Election 2008 and the work ahead

By Congressman Earl Blumenauer. Learn more at EarlBlumenauer.com.

Tuesday marked the culmination of 12 years of work to realign the political process with our goals and aspirations for a government that would be the partner we need for today’s issues.

The election was the highpoint of my political career. The hope expressed and the emotions displayed by tens of thousands of people in Grant Park election night were also in evidence in a small coffee shop in Northeast Portland as I met with African Americans about this election. The reports from around the world (not the least of which came from my own daughter in the Peace Corps in Mozambique) signal a dramatic shift toward better relationships with other nations whom we’re going to depend upon for partnerships to meet our economic and security challenges.

My personal experience with the new president and his team gives me absolute confidence in his abilities and for our Country’s future. People understand there will be challenges ahead and that problems long in the making will not be reversed overnight. There is a new direction that helps us harness the energy, goodwill and the strength of the American people. The Obama campaign has added a new dimension in our capacity for governance, beyond the sheer number of people involved. The capacity to communicate, inspire and engage can help with the difficult tasks ahead.

I will have more colleagues in the House and the Senate who are not just Democrats, but people with good values, extraordinary political skills, common sense, and a human touch. Working with many from across the country was a source of optimism beyond the numbers; this election will fundamentally change the dynamic in both bodies. The newcomers are a diverse group representing every part of America. They are committed to change and sensitive to the environment. Despite the hyper-partisan election atmosphere their interest in reaching out to build bridges makes me optimistic about being able to do our job.

My focus for the next 50 months will continue to center on rebuilding and renewing America, as a vehicle for political reform, economic recovery, and environmental protection. In the House and the Senate, are many new allies that understand these challenges. The movement ranges from the Sierra Club to the Garden Club, Labor, Business, the professions, local government, and our neighborhoods. A powerful coalition is being created of people who have a vision of livable communities based on sustainable principles, both cost effective and energy efficient. My goal will be to tie those elements together into rational policies at every opportunity.

In Oregon, the election returns were dramatic. The Obama victory was a statewide effort with the most diverse, energetic, and talented coalition I’ve ever encountered. It boasted a spirited campaign that ultimately provided a narrow but decisive victory for Jeff Merkley who will use his personal commitment and political skills to be an effective Senator for Oregon. Kurt Schrader will prove an able replacement for Darlene Hooley who has done such a good job representing the 5th Congressional District. Kurt will be one of the few people able to hit the ground and maintain that high level of representation from his first days in office.

I am profoundly impressed with the talented array of newcomers to the state legislature. Oregon will be facing extraordinarily choppy waters with the budget problems as a result of the economic downturn. Governor Kulongoski in his “legacy session” will be given the strongest legislative line-up and best opportunity since Gov. Tom McCall. As someone privileged to be a part of that amazing experience in the 1970’s I have a sense of what can be.

Oregon voter’s skillfully tiptoed through a minefield as they dealt with this year’s harvest of initiatives, many from the discredited political operator Bill Sizemore. People made some difficult financial choices, particularly for education given these troubled times. They rejected the most destructive proposals, even those that promised tax reductions for some. What could be more telling than upper income voters resisting the cotton candy of an income tax cut that would have had devastating impact on education, health, and public safety? The Oregon voter was deeply engaged as they waded through often negative, shrill, and deceptive campaigns to cast votes that supported a vision of a better state and a healthier political process.

I hope that you will continue our strong engagement and commitment to these issues here in Oregon

I invite you to join me at the City Club December 5th, either in person or to listen on OPB’s broadcast, for a presentation I am making about the intersection of the political dynamic with the current economic turmoil. Entitled “Beyond the Bailout,” I am inaugurating a process of working with Oregonians to reform policies at the Federal level to address this fiscal crisis in terms that will enable us to strengthen the economy while meeting our energy and environmental demands. “Fiscal Fitness” is going to be the watchword and I hope we’ll be able to share ideas and work together as we fight to change the direction of the economy while we rebuild and renew America.

Thank you so very much for the interest and support this last year. I look forward to beginning an intense 50 months with a new administration, a stronger congress, and citizens more engaged than ever before.

  • (Show?)

    Is there any room in you plans to address the total destruction of the Bill of Rights?

    I wouldn't ask except that, you know.......I haven't heard much from any of you guys over the past eight years about extraordinary rendition for torture, extra legal arrests of US citizens, massive and random warrantless survellance, repeal of Habeus Corpus and so on.

    Sorry of this is a floater in the punchbowl, but my concern is based primarily on your collective inaction (with a very few spotty exceptions), and some of us care more about the evisceration of the Constitution even more than we care whether you incorrectly threw a plastic bag in the garbage last week.

  • (Show?)

    I was re-reading Robert Reich's "locked in the cabinet" recently and he talks a lot about how Clinton's plans for 'investment' - in high-speed rail, in education, etc. - were constantly thwarted by the deficit hawks. Reich and Laura Tyson tried to get the Administration to adopt a new way of looking at the budget -- to view spending as 'investments' or 'consumption' depending on what the spending is for. That strikes me as an economically reasonable and economically defensible approach that could be incorporated into explanations of how you can spend a good deal of money in the short term while still being fiscally responsible long term.

