Maybe the voters just didn\'t want it
Did the Oregon health-care vote resonate in Washington?
by David Williams
Odd-numbered years are usually off-years for elections in the United States. But 2007 is certainly feeling like an election year, with all these Presidential candidates stumping and a rash of ballot initiatives that came up for a vote around the country.
There were tax proposals and bond initiatives in several states for everything from stem-cell research centers to cancer research centers, and bids to legalize marijuana use.
And in Oregon, there was a ballot measure that drew national attention – Measure 50.
The measure was to approve a plan that would provide health insurance to some half-million of Oregon’s uninsured children, paid for by a healthy increase in the state’s tobacco tax.
If this sounds familiar to you, it should – it is similar to the SCHIP proposal now being wrangled over in Congress, but tailored down to fit Oregon.
The measure lost by a vote of 60 to 40 percent. The campaign was an expensive one, as the supporters were outspent 4-to-1 by tobacco company-supported groups. It was estimated that Big Tobacco spent $12 million in advertising to kill the measure.
Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski quickly claimed that the tobacco companies “bought” the election.
Here’s why I believe the governor has just insulted the collective intelligence of the entire state of Oregon.
To charge that an election was bought indicates that the collective will of the people was thwarted by persons who used monetary influence to sway the vote. That conjures up images of $20 handshakes and illegal back-room doings, intended as a way to get the will of a few enforced over the will of the many.
Of course, that is not the case here. The anti-Measure 50 people used legal means and legitimate processes to get their side of the argument out to the people. The pro-Measure 50 people just touted how evil the other side was, how they wanted to see sick children while lining their pockets and being against this measure was just short of advocating the criminal endangerment of minors.
What the governor is trying to say with his “bought” comment is that Big Tobacco wants to endanger the continued health of little children and continue to fatten its wallets by selling cigarettes to dolts who will not quit and enticing teenagers to become addicted to their vile weed.
The failure of Measure 50, to the governor, indicates that evil, moustache-twirling villains are skulking about behind every tree in the Beaver State.
It is true that $12 million that once lay in the coffers of companies like Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds was used to buy advertising aimed at defeating Measure 50. But to insinuate that the election was bought smacks of an electorate that is considered too stupid to make up its own mind.
These dolts in Oregon are so gullible that they were talked into voting against kids to support cigarette companies. That is the governor’s message.
That’s not what the bill’s opponents did, governor. They sent you a message that a lot of politicians need to hear – we are tired of being taxed unfairly, and tired of being taxed for everything we do.
Everyone is in favor of healthy kids. No one is actually advocating the gradual decline of the younger generation in any way. Even cigarette companies have people who have kids, OK?
A program to help insure children is a good idea. Trying to get 30 percent of the people to pay for it with a prohibitive tax is not as good idea. It is also not a good idea to write the tax into your state’s constitution – something that was a part of Measure 50.
Creating the pie-in-the-sky programs is not wrong. But the idea has to be supported with a revenue stream that is sustainable and fair. It has long been the policy of the government to avoid doing the tough thing – raising taxes for these highly-touted programs – and pay for everything with so-called “sin taxes.”
No one has been able to argue away the logical conclusion that when you tax tobacco, the revenue from the tax gets lower as people quit, while the program built around that tax money will get bigger. What government program gets smaller every year?
Then the taxes go up again – not just on cigarettes, but also on everything else to pay for the governmental sprawl the program will undergo.
Measure 50 went down because the people of Oregon believe in fair taxation. If you want it, governor, come up with a way to pay for it that your citizens will go along with.
Congress should learn this lesson as well.
SCHIP has been around, and it works. The President’s budget expanded SCHIP by $5 billion. Congress wants six times that much, to serve people far too old to be considered kids and far too wealthy to be considered in need of health care assistance.
This is clearly an attempt to start national health care, something the American people reject every time it comes up. While SCHIP works, its expansion should not come at the expense of a shrinking smoking population. It just makes no sense – the tax revenue is not sustainable.
This argument will roll on, into one of the even-numbered years. It will also become a factor in the election that happens every even-numbered year. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. Maybe the voters of Oregon were trying get a message out to a lot of politicians, even outside the state lines.
Let’s see if they were listening.