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economic justice | health | social services oregon elections 2004

Democratic state legislators betrayed Oregon Health Plan clients

They screwed us, so let's screw them.
Senate Democratic majority leader Kate Brown promised, at a public meeting in Portland last year, that she would vote against any cuts to the Oregon Health Plan. Then she, and the other Democratic state legislators, voted for a plan that cut OHP.

Here's some recent history.

In 2002 the state legislature passed a tax increase and referred it to the voters, who rejected it in January 2003. That was Measure 28.

In 2003 Democrat and "moderate" Republican state legislators got together and passed a plan to increase taxes to avoid cuts in education, human services -- including the Oregon Health Plan -- and public safety. They did not refer it to the voters this time, but they had to know that conservatives would gather petition signatures and refer it to the voters, and that it would fail. Which Measure 30 did this month. How could they not know, after what happened to Measure 28?

Part of the deal was a list of automatic budget cuts in education, human services and public safety that would happen if the tax plan was referred to the voters and failed. Now these cuts are happening. One of the cuts will abolish the Oregon Health Plan "standard" program for low income adults. The Oregon Health Plan is an expanded version of the federal-state Medicaid program. As of August 1st the expanded part is dead, and OHP will revert to just plain Medicaid, whether they change the name or not. It will only cover federally mandated people -- disabled, blind, elderly, welfare -- and the rest of us are left with no medical insurance. OHP is dead.

The Democrats agreed to the automatic cuts if the tax increase went down, knowing it would. They ran a game on us where they presented themselves as the saviors of human services while setting us up for the cuts. The Republicans, who have been wanting to destroy the Oregon Health Plan for years, won, and the Democratic legislators helped them do it. But the Democrats can act innocent and say no, we didn't do it, the voters did it.

What should they have done instead? They should have refused to pass any plan -- they had the votes -- that would cut human services necessary for survival. They should have given those services priority over everything else. The only deal they should have made was to fully fund essential human services needed to keep people alive out of available revenue, make all the automatic cuts in education and public safety, and dedicate the tax increase to prevent those cuts. That way if the tax increase went down essential human services wouldn't be cut. Democratic legislators should have made survival their highest priority.

Yes that might have meant no deal with the Republicans and brought state government to a screeching halt for a while. I would have much preferred that to having no medical insurance. The Democrats were not willing to draw the line and defend us. Instead they made a deal. They agreed to kill people. I'm not voting for any more Democrats. They pretend to be our friends and then they betray us. So I'll use my vote any way I can to hurt them.

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standard left-wing infighting -- please grow up? 22.Feb.2004 10:13


Why do self-styled "progressives" respond to displays of political reality by tearing into those who are closest to them politically, rather than the real enemy: the capitalists and their republican lapdogs? Is it lack of self-confidence? Political manipulation? A provincial inability to see beyond one's own nose?

I am tired -- beyond tired -- of people whose approach to politics is to attack friends rather than seek common ground, build coalition, and create change. Kate Brown is a solid ally of progressive Oregon, and a skilled politician. We're far more lucky to have her in office than to have the author of this post firing potshots from the safe seats.

Strategist 22.Feb.2004 13:21

George Bender

I noticed you didn't deal with any of my arguments. Is this because you're incapable of critical thinking? I am "beyond tired" of people who can't think for themselves and blindly follow the leader. Democrats are not our friends.

Safe seats 22.Feb.2004 13:26

George Bender

Oh by the way, I'm not "firing potshots from the safe seats." I'm one of those on the Oregon Health Plan who won't have any medical insurance as of Aug. 1. It's the middle-class liberals like Kate Brown who have the safe seats, and don't understand what all the fuss is about. They still have their medical insurance.

You can listen to us or you can lose close elections. At this point either one is okay with me.

George 22.Feb.2004 14:31


Thanks for your reply I found it helpful in understanding your position.
I am not sure that shutting down the State government would have helped. It seems like when that happens the right wing wins big time. What is your strategy for regaining the programs we need? I am not in danger at this moment of losing my helath coverage but I have several children/ family members without coverage and I work with the homeless community so I do have some understanding of what is at stake. I also work with a community organizing group and have conversed with people like Kate Brown, who I like, and Kevin Mannix who find it hard to respect.
It does seem to me that the Democrats or any alternative to the right, has few options; either make a deal and hope it works and take the flack if it doesn't or shut down government and take the flack for being uncoperative.
Where do we go from here?

Mom 22.Feb.2004 15:23

George Bender

Thank you for trying to deal with what I'm saying instead of just defending Democrats.

Bill Clinton is definitely not one of my heroes, quite the opposite, but I will give him credit for being willing to shut down the federal government, briefly, to prevent the passage of a budget bill with Republican sponsored antienvironmental riders. Faced with the Clinton veto the Republicans backed down, and the voters blamed them, not Clinton, for the shutdown. I think the same thing would have happened on the state level. In any case, it's a matter of principle. If Democratic legislators are not willing to take drastic steps to keep people alive, when would they take a stand? I suspect never.

And we can't let them get away with it. We should have Green opponents for Democratic state legislators in the next election. They need competition to keep them honest.

As for Kate Brown, I'm not surprised that you like her. She is very good at presenting herself to an audience and saying all the right things. But she lied to us. The other Democratic legislators do the same thing. So did Clinton. Every now and then he would uncork the liberal rhetoric, but he almost never followed through. The main stock in trade of any politician is telling you what you want to hear. Most people pay very little attention to what their legislators actually do. This is especially true on the state level. Until it started hitting painfully close to home, I didn't pay much attention to the state legislature.

