Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Keeping Oregon from becoming Canada

Mark Steyn, writing in the January issue of Imprimis magazine, provides a strong reminder to Oregonians about the direction of our state under the socialistic tendencies of the Democratic Party.

Comparing his home country of Canada to the United States, Steyn notes several (primarily economic) differences between the countries; he could, however, be predicting the future of Oregon, and it's not pretty for those who believe the government shouldn't be handing out cash like candy at a piñata party.

Luckily, a new opportunity exists to fight for those goals of limited government and personal responsibility, and it's critical that it succeed lest the out-sized dreams of American liberals push our state into economic peril (more on that in a moment).

Steyn writes that a third of the Canadian workforce is unionized, whereas the U.S. percentage is 14 percent; the state with the highest percentage (New York at 26 percent) is close to Canada's least unionized province (Alberta at 24.2 percent), and only three U.S. states are higher than Alberta. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that the unionized percentage of Oregon's workforce was 15.4 percent, tied for 13th in the country. It was one of 23 states whose percentage increased last year, jumping 8 percent from the previous year.

Why is this a problem? After all, unions keep management from taking advantage of the working class, right? I would argue that in most cases, that is no longer the case. Labor laws exist to enforce the rights for which unions fought, and unions' only accomplishment today is to hold the public hostage by securing unreasonable pay and benefits that the private sector can only dream about. The more unionized the workforce, the more the workforce assumes that government exists to be their sugar-daddy, and the sooner the government must raise taxes on the workforce to pay for these unreasonable contracts available to the minority.

As an example of the proliferation of unions and the mindset that believes government is the solution, Steyn writes:
Not that long ago, I heard a CBC news anchor announce that Canada had “created 56,100 new jobs in the previous month.” It sounded like good news. But looking at the numbers, I found that of those 56,100 new jobs, 4,200 were self-employed, 8,900 were in private businesses, and the remaining 43,000 were on the public payroll. In other words, 77 percent of the new jobs were government jobs paid for by the poor slobs working away in the remaining 23 percent.
Steyn's second difference is Canada's protectionist tendencies. As an example, he noted a California bookstore owner who was so sick of America that he wanted to open a bookstore in Vancouver, BC. The only trouble is that it's illegal for foreigners to own a Canadian bookstore.

If you don't think this applies to Oregon, consider this: the Democratic Party of Oregon believes it's OK for private employers to pay higher taxes, regardless of the impact on jobs or the state economy, but it particularly advocates revoking the corporate kicker from out-of-state compaies, regardless of the fact that the entire reason those corporations get a kicker refund is because they offer employment to Oregon citizens and they pay Oregon taxes at both the corporate and employee level.

Steyn's third point is that Canada’s economy is more subsidized, noting that protesters at the 2001 Summit of the Americas in Canada received time off from school and $300,000 for travel expenses to the riots protests.

Oregon, meanwhile, can and does subsidize anything environmental -- biofuel, wind power, hybrid cars, etc. -- regardless of any indication of its viability or cost-effectiveness.

Steyn's fourth point is that the Canadian economy is significantly more centrally planned, recalling a government program to offer fast-track immigration status to exotic dancers because it perceived a shortage in that area. "What governmental mind," Steyn asked, "would think of an exotic dancer immigration category?"

What mind, Mark? Why, it's the same mind that thinks we need a multi-million-dollar tram, a multi-million-dollar convention center expansion, a multi-billion-dollar light rail system, etc. etc. etc. And all without -- or in spite of -- a public vote. The government knows what you need, regardless of what you say.

Finally, Steyn notes that the Canadian economy is more heavily taxed: almost 40 percent more when comparing portions of GDP. That includes the darling of the left, government-run health care, but at what cost? How about the ridiculous waiting times: six months for an MRI, a year for a hip replacement and -- in what Steyn calls "the absolute logical reductio of a government monopoly in health care" -- 10 months for the maternity ward.

If you scoff at the idea that our tax burden could approach that of our neighbors to the north, just consider what happened last year with the Oregon legislature under universal Democratic control: a 20 percent increase in spending over the previous biennium. Consider the afore-mentioned tram, rail and building projects. And don't forget the more than $200 billion in spending promises made by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

And that brings us back to the new opportunity to fight for limited government and personal responsibility. It's called the Conservative Majority Project, spearheaded by Rob Kremer and Jared McKinney. In its introduction, the CMP homepage says:
The Oregon Republican Party desperately needs new blood and new leadership. The Conservative Majority Project, with your help, will identify and elect this new leadership.

