Jobs Plummet Again In Response to Governor’s Failed Economic Policies


In my November 18th column I wrote:

“The October employment numbers are out and they spell more bad news for Oregon. Only someone as economically illiterate as Gov. Ted Kulongoski would characterize the situation as “stabilizing” and “promising”. Yes, the new numbers indicate that Oregon’s total employment only dropped by 1,900 in October as compared to 10,000 for September; however, that same phenomena occurred in July followed by two catastrophic months. Nothing has changed in Oregon that would suggest that the October numbers are anything more than a seasonal fluctuation.”

The November employment numbers are now out and prove my pessimism prescient. Another month and another 4,600 jobs lost. Another month and more hot air from the governor who continues to prattle on about “green jobs” while demonstrating that he is clueless with regard to real job creation.

These quotes from the governor’s web page:

“Oregon is focused on accelerating our state’s economic recovery by creating jobs and economic stability for communities throughout the state during this volatile time. Governor Ted Kulongoski’s approach is comprehensive, leveraging state and federal dollars and private investment to maximize efforts that deliver short-term stimulus and long-term economic prosperity.”

And

“A key part of our recovery strategy is to leverage Oregon’s strengths to create jobs and put Oregonians back to work. In February of 2009, as Congress and President Obama finalized the details of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“˜ARRA’), Governor Kulongoski announced a strategy to build upon Oregon’s national and international leadership in renewable energy development and sustainability to create jobs and restore prosperity. On February 11, the Governor signed an executive order committing the state to a focus on renewable energy, sustainable development and clean technologies in its use of ARRA funds. The Governor termed this strategy the “˜Oregon Way’.”

Whenever I hear Gov. Kulongoski talk about economic recovery by leveraging Oregon’s leadership in green technology I am reminded of Macbeth:

“. . . it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

There is no Oregon “national and international leadership in renewable energy development.” The only thing the Kulongoski administration has led on in the past seven years is the number of times it has been held up for ridicule by everyone from Doonesbury to the Tonight Show. If the Kulongoski administration really held such a leadership position, it could point to specific successes that have translated into business growth and jobs created. And the jobs attendant to such a leadership position would be found in the construction and manufacturing segments of Oregon’s job reports.

So how has Gov. Kulongoski’s “leadership” panned out? Well, in November Oregon lost another 1,400 construction jobs and 1,700 in durable manufacturing jobs bringing those to a two-year loss total of 28,500 and 36,800 respectively. Sure, I know there are wind generators being constructed in the Gorge and a new announcement about a massive wind farm at Sheperds Flats but they exist only because of heavy subsidies from Oregon tax dollars — a subsidy that is about to dry up because the public employee unions need those tax dollars to fund their salaries and benefits.

I also know that between proposal and performance is a long distance replete with environmental lawsuits and huge fights over the transmission facilities necessary to bring the electricity from those sites to California — that’s right because the Sheperds Flat proposal is solely to benefit California at the expense of Oregon’s skyline.

And finally, I know that none of this translates into long term jobs for Oregonians. Yes, there will be some temporary construction jobs to erect these windmill monsters and there will be a handful of long-term jobs to maintain the wind generators but the manufacturing will continue to be done elsewhere because nobody in their right mind would locate or grow a new manufacturing facility in a state that now has the second highest business tax in the world.

It is far more likely that these proposed wind farm projects will be cancelled and existing wind farms will be shut down with the elimination of Oregon’s heavy subsidies than that there will be any “sustainable” job creation arising out of Gov. Kulongoski’s love affair with his “green technologies” pipe dream.

Only time will tell who is right in this regard, but right now, after seven years, Kulongoski has failed to deliver a base hit let alone a home run. But, what the hell, if economics is a foreign language to Gov. Kulongoski and his public employee union handlers, what would you expect?

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  • Anonymous

    I have a great idea: why don’t we attract new industries (of any kind) with a promise of no property tax. Ever. And the lowest income tax of any state. Forever. And no sales tax.

    And to be fair to existing businesses, give them the same treatment.

    But where would we get the money to run the government?

    I’m, glad you asked.

    Simple: Let it shrink. Get rid of the department & inspectors that drove that knife manufacture out of state. Get ride of the stupid rules that made Addias say they would not have moved to Portland if they had known the hassle they were in for. Get rid of the bureau and their criminal enforcers that enforce every crackpot idea EXCEPT health, safety, & common nuisance rules.

