SB 1: Voluntary Race Data

It’s silly season in Salem, and I’m playing my own version of Groundhog Day, sort of a legislative groundhog day. I pull the first proverbial card from the deck, SB 1, and see if the bill is reasonable. If it’s not, I move down the deck to see how many senate bills I have to read before I find something reasonable.

Like Groundhog Day, I doubt the ritual event actually predicts anything. I don’t even know what a high number or a low number portends. It’s just a game I play.

I got an unusual result this year. I found a reasonable SB 1.

This year, the first bill in the Oregon Senate’s billfold is the creation of a voluntary option for tax filers to report their race. That’s not bad.

I’m not a big fan of excessive focus on race. I liked the liberalism of the Civil Rights Movement, which sought to get beyond race policies. I’m concerned that progressive racial policy is illiberal and indeed, simply racist.

Yet, I also like data-driven policy. Generally speaking, the more data available about social issues the better.

Adding a race data point to tax data could unleash insightful research on the relationship between race and financial outcomes. Tax records are easily matched with other records from education to incarceration. Neither extremely conservative nor extremely progressive views on race tend to fare well under empirical scrutiny. So let’s start collecting that data.

Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is the author of We were winning when I was there.