As you probably know, we’ve spent years watchdogging the Oregonian Editorial Board and exposing their agenda of tax cuts for big corporations and the wealthy, budget cuts for the things that matter, and decimation of worker protections. When they weigh in on matters of the economy, it’s to cheerlead for policies that would benefit those at the very top by making things worse for everyone else.
Over the weekend, they published an editorial that’s a tad more subtle than usual, but nevertheless pushes an agenda completely at odds with making Oregon’s economy work for everyone. This time, they’re cloaking their agenda in the guise of “small business.”
First, a bit of background: The Oregon Employment Department recently put out a report explaining why Oregon has income rates lower than the rest of the country. The short answer, according to the Employment Department, is that we have a ton of people moving here, willing to work for less as a tradeoff for living in the splendor that is the Beaver State. There are also more part-time workers and more self-employed people. In short, there’s little reason for employers to pay more.
Among people who are “self-employed” (or are “entrepreneurs”), those in Oregon make 72 percent of the national average. Why? The Employment Department says it’s “difficult to figure out,” and many of the estimates are based on reporting at the national level.
The Oregonian Ed Board, though, think they have it all figured out: the state should focus on “reducing regulations and initial fees” on businesses, which really is their answer for everything. Never mind the fact that Portland ranks #5 on Forbes’ list of “Best Places to Launch a Startup in 2014,” and never mind the fact that Oregon is home to some of the world’s most innovative new companies. And never mind the fact that we’ve got one of the lowest—if not THE lowest—corporate tax burdens in the country.
The writers at the Editorial Board think we should cut fees, taxes, and regulations so that when the startups grow into successful large companies, they don’t relocate to another state.
It’s an unsurprisingly myopic answer from the conservatives at the Oregonian—and one that would lead nowhere if legislators chose to listen to them. If we really want to boost the state’s economy (in both rural and urban areas), we’ve got to invest in education and infrastructure at all levels. And that’s going to require some actual investment of funds.
Right now, though, Oregon is continuing to underfund those core needs, and it’s largely because big corporations (the ones the Oregonian wants small businesses to turn into) aren’t paying their share of taxes. In fact, they’re paying a lower overall tax rate than small businesses—and much lower than individuals pay.
That’s due to a couple of reasons: First, Oregon’s tax code contains hundreds of tax breaks, many of which are really only available to large, profitable corporations, allowing them to reduce their tax rate to negligible amounts. Second, Oregon’s corporate minimum tax is capped at $100,000 for corporations with more than $100 million in sales, which means that the largest corporations have a far lower minimum tax than small businesses relative to their sales.
Oregon’s tax system should be structured so that small businesses and individuals aren’t carrying the entire tax burden because large corporation are getting off the hook. And yet, the model we have now lets the biggest corporations continue to avoid paying their fair share.