East Oregonian - March 11, 2015
By George Murdock Umatilla County Commissioner
Several years ago, Oregon’s Legislature created what they entitled the “grand bargain.” Whether or not it turned out to be as grand as the politicians touted it to be, the title stuck.
Now, as the Democrats continue their stranglehold on the shape of Oregon, and in the process reshape the purpose and intent of the short session, they’ve come up with a new plan — the grand deception.
Somehow, the Democratic leadership has adopted the middle class and those struggling to survive as beneficiaries of their ambitious plans for the minimum wage and a host of other social engineering initiatives designed to create an artificial level of security. Oregon is locked in the grip of misguided legislation driven by a group of Portland liberals who have never met a payroll — literally or figuratively.
Polls show raising the minimum wage is supported by 80 percent of Democrats and just 16 percent of Republicans.
In Eastern Oregon, the minimum wage proposals will certainly have an impact on helping some workers add to their paychecks. For a number of others, there will be no paycheck at all as hundreds of small businesses shutter their
doors — unable to survive. A recent estimate provided at the economic outlook luncheon in Pendleton revealed the new minimum wage proposal will cost Oregon 32,000 jobs. Many observers feel that estimate is extremely conservative.
I visited a grocery store in a remote community of Eastern Oregon that is popular with the locals because otherwise they would have to drive 50-60 miles for groceries. Unlike stores in larger communities, traffic isn’t heavy but workers have to be on hand throughout the day to be available when customers do come in.
That’s something that happens in many small, rural areas where the access to services is a blessing but customer traffic is sparse. It isn’t that the owners don’t want to pay more — they simply don’t have enough business to make it work. Jack up the wages and the citizens of those communities, who already have some of the lowest per capita incomes in Oregon, will be spending a fortune on gasoline because local shopping options are closed.
And, speaking of fuel, which is a burden on those with lower incomes, the plethora of clean fuel initiatives are destined to drive up the cost of gasoline — along with other similar products — and the group hit the hardest will be those the Democrats purport to represent.
The same will happen with utility bills as strict environmental demands create new costs for those supplying power.
With both federal and state lawmakers continuing to assault the natural resource industries, the current housing shortage cannot help but be impacted by a shortage of building materials, let alone taking away yet more family wage jobs.
With minimum wage legislation, not only will the cost of food go up, the opportunity for young people to earn summer wages will diminish. Economics will force farmers to move away from labor intensive crops in favor of those which can be mechanized and reduce the need for labor. Students who rely on part-time employment will find the jobs have vanished and they will get neither the experience nor the income. Organizations which seek to offer internship opportunities for students will likely trash the idea.
Oregon farmers will be unable to compete on a national scale because their cost of production will eliminate their ability to compete with states where labor costs are much, much less. Large chains don’t care where their products come from but rather demand the lowest price.
Oregon is rapidly becoming the least business-friendly state in the nation thanks to the work of the Legislature. In fact, Oregon isn’t even on the radar screen of most major businesses seeking to expand.
The agenda of Democratic legislative leaders cannot help but drive up the cost of fundamental goods and services — something which has the greatest impact on those experiencing financial challenges. Their actions will have a far more devastating impact on low income Oregonians than any gains that might be experienced from a higher minimum wage.
The 2016 Legislative session was a farce that completely disregarded the very intent of short sessions. Short sessions were sold on the basis of tweaking measures passed in the long session — not creating major policy initiatives. But short sessions also provide cover for passing measures with limited public awareness and participation. And the misuse of power, as demonstrated by the 2016 Legislature, can limit discussion by those who are not proponents of the Democratic agenda.
And yet, despite the grand deception, our most economically vulnerable citizens provide the strongest base of support for the very lawmakers whose actions are making their lives miserable.
When decisions are being guided by those organizations with big checkbooks, Oregonians can expect a future based upon entitlement, not empowerment.