    End of the Oregon syndrome; beginning of a new prosperity.

    (Note to lefty crackpots: pollution falls under nuisance rules.)

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Oregon has been talking about green jobs, leadership in green jobs and being a forerunner in renewable sustainable (and whatever other eco buzz words you care to throw at it) industry forever. Sure, there might be a few guys installing a solar panel on I5 somewhere but it isn’t exactly a fountain of jobs and frankly the tag line is getting a little old.

    No, the new Vanguard in Oregon is Taxing our way to prosperity. Why isn’t Ted talking more about this?

    Are schools going to close down if we don’t get green jobs right here right now? Nope, but we are told they will without the massive taxes.

    Therefore since tax raising is really the main thrust of the economic recovery I really think it should be played up more. Ted should talk more about Oregon’s place as premiere tax raiser, at the forefront of money extraction.

    After all, since tax increases are the only thing coming out of Salem, you would think they would be proud of their work. It certainly is more notable than the granola sack load of green jobs we have created.

  • v person

    Oregon is middle of the pack on taxation, even with the proposed increases on corporations and high end earners. Oregon ranks #1 or nearly so in green jobs. Our unemployment rate is a whole 1 point higher than the national average.

    Chill.

    • Steve Plunk

      Asking those who are out of work to chill is somewhat callous for liberal. Job creation requires an expectation of success for business. With a liberal President, Congress, Governor, and Legislature Oregon business sees nothing but increased taxes and regulation in the future. Our government class has decided business is nothing more than a cash cow to be milked until it can give no more.

      Chill indeed. Ask the government unions to chill during the next labor negotiations.

      • v person

        Oregon is always 1 or 2 ticks higher in unemployment than the national average. It has been that way for at least the 30 years I’ve lived here with rare and temporary exceptions. Why? Because the quality of life here, other than making a living, is higher than nearly everywhere else in the nation. Nebraska always has lower unemployment than the rest of the nation for the opposite reason.

        So if the national unemployment rate is 10% and we are at 11% that is par for the course and has zilch to do with state policies. And beating up on unions is tiresome. Just look at South Carolina, with no unions and as business friendly a climate as you can find. Their unemployment is as bad or worse than ours. Laying off teachers and policemen is not going to make our unemployment rate any better.

        • Sybella

          Gee, did it ever occur to you to see why Oregon is always higher. Yes, Unions are tiresome

          • v person

            Then what about South Carolina? No unions and unemployment higher than in Oregon. What is your explanation?

            And yes, it has occurred to me that Oregon has mountains, a 400 mile coastline, attractive cities, ski areas, fantastic rivers, fish to catch, game to hunt, trails to hike, and a relatively mild climate, all of which act as a magnet for people that counteracts our distance from everywhere except California. So what jobs there are to be filled get filled quickly and there is no way we can sustain an unemployment rate below the national average. 1% above is doing pretty darn good.

          • Anonymous

            There’s a tale told by an idiot if I ever heard one.

          • Moe

            So you are saying because Oregon has mountains our employment rate should be low. That makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
            I just never did. You are very perceptive.
            Michigan, on the other hand, has hardly any mountains but they have a lot of unemployment.
            What am I missing?
            Enlighten me please.
            I guess Oregon is such a great state that people can live here just fine and not work.
            Excellent choice.
            Take money from people who work and give it to people who do not work.
            That’s the American dream.

    • eagle eye

      Take a look at current unemployment rates by state:

      http://www.bls.gov/web/laumstrk.htm

      There are some pretty appealing states with low unemployment — Colorado, Vermont, ….

      Also, Oregon has chronically low per capita income. Unlike Colorado, ….

      It’s just not true that Oregon’s economic problems are all due to its attractions.

  • Joe Jericho

    Living in Oregon under left-wing governments is like living in a cave!

  • v person

    Thanks for sending that link. I agree there is more to the economic story than our attractions, but I’m focusing here on unemployment reltaive to the national economy. Doesn’t matter if we are booming or busting, we are always going to be above the national norm and have college educated folks serving espressos or changing bicycle tires. Vermont is appealing aesthetically, but has way long winters. Colorado has huge fossil fuel energy reserves, like Wyoming and Texas. Though I admit in terms of attraction, it is the exception that seems to prove the rule.

    How do you explain so many southern states, with no unions and all with conservative republican governments and low taxes, at the bottom of the list? 5 out of the bottom 10 fit this description, and there are more southern states right behind these. And then in the top 10 you have both Vermont and New Hampshire, which are much more like Oregon policy- wise. How do we explain this?

