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

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.


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.


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.”


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.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.

Small Businesses Speak Out Against Donald Trump’s Tax Plan

“Tax cuts skewed towards the wealthy elite starve our communities of much-needed resources while further tilting the scales towards large corporations and the rich.”
– Stephen Rouzer at Main Street Alliance

If you cut taxes for the rich and giant corporations, what happens to the rest of us? Tax cuts mean budget cuts, so what suffers is education, infrastructure and all kinds of things government does to make our lives better and our local businesses stronger.

Republicans argue that pushing wealth and income to the top few has a “trickle down” effect. They say wealthy people (like Paris Hilton) are “makers” who “create jobs” and therefore deserve to have heaps of money pushed their way for their benefit. They say that government spending on things that make the lives of We the People better really just makes us into “takers.”

But in reality, policies that push more and more of our country’s resources into the largest hands put our smaller hands at even more of a disadvantage. The giant corporations have huge advantages over small, local businesses just due to their size; huge tax breaks on top of their size-given advantages just make it that much harder for smaller businesses to compete. So the “WalMart business model” of undercutting and bankrupting a community’s small businesses and draining entire regions of wealth gains even more power. After decades of these “trickle down” policies, this is also known as “look around you.”

Trump’s Tax Plan Means Fewer Customers With Money To Spend At Local Businesses

The Main Street Alliance is a “is a national network of small business coalitions” that “works to provide small businesses a voice on the most pressing public policy issues across the nation.” (Donate here.)

A Main Street Alliance blog post by Stephen Rouzer, “Donald Trump’s Revised Tax Plan Won’t Work for Main Street,” begins,

The latest version of Donald Trump’s ever-changing tax plan is facing scrutiny from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Main Street Alliance leaders. The plan, one that features across the board tax cuts, disproportionately benefits the highest-income earners, those grossing more than $1 million annually.

This description of Trump’s plans as a huge benefit to the wealthiest is based on a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) post explaining a Tax Policy Center (TPC) analysis of Donald Trump’s tax proposals. The CBPP post, “Revised Trump Tax Plan Heavily Tilted Toward Wealthiest, Tax Policy Center Analysis Shows” explains how the analysis shows that Trump’s tax cut raise the after-tax income of the already-wealthy by another 14% or more, while hardly benefiting the rest of us – or even cutting the take-home incomes of the poorest.

This would seriously affect small, local businesses. Rouzer explains how passing so much to the top few while starving the rest of us means local businesses have fewer customers with money to spend:

A 2015 report released by the Main Street Alliance, “Voices of Main Street,” surveyed over 1000 small business owners and found that 52 percent of respondents cited “more customers” as the most important key to increasing small business success. Doubling the number of respondents that said “lower taxes” and more than quadrupling the number that responded “fewer regulations.”

Tax cuts skewed towards the wealthy elite starve our communities of much-needed resources while further tilting the scales towards large corporations and the rich.

Rouzer concludes with some great comments from business owners:

“To level the playing field for Main Street businesses our tax code must no longer skew in favor of large corporations and their shareholders,” said Deborah Field, the owner of Paperjam Press in Portland, Oregon, and a former corporate tax accountant. “Without holding multinational corporations accountable to pay what they owe and first providing relief to low and middle-income earners we shouldn’t begin to consider tax cuts for the rich.”


“The vast majority of small business owners don’t support a tax system that augments their piece of the pie by cheating their fellow citizens out of theirs. When we contribute our fair share of taxes, those dollars get reinvested in our local communities,” said David Borris, the owner of Hel’s Kitchen Catering in Chicago and Main Street Alliance Executive Committee member. “Local communities that support tens of millions of small businesses nationally.”

Amanda Ballantyne, national director of the Main Street Alliance, says that “Mr. Trump’s tax breaks would deprive the government of badly needed funds for investments in infrastructure, transportation, education, and social services. The resulting budget cuts hinder the types of investments that drive local economies and put small businesses in a better position to succeed.”

The kind of tax policy that small businesses need is one that supports their customer base and their communities. “In that regard, Trump’s plan falls flat,” says Ballantyne.

Donald Trump wants to dramatically cut taxes for the already-wealthy and their giant corporations. This would starve local communities of resources like teachers and infrastructure, while stacking the deck further against smaller, local businesses.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.

Must Must Must Listen Podcast: Robert Reich On This Election

I listened to this on a walk, and it is a must, must, must listen podcast.

