Can we please have less forums, more jobs?

Editorial: Fewer forums and more jobs
Superb editorial From Hasso Herring,
Democrat Herald

Among the blizzard of public announcements we get every day, there was one announcing yet another jobs forum. This was was being planned in Portland by John Kitzhaber, running for governor. We seem to have jobs forums and economic development meetings every time you turn around. Last week there was one in Albany. Congressman Peter DeFazio was the main speaker. He called for more efficiency in government. Really.

Others spoke of the importance of our universities in fostering new ideas that can be translated into products and services and eventually jobs. If you’ve been paying attention – and you would be excused if your attention has wandered – you’ve heard all that before, many times. If we’d had a handful of good jobs for every public forum or conference on jobs, unemployment would be a thing of the past. Talking about efficiencies and innovation and the importance of education is all fine and good, and certainly those things would help if we had them in sufficient supply. But there are basics that can’t be overlooked. You can’t have 20 or 30 years of state and federal policies that systematically dismantle the resource industries such as timber without causing a sharp decline in prosperity – in the rural parts of the Northwest first and in the cities eventually.
You can’t increase the pace of regulation and pile additional costs on to every aspect of life and then be surprised that enterprises pull back, quit hiring or even go away. Or that consumers have less money to spend.

Just now, cities like Albany face a new round of mandates to keep dirt out of the Willamette River by controlling rainwater and where it flows. New permits will be required; new fees will be collected. And looking at the muddy Willamette during last week’s high water, when whole chunks of the Oregon territory were floating downriver, you have to wonder: What’s the point?

Add to the pressures of local, state and federal regulation the fact that many private enterprises do everything they can to ship work overseas in order to save money on labor and health insurance.

As consumers seeking instructions on programming a cable remote, setting up a wireless phone connection or arranging an appliance repair appointment, we all have talked to people working for big American companies in India or the Philippines. They can be very helpful, and they certainly are patient. But those call center jobs are not available to Oregon residents. The people with those jobs don’t support Oregon schools and don’t help pay for our utility upgrades.

Those are the things they don’t talk about at the many jobs forums. But unless we fix those things, we have no hope that we’ll ever again have jobs for everybody in Oregon who can’t be an IT engineer but still wants to be employed. (hh)