Sympathy for the Devil

The battle over measures 66 and 67 is heating up here in Oregon; and as an all-mail election state, these battles are more protracted here than other places.  Last year the legislature, attempting to close a $700 million or so budget gap, decided to raise our corporate minimum tax (for companies who report no profits) from $10 to $150, and raise taxes on individuals making over $125,000, or couples making over $250,000.  Of course, since we are one of only two states with no sales tax, income taxes here are already high, and revenues plummet in even the slightest recession.  Nevertheless, anyone with the temerity to propose a sales tax has been handed their ass, repeatedly, for decades, so these sorts of Rube Goldberg schemes are the only option we have.

As CHNN reported several months ago, (“Lipstick on a Pig,” Aug. 2, 2009) our always-busy anti-tax initiative “entrepreneurs” love it when this happens, because it draws in money from all over to defeat any tax increase, and keeps a lot of otherwise unemployable Republicans working at something they love.  This time the front group made up of the usual suspects has been named, I kid you not, “Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes,” and as their name suggests, they are running the most manipulative and lie-filled campaign since Bush’s reelection in 2004, and have even enlisted the sleazy PR firm that shilled for Proposition 8 in California and helped to defeat marriage equality in Maine, too, with similar tactics.  They’ve blanketed the airwaves with ads featuring scary music, misleading and outright false claims about spending, and actors posing as beleaguered soccer moms (who evidently make six figures) being brutalized by other actors playing heartless and officious bureaucrats.  Apparently real rich people were too shy, and real state employees disinclined, to lend a hand to their noble efforts.

The Oregonian, not surprisingly, has taken a stand against the job killers, despite the fact that long before the recession, that proud organization got into the job-killing thing in a big way, and now tumbleweeds roll through the empty cubicles at 1320 SW Broadway.  They scoldingly insisted that the legislature should have been more “cooperative” with the “business community,” meaning that they should have taxed everyone but the rich and upped class sizes from the curent 40 or so to, say, 100.  That, and the tax should have been temporary, so we could have all this fun again next session.  And as is its habit when it gets its dander up, the Oregonian hammers these points home relentlessly, bringing in every washed-up Republican they can find to write op-eds supporting their position.

Well, today they pulled out all the stops and brought in Nike founder and gazillionaire Phil Knight to whine about the hardships of the rich.  Yes, that Phil Knight.  He of the sweatshops and $200 tennis shoes, known more for bullying the University of Oregon with his many strings-attached “gifts” than for caring about Oregon’s future, and he doesn’t disappoint.  It seems that ol’ Phil, who writes like an eight grader,  has turned into something of a teabagger these days, addled by Rush Limbaugh and FOX News, and doesn’t care who knows it.  Why would he, since  no one has ever been allowed to disagree with him in his presence since the late 70′s?

His narrative, and I use that term loosely, opens with his humble beginnings, 46 years ago, when Oregon was evidently a much better place to do business, and brags, as all righties do, about valiantly rising above his hardscrabble past to emerge as a “major employer,” with, naturally, a major chip on his shoulder   This little bit from Phil is particularly rich:  (no pun intended)

Measures 66 and 67 should be labeled Oregon’s Assisted Suicide Law II.

They will allow us to watch a state slowly killing itself.

They are anti-business, anti-success, anti-inspirational, anti-humanitarian (!), and most ironically, in the long run, they will deprive the state of revenue, not increase it.

The current state tax codes are all those things as well.  Measures 66 and 67 will just take it up and over the top.

The state of Washington has no income tax.  Its unemployment rate is 20% lower than Oregon’s– before measures 66 and 67.  These measures will give Oregon the highest income tax rates in the country.

He then goes on to threaten to leave Oregon, along with “thousands” of other “successful” people, and take his company with him, which he helpfully points out is the only Fortune Global 500 company in the state, if the measures pass.  I could quote him further, but probably not without vomiting.

If ever there were a reason to tax rich people more, not modestly as the measures propose, but heavily and ruthlessly, Phil Knight has provided it.  Money seems to turn people into domineering egomaniacs, and dare I say, clueless assholes.  Thanks, Phil, for making Leona Helmsley look like Mother Theresa, and giving the tax measures just the boost they needed at crunch time.