When the state legislature passed Measure 28 in 2002, they also created a list of automatic budget cuts if it failed. After it failed, it was the Republicans who were saying we have got to reexamine these automatic cuts, and the Democrats who were saying no, we warned the voters what would happen, and now we just need to move on. Now it's Kate Brown saying the legislature should not have a special session to reexamine the Measure 30 automatic cuts, because that would just "open up a can of worms." What's wrong with this picture?

Brown and the others will not take responsibility for what they've done. They pushed the decision off on the voters, who are incapable of understanding anything that complicated. After the failure of Measure 28, Democratic legislators had to know what would happen to the tax increase package that became Measure 30. They had to know that the automatic tax cuts they voted for would actually happen. And people will actually die.

George 22.Feb.2004 17:23


Okay, what you say makes some sense but leaves me in a quandry about what to do next. The truth is we don't run Green candidates. But if we did, and they won, how do you think that would divide up the legislature? Would there be 1/2 Repubs and say 1/4 Greens and 1/4 Dems? Or do you think the vast bulk of people would begin to vote? Honestly, i think one of the main problems today is that most people simply do not vote at all. They take no active part in political life whether local or national. And then there are candidates like Nadar who say the right things --- but who have never be in the kind of positions where they actually have to test their ability to put things in place and negotiate with other elected leaders. The reason I back Kucinich is because he says the right things --- even if his political life is not 100% consistent, (maybe that says he is open to change) --- and he has been in elected politics so he has an idea how to implement what he says--- whether he could is another matter. There are too many egos in congress.
PS How do we go about getting back the programs we need in this state?

Mom 22.Feb.2004 23:29

George Bender

Probably the best short-term hope of getting our programs back is testifying at the hearings that are happening around the state on tax reform. I've been told that 52 cents out of every state income tax dollar goes to credits. So we could get a lot more money if we abolished some of those credits. Business credits should be politically vulnerable because they don't help most of the voters. Go to the hearings and apply some pressure. See  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/02/280930.shtml for the hearings schedule. See  http://www.fororegon.org/ to learn more about the Oregon tax system.

But I think it's also essential to run Green or independent candidates against incumbant Democratic state legislators. According to figures I've seen, Democratic legislators from Portland have safe districts. They should not. If they're safe they can do anything they want to, once they get elected, and answer to no one. Most political leaders only do the right thing when they're scared. So let's give them some opposition and make them nervous. Take some votes away from them and try to force them to the left. To me that's what the Nader campaign is about. We need to do the same thing on the state level.

And we should be totally unapologetic about it. I'm tired of hearing that you're bad if you make someone lose an election. Part of the game. And it's the only power we have. We can't win, most of the time, but we can make someone lose if the election is close. If we run our own candidates.

George 23.Feb.2004 00:47


Tell me why you don't feel that voting for Kucinich in the primary does the same kind of pressuring on the Democratic party. I have been encouraging left leaning demos to vote for Kucinich to prod the party to the left. Don't you think a strong Kucinich showing here in Oregon would send a message not only to the national people but to the locals as well? WOuldn't it be a stronger message than a Nadar vote since he picks up voters who are not registered Democrats?

Mom 23.Feb.2004 16:55


If I were a Democrat I would vote for Kucinich in the primary just to send a message. Unfortunately, to date, it has been a very small message. In fact the message being sent to the Democratic party by the small number of primary votes for Kucincih is that they can safely ignore him. So no pressure is being applied.

If you can change that more power to you, but so far it seems like even the Democratic party activists have ignored Kucinich. They choose to give their money to Dean instead, making him an instant frontrunner. Also, Kucinich just doesn't seem to be very good at grabbing the public's attention. Too bad.

Kucinich is not a threat to the Democratic establishment because he will not go outside the party and run in the general election. Nader is a threat because he will, if he can get on the ballot. Nader threatens to take votes away from Kerry and make Bush the winner. This threat is the only power we have so I feel we should use it. Also I'm just not willing to vote for someone who has voted the way Kerry has. Bill Clinton redux.

Kate Brown an ally? 24.Feb.2004 08:44

Elaine Close

Kate Brown is no "ally of progressive Oregon". If she cares about OHP and other life saving services, why did she vote to give $200 million of the state's tobacco settlement to OHSU's Oregon Opportunity Plan(SB832)? This money was given to the state to compensate for tobacco related health care costs. Saving OHP with it would have been a logical choice. Our "ally" Brown instead chose to vote for corporate welfare. We had already voted againt this use of the tobacco settlement money. She didn't care. At a town hall meeting after the passage of SB832, Brown claimed she knew nothing about it even though she cosponsored the bill.



Yes and No 17.Apr.2004 13:37

Jayd rudeawakening88@hotmail.com

I agree that the Democratic party in Oregon has no back bone and no real policy under their belts except to be opposed to the Republicans. I also agree that most politicians are money/power grubbing individuals who show no aparant concern for their constituents. I don't think, however, we should vote only to hurt our state legeslature. Why not start by voting for someone you like who will effect the kind of change Oregon despritely needs. Or even better, pick someone you respect and back their campaign. While our legeslators are cutting funding to children's education and general health care we could be working toward our own resolution instead of fighting the man all the time. Wake up folks and get an opinion, this decade is for real.