Robert Reich, speaking Tuesday at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco: “The Oddest Presidential Election in Living Memory

From the website:

Tue, Sep 27 2016 – 6:30pm
Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley; Former Secretary of Labor; Author, Saving Capitalism

Holly Kernan, Executive Editor for News, KQED—Moderator

In the midst of an unpredictable presidential election, get insight from a veteran political figure who knows Washington inside and out. Time magazine named Reich one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He is a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. Come hear his provocative thoughts on the presidential election and the future of America.

EU Tells Giant Corporation It Is The Boss Of Them

Corporations are more and more in the habit of telling governments that they are the boss of them. If corporations get their way, “trade” agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will formalize their dominance. But not quite yet.

The European Union (EU) just told Apple that it is the boss of them, and not the other way around. The EU has ruled that Apple’s tax-avoidance scheme with Ireland’s government is illegal, and Apple owes Ireland $14.5 billion — plus interest. The EU decided that Ireland’s tax deal with Apple, based on Apple demanding a tax break to “bring jobs” to Ireland instead of somewhere else, constitutes “state aid” to the company. The EU pointed out that other, smaller companies are hurt when giant corporations like Apple get special tax deals.

In other words, the EU has ruled that it is illegal for an EU government to give in to corporate extortion, because giving in and paying the extorting company a tax break ransom means the government is providing “state aid.”

In other other words, where last week Apple’s CEO told the US government that the giant corporations are the boss of government, this week the EU told Apple that, actually, government is still the boss of the giant corporations.

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CEO Of Giant Corporation Tells US Government He’s The Boss Of Them

Are We the People the boss of giant multinational corporations, or are they the boss of us?

Imagine, if you will, going to the IRS and saying, “I don’t think the tax rate is fair so I’m not going to pay it.” Regular Americans can’t do that. But Apple just did.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook was interviewed by The Washington Post early this month. He was asked about the vast sums of profits that Apple has shifted into overseas tax havens thanks to a loophole in US tax law that lets them “defer” paying taxes on those profits as long as the money technically stays outside the country. Cook said (emphasis added, for emphasis):

And when we bring it back, we will pay 35 percent federal tax and then a weighted average across the states that we’re in, which is about 5 percent, so think of it as 40 percent. We’ve said at 40 percent, we’re not going to bring it back until there’s a fair rate. There’s no debate about it.

What would happen to any regular American if they did what Cook did, and said they they aren’t going to pay taxes because they don’t think the tax rate is “fair”? (Hint: Jail. And maybe 2 or 3 years added to the sentence for the contempt of saying, “There’s no debate about it.”)

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How “Free Trade” Kills Democracy

“Comparative advantage.” It used to mean that one region can grow bananas, another region can grow cotton. So they trade, and both regions can have cotton AND bananas. That is not what the term means today. Now it means low wages and lack of environmental protection.

In the US we (used to) have democracy. When people get to say what they want, they say they want good wages, good schools, good infrastructure, protect the environment, good courts, things like that. These of course cost money, but they money comes from the advanced business environment supported by good schools and infrastructure… So the prosperity from businesses growing due to good infrastructure and schools and courts etc is the fruit of democracy.
In places without democracy people are told they can’t have those things so wages are low and there is no cost to protect the environment.

If we let companies just close factories here and open them there and bring the same goods back to sell in the same stores, what we have done is made democracy a “comparative disadvantage.” “Free trade” lets those companies escape the costs of good wages and protecting the environment while still enjoying open access to the good market that democracy had created.

“Free trade” turns democracy into a comparative and competitive disadvantage. Over time it erodes the tax base that gave us good schools and infrastructure — the fertile soil in which businesses can grow. Also known as “look around you.”

Is that really what we want?

The Democratic Platform: It’s Time to Deliver on Democracy

From The Democracy Initiative:

During the weekend of June 17-18th, the Democracy Initiative attended the Platform Drafting Committee for the Democratic Party and spoke on the subject of protecting and expanding our democracy. Members of the DI went to Phoenix, Arizona to provide testimony on the importance of voting rights and money in politics.

Election Results

Imagine this scenario. We are in Russia, and voting is conducted by handing your ballot through a curtain. You are not allowed to look behind the curtain. You are never allowed to see the stack of ballots that was handed through the curtain. Then at the end of the day the ballots are destroyed and Putin comes out and announces who won.

