By Peter Toll
When my youngest daughter was 7 and I was working in the Oregon Senate Democratic Office, she asked me one day: “What’s the difference between Democrats and Republicans?” Before I could answer, her mother said, “Honey, Democrats share.”
Or, put another way, Democrats are more focused on the individuals (as a group) than on business (as a group). Nowhere is that more clear than in the current D.C. wrangling on how to allocate the billions of dollars about to be distributed with federal “stimulus” largesse.
Despite the occasional headline that says, “Democrats holding up relief” legislation, the fact is, the Democrats are fighting for more money for hospitals, cities, counties and state governments, those in the first-line of serving the people directly. The Republicans want more money for businesses.
One of Clackamas County’s biggest private employers, Precision Castparts, recently announced it is temporarily shutting down its operation and putting hundreds of people on “paid furlough” until the virus situation settles down. Goodwill of the Willamette is letting virtually all of its hundreds of employees go, too, just to name a couple of the hundreds in the same bind.
Where do these people go for money to pay their rent? To buy groceries? To buy clothing for themselves and their children? Do they go running to Donald Trump? No, they turn to local government—the state, the county and the cities for succor. When hard times and distress hit, the action is local, not from D.C.
While partisans of both sides claim the righteousness of their position, when push comes to shove in the legislative arena, when it comes down to a vote, up or down, Republicans invariably side with business while Democrats side with workers.
Does anyone doubt that Donald Trump is all but pimping for Big Business, along with his henchman Mitch McConnell? Trump-McConnell want more money for their business buddies than they do for local and state governments. Therein lies the rub.
When we elect people who are anti-government, who see government as a terrible hurdle to the dominating success of big business and, equally, rich individuals, should we expect anything less? Not really. And that terrible example from D.C. is rolling down hill into the states and influencing Oregon Republican legislators. More and more out of favor, they feel walking away from their responsibilities—win or lose—is okay.
How far will that $1,200 fed check carry people? It is a one-time deal. Only once.
Oregon Health Sciences University reports a potential loss of $425 million over the next two years caused by the impact of the pandemic. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. How much money is the State of Oregon losing when its principal income is from state income taxes and fewer people are working? Or the city where you live? Or county government?
Ironically, in meeting Unemployment Insurance needs, Oregon is one of the best states in the country. The state has enough money socked away to cover 65 weeks of claims—well more than a year. Only five states are better off. Which one is the worst? California has four weeks of resources—one month—to meet the same long-term obligations.
While some of the necessary funding will come from the feds, a whole lot of it is going to be on our backs. Unlike the U.S. government, Oregon is constitutionally required to operate from a balanced budget. We can’t sell bonds to the Chinese to help pay for the debt. We can’t just print more money.
That means your Oregon taxes will probably have to go up. No one likes that. But without the money, the state, county and city agencies which are specifically designed to help people directly, one-on-one, will have their hands tied. And that’s a reality we can’t sweep under the rug like Donald Trump.