About Me

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I am William S. U'ren and I am dead. I was once a big noise in Oregon politics, an activist back in the days when Republicans were called progressive and there was an actual Populist Party. The history books say I am largely responsible for things like the initiative, referendum and recall here, as well as the direct election of US Senators. I ran for governor, once, when William Howard Taft was the Republican president, and I lost. Then I retired from politics and, thirty years later, I died. And almost everything I accomplished has been turned on its head and against the very people it was meant to help. Enough is Enough in Oregon!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

More Class Warfare from "Just to the Right of Center"--Whatever did you expect?

New face--same old class warfare, but it's a less extreme class warfare, no longer coming from the hard right but from "Just to the Right of Center."

Well, that's a relief.

Ms. Elizabeth Hovde says the Oregon legislature blew it by not lowering the minimum wage in this session.

As a spokesperson for those Just to the Right of Center, those who used to call themselves Conservatives and/or Libertarians, Ms. Hovde wants to "tweak" the minimum wage law that was passed by the people through an initiative vote.

Typically, not letting the hob-goblin of consistency get in their way, this comes from people with a history of rising up in outrage when anyone suggests "tampering with the will of the people" by "tweaking" any of the cock-eyed tax or prison "reforms" that Conservatives have used to undermine the infrastructure upon which Oregon's middle class once rested.

But, hey, to change "the will of the voters" about the minimum wage--well, that's no big deal to the very people who not so long ago could preach, with the straightest of faces, the benefits of "local control" here in Oregon while, at the same time, passing laws prohibiting such control by school districts that wanted to keep military recruiters off campuses or by cities and counties that wanted to pass gay rights ordinances.

I digress.

Ms Hovde's commentary "justifies" lowering the minimum wage with a commonly used rhetorical device--a string of allegedly ironic "never mind" statements.

All of these she trots out are actually "so what?" statements in that they are either prove nothing or are based on the reality-denying fantasies of the Just to the Right of Center/Conservative oracle--the School of Religious and Economic Faith at the University of Chicago. You would do well, therefore, to do as she says--never mind what she says.

She begins with "never mind" that Oregon has the second highest unemployment rate in the country.

No one has ever shown me a study of sound methodology that demonstrated any substantial link between minimum wage and the availability of jobs. You will have as many jobs as there is business going on to need them, generally speaking. Her statement that a high minimum wage stifles employment is a warmed over Libertarian myth that they prove by saying it's "just common sense." (Ever notice how what people say is common sense has more commonality than it does, upon reflection, sense?) This is repeated and repeated notwithstanding the inability to show convincingly (just read the studies they've ginned up to "prove" it) any such connection in the real world. If you want to see Libertarianism in action, by the way, visit Somalia today. There's a place where you don't have to worry about "men with guns" showing up if you don't do what those in charge want.

I digress, again.

This connection between the minimum wage and the availability of work is very like that argument you bought a while back in passing property tax "relief." Remember? Based on the ideological fantasies of the those now locating themselves Just to the Right of Center you were told that lowering property taxes on businesses would lead to lower rents and prices in stores. That's because, they told you, it was just common sense. In a free market if the cost of doing business goes down the imperative of competition forces sellers to lower their prices. Since property taxes are a cost of doing business if they are cut so are prices. The iron and hidden hand of the free market would force rents and prices down.

Makes sense, doesn't it?

You do remember them saying this to convince you to pass property tax "relief," don't you?

Still waiting for those lower rents and prices, are you?

I digress, once more.

"Never mind," Ms. Hovde continues, that Oregon's minimum wage is higher than the national minimum wage.

Again, never mind this statement because it is even less sincere than it is persuasive.

I wonder if Ms. Hovde, upon seeing the federal government jump off of the capitol dome, would think it a good idea for Oregon state government to do the same. I wonder, too, what other federal standards she and the Conservatives and Libertarians standing "just to the right of center" with her here in Oregon think we should adopt because they are federal standards.

Those now styling themselves as being "just to the right of center" often argue, in regard to Roe v. Wade, that the United Sates is a federal republic in which things should be worked out in the laboratory of the states, as the people there see best for them.

Well, here in Oregon our current minimum wage is an example of that very principle at work. Is Ms, Hovde, on behalf of those Just to the Right of Center saying that the people of Oregon--you--aren't smart enough to govern yourself as you see fit? In passing the minimum wage law does Ms. Hovde think you were too stupid to know what was good for you? Do you, the voters of Oregon, need some "smarter" entity (see below) to set the minimum wage at an "appropriate" level?

