Writings and observations

corvallis
Republican candidates speak out at a forum sponsored by Oregon State Republicans, at Corvallis. (photo/Randy Stapilus)

 

oregon
RANDY STAPILUS / Oregon

Most of this year’s Republican candidates for governor and senator turned up at the Corvallis – Oregon State University Republicans – forum this evening, enough of them to bring some contours to those nomination contests.

It was notable event, and clearly Republican – ticket for a gun raffle were on offer.

The major missing candidate was Monica Wehby of Portland, one of the Senate candidates and notably interesting for her fast raising of $500,000 for her campaign.

But four other Senate candidates, Representative Jason Conger of Bend, IT consultant Mark Callahan, former Linn County Republican Chair Jo Rae Perkins and Portland attorney Tim Crawley, were there. And three Republican candidates for governor: Representative Dennis Richardson, rancher Jon Justeson and real estate broker Bruce Cuff from Salem.

Overall impression: The two legislators, Conger and Richardson, overall seemed most likely to emerge with the nomination. Their talk, from opening and closing statements through a range of questions, seemed most general-campaign-ready, with a greater consideration of the counter arguments that would be thrown back at them on subjects from Obamacare to same-sex marriage.

Their approaches were arresting. Some of Richardson’s takes were quite centrist, almost moderate, or at times answering from the side. On education, he described Oregon K-12 as “the laughingstock of the nation,” but didn’t specify what he would do differently. On same-sex marriage, he took the striking (in the context) stance that Oregon probably would pass a same-sex marriage measure this year, and if he’s elected governor he’ll have to implement it – and left it at that.

Conger was the most polished of the candidates, a skilled speaker, but with a few exceptions – such as a flat call for repeal of Obamacare (which most of the other candidates also urged) – his answers were mostly vague. (On the minimum wage, he cautioned that wading in on that was playing “on the Democrats’ turf.”) He’ll need to sharpen them as the campaign goes on.

That may be especially true if Callahan, who also was a strong presence and clear speaker, takes hold in the Republican primary base. He might; more than any of the other candidates, he served up red meat, and did it effectively. “Our government is basically telling us they need to take care of us,” he said. “Common Core is socialist and it needs to be eliminated,” he said at another. On same-sex marriage, he made clear that he was opposed to the amendment, that “marriage is a religious institution.”

There were other statements of interest. On education and government action connected with it, Crawley said “We’re trying to create a Nazi Germany were everyone is uniform and all walking in line. We need to stop that.”

Maybe most startling, while the minimum wage drew mostly negative reactions, Justeson broke from the group to say that not only should the minimum wage be raised, but possibly it ought to be doubled. (The audience seemed taken aback.)

The candidates got a positive reaction overall from the audience of about 100. We’ll see how the field looks a few months out.

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Oregon Oregon column

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

An opinion piece written by Idaho Democratic Chair Larry Kenck.

We the People of Idaho do not control what happens in our Statehouse. Lobbyists and special interests are calling the shots there. The outcome: more cash for the wealthy and higher taxes for the rest of us.

If Idaho’s rank as 50th in family wages is not enough proof of that, then look at the cozy relationship between high-powered lobbyists and GOP politicians.

On January 10th, GOP politicians skipped work to attend a free campaign school organized by Idaho’s most powerful lobbyists—for more than two hours during a time of day that our legislators to be working for all of us.

Over 50 GOP politicians attended the “Republican Incumbents Campaign School.”

School attendee, Sen. Dean Mortimer, said this: “Skip and the others are saying, ‘Anything we can do to help get you re-elected, we’re here.’”

Idahoans should note—the lobbyists said they’ll do “anything” to keep GOP politicians in power. (“Skip” is former Sen. Skip Smyser, longtime lobbying powerhouse who is partnered with a former chief of staff for … Governor Otter.)

Why does this matter? What does this lobbyist-GOP politician partnership mean?

It is the reason that Idaho families are suffering through an economic catastrophe. After 20 years of handouts to the wealthy and well-connected, our families are paying for it.

GOP leaders show no inclination to stop the catastrophic slide.

Look at Governor Otter. Despite deep cuts to schools and students, Otter is seeking a pittance to fund his own schools task force recommendation while giving the rich and well-connected another $30 million tax cut.

