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Occupy Bend News

The Nike Tax Swindle

post by: Ray Duray  December 13, 2012

Tomorrow, the Nike Corporation seeks to bend the State of Oregon to the will of Phil Knight. This obscenity should be resisted. Here's the view of one clear-eyed activist:

Comments invited at:

A good deal for Nike, but not for Oregon

By Oregonian Guest Columnist

December 13, 2012
By Michael Munk

It is the genius of the 1 percent that its control of our politicians even when exercised brutally in the light of day can appear to Oregonians as just part of the natural order of things. Democratic state Sen. Ginny Burdick of Portland and Republican House Co-speaker Bruce Hanna of Roseburg quickly joined hands with the state's major media to celebrate it with knee-jerk enthusiasm and demand that it be immediately translated into law.

My rant is occasioned by Gov. John Kitzhaber's call for a Friday emergency session of the Legislature to pass just one piece of business: another tax break guarantee to Phil Knight's Beaverton behemoth, Nike.

What could have persuaded our normally placid governor to take such dramatic action? Well, it turns out that not much more than a month ago, Knight or his emissary confided to Kitzhaber that "other [anonymous] states were courting" his company to attract a projected "expansion."

This private chat panicked the governor: What if Knight played to the race to the bottom for tax breaks and other subsidies and located his "expansion" to a desperate no-tax, low-wage, right-to-work state? And even if he stayed in his (already taxpayer-subsidized) Washington County headquarters, "the long-term prospect of a full relocation was a legitimate worry," as a Dec. 11 editorial in The Oregonian put it.

So what did the company The Oregonian described as having "its foot halfway out the door" demand as the price for keeping it there? In return for investing $150 million and creating 500 jobs over five years -- a modest "expansion" indeed for a company that employs 44,000 worldwide -- Kitzhaber and the suddenly bipartisan Legislature will pass the "Nike corporate welfare law" on Friday. It simply guarantees that Nike will be protected from taxes on its property or payroll or its worldwide sales and remain burdened only by Oregon's corporate-friendly, 6-year-old single sales factor, which counts only its Oregon sales. And the governor will guarantee not to fiddle with it for several years.

This pathetic spectacle arrives right after a lengthy investigation by The New York Times, "As companies seek tax deals, governments pay high price," revealed how the 1 percent plays state and local governments against each in a disgraceful race to the bottom -- all at the expense of taxpayers who lack the clout of the Nikes of this world. The investigation found that rarely if ever are the promised investments and employment achieved, and the flighty companies often find another welcome mat in another state after their breaks expire.

The governor's deal is also particularly cynical when at a time of declining public services desperate politicians are dragging a regressive sales tax out of mothballs and The Oregonian's fact checker finds "mostly true" a statement that Oregon's existing tax breaks exceed tax collections.

The Oregonian is wrong when it predicts that only "cynics" will call the deal "an outright mugging by Nike," but that's only because the few of us who are calling out such a cynical gift from Oregonians to Knight aren't cynics, just realists not yet bamboozled by the genius of the 1 percent.

Michael Munk is a retired political scientist and author of "The Portland Red Guide" (second edition).

Visit my website

tags: nike, phil knight, 1%, banana republic | permalink

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About Occupy Bend

Welcome to OCCUPY BEND Community, a hub for all of the events springing up in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. The news of Occupy events on facebook, twitter and live feeds across the globe inspired us to take local action and to build a site that would help spread the word and organize the movement here in Central Oregon.

This is a place to share information about events that are being organized, in progress, and building. Together, we, the 99%, will take action to overcome the greed and corruption of the 1%. We must return the power of democracy to the people and away from corporate interests. We will make a difference starting in our community.

Our strength is in our solidarity and also in our diversity. Please join us. Share your knowledge, opinions and experiences to guide this local movement so we can shape the best possible future together.

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