Bad Faith Negotiating in Oregon’s Alcohol Debates
Proponents of increasing the State of Oregon’s alcohol taxes in a comically excessive way are becoming more creative and more faithless in their arguments for increasing the state taxes in an effort to fight alcohol dependency.
As a reminder, earlier in the year Oregon State Representatives Tawna Sanchez sponsored House Bill 3296. If passed, the bill would have increased the excise taxes on beer and cider in Oregon from $2.60 per barrel (31 gallons) to $72.60 per barrel. The increase in the wine excise tax in Oregon would go from $0.65 per gallon to $10.65 per gallon. Moreover, the tax would increase each year based on the change in the consumer price index.
The proposal was dismissed out of hand for being an absurdly excessive increase in the alcohol tax. No one argued that Oregon could not do more to address alcohol dependency. They simply argued that proposals to do so ought not roll into town in clown cars.
Now, proponents of taxing the Oregon alcohol industry and the state’s drinkers have evolved their approach to passing legislation that would create a commission to examine the question of tax increases. Fine. Not a bad idea. But here is the bad idea:
Se-ah-dom Edmo—co-chair of Oregon Recovers and Eddy Morales—Gresham city councilor, are arguing that the current tax rates on alcohol in the state contribute to systemic racism. This terrible bad faith argument goes like this:
Oregon’s alcohol tax policy, which favors the profits of an overwhelmingly white-owned industry over the painful consequences borne disproportionately by communities of color, sustains and promotes systemic racism and must be changed. Our sky-high untreated alcohol addiction rates – 5th in the nation – and near last-in-the-country access to treatment services contribute to an overrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, tribal and other people of color in our prisons, foster homes and homeless encampments.
That communities of color are disproportionately impacted by alcohol addiction is not a function of racism or policies that support systemic racism, but rather a function of socio-economic issues. Alcohol dependency disproportionately impacts lower-income communities, which disproportionately includes communities of color. Why communities of color are disproportionately lower-income is an important question. But whatever the reasons they have nothing to do with the state’s alcohol tax.
The giveaway that this argument is made in bad faith is can be found in this sentence: “Oregon’s alcohol tax policy, which favors the profits of an overwhelmingly white-owned industry over the painful consequences borne disproportionately by communities of color…”
The implicit suggestion here is that the alcohol tax in Oregon is what it is because the alcohol industry is made up of a majority of white people and that if it were made up of a majority of people of color the taxes would be higher and presumably more just. The proponents of this argument know this isn’t true and they know their argument is deceptive. Yet they make the case anyway.
This kind of bad faith argument is deceptive in the extreme, supported by nothing but unsupported contention, and attempts to induce guilt in those who would oppose comically excessive tax increases. The people of Oregon and the Oregon wine industry should not just reject this form of coercion, but also insist that those who promote it don’t get anywhere near the coming negotiations over alcohol tax policy in the state for the simple reason that they can’t be trusted to negotiate in good faith.