Make no mistake. GOP politicians know that families are struggling to make ends meet. (Although the lobbyists around the Capitol look like they’ve weathered the storm just fine). They just ignore it.

A few days before the legislative session started, House Speaker Scott Bedke of Oakley, mused with reporters about Idaho’s 50th rank in family wages:

“It doesn’t feel to me like, as an Idaho citizen, that that is the case,” said Bedke. He shook his head, perplexed.”It doesn’t feel like that to me here. … It doesn’t feel like we are in the 50th position here.”

Just this week, Speaker Bedke proposed taking away your grocery tax credit—that’s $80 million of your money—to give to the rich and well-connected. He says it is to attract business—even though that exact strategy has failed and failed and failed Idahoan’s again and again and again.

Will Speaker Bedke and Gov. Otter get their tax hikes on regular Idaho families approved? Well, they have super-control over the Legislature and all of the statewide elected offices. And they have very important friends who have promised to do “anything” to get their partners in the Statehouse re-elected.

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Idaho Reading

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

A statistic hit the media during the last few days – a statistic so startling and unbelievable that I read right past it before doing the classic “double take” and reading it again. And again. And again and again!

Here it is. Just 85 individuals hold HALF THE WEALTH of the entire world! Those 85 versus the rest of us! Those 85 versus more than 300 billion of us! Just let your head play with that immense statistic. Take a couple of minutes. I’ll wait.

Let’s just deal with our own little country of the U.S. of A. Of course, you know the wealthy are much wealthier than the rest of us. But did you ever think they’d be 288 times wealthier? That much? Yep. That much. So says the Economic Policy Institute in its newest survey of how rich we are – or how much poorer we are.

In 1962, the top 1% – you remember them – well, back then they had 125 times the worth of America’s median household. Jump forward to 2010 and it increased to that 288!

Two reasons, actually. The rich really did get richer. And the middle class really did get poorer. While the 1% saw its average wealth grow from $9.6 million in 1983 to $16.4 million in 2010, we in the middle class saw our household net worth drop from $73,000 to $57,000 during the same period.

And here’s something more depressing to think about – while you’re still thinking about that previously depressing statistic. If middle class income had grown at the same rate as the top 1% during that 27 year period, yours and mine would have gone from that $73,000 to – wait for it – $119,000!

All of this is based on a lengthy statistical examination by EPI of income, jobs, mobility, poverty, wealth and a few other factors.

While that wealth gap has been widening for a decade or more, it was the “Great Recession” starting about 2008 that really changed the picture. From that point to 2010, median income of the wealthiest households declined about 15.6%. But, for all the rest of us in the supposed “middle income” grouping, we lost 47.1% during that same time.

I hate talking about statistics. But I gotta throw in a couple more. At the end of that same period – 2008 to 2010 – the typical black household ended up with a median net worth of $4,900! And the median net worth of Latino families plummeted 86.3% to about $1,300. $1,300!!!

Biggest reason those two groups fell so far off the economic cliff is because of the much smaller net worth before the bottom dropped out, so the percentages were more adversely affected. That – and the fact that their home ownership rates grew faster during the housing boom but fell further when things collapsed.

So, will all this affect future elections? You damn betcha. I’ll leave all the really tough brain twisting to more scholarly types. And, believe me, you’re going to hear a great deal from them about how this huge disparity still affects all our lives in many, many ways. But here are a couple of thoughts – off the top of my gray head – based on some lengthy experience.

With neither political party conducting the policy and vision discussions they should have in recent months, the most-heard stories of past campaigns were about money. Not who had it – or didn’t – but about who was spending it, how much and for what. Billionaires. PACS and SuperPACS. Unions. Republican and Democrat campaign committees. Congressional PACS. Candidate campaigns. A hundred million or two for this state. A few million more over there. Dollars were constantly being tossed around in amounts most of us couldn’t fathom. More than an “embarrassment of riches” it was a “prostitution of riches” when compared to the current economic lives – and economic experiences – of the rest of us.

