Monday, October 18, 2010

Economic winter and another pitch for Governor Kitzhaber

Economic winter:  How cold will it get?
I kid you not.  Neighbor Mac and I were standing on the sidewalk in front of my house this Saturday, when I got another reminder of the dire economic situation in our state and in the nation.

I had been sweeping the walkway in anticipation of Maty's return from Africa when Mac came by, walking his dog.  He stopped and we engaged in another of our rewarding discussions about state and national politics.  (Mac's one sharp cookie, folks.)

Our conversation was interrupted when I inadvertently made eye contact with a short, swarthy man, smoking a cigarette, walking down the middle of the street.  He was ambling along, glancing first to one side and then the other.  When he saw me, he called out and approached me with a smile.

"How are you?  Good to see you," says he, extending his hand to me, as if we were long lost acquaintances. I had no recollection of ever seeing him before.  

"Do I know you?" says I, shaking his hand.

"I work for you," he says. At this point, it was apparent that his command of English was tenuous.

I was confused.  "I'm sorry," I said.  "I don't understand."

"You working?" he inquired.  He indicated the broom in my hand and waved at my yard.  "You have work?"

Then I understood.  He was looking for day work, for some way to earn some money.  (Granted, the condition of my front yard could be said to invite such inquiry, but I was still a tad surprised.) 

"No, I'm sorry," I said.  "I don't have any work for you."

The man shrugged and set off down the street, still on the lookout for opportunities. 

"That about says it all, doesn't it?" says Mac.


Unemployment in Oregon is reaching desperate levels.  Imagine being so desperate that you take to wandering the streets to randomly ask people if they need help with anything.  Or, going back to the example I laid out last week, imagine being compelled to plunder your life savings to keep yourself in house and home.  I've never in my life seen it this bad.

What can be done?

In the realm of state politics, I believe we have an opportunity to make things better.

Electing John Kitzhaber as governor has the potential to improve our situation and get us on the road to recovery.  Kitzhaber has a plan to employ Oregonians to upgrade public school buildings, to make them energy efficient using Oregon labor.  Our long-suffering construction industry would see an immediate benefit which would, in turn, benefit the peripheral industries that support construction workers.  It's a public works program that recalls the days of FDR and the New Deal, when Americans were faced with similarly trying economic conditions.

Chris Dudley advocates capital gains tax cuts that will supposedly make Oregon more attractive to business.  The idea is that, if we cut taxes for upper income Oregonians, they will then be encouraged to invest in Oregon.  In other words, give money to the people at the top of the income scale and rely on their good will and business acumen to create jobs.

Governor Kitzhaber's plan won't make everything right, but it's a start.  Wouldn't it be better for Oregonians to use tax revenues to put ourselves to work taking care of our infrastructure, than to absolve the plutocrats of their responsibilities for maintaining our society?

As I said to neighbor Mac, there are two ways to do it:  the FDR way, or the Robespierre way.  He got a laugh out of that.


al said...

Right on, with your post. It is a very sad time in Oregon now but going with someone like Dudley is crazy. My wife heard him speak last Friday at a professional event. She was astounded at how empty was his plan. It was a slogan after slogan speech with no substance. Any other year, he would be laughed at for thinking he had the ability to be Governor. But unfortunately, too many people are so disillusion, that many would vote for a dog catcher if he could bark the right words. al

jeanne said...

Thanks Dade...after seeing you in Eugene I have once more registered to vote...I am still not convinced that a difference can be made so late in this game....but I will hang on to the thought that at least locally a difference could be made. I really think the dye has been cast....the ride will be brutal at best. My hope is that we will find our humanity and more....along the way.
Love and Light Jeanne

Eugene said...

In my travels up and down I-5, used to be that one would see one person at the rest area pan handling for money. I used to give money to a vet at the rest area near Eugene. He was the only one out there for years. He had a home, he just needed to pan handle in order to stay in his home as he was disabled and couldn't make it otherwise. Suddenly, in a little over the last year, there has been serious competition for these spots. He is no longer there because of it. There is serious competition, I'm told, for corners and other prime pan-handling areas. I have never seen it like that until recently.

Dan Binmore said...

I was just in Portland after eighteen months in Texas. I was amazed at the high quality of services, the cheerful nature of the people, the reduction in beggars from when I lived there and generally, overall, what a really nice place it was and how happy the people seemed.

My wife and I live in one of the only places in the USA not to have been hit by the recession. Portland was much nicer.