Editorials React to Defeat of Oregon Tobacco Tax Hike
Two editorials on Thursday addressed the defeat of an Oregon ballot measure that would have increased the state's cigarette tax by 84.5 cents per pack to fund health coverage for children in families with incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level. Summaries of the editorials appear below.
- New York Times: The defeat of the Oregon children's health measure "is a testament ... to the shamelessness of the nation's big tobacco companies," which "spent an obscene amount of money on deceptive television ads designed to protect their profits, even at the expense of poor children," according to a Times editorial. Tobacco companies "did not win by disputing the urgent health care needs the initiative was meant to address or the benefits higher cigarette taxes would bring by deterring smoking," the editorial continues. Instead, they "sought to hide behind a benign-sounding front group called Oregonians Against the Blank Check" and encouraged "doubts that the funds raised would actually be used for children's health care," the Times writes. According to the Times, "The referendum said a lot about the power of money in any election and not much about what the public thinks about the issue if given accurate and balanced information." The editorial concludes, "The vote should neither deter Congressional Democrats from continuing to confront President Bush on expanding children's health care under the [State Children's Health Insurance Program] nor discourage other states from trying to do more to take care of the health of their children" (New York Times, 11/8).
- Wall Street Journal: "Oregon reproduced the current SCHIP fracas in [Washington, D.C.,] on the state level," and the "referendum took a major shellacking" from voters, the Journal writes in an editorial. "There are political lessons here, in case anyone in Washington is paying attention," the editorial states, adding, "Voters are rightly concerned about health care and would like everyone to have insurance, but they realize that government programs are very expensive," and they "don't seem to want to pay for health care reforms directly through higher taxes." This sentiment "accounts for the reliance by politicians on the easier sell of tobacco taxes, and it also explains why Congress has disguised the real cost of its SCHIP contraption with a $30 billion budget gimmick," according to the editorial. It concludes, "most of the national press corps has already assumed 'universal' coverage will both carry [Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.)] to the White House and march easily into law," but the "message from the Oregon trail is -- not so fast, especially if her Republican opponent advances a credible free-market alternative" (Wall Street Journal, 11/8).