  1. rmp says:

    There seems to be a mindset that happens to most people who become extremely wealthy and powerful. It does damage to them and those they affect. Nicholas Kristof had some thoughts on this today. His article is based on a new book The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Heidt:

    Happiness is, of course, a complex concept and difficult to measure, and John Stuart Mill had a point when he suggested: “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.”

    Our Basic Human Pleasures: Food, Sex and Giving by Nicholas Kristof

    • cocktailhag says:

      I saw that this morning, and in your blast. I’ll go back and read it; sometimes I skip fellow Oregonian Kristof because he can be, well, boring. But I do think soaring inequality has not only created sociopaths, but given them way too much free time and money to work their black magic.
      The cluelessness of Knight’s rant is the best part. He’s just the sort that opponents should have muzzled, i.e., the rich and imperious, if they wanted to help their cause.

    • sysprog says:

      S y n c h r o n i c i t y !
      Shortly before I saw RMP’s comment here, I was watching this
      . . . see what gets displayed at the 47:59 time mark.

      That video is Episode 2 (of 12) at:

  2. gpjones says:

    Oh CH, I turned the page to see that ugly mug this morning. I dislike that company and so I won’t read anything written by him or any of his minions. However, my husband did read it and his first reaction, like yours, was “that man is a lousy writer.”

    • cocktailhag says:

      I would hasten to add to your husband’s assessment, that it’s little wonder that he’d like to clobber education in Oregon; it might create for a dummy like him a more level playing field. Looks, brains, and attitude, all colossal FAIL… What’s he trying to get by on? The mind boggles.

  3. rmp says:

    OT Avatar won Golden Globes for Best Director and Best Picture (Drama)

  4. Well, by keeping what’s theirs, they’ve already managed to reduce California to a place where people aspire to little more than an escape from the fate of Somalia. You could hardly expect them to stop there.

    I’d like to think, as RMP does, that the people will throw off their confusion and stop the all the big and little Toms before they do in the entire country, but then RMP is one of those great souls who keep rescuing us from despair and self-destructive tailspins (Now, where did I put that big bottle of cheap gin?) while I’m more the perpetually disgruntled and angry type. I like a good joke too, of course — otherwise why would I be so smitten by the Hag — but I’d prefer to do my chuckling after we had most of these assholes roasting on spits in the town square.

    When it comes down to it, I guess I’m just not a nice person.

    • dirigo says:

      WT, an invading army of curmudgeons may yet save California.

    • nailheadtom says:

      California’s whole problelm is people with money wanting to keep it. The fact that a city council can negotiate pay and retirement programs for city employees that give those drones pay and benefits unheard of until our era of economic illiteracy and that the state can do the same thing just doesn’t have any effect on the California economy. Let’s not forget that the Golden State spends $25 billion a year on its criminal justice system as well, $14 billion of that just going to prison costs. With 30% of the nation’s welfare caseload, 20% of the state budget goes to health and welfare. If only the prunies could raise those taxes, then what? Then these same insane programs could be maintained or even expanded! Wouldn’t that be great? Companies like venerable Buck Knives, a fixture in the San Diego area for decades, just couldn’t handle it anymore and pulled up stakes and left for the greener pastures of Idaho. So far, at least, government has been unable to force business to remain in demi-socialist jurisdictions. Until that changes, look for things to get more and more grim in states that feel raising taxes is the recipe for fiscal security.

      • cocktailhag says:

        Ah, yes the era of Economic Illiteracy; that’s what we’re in all right. Reaping the benefits of property tax “reform” in both Oregon and California, pushed through by right-wingers, which shifted the tax burden from corporations to homeowners, and from from long-time property owners to more recent ones. (The perverse effects of this helped create the housing shortage in California…. geezers stay in their homes until they die because their taxes are $600, while the new owner will pay $8000.) And then there were those right-wing “tough on crime,” war on drugs,” and “three strikes you’re out” laws; more time bombs for local governments to deal with.
        If all the right-wing welfare queens move to Idaho, it will soon be in the same shape as California, and it won’t be because of government worker pensions.

        • dirigo says:

          Tom, I’ve arranged a special Air Force lift for you to go to Haiti.

