“As Taxpayers Get Bolder, Government Gets Smaller”

I just couldn’t let this one pass. 

Southwestern Oregon is one of those gnarly, flannel checked shirt sporting, axe wielding, tough guy lumberjacky parts of the country.   Two thirds of voters here voted for Trump as the rest of the state went for Hillary Clinton.  But there’s trouble in Lumberjack City.  Yes, there is since it seems as if folks don’t like paying taxes here and are willing show it.  Douglas County, 5,000 acres of forests, thinly populated with about 107,600 people and with an unemployment rate slightly higher than the rest of the U.S. at 5.8%, is tax revolt ground zero.  A recent NYT article describes Southwest Oregon’s “populist tax revolt” right down to voting against tax increases for vital public services (like police protection, for example) time and time again.  Most recently, County Seat Rosenburg voters nixed a $6 a month tax increase that was directed towards keeping the Central Library open.  It failed.  The Library is packing up. 

The Southwest Oregon tax revolt has its roots in the property tax revolts of the 1970’s and continues today.  This part of the country, rural and sparsely populated, has become a test tube case of what happens when citizens push the logic of shrinking government to its extremes.  Here’s a smattering of folks' opinions about taxes and what’s happening as a result:

Zach Holly:  “We pay enough taxes,” said Zach, an auto repair guy.  “I vote against taxes across the board” saying that his stance is a protest over government waste. 

Jerry Wyatt:  Sixty-six year old lifetime resident of Rosenburg, states that “conservatives like me have learned the truth about government that often operates for its own benefit, not the peoples'.”

Court Boice:  Curry County clerk says “The trust is gone from people who are paying the bills.”

In Josephine County, after nine consecutive defeats of jail funding tax increases, the sheriff is beginning a “catch and release” program for nonviolent criminals.

The owners of a house in Curry County avoided paying property taxes for 10 years and now owe the county $8,500.  But the county assessor’s office doesn’t have sufficient workers to go out and inspect the property. 

At least four property tax proposals in Curry County to keep basic public services afloat have failed over the past decade. 

Don’t bother calling 911 or the police department in Curry County after midnight if your house is being robbed because there is no one manning the closed municipal police offices.

Cutting taxes has been a “thing” around the country since the days of Ronald Reagan and the latest of this line of governance is probably best illustrated by conservative Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s statewide experiment of quadrupling down on the “cutting taxes creates jobs” policy.  It has been a disaster. 

But in Douglas and Curry counties, there’s an underlying, not talked about, semi-secret reason why out in Southwest Oregon all those hardy, outdoorsy lumberjack types are pissed off about having to pay taxes.  You see, back in 1930’s, the Federal Government passed a law that provided payments to Curry and other counties in Southwest Oregon as a result of a deal worked out with private logging companies who were allowed to log in Federal forests.  That’s right, just like Alaskans who receive payments for allowing oil companies to drill on the North Slope, Southwest Oregonians had been receiving the same kinds of payments, just for a hell of a lot longer.  So in effect, just like all those hated welfare moochers we keep hearing about from conservatives, these folks too have been living off public money for decades.  Until recently, however. 

You see, timbering all over the Pacific Northwest has been in decline for a decade and more and now the money that used to flow to those rugged Curry County residents in buckets has dropped to a mere trickle.   So now, as opposed to the old days since the 1930’s, these folks are basically faced with the prospect of actually having to pay for the services they use out of their own pockets.  Damn!  What a calamity, right?  No wonder there’s tax revolts are breaking out all over the place!  Imagine that – having to actually pay for shit like every conservative and Republican ideology demands.  Yeah, conservative and Republicans ideology is fine and dandy, I guess, if it doesn’t impact your own pocket book.

“But wait a damned minute here,” you yell.  “These folks weren’t living off the public taxpayer dole at all but got payments from private companies so they weren’t at all like those lazy Cadillac driving, lobster eating moochers.”  Really this is your argument?  Let's take a moment to examine this.   So then do you think that Big Tree Lumber Company took a cut from their annual profits to pay the Southwest Oregon folks?  Nah.  Trust me they did not.  As a former business owner I can guarantee that the logging payments were definitely not a cut to their bottom line.  

Whatever money they paid to Curry or Douglas Country and elsewhere, was offset by an increase in prices for plywood, or the knotty pine paneling you installed in your man cave or the shredded pine bark mulch we spread around our garden roses that you and me bought during all those years.  So, the money that for decades flowed into Southwest Oregon municipal coffers actually came out of our pockets pretty much like how our Federal taxes pay for SNAP recipients but with a couple of additional middleman thrown in between.  This is the reality.   This is how it worked until Canada or Mexico or China began exporting really cheap lumber and crashed the American logging industry.  Or something.  

Hey, I too would be pissed if I had been getting payments from a logging company or an oil extraction company and suddenly they ended.  (The falling prices of oil has caused Alaska no end of budget shortfalls lately.)  But with my apology to all my fellow Americans out in the Pacific Northwest, you flannel shirt wearing, lumberjack boot wearing, rugged independent self-sufficient survivalist men need to man up and pay for shit you use just like the rest of us.

Here's the link to the New York Times Article:  TAXPAYER REVOLT IN OREGON  It's a very worthwhile read.  

Have A Great Day! 

TOTALLY OFF-TOPIC NOTE:  I suppose that we all just have to accept Trump’s lawyers’ conclusions that only two payments to Trump in their review of ten years of his tax returns – the Miss Universe Pageant and the sale of a residence in Florida to a Russian individual – have Russian connections.  Don’t know about you but I find this just the slightest bit self-serving.  Why can’t we see his tax returns?  Oh, and that house sale they noted:  Trump purchased the Palm Beach mansion for $41 million in 2004.  Four years later, in 2008, Trump sold the mansion for $95 million to one Dmitry Rybolovlev, a Russian oligarch.  That’s quite a jump in property values even for Palm Beach isn’t it?  We should all own property where the yearly appreciation runs more than 30% a year! 

Don’t Be Fooled!


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