As DC quarrels, Oregon should act.

Paul Evans

By Paul Evans of Scappoose, Oregon. Paul is a former senior policy advisor to Governor Ted Kulongoski for emergency management, military, and veterans' affairs. Paul is the former mayor of Monmouth, Oregon, and an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran.

This week Speaker Boehner cast the die.

The so-called Congressional “Super-Committee” – which had a window of opportunity for significant action – will now be constrained by a “no new taxes” constraint.

Like a broken record the powerful interests in DC clamor for tax cuts. They fight revenue increases with reckless abandon.

When the economy is good, cuts will “share the wealth.” When the economy is bad, cuts will “stimulate job creation.”

History tells us neither of these assumptions is true.

Over the past decade, poverty has increased, our productive capabilities have been sold wholesale to our global competitors, and our government has been supporting two wars without paying for them.

Republicans in Congress are selling us a vinyl record to play on our IPod: it just doesn’t play in the reality of our times.

To make things even more disturbing, our existing tax policies actually subsidize the reduction of our manufacturing base – and reward corporations that keep capital out of our economy.

Greed isn't news, but our complicity in this circumstance is troubling.

We have allowed powerful interests to divide us because of differences in preferred means - not because most Americans differ on ends.

Democratic and Republican parents want the best for our kids, we want a workplace where effort and initiative are rewarded, and we all want access to affordable health care and a secure retirement.

It is critical that we understand public schools, roads, and our social safety net exist for the working and middle classes: the wealthy take care of themselves – they always have, always will.

Whenever anyone points this out we risk being labeled as “class warriors.” There is an "invisible shield" protecting the inevitability of elite privilege, usually at the expense of the working and middle classes.

Class warfare it is argued weakens America.

Open dialogue about our circumstances never weakens America; it allows us to come together for progress.

And rather than fearing this or any other label tossed about to quell discussion and debate – I welcome it.

Standing up for our working and middle class neighbors is our responsibility; it is our duty as citizens to advocate for our beliefs.

When our national leaders fail to act, it is incumbent upon our state to blaze a new trail forward.

Therefore, Oregon – through the ballot or legislation – should:

  1. Determine that speech and money are different. This defies existing interpretation of the US Constitution and will require an amendment to undo the damage. While it is difficult to assault an entrenched judicial opinion, the vast majority of federal judges are not inclined to set a new standard anytime soon. And yet a new standard is essential to renewing our democracy and it will need to originate somewhere, so it should originate here.

  2. Determine that times of economic distress (times with unemployment rates of 5% or higher) require capital construction methodology that utilizes American-made materials and American labor – except when impossible to fulfill domestically. It should apply to all scales, shapes, and sizes of public construction activities. When Americans are unemployed it is unconscionable to subsidize employment in competitor countries.

  3. Determine that Oregonians share sacrifice during times of economic distress through a temporary tax for workforce retraining when unemployment drops below 5%. Ideally a progressive tax, it is imperative that every Oregonian contribute at least $1.00 per month ($12.00) per year to have “skin in the game” during times of hardship. When enacted this measure would serve as the bookend to the kicker. In a community all should benefit during good times, all should contribute during bad times.

  4. Determine that corporate actions are implemented by real persons; that corporate agents should be held criminally liable for conduct that is not in the “public interest” required by charter. Further, knowingly taking actions that harm the economic interests of our state should be considered acts of economic treason. We are not talking about trivial matters but situations where people are aware of the ethical and legal requirements of a decision and choose self-interest over duty. Further, the Attorney General should be given the authority to hold bad actors accountable along with greater charter revocation powers.

In the end, Americans want the opportunity to rise above circumstance through hard work, fair play, and justice – for all.

Over the past decade we have weakened the institutions that level the field for play. And though the vast majority will benefit from a renewal of this focus, it is essential that the elite understand why a vibrant middle class is so critical.

History is full of instances when the schism between “haves” and “have-nots” became too great.

We must level the playing field through constraining the reach of money in politics; we must at least start the process.

We must pass principle-based measures that stimulate American production. We must find ways of bringing Americans together in acts of shared sacrifice.

And we must seek to align our system of public reward and penalty in a manner that will sustain the Oregon we know possible.

Our national problems can appear overwhelming, but every victory begins with stepping onto the field.

Let us seek to restore Our America one small victory at a time.

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    Of course the "class war" argument is itself class war, and the wealthy and their advocates, particularly in the Republican Party but also too many Democrats who put have corporate interests, especially in big finance, ahead of the common good, have been waging class war against working class Americans assiduously for 30 years.

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    Paul - Thank you for this....I couldn't agree more. We must continue to find ways to dialogue and act on needed a time of so much political disillusionment, it is sometimes challenging to think about solutions. I'm trying to believe that we actually have the force of will to implement even one of your four recommendations - I know everyone in our house is more than willing to do our have one small victory at a time.

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