          There, amidst the rubble – created by atheists, the French, evolutionary true believers, climate change fanatics, socialists, members of the World Synod of Apostates, and of course, all the ignorant Haitians – you can hold forth on free market theory until your lungs burst from exhaustion and you turn Na’vi blue in the face.

          Since most of the people are really, really slow (not to mention at death’s door for the most part), you can hear yourself talk over and over again. It will be a captive audience at all times, totally in thrall to your charms.

          And soon no doubt, having had the blessings of your counsel, the Haitian people will rise up and start doing deals, on everything from planting new coconut trees; to water treatment facilities; to cement block and paving stone replacement factories; to asphalt. plastic flamingo, and lawn jockey plants; and on and on and ON – and ALL, like magic, under private contracts.

          Don’t fret that there won’t be any courts. WHO NEEDS COURTS? Everything will be handled with a smile and a shoeshine!

          Instantly, though somewhat mysteriously, there will be present enough Haitians, experts all in contract law, ready to hammer out endless private agreements which will solve all problems and every contingency, without the need of one grasping civil servant or elected official.

          There’ll be no need for tiresome arbitration. Everyone will know their place and what to do. All will hop to it.

          It truly will be magic as a calm settles over the island. No satanic ritual, or majesty’s request, in sight. Just busy, busy bees, buzzing amidst the great chatter of private exchange.

          No need to worry if the Haitians have had any schooling in free markets or how to squeeze nickels. Or even whether any of those hearty souls will be fit enough to shovel cement, or put down new tar for roads, or new sewage lines, or lay down endless square feet of decking next to the brand new beach bungalows which will sprout to welcome the rich tourists who’ll flock to the paradise you will have inspired.

          The rich, irresistible elixir of your can-do lectures will be enough. They will be AMAZED they hadn’t thought of Adam Smith before!!! But despite that momentary embarrassment, and inspired by your honeyed words, they’ll all – every one – leap into action, as if they were a million Steve Forbes clones, while you wave good-bye from your chopper, bound for the next flattened village.

          When and where can we send the plane to pick you up?

          You’re wasting your time repeating yourself to us here at Hagworld! Clearly, Americans are too far gone for a savior such as yourself. The Haitians would, no doubt, be rapt for days on end – nay, YEARS! – as you drone on at them.

  5. mikeinportc says:

    Funny how the tax-tortured tycoons (personally) always manage to stay in the hated librul-socialist dystopias, rather than taking off for the supposedly greener pastures of the free-market haven of the moment. ( Alabama, Mississippi,Texas Idaho, Pennsylvania[ the rhetorical weapon of choice in NY] etc.) ;)

  6. mikeinportc says:

    lol Just as I was hitting the “Submit Comment” , Pandora brought up Gregry Isaacs’ Poor Millionaire .:)

    • cocktailhag says:

      Could it be…. SATAN? Yeah, Phil’s threat is complete BS. His cocktailhag wife would no more tolerate living in Washougal than I would. But you’d be surprised how much these empty threats are believed in rightie circles. Nearly every day, some letter writer darkly warns that the rich are already packing their furs, jewels, and servants to head out for… Dubai? And how well would his brainwashed yuppie army from behind the berm like Mississippi? You can’t even get a good latte there. Fact is, all the “free market” paradises, here and the world over, are hellholes, even for the rich.

  7. I was just reading some of the comments in “The Organian” blog about Knight:

    The people up there seem to either love or hate the guy (no in between). In over 300 comments, the general feeling on the pro-Knight side is expressed by a commenter named “Free-to-choose”:

    “We better listen to the last Fortune 500 company left in Oregon.

    If Phil Knight didn’t live here Nike might not be here any more.

    When we chase all the big businesses out of Oregon, the tax burden will be left to the middle class and the low income earners.

    That would be a expencive (sic) mistake”

    Is this the typical mindset of the Oregon conservative?

