax revenue as people give up that filthy habit, here is a slightly OT thought...

Whatever happened to the quaint notion of legalizing and taxing the hell out of the other plant Oregonians seem to love to smoke so much ?

I would support that, if it came along with strict DUI standards for those who idiotically attempt to drive after smoking it.

The tactics used in that mailer really upset me, but not enough to vote for that M50 piece of garbage. Though I enjoy a monthly cigar or two, I absolutely hate cigarettes and companies that continue to distort the fact that tobacco does kill.

Still, I'll happily join forces with whoever stands for the same thing as I, even if it's for a different reason. First and foremost, I'm dead set on opposing any new taxes until the governments of Oregon show the residents that they're capable of spending it in the best interest of the people, which they haven't.

What makes you guys think they're going to handle this better than any other program they run? I have no doubt this tax will not meet the budget needs of this program, and it won't be long until they'll be crying for more money. They don't care if the tax isn't enough to sustain their program. They know once it's implemented and the families rely on it that those families will vote for whoever will continue providing the services. It's a brilliant, and very unfortunate, political strategy that was worked extremely well for the Democrats.

I feel that any tax that taxes people to fund something so specific and unrelated is quite unfair. Sure, they're both related to health, but punishing such a small and specific group of people for something you think they shouldn't be doing is not right in my opinion. How about we tax bicycles to pay for children's health care? Ooooh, watch the liberals flip out :D

And honestly folks, who doesn't know that smoking leads to health problems (in reference to "smoking is death")? Smoking is a personal choice, and one I believe should be protected. The thing that bothers me most about liberals is they talk so much about freedom, then try to legislate against the freedom of choice in order to create their own perfect 'utopia'.

punishing such a small and specific group of people for something you think they shouldn't be doing is not right in my opinion. How about we tax bicycles to pay for children's health care? Ooooh, watch the liberals flip out :D

We tax wages a lot more heavily than we do income from investments. I assume you're against that "punishment," too?

I'm dead set on opposing any new taxes until the governments of Oregon show the residents that they're capable of spending it in the best interest of the people, which they haven't.

Translation: No new taxes, on anything, ever. Because you'll never be satisfied.

The thing that bothers me most about liberals is they talk so much about freedom, then try to legislate against the freedom of choice in order to create their own perfect 'utopia'.

O.k., how about a rule that says if you smoke, you don't get Medicare or Medicaid for smoking-related illnesses? You're left to die in the gutter.

We tax wages a lot more heavily than we do income from investments. I assume you're against that "punishment," too?

Yep, I am. I'm a proponent of the Fair Tax.

Translation: No new taxes, on anything, ever. Because you'll never be satisfied.

That's quite an assumption, Jack. I understand it takes money to run governments and provide the basic services for people, and I'm more than happy to pay for those. I get upset when I see my money being diverted into projects that do not fall into the 'basic services' category, such as the tram and condo subsidies, while the basic services are being neglected. I feel that the people responsible should be held accountable, not given more money. From what I've read, you seem to feel the same way. I'm not unreasonable, just tired of the mis-management of our tax dollars.

Public vs private K-12 education is a perfect example. It seems Democrats are always trying to throw money at it to improve the situation. It's not difficult to see that money is not the problem when the cost per student for public students is nearly TWICE that of the private students, and who's getting the better education?

O.k., how about a rule that says if you smoke, you don't get Medicare or Medicaid for smoking-related illnesses? You're left to die in the gutter.

Sounds fair to me, as long as they're pre-warned. It's called "being responsible for your actions".

Joey, well said. I agree with you hands down.... Hands down....

just sent my little postcard back to the big tobacco guys....great idea Jack!

That's an enormous couch that woman is sitting on. Either that, or she's shrunk from years and years of cigarette use.

Lincoln? Nah, I was thinking Scooter Libby.


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