Oregon Freedom Pilot Program is the dumbest thing I've seen proposed
Why does the media keep missing simple objections to bad policy?
Before the article I feel like I should write some sort of apology for not updating my Substack in a full year. In truth, I’ve put zero effort into building a subscriber base - so if you’re reading this I doubt you’ve been eagerly expecting my updates. Anyways, I’ll continue to update this when I feel like it, when I have time (which, I have a lot of other commitments), and I’ll probably stick to only writing about topics too taboo for the local media to be willing to publish. For example, I’ve been kicking around writing a piece about how insanely anti-science Portland has always been (e.g., banning WiFi in schools, being anti-GMO, anti-5G, etc) and how ironic all of this is now that urban liberals think they monopolize The Science since Biden took over. Like LOL @ those dolts with a “In this house, we believe” yard signs, because while “Science Is Real” when it comes to Climate Change and COVID vaccines, I 100% know you’ll sign my petition for GMO labeling, because you think GMO’s are fundamentally dangerous, Monsanto is evil, with education and individual choice being so important — but Pfizer’s sanctification is blessed by The Holy Prophet Fauci himself, through the Deity of The Science. It’s a common belief today that only the “bad people” don’t use science — when in reality, Portland Liberals are just backward luddites like bible thumpers in any town in Red State America. But, writing 3,000+ word articles like that is daunting, it’s just my style to provide too much detail, and I have a lot of other professional and volunteer commitments.
Today one absolutely ridiculous and dangerous proposal came across my purview: the Oregon Freedom Pilot Program and the media reporting on it is just awful:
Even a brain-dead I, Anonymous in Portland’s shitrag The Merc that was almost certainly written by one of the staffers of Brad Witt.
Simple policy idea: people coming out of Foster Care will get a $750 per month stipend, funded by luxury purchases from the wealthy. Wow, the perfect liberal dream, almost cooked up by Bernie Sanders or AOC - “tax the rich, bro!”
They’re all missing the most centrally important criticism: this simply doesn’t work financially. I actually support the fundamental idea (which could be polished and more narrow in scope), but this implementation is laughably stupid, like building your house on sand.
How has our media become so incompetent that they can’t see this clear flaw from miles away, and laugh it out of existence?
Simply put, this policy guarantees certain people $750 a month, but only brings in money on occasional and unpredictable luxury purchases. You can’t tie a consistent expenditure to inconsistent and volatile revenue.
That alone should end this conversation.
Simple example: stock market does poorly, so people cut off luxury spending. Then what happens?
Do we keep paying $750 per month to these people who depend upon this income, even if we hit budget shortfalls? Because obviously this tax will need to increase to hit financial shortfalls, but as the tax increases there will be less incentive to buy the luxury goods that fund this program. Buried deep in this policy is a note that this Luxury Tax won’t impact out of state buyers! Only Oregon residences pay this. So, that lucrative opportunity to git dat monee from wealthy Californians and Washington residents that come here to buy a luxury car? Nope, no revenue. And while this proposal is only offering a moderate sales tax at launch, over time this tax is going to increase and make Oregonians consider if they should cross state lines for a Luxury purchase.
Just really think about how fucked up this: we’re offering the most disadvantaged people money, money they’ll certainly appreciate and come to depend upon, without it being guaranteed in the future. We’ll have to go back to the most vulnerable people in the State and basically say, “Hey, about that $750, we’re likely not doing that anymore, stock market crashed and luxury yacht sales are down, so adjust your lifestyle now.”
A program like this needs to be tied to something more inelastic - a consistent revenue stream - for example, a property tax on owning property that you do not rent and is not your primary residence, i.e., a reoccurring tax on vacation homes. Or, how about a property tax on homes larger than 10,000 square feet? There’s ways to tax the rich that aren’t terrible self-defeating ideas.
There’s a lot of stupid people in Oregon Legislature, but Brad Witt is really taking a lead on being one of the dumbest. Outside of the financial irresponsibility, here’s the other blisteringly stupid components that come to mind:
Oregonians hate sales taxes, so this is a non-starter dumpster fire from the get-go that will simply fuel a lot of angry rhetoric if it ever goes anywhere out of committee. To even propose Luxury Goods as the backdoor to sneak in a Sales Tax is such a dumb idea when there’s a half dozen existing revenue streams you could tie this program to.
How in the fuck could Brad Witt really come up with $750 as the right amount to pay out to people? That’s an entirely arbitrary number that is functionally meaningless in a place like Portland, but life changing to a person living in Medford or Burns, why would this be a consistent amount across the State when cost of living is wildly inconsistent? Was this amount even tied to anything, was there a study suggesting $750 was a good number, or just a random shot in the dark? None of the media asked that question.
Who came up with this list of “luxury” items? It’s cars, ATVs, snowmobiles, boats, aircraft, firearms, electronics, purses, clothes, and jewelry. On the surface this is missing the most iconic luxury item in history: ART. But also, firearms, electronics, and high fashion are not actually hobbies of wealthy people, but middle-class people imitating wealthy - this is why Louis Vuitton has outlets in major malls. Rich folks don’t give a fuck about $5,000 purses you buy at The Mall, you get yourself a hand-made purse from a boutique storefront whose likely so small they won’t know this tax exists. If we really wanted to go after the ultra-affluent, this is one of the stupidest ways possible, and the majority of this revenue will simply come from middle class moms and dads in Bethany, Happy Valley, and Lake Oswego that wanted a nice watch or necklace.
The vehicle sales tax is literally useless to provide the “benevolent” cause of helping people exit foster care - so, why is it included in this? Section 13.2.A notes that taxes on automobiles must be sent State Highway Fund, so why impose a luxury tax here, when it’s literally a backdoor sales tax just on high end cars?
Adding a tax of Firearms is just guaranteeing that Second Amendment advocates are going to take this up with the courts, another large waste of public money, especially when super-high end firearm sales are rare - if Witt did a basic cost-benefit-analysis he’d weigh total income brought in from ultra-luxury firearm sales (which is incredibly rare) compared to the inevitable cost of Oregon court cases challenging this policy on second amendment grounds.
This whole policy seems like another half-baked “Let’s take a good idea that politicians in California got good press for.”
This idea won’t go anywhere, but it’s a great icon for stupid ideas by dipshit Legislators.
Brad Witt is also the same gross dude who made unprofessional quid pro quo sexual harassment remarks to a Republican house member - but because he sexually harassed a Republican don’t expect the media or politicians to give him the Hernandez treatment. Ughh, I gotta write an update to that whole story at some point too. I guess my update to that article is: shit got way more fucked, ok?