Are you going to take Putin’s word for it?

This is exactly the scenario of our current computerized voting systems. If you have a voting machine and do not have a paper ballot that can be counted with independent observers verifying the count, you are really just trusting Putin to look behind the curtain and then tell you who won.

If you have a voting machine with a “paper trail” but not one compares the paper trail to the reported count you are still trusting Putin behind the curtain to tell you who won.

Even if you have paper ballots but they are counted by computers, and no one conducts an independent audit to test if the marks on the ballots match the reported results, you are still trusting Putin behind the curtain to tell you who won.

You should not trust any election unless the system allows anyone including you yourself to count the ballots. That is transparency. If you or someone you trust cannot examine the ballots you can’t trust it and why should you? No other system can be trusted. Billions and trillions are at stake in our elections so there are interests that will go to great lengths to make sure the elections go their way — if they an get away with it.

The question to ask about any election result is, was the process transparent and verifiable and if so DID someone verify it? Otherwise it’s Putin and curtain.

What’s The Problem With “Free Trade”?

Our country’s “free trade” agreements have followed a framework of trading away our democracy and middle-class prosperity in exchange for letting the biggest corporations dominate.

There are those who say any increase in trade is good. But if you close a factory here and lay off the workers, open the factory “there” to make the same things the factory here used to make, bring those things into the country to sell in the same outlets, you have just “increased trade” because now those goods cross a border. Supporters of free trade are having a harder and harder time convincing American workers this is good for them.

“Free Trade”

Free trade is when goods and services are bought and sold between countries without tariffs, duties and quotas. The idea is that some countries “do things better” than other countries, which these days basically means they offer lower labor and environmental-protection costs. Allowing other countries to do things in ways that cost less “frees up resources” which can theoretically be used for investment at home.

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Supreme Obstruction

A Supreme Court justice has died. Normally (and according to the Constitution) the process is that the president nominates a successor, the Senate holds hearings, and there is a vote on whether to confirm that nominee. According to the Constitution, that’s their job, and they took an oath to do that job.

President Obama has said that of course he will fulfill his constitutional duty to nominate a successor to Justice Scalia. But this time Republicans have announced that they will refuse to participate in the constitutional process and will not consider any nomination that the president brings them.

This is part of an ongoing Republican attack on our form of government.

Ongoing Attack On Government And Rights

The country has been through years and years of Republican obstruction of everything government does. Why is that?

The architect of the modern conservative movement was corporate and tobacco attorney Lewis Powell, and his blueprint was “the 1971 Powell Memo,” titled, “Attack on American Free Enterprise System.” The memo claimed that “the American economic system” (capitalism) and “business” were “under broad attack” from “Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries.” It complained of “the stampedes by politicians to support almost any legislation related to ‘consumerism’ or to the “environment.” It called on business as a class to “conduct guerrilla warfare” against this on “the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences” as well as politicians the public and the courts. The goal was for business to “consider assuming a broader and more vigorous role in the political arena.”

The memo led to the building of the massive corporation/billionaire-funded conservative “infrastructure” of ideological “think tanks,” activist organizations and media/propaganda “echo chambers” that constantly push corporate/conservative propaganda out to the public. Book after book, article after article, study after study has warned of this movement effort to alter our government away from democracy and toward a corporatocracy.

Once such conservative movement organization is the Federalist Society, established in 1982 and receiving funding since from conservative foundations including the Earhart, Bradley, Simon, and Olin Foundations, and the Carthage, Koch, and Scaife Foundations. Justices Scalia, Roberts, Thomas and Alito were all members of the Federalist Society.

For how long did the Republican majority on the Supreme Court give us one highly partisan 5-4 decision after another, reversing one hard-won civil right, environmental gain, consumer right, worker right after another? Fifteen years ago the Republican Five even forced on us a president who didn’t receive a majority of the vote.

Since Obama

After Barack Obama was elected president, the Republican minority filibustered more than 500 important bills (on issues ranging from infrastructure funding to ending tax breaks for offshoring jobs) before they took control of the Senate – an unprecedented number. But it has not just been legislation; they have blocked nominees to positions that keep government functioning. They have blocked appointments to judgeships: there are 35 Obama judge appointees who were waiting for a Senate confirmation vote long before Senate Republicans conjured up their no-appointees-during-an-election-year stance, one as far back as September 2014.

