Democracy is a remarkable organism. It is easily corrupted but tends to be self-healing over time.
In the Sixties we witnessed Pres. Lyndon Johnson manipulate the military intelligence and a compliant Congress to engage in a war commenced sub rosa by his predecessor Pres. John Kennedy. Johnson had no intention of winning but did not want to shoulder the blame for losing; choosing instead to sacrifice tens of thousands of my generation’s young men in pointless combat. A nascent anti-war movement drew popular support and finally forced Johnson successor, Pres. Richard Nixon, to withdraw.
Nixon manipulated the domestic intelligence services and the entire White House hierarchy in an attempt to corrupt the electoral process and insure retention of power. A free press exposed that corruption and a reluctant Congress, emboldened by popular support, did its duty and impeached Nixon. (For those of you who may have forgotten how truly evil and manipulative Nixon was, I invite you to watch former president Charles Logan in the two most recent episodes of Fox’s award winning series “24.”)
President Jimmy Carter introduced the naivete of modern day liberalism to our economy and our foreign policy. The result was double digit “stagflation” and international indecisiveness so acute that a bunch of lunatic ayatollahs and a student mob held the nation hostage for four hundred forty-four days. The disgust with the Carter administration was so palpable that he was turned out of office in an electoral landslide.
Today, runaway spending and growth in government, begun under Pres. George Bush and accelerated under Pres. Barack Obama, have driven the nation to near bankruptcy. It is here that the Democrat super-majority in the Congress emboldened by a neophyte and equally undisciplined president has exposed one of the greatest weaknesses of a democracy. Alex de Touqueville noted:
“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”
De Touqueville also worried that the “tyranny of a majority” could vote itself a benefit at the expense of the minority.
And those who would corrupt the democratic organism play upon that inherent weakness routinely. Nobody is better at corrupting any process than the public employee unions. That is precisely what happened in Oregon during the recent ratification of the tax increases in Measure 66 and 67. The tax increases were drawn such that the majority of voters would not have to pay them. The campaign for support focused on the “class envy” theme — the rich should pay more to sustain our benefits. From stem to stern, Measures 66 and 67 were designed to exercise the “tyranny of the majority” at the expense the minority.
Oregon’s political scene remains dominated by the pubic employee unions who fund the campaigns of the Democrat party as well as the campaigns for Measures 66 and 67. The cynicism of their campaign was to craft and support a campaign that they knew full well would not effect their members. Their communications emphasized that point.
But even at that, those Oregonians residing outside the bastion of extreme liberalism — Portland and Multnomah County — rejected this corruption of the democratic process. Measures 66 and 67 failed on a statewide basis until Multnomah County delivered an overwhelming seventy-two percent majority in favor of the measures and effectively cancelled out the rejection statewide.
There is a stark contrast in an election soon to be held in Arizona where the pubic employee unions exercise a lot of hand wringing and little influence. Arizona will soon vote on a tax increase. But there a marked difference in both the process leading up to the election as well as in the nature of the tax increase itself.
1. In Arizona the tax increase was crafted by a Republican majority after imposing the fiscal discipline described in the following and without the burden of catering to a constituency that provides the majority of its campaign financing. In Oregon the tax increase was engineered by a Democrat majority and crafted in large part by its financial arm — Oregon’s public employee unions who are the chief beneficiaries of the increase.
2. The tax increase is temporary in Arizona. It is permanent in Oregon.
3. Over $1 Billion has been cut from the current Arizona state budget and nearly $2.5 billion in budget cuts are proposed for the next fiscal year. There were no budget reductions in Oregon — in fact Oregon spending increased unabated.
4. There have been significant reductions in the numbers of Arizona public employees at all levels of government as well as wage reductions for others. Oregon has continued to increase the number of public employees at the state level and salary increases, step increases and benefit increases remain unabated.
5. The tax increase proposed in Arizona is an increase in the sales tax. Every person voting on the tax increase, including all of the public employees, will be effected by and pay their fair share of such a tax increase. Oregon’s tax increase was a tax on income and designed to exclude virtually all public employees and a majority of Oregon’s voters.
One might suggest that the tea party movement is the self-correcting mechanism on a national level. The self-correcting mechanism for corruption of the democratic organism in Oregon is yet to be seen. Intuition suggests that it will come in the form of economic expansion and job creation — or in Oregon’s case, the lack thereof. While Arizona’s economy has begun to expand and over 20,000 jobs have been created since the first of the year, Oregon’s remains moribund and job losses continue.
How Oregon reacts is up to you.