  • genop (unverified)

    On a more upbeat note - advocacy for an associates degree in green technology at the community college level resonates. A program in prison for select inmates who desire a productive future seems plausible. Providing the material and training to build solar panels and windmills to be installed on govt. land and buildings seems like a no brainer. I wholeheartedly agree we should repeal those infringements on our civil rights, with a concomitant effort directed toward sustainable economic and environmentally sensitive growth.

  • Jim Oleske (unverified)


    Thanks for the tip on Reich's book. I suspect it will become increasingly relevant in the coming months.

    Speaking of which, the following statement from Congressman Blumenauer -- which he made last spring when he unveiled his Rebuilding America initiative -- anticipated a return of the investment-based approach to economic recovery:

    America faces some of the greatest challenges in history, including a flagging economy and global warming. By making the right investments now in our nation’s infrastructure, we can create jobs to stimulate the economy, prepare the nation for global warming -- the greatest challenge of our generation -- and keep America competitive with other nations that are outpacing our investments.

    At the time, Rep. Blumenauer was proposing a 17-member commission that would develop a comprehensive, national approach to infrastructure investment. As commissions go, this one would have been required to act expeditiously, with a final report due within a year.

    In light of the rapid deterioration of the economy since Rep. Blumenauer made his original proposal, the question now arises whether even a year is too long to wait.

    If so, one potential topic for the Dec. 5 discussion would be how we can best go about fast-tracking some major infrastructure investments to stimulate the economy in the short term while still accounting for long-term strategic concerns with regard to energy policy and the environment.

    Or, to borrow from Rep. Blumeanuer's phrasing above, how we ensure our short-term investments are still "the right investments."

  • Amiel Handelsman (unverified)


    The section of Reich's book you reference is one that lodged itself in my memory for the reasons you describe. There was a moment in those early days of the Clinton administration when "putting people first" became "putting the bond traders first" under the assumption that this would lift all boats. Many boats did get lifted in those 8 years, but not necessarily due to that pivotal choice, and more would have been if Reich and Tyson's investments had been made. Some may say that's all history, but as we all know, our assessments of history underlie our decisions for the future.

    In his blog, The Washington Note, Steve Clemons points out that having both Bob Rubin and Lawrence Summers up on stage with Obama at his first post-election press-conference wasn't necessary since they represent a similar (if not identical) worldview: Who Wasn't On Stage with Obama and Should Have Been?

    Clemons makes a good case for including the plurality of economic voices early on.

  • billy (unverified)

    I notice that neither "climate" or "global" appear in Earl's essay.

    Has the Earl seen through the Jim Hansen/Al Gore climate hoax?

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    Billy said, "I notice that neither "climate" or "global" appear in Earl's essay."

    I would say that is implied in Earl's comment: "My focus for the next 50 months will continue to center on rebuilding and renewing America, as a vehicle for political reform, economic recovery, and environmental protection." He didn't mention childhood obesity or nuclear disarmament either, probably because he is not going to fill 36 column inches of blog column with every conceivable issue. Perhaps you should attend his City Club event and ask him yourself.

  • janek51 (unverified)

    Glen said, "Perhaps you should attend his City Club event and ask him yourself." What you don't understand, Glen, is that billy is one of those people Palin talks about---living in their parents' basement, blogging in their PJ's. I doubt he has the income or wardrobe or bus fare to attend City Club.

  • (Show?)

    Per Steve Novick's point: some decades ago now the economist Robert Heilbroner argued that the U.S. should change its budget process to create a capital budget that was distinct from the operating budget. As I recall, there were at least two dimensions of this suggestion, and possibly a third.

    The first was improved transparency about government spending, that would help people understand what their taxes were paying for.

    The second was addressing some of the polemical politics about budget deficits -- arguing that deficit spending undertaken for capital purposes that would increase the productivity of the economy should be thought about differently from other kinds of government spending. This is similar to Steve N.'s point via Robert Reich I think.

    I think that there was a corollary point about financing, i.e. that in many cases one would want to fund capital projects using bonds, as state and local governments do, and also private businesses at times. In effect federal deficits are bond-financed anyway, but which parts of what are being paid for with taxes and which with bonds is not distinguishable.

    He put this proposal forward in the context of Reagan-era deficit debates, and given current circumstances, the need for clarity about the distinction between operating and capital expenses is revived.

    Among other things it shows that deficits are not actually inherently out of sync with state & local budgetary practices, or even family ones. In fact states and localities quite regularly spend beyond current revenues, by issuing bonds for specific purposes -- at a cost in interest. Likewise family budgets may reasonably involve debt undertaken for big-ticket needs, including mortgages, transportation necessary to get to jobs, and investment in higher education.

    <h2>Of course, such debt can also be or become unreasonable or unsustainable -- but part of the point is that transparency about what is being financed how makes it easier to make such decisions rationally and sensibly.</h2>
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