    The best strategy seems to be to have as few people as possible, what with the Dakotas, Montana, and Nebraska topping the list. In fact if you add up all the people living in the top 10 states you would not equal the population of the San Francisco Bay area.I suspect the common denomonator is lack of industry. Farmers& ranchers tend to stay employed even if their incomes drop.

    Oregon has had chronically low per capita income since our timber industry crashed and burned in the early 1980s recession. We never recovered those high paying blue collar union jobs. To the extent they got replaced it was by lower paying, non union tech manufacturing, which has also now declined. Beyond that, we haven’t invested in higher education so we can’t attract or hold innovators. We have out-sourced manufacturing nationally and have no real replacement other than R&D plus services and tourism. Lousy higher ed = lousy R&D.

    The tax credits for alternative energy are probably the only chance we have to pull in serious investment in emerging industries at this point, yet these are now being criticized left and right. Very short sighted in my view.

  • eagle eye

    Most of the low-unemployment states have homogeneous populations, high levels of education, and tax and other government policies that encourage business. Oregon has maybe 1 of those characteristics.

    I won’t even go into the southern states, except that they have maybe 1 of those, plus a lot of history.

    • v person

      The Dakotas, Nebraska, and Iowa certainly have business friendly policies if you are in the corn ethanol business. As for the rest, I’m not sure one way or the other. But they all have low population and the ones at the top have lots of nothing. Their educated kids tend to move here and become barristas.

      All the manufacturing states are at the higher end of unemployment today. I think this is the key.

  • eagle eye

    I guess one can make excuses for Oregon forever, if one wants. I can assure you that Iowa has a lot more going for it than corn ethanol. (By the way, Oregon is bellying up for the clean energy boondoggle too, big time, as with the wind swindle that you enthuse about so much.) Some of it, actually, is the higher edcuation that you mention. They have bolstered their higher education for years, precisely to try to keep their kids from moving away. And it’s paying off. But not just in higher education.

    And Utah, Arkansas — Arkansas!– New Mexico — New Mexico! — all have unemployment under 8.0. And what is it about Minnesota? Surely not the scenery, or the distilleries.

    Surely someone is trying to do better than we are, and succeeding.

    • v person

      I went to a public university in Iowa. It has always rated near the top in public education. Probably reflects the German and Scandinavian roots of the population. Back when I moved from there to here, Iowa and Oregon were both rated near the top in education. They have managed to stay there while we have slipped. Why? Maybe because they lack the ballot initiative and have not radically cut property taxes that fund their fine schools. On the other hand, Iowa is 99% corn and soybeans and thus does not attract many people. Their population is about the same now as it was 30 years ago. Same for most of the Midwest. Their kids mostly move away to Chicago, Minneapolis, or Westward ho. They do not need to find jobs for new migrants. Oregon’s population has nearly doubled over the past 40 years. We have created far more jobs than the Dakotas, Iowa, and Nebraska combined. Why is that if we suck so bad?

      Utah is an enigma. It is a fairly closed semi-theocracy, and its economy is rooted in the intertwined Mormon community. Essentially, they take care of each other in ways the rest of the country does not.

      Arkansas? A very poor state with lousy education. Same is true of New Mexico. They may have lower unemployment rates, but they are still quite poor and not places we should envy. Minnesota has always had a very diverse economy. Like Iowa, great schools, but with a major metro area that spawns R&D. However, cold and boring as can be and again, not a magnet for migrants other than from nearby more rural and equally cold and boring places.

      Over the past 30 years, in how many of those has Oregon’s unemployment rate been higher than the national average? How many lower? I’m not saying we are perfect or even any good. I’m just saying we can’t be expected to beat the spread. We are a magnet.

      Yes, I’m very supportive of building on our clean energy strategy. What do you have that is a better idea?

      • Jean

        You say you don’t envy Arkansas. Well, you are a small-minded bigot.

        • v person

          A small minded bigot? According to the US Census Bureau statistical rankings of states, Arkansas holds down the # 48 spot in education levels, while Oregon is at #18. Arkansas is also a proud #48 in household income, while Oregon is #24. Arkansas does beat us by ranking much higher in infant mortality and violent crime, at # 14 and #11 to Oregon’s #38 on both. Meaning you expect me to envy Arkansas for its lower education, lower income, higher crime, and higher number of babies dying.