Ms. Hovde skips on to say that you should "never mind" that one in six people in Oregon receive food stamps but here she's wrong--you should mind this fact, although not because it has anything to do with the minimum wage. The sad fact of one in six Oregonians being on food stamps should be firmly laid at the feet of the class war waged on you from Just to the Right of Center.

Would people making a minimum wage that was lowered to a level "appropriate for the economic conditions" (to be determined, apparently, by those Just to the Right of Center) be earning enough to ineligible for food stamps?

Is she gunning for two in six people in Oregon getting food stamps?

She returns to being correct, however, when she says you should "never mind that Oregon would need 1,200 to 2,000 new jobs a month to stay even with population growth" because there is no hope that cutting the minimum wage will increase the number of jobs.

Think about this: employers wouldn't "invest" the money from cutting wages in hiring new people because they would have to pay for the book keeping and the tax contributions and unemployment insurance and all the rest of the overhead involved in having workers. More employees, with the same revenue, would lower the bottom line.

So, Ms. Hovde's advice to "never mind" anything she said is, pretty much, good advice. It's all irrelevant to the minimum wage and proves nothing.

Does she just want to distract you into continued sacrifice to those tired and once more discredited economic idols so you heed the guidance of their priests--you know, the people like her and good old David (what was his last name?) who stomped off the editorial page once there were fewer people on his side of the Red Rover game than on the other.

Or is she so taken with her faith in her savior--the hidden hand--that she really thinks that there is such a thing as a free market, one that is beyond the manipulation of human beings, especially human beings with a lot of money?

It doesn't matter which, of course. If you were in the middle class, or aspired to be there, the people now presenting themselves as being from Just to the Right of Center have knocked the snot out of you for 30 years. And if you listen to her they will keep right on doing that.

You made some real progress between the Great Depression and President Reagan, but that's gone, dismantled and sold for scrap by so called Liberals as well as the Conservatives--those Just to the Right of Center--all of whom rely on the campaign contributions of those who, perched on piles of money, can hire/bribe politicians to set things up to make their piles larger. And you know where the money comes from to increase the size of their piles. But that's another post. One you've read, from me, several times, now.

Just as in my day, these people--whatever they call themselves in the moment--have handed you this stuff for years. Now they have been in charge of economy for the last eight years, after chipping away at the safeguards built into it for twenty years before that. All the time talking about tax cuts bringing prosperity and unleashing the power of capitalism.

How has that worked out for you?

If they are right why are you so worried about the future they have created for you?

In the end you will have to crawl out your window, away from the control of the Just to the Right of Center Libertarian Conservative types, if you are going to set things right in Oregon, set things right for you and for your children.

Trust me, I know this is hard.

But remember, this aint beanbag. This is class warfare Ms. Hovde is waging on you, from Just to the Right of Center, as it's been waged on you for years. And you are losing.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Pair to Draw To

We are going to have HB 2005 and people on both sides are, as usual, deceiving you.

And you need a dead guy to see through this...

One of them, Senator Ted Ferrioli, says it will undermine your wonderful initiative system and the other, Secretary of State Kate Brown, wants you to think it is a significant step toward fixing it. Neither is truthful.

Look, all this new law addresses is signature collection and how ballot titles are selected.

If you think this is big onions you need to look for perspective in someone else's garden.

This bill touches none of the real problems that the initiative causes you. For example, once this bill becomes law:

1. Unfunded mandates benefiting single interest groups will continue to undermine the budget process, changing the spending priorities worked out among the competing interests in that process that your state constitution, like all state constitutions, is required to provide for you if it is to conform to the republican form of government clause of the US Constitution. (Did you ever actually read the Supreme Court cases that uphold the initiative process? I digress...)

2. Expensive, deceptive propaganda campaigns, based on simplistic slogans and the manipulation of symbols and emotions, will continue to limit the amount and quality of information available to voters, especially information about consequences unintended by advocates or contrary to the interest of voters.

3. Un-vetted provisions written by people not artful at drafting statutes will continue to be jammed into law, requiring extensive rewriting and even changing of laws that are already on the books.

4. The Oregon constitutional structure will continue to be distorted, not just by cluttering up that Christmas Tree document with measures that should be statutes but also by limiting the ability of the legislature to make or change policy and by promoting minority rule.