The Party needs people who believe in conservative principles, can articulate them, and defend them. People who believe in the principles of Individual Responsibility, Limited Government, Constitutional Democracy, Property Rights, and The Free Market.

The Republican Party desperately needs skilled and courageous people to step into the arena of ideas and challenge both the "Certified Smart People" and the establishment class who are running this state.
After watching the Oregon Republican Party mostly flail about in the wilderness for the last decade, I'm cautiously encouraged by this effort, mostly because I hold a high level of respect for Kremer. I think they've got their work cut out for them -- both to find quality candidates that fulfill the principles they espouse and to raise the money needed to elect them in Oregon's political climate -- but reading through their list of principles makes me salivate to have candidates in that mold. It says it will support candidates who are:
Dedicated to improving educational quality through school choice. A strong belief that parents know how to make the best decisions for their children, instead of bureaucrats and unions is essential.

Dedicated to limited government. One of the first questions in any elected officials decision-making process should be, "Can this problem be solved in the free market?"

Dedicated to lowering taxes and cutting government waste. We recognize that your money is a reflection of your time and creative energy. Every elected official should treat all fiscal decisions with this principle as a guidepost.

Dedicated to preserving Oregonians First and Second Amendment Rights. The right to keep and bear arms is essential to the survival of any republic.

Dedicated to preserving and protecting traditional family values. The family unit is the core of our society. It must be preserved.

Dedicated to stopping illegal immigration. The Oregon worker has been immeasurably harmed by a system that allows those who are in this state illegally to drive down wages. This problem places a growing burden on schools, and hospitals, transportation, police, and fire departments.

Dedicated to protecting private property rights. The right to control your own property is a fundamental pillar in a free society. You have worked hard to call your property your own. You should not be forced to fight with state and local governments who look for reasons to devalue your property.

Dedicated to protecting your civil liberties and your initiative freedoms. State politicians, public employee unions, and bureaucrats have been waging a 15-year war against the initiative process. Whether it is by limiting your ability to petition your government, or by circumventing laws that the people of Oregon have voted on, this is an issue that can no longer be over looked.
So to Kremer and McKinney, I say: good luck and God speed.



  • At 2/28/2008 10:04 AM, Blogger Kat said…

    Thanks for the info, Ken. The Conservative Majority Project is "cautiously" encouraging. :-) The big question is whether Oregon will continue down the road to Canada by choice, because a majority of Oregonians prove by their votes that that's where they want to go. I'd love to believe that the average Oregonian is smarter than that, but I live in Multnomah County, where Big Brother and Nanny State have been married for quite some time now, and most of the people living nearby were happy to go to the wedding. As a "Conservatarian" living in Portland, I rely on the rural areas of the state to keep things sane come election day. There's not much hope that Multnomah County will. We've already applied for Canadian residency.

  • At 2/28/2008 11:28 AM, Anonymous NotYourDaddy said…

    Unions have long outlived their usefulness, and are now just in the business of perpetuating themselves and sustaining their own bureaucracy. When unions get in bed with government, as they are today, it's always to the detriment of the taxpayers who aren't at the public trough. In Oregon, government employees make significantly more, in both salary and benefits, than citizens with comparable jobs in the private sector, and get guaranteed raises every year. And their pay is not based on merit, but on seniority. Now wonder the government gets more bloated all the time. The more you slop the hogs, the more hogs there are to slop.

    The pitch about healthcare being a "constitutional right" in Oregon is another step toward socialism. They have no plan for how to fund it. (Well, they do; they just don't want to divulge it, because the plan is reaching into our pockets, again, and lifting the money from our wallets.)

    All I want from government, beyond basic protection of my individual rights, is to get their hand out of my pocket and leave me alone. -- Fat chance.

  • At 2/28/2008 1:52 PM, Anonymous NotYourDaddy said…

    Speaking of Canada and socialism, here's a modern Canadian fable that's worth reading for those of us in Oreganada...

  • At 2/29/2008 8:14 PM, Blogger OregonGuy said…

    I'll be coming back to re-read this, and the item above.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

  • At 2/29/2008 8:15 PM, Blogger Klockarman said…

    Kat said, "The big question is whether Oregon will continue down the road to Canada by choice, because a majority of Oregonians prove by their votes that that's where they want to go."
    That reminds me about an article in Willy Week a couple of years ago, that I can't seem to get out of my head...
    Written by Nigel Jacquiss, who won a Pulitzer for Chrissakes - so he must be a smart guy (at least I hope). The article says Oregon is going RED and has been heading that direction for many years. But I don't see it. I hope it, but don't see it. Any comments?


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