New Data Shows Big Business Lobby Wrong, Again.

Chuck Sheketoff

Some corporate lobbyists such as the Oregon Business Association have been claiming that Oregon has a “per capital (sic) income that has steadily declined for a decade.” (PDF) They use the claim to argue that Oregon doesn’t have enough money to adequately fund public services that low-income and middle-class families rely upon.

The big business lobby has been saying it so often that even smart politicians like Governor Kitzhaber have claimed that “the per capita income of those who are working has been eroding over the past decade.” (PDF)

But it’s not true. Personal income and per capita personal income have been increasing over the long term.

New data released by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis re-confirms that fact. The data shows once again that powerful corporate lobbyists with a cut-taxes-for-the-wealthy, cut-services-for-the-middle-class agenda have been misleading Oregonians.

Read Oregon Per Capita Personal Income Continues to Rise.


Oregon Center for Public PolicyChuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. You can sign up to receive email notification of OCPP materials at

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    The stories I have been reading have been saying that Oregon's per capita income is dropping RELATIVE TO THE NATIONAL AVERAGE. Which it clearly has.

    Per Capita Income Data

    Oregon's income gap as large as ever, study finds

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      You're right, Michael. I think Chuck is also correct that many critics get sloppy and refer to this as if it were an absolute, not relative, decline in income.

      Oregonians should not be complacent when we are losing ground compared to the most of the country. But neither should we imagine that our economy is in free fall or that life is getting worse for most of us.

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        What's most disturbing are the claims that our income relative to the nation has anything to do with our ability to fund public services and the mis-statement by the biz groups and ECONorthwest that our total personal income and per capita personal income have been declining. Our total personal income has risen and personal income per capita has risen over the last four decades.

        As the Oregon Employment Department noted in their report on per capita personal income (PDF), there is probably little Oregon can do to dramatically change our national rank in per capita personal income.

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          But what I think Duncan Wyse and the OBC have been documenting is that our total state and local tax burden as a percentage of our income has remained fairly stable over the years and that our state funding difficulties are largely a function of public sector costs rising faster than our incomes.

          According to their datq, if our incomes were rising at the same pace as the rest of the country, our budget problems would be greatly diminished. If our incomes had risen at the same pace as th estate of Washignton's, we would not have a budget shortfall this biennium at all.

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            If we taxed business at the same rate as Washington, our budget problems would also be greatly diminished.

            What the OBC is asking is that taxes be diminished without any evidence that it will increase the state's income. In fact there is plenty of evidence that it will do the reverse. Yes, if we were richer then we would have more funds to invest in schools, etc. The debate is over the question of how to accomplish that and giving more special breaks to the businesses with the highest paid lobbyists is definitely not the answer.

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      Michael, part of the point of Chuck's research is that we have new data and your links are out of date.

      "The bureau could not say whether the 2010 figure represented a change from the prior year. BEA now considers its previously published per capita personal income figures for 2001 through 2009 unreliable, because the population assumptions used for that calculation do not match up with the 2010 Census results. BEA expects to release per capita personal income figures for 2001 through 2009 in September."

      The other point that I would like to make is that as long as Oregon's population grows faster than the national average, we will tend to have per capita income below the national average. Population growth tends to be people immigrating at the low end of the economic ladder, not high income people, which pulls down the average. Oregon has grown about 50% faster than the nation over the past 20 years.

      There are a bunch of other reasons that keep Oregon's per capita lower than average that have nothing to do with our economic success that are well documented in a study by the economists at the Oregon Employment Department. It is a well done study and I urge people to read it. Paste link below:

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        We've always lagged a number of wealthy states and with the increase in income inequality nationally it makes it even more difficult to catch up, even though BEA's estimate of personal income does NOT include income from capital gains. Oregon's pcpi statistic also suffers, as noted by the Employment Department, from all the Washington residents working in Oregon ("The earnings of residents who live in other states and work in Oregon are not counted as personal income in Oregon").

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    How is "business" the culprit here?

    Chuck, you write well, and your reasoning is often superb, but zeroing in on business is perverse.

    Business is people. Those business-people who like the Oregon culture will stay, and those business-people who think they can do better elsewhere will leave. There's no reason to vilify them.

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      Spreading misinformation in an effort to advance an effort to further de-fund public services to pay for continued tax-cuts for corporations (whose profits are at all time highs) and the very few seems reason enough to me.

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        That is an incredibly inflammatory statement - it vilifies business-people. I suppose if you defame, shun, ridicule, and scorn them enough they will leave - problem solved.

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          To me your term "business people" implies small businesses that you or I might be familiar with. But multinational corporate CEOs, Wall Street banksters, the Koch brothers, their mouthpieces at the US Chamber of Commerce that takes foreign contributions--they are something different. They are part of the ruling financial oligarchy that is the antithesis of democracy.

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            Do you suspect all of those demons are running the "Oregon Business Association"?

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              That's a fair question and I don't know the answer. I wonder whether research would show that the methods and goals of the OBA and of corporate lobbyists in Salem happen to align with those of the oligarchy. Has anybody studied this? For example, we're far beyond corporations simply avoiding their state taxes. Now they want more state subsidies! And that's the pattern set at the national level by, say, General Electric.

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      The proper term should be the "business lobby" or the business lobbyists. The large business associations have an organized approach to dealing with the government. Many of their issues, like improving education at all levels, we would all agree with. However, they are using their mantra that "things look worse in Oregon" to push for lower business taxes. They fought M66/67 and are now fighting (and in many cases succeeding) to get additional tax breaks. Their primary argument is that business and jobs are in trouble in Oregon because our taxes are too high and our income too low.

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