Sen. Whitsett on unemployment and Gov.'s recovery plan

Senator Doug Whitsett

Senator Doug Whitsett

In the last six months our state unemployment has soared by 50% from 5.4% to more than 8.1% last month. The rate of growth of Oregon unemployment is twice the rate for national unemployment that now stands at 6.7%. Oregon businesses continue to shed jobs at an unprecedented rate. Conversely, for the past two years the growth of Oregon families accessing the federal food stamp program has nearly doubled. Today, one in seven Oregon families uses the food stamp program.

Recently, I read a striking statement regarding government practices.
The quotation reads: “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest the nation become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance.”

That quotation is as relevant today as it was when it was spoken by the Roman Senator Cicero more than 2,000 years ago.

The best way to get people off of public assistance, as well as to refill the Treasury, is to create private sector jobs that pay family supporting wages. Gainfully employed people pay taxes that enable government to provide necessary services, and that help to support the few that are truly unable to support themselves.

Most private sector jobs are created by small businesses. Statistics clearly demonstrate that most of Oregon’s labor force consists of small business employees. As the primary employer of Oregonians, Oregon small businesses must be recognized as key contributors to the recovery of Oregon’s economy. Oregon small businesses must be provided equal access to all the economic stimulation tools that are now being provided primarily to big business and to international corporations.

More than 200 years ago Thomas Jefferson said that: “The Democracy will cease to exist when we take away from those who would work and give to those who would not”. He further stated his prediction that Americans will have a happy and prosperous future only if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.

For more than two thousand years politicians have clung to power by promising abundance for all. The fact is today, as it has always been, that abundance for all is the direct result of entrepreneurship and hard work that creates products that have value for use and for sale. The sooner our political elite begin to advance that principle the sooner we will return to prosperity.

Our legislature must be made to understand that a stable Oregon economy is dependent upon the economic health and growth of thousands of small businesses. Our Governor must be made to understand that any economic stimulation tools that the State develops will be most effective when employed by Oregon small business entrepreneurs. In order for our State economy to recover, our agencies must focus their education, training, and support resources on assisting Oregon small businesses to start and to operate profitable enterprises.

KULONGOSKI’S RECOVERY PLAN
Governor Ted Kulongoski has unveiled his recommended budget for the 2009-11 spending cycle. After closely reviewing that recommended budget it appears that the Governor continues to promote an economic recovery agenda void of economic reality. He continues to pursue his vision of an Oregon economy founded on renewable energy industries while failing to address the current reality of soaring unemployment, closing businesses, disintegrating industries, and collapsing credit.

After months of denial, he finally acknowledges the ongoing meltdown of our state and national economies. He blames the failed policies of others for Oregon’s now year long fall into deep recession. What is most disturbing to me is that he continues to deny his own culpability in spending Oregon to the edge of economic ruin.

In response to this economic crisis, Kulongoski’s only budgetary answers are to tax more, charge more, and borrow more to finance more of the same policies that are already bankrupting our state, our businesses and our citizens. That budget contains well more than one and a half billion dollars in new and expanded taxes, average 36% increases in fees, charges and licenses, and the borrowing of about two billion dollars to create public works projects that he says will create jobs for Oregonians.

He projects that 1,451 of those jobs will be new, full time jobs for public employees. These new public employees’ salaries and benefits will be paid entirely by the additional taxes and fees levied on Oregon taxpayers. The total increase in public employee compensation will exceed $800 million when combined with his already implemented unfunded pay raises for agency directors, middle level mangers, and rank and file union employees.

It appears that the Governor’s plan is funded by taxing selected Peter to pay collective Paul. The Peter being taxed are private employees and small business while Paul reaping the benefits are the public employees and large corporations.

He asks that we continue to mortgage our children’s future in pursuit of his dream of a green economy that economic and scientific reality dictates is neither achievable nor necessary. He asks us to support unsustainable energy policies that will drive energy costs out of the reach of those in poverty, and that will drive many in the middle class into poverty. He asks that we have faith and believe in his policies that will certainly demolish the right to the use of affordable energy for an entire economic class of our people. The fact of the matter is that Kulongoski’s energy policies are a direct assault on the civil rights of the economically disadvantaged.

A stark example in his proposed budget is $5 million allocated to purchase 25 Chinese built electric cars, and to build charging stations to keep those cars running. Simple arithmetic tells us that he is willing to spend $200,000 per each electric vehicle in order to advance his vision for a fossil fuel free future for Oregon.

He seems unaware that borrowing more money to spend for public works projects is not a viable option for several reasons. Currently, virtually no market exists for most municipal and state bonds, regardless of the interest rates offered. Even if the state could sell the bonds, the combination of reduced revenue, increased borrowing, and the utilization of our state financial reserves will certainly cause our bond rating to plummet resulting in significant increases in interest and the cost of debt service.

He has failed to even address the incredible, and escalating, losses in both public and private sector retirement accounts. The Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) is heavily invested in stock market equities that have sustained losses of about 40% of their value over the past year. A major portion of these losses will be replaced by taxpayer dollars because a significant portion of the PERS retirement accounts are guaranteed benefits indexed to cost of living for life.

He is asking Oregonians to ignore what has become his obvious legacy.
The stark reality is that after six years of Ted Kulongoski’s leadership, Oregon is a national leader in unemployment, poverty and hunger. The stark reality is that his bloated budget does not even provide for the basic needs of our most vulnerable citizens. The stark reality is that Oregon has already borrowed and spent virtually all of the money that lenders are willing to lend.

We are now being asked to believe with certainty that his bold new strategy to borrow, tax, and spend our way out of debt will somehow right our ship of State. He tells us in his budget message “to have hope, feel confident, and believe with certainty”.

I for one do not believe!

What I do believe is that we must reduce the size and the cost of state government. We must make deep reductions in non-essential services, in order to provide for the critical needs of our seniors, our veterans, our disabled, our children in foster care, and our developmentally disabled citizens. We must sharply reduce taxes and fees, in order to allow our citizens to better provide for themselves, and in order to sustain and create new private sector jobs.  We must reduce the crushing regulatory and tort liability burdens that are destroying our small busine
sses and that are causing larger businesses to leave the state.

We must recognize that our service based society has no real basis in the creation of personal and national wealth. We must promote the harvest of our own cornucopia of natural resources. We must harvest our own energy resources. We must use those resources to make things, using our hands and our sweat and our technology to manufacture goods that have value for sale both here and abroad.

Those are the roots that created this greatest nation on earth, and those are the roots that will drive our recovery.    

It is time to just say no to the political and economic policies that have driven us to the brink of ruin. It is time to take action before it is too late.

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