          Arkansas also by the way, pays its teachers less than we do.

          • Diamond Jim Franconni

            If you believe the census you really are in trouble.

    • eagle eye

      So it doesn’t matter if the low unemployment state is northern and full of white farmers, or southern and full of descendaants of slaves, or mountain west, or southwest, or northeast, or mid-Atlantic southern, or high-tech or low-tech, or urban or rural. There’s always a reason why it shouldn’t be compared to Oregon.

      As I said — I guess one can make excuses for Oregon forever, if one wants.

      What would be better than Oregon’s so-called “green energy strategy”? Simple: do nothing. At least that wouldn’t be wasting money, and it would leave the scenery alone.

      • v person

        You were the one who pointed to Arkansas, not me.

        I think comparisons (across the board) can be useful, and I think our currently high unemployment rate stinks. But I stand by the demonstratable fact that Oregon’s unemployment rate is almost always a bit above the national average for the reasons I pointed out. And if that national average is 10% then being at 11% is nothing to get worked up over with respect to state policies. If the national rate comes back down to 5% and Oregon is still at 8 or 10%, then there is a case to be made for a change, assuming that change makes sense on its own merits.

        Doing nothing on energy policy would most likely make our unemployment rate even higher and would have us to breathing Boardman coal soot for many decades. Not to mention you can’t even see the scenery when the air is stagnant over the Gorge and their coal garbage hangs in the air.

        • eagle eye

          I think Arkansas is fine, I like visiting there, northwest Arkansas, it’s a pretty upbeat place. I don’t look down on them, not even if they’re impoverished ex-sharecroppers living on the other side of the state in the Delta.

          The way to deal with coal soot is to build nuclear plants — not ruin the landscape (and the economy) with monstrous wind turbines.

          • v person

            I like Arkansas. Great folk music tradition (but too far north to be near the delta). The Ozarks are beautiful , though full of chiggers and ticks. I don’t look down on Arkansas. But I don’t think we ought to aspire to what they are economically or socially. I prefer Vermont or Colorado from your list.

            Nuclear….fine. But then you had better be willing to pay subsidies, live with the risks, tolerate much warmer water, and manage the long lived toxic waste stream. Personally I’m ok with nuclear as an alternative to burning coal if this is what it takes, but I have no illusions that it will be cheap, safe, or without serious problems. And it will take 10 years from planning to construction minimum. Wind turbines take about 2 years, so you could get a lot of energy up and running in the meantime.

          • eagle eye

            A little geography for you:

            The Arkansas Delta runs along the eastern border of the state next to the Mississippi River. It is part of the Mississippi embayment, itself part of the Mississippi River alluvial plain. The flat plain is bisected by Crowley’s Ridge, a narrow band of rolling hills rising from 250 to 500 feet above the plain and on which many of the major cities and towns lie, including its largest — Jonesboro. The region shares geographic and cultural similarities with the Mississippi Delta region on the other side of the river in Mississippi.

            You need to learn more about nuclear energy. Go to France, they will help you.

          • v person

            Geographically, a delta is where a river braids out into multiple channels before entering a sea or lake. The shape is usually triangular, hence “delta” (Greek for same). By that definition Arkansas does not have a “delta.” Its just too far from the Gulf. But….I’ll grant you the point that Arkansas has a geographic place name called the Arkansas Delta. And I’ll grant that it has similar cultural characteristics to the Mississippi Delta, so your initial point is taken.

            By the way, as it turns out even what we call the Mississippi delta is also not an actual delta. The actual delta is in Louisiana. Eeeks.

            Anyway, thanks for the lesson. My brain still has a few unoccupied spaces reserved for new factoids.

  • Diamond Jim Franconni

    I say Oregon has it all. Green mountains, green fields, green sports teams, green energy, green jobs, green everything.
    What’s not to like?
    This state rocks! Green it is baby!
    Green all the way.
    GO GREEN!
    Keep us employed and prosperous.
    Green, green, green,
    An amazing green machine.

    • oregon sucks ass

      Oregon will always be a second rate state with third rate living conditions. Why are people attracted to Oregon? It’s an area with low paying jobs, high tax rates, high unemployment, high cost of living, lousy climate, poor roads, awful government schools, corrupt politicians, polluted rivers, massive bureaucracies and a large illegal drug trade.

      • anonymous

        Well don’t let the door hit you in the tush on the way out.

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