    • cocktailhag says:

      Yes. They could all be sitting in the same nursing home dayroom, to read their Oregonian letters, which run as a form of Affirmative Action the O provides to righties. We have our own Rush Limbaugh, the similarly beady-eyed and creepy Lars Larson, and at least three righty talk stations, (Oops, “News Talk”) that makes the echo chamber here as bad as anywhere.
      Also, you must remember that Oregon, outside of Portland and a few other “cities,” is quite underpopulated and rural/resource based, bringing in the anti-environment crowd, and the suburbs are all white-flight, in a place that has less minorities than almost anywhere. Lake Oswego, one of the richest, is widely known as Lake NoNegro, where the only brown people are Trailblazers, and they don’t much like that, either.
      Knight and his wife live in that area, even further out toward West Linn, last time I checked.

      • The few times I’ve been to Portland it seemed rather progressive, much like Seattle. I lived in a suburb of Seattle for a few years. Like the Portland suburb you mentioned, it was lilly white. In fact, there was only one non-white (Asian) student in my daughter’s school.

        I spent as much time as I could in Seattle.

        • cocktailhag says:

          Both cities are hip and diverse, right inside, but the dirty secret of the Northwest is that it’s so white, and, chicken or egg, has a lot of people that chose it for that.
          When I was in college in Eugene in the early 80′s, all the suburban kids thought that where I lived (one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Portland) must be like south central LA because my high school was 40% black. They also had no fashion sense and couldn’t dance, but they still thought they were superior.
          That’s a rich vein to tap for the righties.
          PS… I’ve been reading the comments you linked, and I’m even more horrified than I expected to be. What a bunch of ass-kissing morans. (Or is it maroons?)

  8. sysprog says:

    You know, every newspaper in the whole darn country, forever, has been printing stories about how the local businesses soon will be bugging out, unless enticed to stay.

    Occasionally the stories are true (the old coal mining village where my mother-in-law grew up isn’t even a ghost town anymore) but mostly the stories are bunk, cause if the stories had been true then the whole darn country would be empty now.

  9. sysprog says:

    Huff Po / Adam Hanft :

    Tragedies are capitalist conundrums.

    Whenever the world is gripped by an unfolding disaster, American corporations wrestle with their response strategies.

    Ignore it and you risk looking detached, or worse, callous. Particularly in an era when consumers expect big companies to make big gestures.

    But splash it over your website and you run another risk — coming across as grubby and opportunistic.

    [...] The reason this is important to assess is that a company’s website is a wide-open front door into its heart and soul. [...] And in our world of instant digital communication, in which websites can change in seconds, when a major American institution chooses to ignore a global catastrophe, without even a pro forma “Our hearts are with the people of Haiti” message, it makes you wonder about them.

    [...] But nothing. And the silence is devastating; they don’t even care enough to pretend.

    [...] Big consumer brands, usually quick to associate themselves with so-called CSR — Corporate Social Responsibility — efforts, are conspicuously mute.

    Surprisingly, that includes Starbucks and Nike, two brands that usually chase down socially conscious opportunities wherever they find them. Their websites are acknowledgement-free zones.

    [...] Bottom line: compared to Katrina or the 2004 tsunami — when the Internet was far less developed — most of corporate America has chosen to leave Haiti unacknowledged on their websites. They’ve chosen not to leverage their digital presences; which means no opportunities to contribute, and certainly no efforts to use their databases or social media to rally support.

    I don’t know if it’s disaster fatigue, or if the recession has downsized their digital departments, but our biggest companies have failed to rise even to the level of meretricious opportunism.

    - – Adam Hanft

    After Hanft did his research, Starbucks started featuring relief for Haiti at
    and they say they’ll be collecting donations at each cash register, so they’ve at least risen to the level of opportunism.

    Nothing on Haiti at Nike’s various home pages, yet, but, hey, they’re selling SHOE LACES for charity:

    so they’ve got that corporate responsibility thing all taken care of I’d say.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Back in the early 90′s, I was at a Coffee People with my friend Tina who had recently left Nike. This was when talk of that pesky sweatshop thingy hadn’t yet been quashed by Nike’s many extravagant “fre speech” lawsuits. The Nikebot we ran into dismissed a recent protest in San Francisco as irrelevant, saying, “Half of the protesters were wearing our product.” After we left Tina and I agreed that she’d gotten out in the nick of time.

      Unfortunately for Phil Knight, even that craven nincompoop would balk at moving his yuppie family to Alabama, much less Vietnam.

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