When the value of your home is gone – or underwater – it’s hard to get worked up over some stranger’s political future. When your job is gone, feeding, clothing and housing a family block out nearly all the extraneous noise emanating from campaigns. In fact, a few recent conversations I’ve had reveal most of us folks in the middle – or at the bottom – had damned little time to listen to – or much inclination to get all involved with – anyone’s candidacy. Too busy and/or couldn’t relate.

In times like that, billionaires and millionaires – whether trying to win an election or buy one – don’t get our full civic attention. Nor – under normal priorities – should they. So, without new, updated and personally meaningful information about policies and visions from major candidates, our national voting patterns typically revert to what they’ve been before. Even though Democrats ran far more programs to reach out to minority groups, they couldn’t possibly have reached all the millions of ‘em who marked that side of the ballot.

So, black and Latino communities defaulted to the Democrat Party as they have historically. With talk of “self deportation” and “I won’t support the Dream Act” and “Arizona’s tough deportation law should be the pattern for the nation” and “Medicare and Medicaid spending must be reduced” – well – in the absence of more positive and welcoming news from a candidate or a campaign, it’s not hard to support the “home team.”

Over the last 40-50 years, Republicans have not been good at spending money on the poor. That’s just fact. Now, we have a GOP crowd in Congress carrying out that tradition by vowing more tax relief for the folks that are 288 times richer than most of us. They would do so by cutting programs like Medicare and Medicaid a lot of folks who voted Democrat are concerned about. The ones with the $1,300 and $4,900 household median net worth.

Will the Republican Party become more appealing to the large blocks of voters who sank so many of their candidates last time around when we get to 2014? And 2016? Or even 2020? Not likely at this point.

When someone piles all the data on my kitchen table that says the top 1% is 288 times wealthier than the rest of us, the depth of my feeling is not with them but with the family at the $4,900 and the $1,300 net worth levels.

And I’m not alone.

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Rainey

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Driver of log truck said to cause big I-84 crash (Boise Statesman)
Legislators want rule review in constitution (Boise Statesman)
LCSC budget presentation (Lewiston Tribune)
Otter considers Bedke tax plan (Lewiston Tribune)
Water use lower (Moscow News)
Harvest Hills development in Moscow okayed (Moscow News)
Nampa mayor’s state of city speech (Nampa Press Tribune)
Same sex marriage case, AG role (Nampa Press Tribune, Sandpoint Bee)
Id Press Tribune new managing editor (Nampa Press Tribune)
Melaleuca alleges poaching by CA firm (Pocatello Journal)
Idaho State Uniersity budget presentation (Pocatello Journal)
Legislative Common Core debate (Pocatello Journal, Andpoint Bee)
50 laid off at Glanbia (TF Times News)
TF officials put off by canyon jump (TF Times News)

Emmons Meat Market closes (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Schoolhouse hauled up Hwy 99 (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Legal case opposes timber sale (KF Herald & NEws, Corvalis Gazette Times)
Low precipitation, heavy fog (Eugene Register Guard)
Jobless rate rises to pre-recession (Salem Statesman Journal, Eugene Register Guard)
KF Utility District riles passions (KF Herald & News)
Library district plans (Ashland Tidings)
Medford teacher strike possible (Medford Tribune)
Army depot reuse infighting opposed (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Milton-Freewater ambulance district can’t afford election (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Wolf-kill provisions now set by state (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Billion-dollar refineries for Kalama, Clatskanie (Portland Oregonian)
Oregon economy picks up (Portland Oregonian)
Too-high pot testing standards? (Portland Oregonian)
Amnesty for alcohol poisoning callers (Portland Oregonian)
Cascade Head area at risk (Salem Statesman Journal)

School superintendent resigns (Kennewick Herald)
Many Hanford layoffs canceled (Kennewick Herald)
Big methanol plants at Kalama, Clatskanie (Longview News)
Flu season peaking (Spokane Spokesman, Port Angeles News)
Kilmer visits Port Angeles (Port Angeles News)
Home prices improve (Seattle Times)
Spokane charter school approved (Spokane Spokesman)
North Corridor road project uncertain (Spokane Spokesman)
Tacomans propose charter schools (Tacoma News Tribune)
Debating state’s Discover Pass (Tacoma News Tribune)
Clark considers rural area zoning (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take