The Truth Hurts
truth is that there are Oregonians from Coos Bay to Pendleton, from Astoria
to French Glen, and as close as Milwaukie or Beaverton who would love
to witness the spectacle of haughty Portland taxing itself into anti-business
oblivion. And come May 20, if voters say yes to Measure 26–48, the
Multnomah County 1.25 percent income tax, these other Oregonians may get
their spectacle. A tax increase in this difficult recession could be just
enough to drive away just enough businesses, and discourage just enough
new businesses to spell
out-and-out disaster for Portland and Multnomah County for years to come.
Their national reputation
for being anti-business, anti-capitalist, liberal zanies
is already legendary. More than one local businessman has reported back
from East Coast travels that Portland is repeatedly the butt of jokes
about economic incompetence.
Portland liberals, and the NewYork-owned newspaper that urges them on,
seem to be genetically incapable of understanding basic economics—that
is, that the reduction in income tax revenue, which has brought reduced
school and city budgets, is a result of a reduction in income. Get it?
People and businesses in Portland have less income. Who are the geniuses
that think you solve this by taking away more income? Even a Portland
fifth grader could logically deduce a better solution: increase income
by increasing business opportunities and jobs in Multnomah County.
Instead the city and the county are engaged in a divisive discussion about
reforming business taxes without really reducing them. Tax cuts (and staff
cuts) apparently are not a part of the liberal lexicon. The Portland planning
department proposes an expanded budget. Message to businesses: expect
expanded rules and regulations.
Add to this the public employee unions’ bitter approach to PERS
reform—threats of lawsuits over any and every real change—and
the Portland Public School District’s unwillingness to give up a
nickel of their bloated health care benefits...
Well, small wonder the rest of the state stands apart, waiting for economic
implosion. Drive to downtown Portland and witness a city coming undone.
For lease signs everywhere, fewer shoppers and business workers, more
street people, more homeless, more demonstrators, and miscellaneous lost
souls and vagrants. Most important, a mood of depression. Here’s
why. Because the party line from the big (out-of-town owned) utilities,
from the big (out-of-town owned) banks, and other big firms is to say
yes to Measure 26-48, tax yourselves more, vote for less future income,
for a less optimistic future.
These business leaders know that they should be pushing hard for lower
taxes to create more jobs, more business growth. The downtown crowd intuitively
understands that supporting this short-term fix could spell long-term
doom. That’s why themood is gloomy. But the truth is that highly
placed elected officials
have made these businesses offers they can’t refuse—like support
this measure, or else. And if Portland isn’t really your home base,
why worry about its long-term health?
“we support the children” public image is better for the bottom
line at this moment.
And so it goes. Everyone’s in favor of this measure. Businesses
that have been threatened/extorted into it, rural Oregonians who want
to see Portland implode, misguided liberals who don’t understand
why just about everyone is watching this election.If the only eyes turned
to watch this exercise in self-destruction were the eyes of the state,
then Portland-bashing would be a more popular spectator sport. But the
truth hurts. And the truth is that the next Intel, the next Hyundai, the
next Lufthansa might be watching from across the Pacific, the Atlantic,
or from anywhere in the world. To these international businesses Portland
symbolizes all of Oregon. Unfortunately, whether it’s politics or
economics, business or culture—as Portland goes, so goes Oregon.
At least for the time being. And these international or national businesses
will not enter an environment that increases taxes and refuses to promote
business income, especially during a recession.
Better schools, quality of life? Nonsense—
this self-taught myth long ago outlived its pretentious public relations
Save it for the travel-tourism ad campaign. Businesses don’t base
their bottom line success on advertising slogans, not even when “it’s
for the children.” They’ll find better schools, quality of
life, and lower taxes somewhere else. They can and they will.
Much as we’d like to say vote yes on Measure 26–48, so we
could join the other disaster spectators, we can’t be so irresponsible
about the immediate, and deeply serious financial crisis that all Oregon
faces. Like so many Oregonians, roughly the half living outside of Portland
and Eugene, we would, with some enthusiasm, watch the central-planning,
liberal utopian regime in Portland and Multnomah County blast itself into
anti-business oblivion with passage of this measure. But the truth is
that the rest of the state needs Portland.
We need the city and the county to grow up, face reality, and vote NO
on Measure 26-48. We need the city and the county to say YES to economic
growth, yes to jobs, yes to a future of healthy business development,
yes to growth in private income.
Will the voters say NO on Measure 26-48? Will they choose painful cuts
now for long-term growth later? Probably not. Like we said, the truth
BrainstormNW - May 2003