OR-1: Is the American Dream Dying in Rural Oregon? (Debate tonight)

By Steve Hughes of Portland, Oregon. Steve is the state director of the Oregon Working Families Organization. Previously, he contributed "Matt Damon and Third Party Politics"

The outrage over the gross injustice that has corrupted our economic system is now spilling into the streets. After months of the media telling us that the Tea Party is THE grassroots response to bailouts and banker bonuses, it is clear something new is stirring.

The 99%’ers have opened a unique historical moment and it is time for that same sense of urgency being expressed in the streets to also shape our political discourse. With this in mind, I submit that rural Oregon is a vital place to shape a new narrative, and the special election in Oregon’s first congressional district is a moment to do it.

Oregon’s first congressional district is home to family farms, towns built around the forest products industry, and small coastal communities. At the same time, it is also home to two of the biggest corporations in the world: Nike and Intel. If you are one of these blue chip companies things don’t look too bad these days; Nike is expanding aggressively into China and planning for rapid growth and Intel is smashing earnings expectations and growing their production facilities.

I think it is fair to say that no matter who is elected to fill the seat being vacated by David Wu, neither Nike nor Intel will struggle to get the ear of their new Congressperson.

But what about the rest of the district? What about the small communities whose infrastructure—from schools, to roads, to healthcare options—all depend on the health of a faltering rural economy?

When it comes to the economy, if the metro area gets a cold the rest of the state catches the flu. For example, according to August 2011 figures, Columbia County has an unemployment rate of 10.6%, almost two percentage points higher than its neighbor Multnomah County, and three points higher than Washington County. This pattern is repeated all throughout rural Oregon.

The American dream is slipping out of reach for so many, and nowhere is this felt more acutely than rural Oregon. Thanks to the growing Occupy Wall Street movement, the media narrative is changing. Elections—especially special elections—are an opening to shape the political narrative. As a movement we must seize the opportunity to compliment the actions in the streets with actions that hold candidates and elected leaders accountable to the other 99%.

With that in mind, this evening in Scappoose, along with our partners the Rural Organizing Project, Columbia County Citizens for Human Dignity, MoveOn.org and Rebuild the Dream, we will be hosting “Voices of Rural Oregon” candidates forum. It will be held in at St Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Scappoose (51555 SW Old Portland Rd.) from 6 – 8 p.m. All are welcome to attend. More information here.

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    I have no complaint with the substance of your article, but for many of us, "rural Oregon" is a place 145 miles due East of Bend, and not Scappoose. If you grew up on a 10,000 acre wheat ranch and had to drive 25 miles each way to get your mail, Scappoose is like Manhattan, without the subways.

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    So Steve, just what do you think is the 'American Dream', according to us in rural Oregon?

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    Thanks for a well written article Steve Hughes.

    I traveled from nearby Clatsop County to attend this well organized event in Scappoose (Columbia County). The candidates (1st Congressional District) were ready and so was the 125+ audience. Many very important questions from audience were asked.

    All said and done, the rural counties, cities and metro all need more revenue to operate schools, incentivise small business and produce good paying jobs. All signs point to rolling back taxes not only to Clinton era but to Reagan era. This does not have to be permanent but it's evident the country is lacking the revenues in used to plan with. If you are not registered...register soon. The Special 1st CD PRIMARY election is Nov. 8 and ballots will be sent out next week. We need to keep 1st CD held by Democratic Party and the General Election will be in Jan.2012. Exercise your rights, we need you all more than ever!

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