5. The initiative will continue to used to take apart the social and economic infrastructure upon which middle class well-being depends and the burden of paying for what government continues to do will continue to be shifted away from those who benefit the most from that and onto those who are disadvantaged by it.

Ignoring these, only some of the real problems the initiative causes you, both sides in the HB 2005 debate are putting on a show.

See Senator Ted Ferrioli? He speaks for those who have so effectively taken over the initiative to profit from using it to advance their anti-middle class agenda. If HB 2005 doesn't really do any harm to his team, why would he (and they) be so upset about it? Perhaps successfully addressing these meaningless problems will embolden those who might want to do something about the serious ones. Besides, such howling as he has been doing is part of the effort to keep you thinking that in having the initiative you have something valuable to you.

And then there is Secretary of State Kate Brown. Her dog in this fight are those in the middle class or upwardly mobile toward it. These are the people, like you, who have been victimized by the success of the Good Senator's team at hijacking the initiative. Through some mixture of nostalgia, ignorance and wishful thinking you continue believing that the initiative can be fixed so as to fulfill the vision my friends and I had when we implemented it all those years ago. Maybe Ms. Brown has as much hope in small steps as Senator Ferrioli has fear of them.

Well, good luck with that. If you are clinging to our dreams remember we supported the single tax, too. If you don't know what that was use Google.

As I have explained to you in previous posts, there is no way, given the way that money corrupts it, that the initiative system can ever be of use to anyone except Senator Ferrioli and those who run the poker game it's turned into--a game of Oregon Hold Em Down and Fleece Em at which you can never afford to buy a seat.

Is your brain as dead as I am?

The initiative needs to go.

Don't even try to mend it. Just end it.

And while you're at it, next time you think about the average kicker check, ask somebody who gets the ten biggest ones.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

number 41--and drowning

Wednesday June 10, 2009 and the Oregonian is reporting that a little boy died and his sister was saved by "good Samaritans" while the official emergency response--from Portland Fire and Rescue--took 30 minutes to lumber to the scene in the David Campbell, a boat built in 1927, and not built for the mission into which it was pressed that night. Part of the delay had to do with a slow speed of the craft--a quarter of the speed of a boat stationed on Hayden Island that responds to such incidents in that neck of the river--and part to do with the necessity to raise the Steel Bridge to let the big old boat through. Another boat--stationed with the Campbell but out of service for repairs--could have cut 7 minutes or so off the trip.

Now, understand, the Sheriff's Department has a separate rescue capability--with craft faster and a lower profile, not requiring the raising of a bridge between here and there and capable of making the trip at 39 MPH. But, because of "budget cuts" those faster, shorter boats are not on duty at the time of night these children hit the water.

Oregon ranks #41, according to the US Census Department, in state and local tax paid, per capita. Yeah, for all the times you've been told that you are overtaxed here in Oregon you are #41.

In Bill Sizemore talk, that means you are in the 9th "best" state and local tax situation in the country.

Congratulations, Oregon.

Thanks, Bill.

To all the the other costs of being in that exalted class of the "top" 20% for local state and local taxation add the death of one little boy.

But it's not just keeping the Portland Fire and Rescue budget "reasonable" that you could connect to this benefit conferred on you by the tax bashers, if you cared to pick up a pencil.

The "reasonableness" of the budgets of the several agencies that fall into the definition of "mental health" here in Oregon is also responsible for this boy's death and for whatever is the ultimate fate of his mother--sick enough to have pushed him and his sister off of the Sellwood Bridge.

There are probably a number of other underfunded parts of your social, governmental and economic infrastructure you could connect to all this--and plenty of other unfortunate victims you could put on the other side of the ledger. Most of them just die out of sight.

But it may be a comfort to know that whatever was not available to help this wretched woman there will be a prison cell available for her--with no wait list or exemption for a pre-existing condition.

Look around at everything else the lack of which is considered "reasonable"--acceptable--in exchange for your "great" tax rate here in Oregon.

Of course, there is always room for improvement. After all, Oregon business taxes are rated #2 in the country by an advocacy group that skews its numbers so as to make such taxes seem as high as possible in its propaganda.

Imagine how great you'd have it living here in Oregon if your state and local taxes were the second lowest, per capita, in the country!

Makes me glad I'm dead.