Republicans have also continually obstructed by starving government agencies of the funds they need to operate – the Internal Revenue Service is a case in point. They have even shut down the government when they could.

Republicans also dismantle government in the states, cutting taxes for the rich and corporations while cutting the things government does for the state’s citizens. Many of these governors and legislatures achieved majority status following the Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates of undisclosed corporate and billionaire money into the political process. Once in, they passed restrictive voting rights laws and extremely partisan redistricting plans to lock in their majorities.

After so many years of this, the public is, to say the least, disillusioned to the point of giving up on government – even our current pretense of democracy.

But this has only gotten worse. This year, President Obama submitted his budget to Congress and Republicans refused to even look at it. They refused to schedule hearings before the House and Senate budget committees. They won’t let the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) come to Congress to testify.

Now, to top it all, Republicans have said they will not even consider any presidential nominee to the Supreme Court. If they prevail, the court will operate with only eight members, and precedent assures us that important cases will receive a 4-4 tie.

This Makes No Sense, Unless…

Republicans won’t consider the President’s budget? Won’t consider a Supreme Court nominee – any nominee? Won’t allow important bills to pass? Won’t allow important governmental posts to be filled? Won’t allow important government functions to be adequately funded? Dismantle important state agencies? It’s like Republicans are saying, “No, we’re not going to let you have your constitutional government.”

What is going on?

Republicans are able to do these things to our government because the “framers” of our Constitution never anticipated that a (well-funded) ideology that opposes the very concept of democratic government would capture a political party, gain seats in the Congress and, as a strategy, simply refuse to participate in the processes of constitutional government.

The Founders did require an oath of office that assumes such participation, but they did not outline steps to take should obstruction be used to block operation of the government.

If you look at all of this from a perspective that Republicans are working within our form of government, it makes no sense at all. They have a constitutional duty to pass budgets, but instead allow the government to shut down. They have a constitutional duty to confirm (or not) appointments to government positions and judgeships, but they obstruct. They have a constitutional duty to consider Supreme Court nominees, but they refuse.

But if you consider that their purpose is to fundamentally change our form of government, it all makes more sense.

People who see much of the public as “takers,” who view taxes as “theft,” who view roads, schools and social services as “free stuff” are not people who prefer a democratic form of government. They (or at least those funding them) want a different form of government where the haves have the power and the don’t-haves don’t, instead of We the People sharing the power and the country.

At some point you have to take them at their word and accept that they mean what they say: “We want to get the government small enough to drown it in a bathtub.” We are not looking at a disagreement over how to run our government here, we are looking at a disagreement over our form of government.

But our Constitution is clear on the form of government We the People have. That is why they are intent on setting the Constitution aside. We must tell Republicans that they took an oath to support the Constitution and its processes – or step aside and let We the People have our government back.

What The President Should Do

President Obama should nominate a known and dedicated liberal/progressive to the court, to balance the movement conservatives on the Court now. However, unlike the conservatives, this nominee should mean it when she or he states support the Constitution, and be ready to decide cases based on the Constitution and law, not ideology.

Republicans will always nominate a dedicated movement conservative who is sworn to advance the anti-government (and therefore anti-U.S. Constitution) conservative project, against voting rights, consumer rights, environmental rights, and for corporate rule.

It’s time the right-wing ideologues are called out for their obstruction of democracy – and to make to clear that the presidential candidates who have participated in or have endorsed that obstruction have no place in our government. It’s not just about a budget or a Supreme Court justice; it’s about restoring the principle that the United States must act as a democracy of the people, every day of every year.

Here are two petitions that you can sign to tell Republican senators to “do their job” and consider President Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court:

● The Sierra Club petition: “We Need Three Functioning Branches of Government. Don’t let Congress’s dysfunction spread to the Supreme Court. Tell your senators to do their job and go through the normal constitutionally mandated process of choosing the next Supreme Court Justice.”

● Senator Sherrod Brown petition: “Senators, do your job.” “Tell Republicans: Do Your Constitutionally Mandated Job. The Constitution is clear — the president nominates Supreme Court justices, and the Senate confirms or rejects them. But Republicans in Congress want to ignore the Constitution. They’re saying they won’t consider anyone President Obama nominates. We, the undersigned, are tired of Republicans’ hypocrisy. A Senator’s Constitutional oath applies regardless of which party controls the Oval Office. Stop making excuses and do your job.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.