Who Won the Gubernatorial Debate?

Who won the televised gubernatorial debate? Everybody has an opinion but few have a reason for that opinion.

In what can only be described as a polite exchange of positions – not a debate – I give the edge to Chris Dudley. He won by not losing.

The Democrats and their press agents in the mainstream media set very high expectations. Basically, they opined that the wily veteran and former governor with his lifetime of knowledge about Oregon government would crucify the big, dumb jock who isn’t even a native Oregonian. (Actually neither is Kitzhaber but apparently Colfax, Washington, is close enough while Stamford, Connecticut, is not.)

But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Dudley did just fine. He stuck to his message about job creation as the number one priority and to his belief that private enterprise creates jobs, not government. He zeroed in on the abuses of the public employee unions – high wages, high healthcare costs, and high pensions (PERS) – stacked high upon one Democrat administration after another. He demonstrated a self-deprecating sense of humor and fearlessness in stepping right into the fray. (But then again, you can’t be a pansy and live in the world of giants known as the NBA – when your number is called you “man up.”)

In contrast, there was old John Kitzhaber, still sporting his blue jeans, boots and opened neck shirt. It’s hard to tell whether he is still trying to look “Robert Redford-like” or he just can’t afford a suit and tie. Whatever the reason, it isn’t working and his appearance is just as shop-worn as his ideas. The man who once pronounced Oregon as “ungovernable” brought back the same old ideas that got Oregon into its sad situation. Whenever a question ventured into the realm of Oregon’s economy, Kitzhaber answered in terms of the state budget – apparently he can’t tell the difference between the two.

When the discussion turned to the cost of government, Kitzhaber asserted that the public employee unions would work with him to solve the budget crisis. He obviously doesn’t get it because it is precisely this “working with the public employee unions” that has brought Oregon to its knees fiscally. Gov. Goldschmidt, Gov. Barbara Roberts, Gov. Kitzhaber and Gov. Kulongoski have spent twenty-four years “working with (actually that is working for) the public employee unions and the result is wages that exceed their private sector equivalents, healthcare benefits that exceed those in the private sector, and a pension plan (PERS) whose unfunded future liability now exceeds the biennial general fund budget.

As for job creation, Kitzhaber is right back to the same play book that failed both he and his successor Ted Kulongoski – more government spending. In this case it is the bizarre notion that weatherizing the state’s schools will somehow jump start an economy that is so bad that ten of thousands of Oregonian have simply given up any hopes of finding work. And when Dudley criticized him for proposing to spend more money than Oregon has, Kitzhaber replied by saying that his proposal would be financed by revenue bonds – paid for by the savings in energy costs garnered from the weatherization.

What a bunch of crap. First of all, it’s all taxpayer dollars – the money borrowed, the money spent on weatherization and the money to pay back the sums borrowed. It may come out of different pockets, but it is all taxpayer money. Second, there isn’t the slightest bit of proof that the energy savings would be sufficient to pay back the amounts borrowed including interest in a reasonable period of time. The fact of the matter is if such savings were really available the schools would have done it already. And finally, it is like the Obama “stimulus” programs – all temporary, all subsidized, and all “stimulus” disappearing the moment the subsidies end.

There are people who practice a lifetime of delusion. There is the sportswriter who keeps picking Notre Dame for the top twenty-five NCAA football rankings despite it having successive losing seasons for several years. There are Rosie O’Donnell and Cindy Sheehan who think that the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers was an “inside job.” And there is John Kitzhaber who thinks that government creates jobs.

Okay, I’ll acknowledge, there isn’t anything really unique or new about Dudley’s proposals – targeted tax benefits for those who invest in Oregon, removing government impediments to business and job growth, and reigning in government spending to balance the budget. No, they aren’t new in concept, but given that Oregon’s twenty-four straight years of Democrat administration have steadfastly refused to implement them, they should be considered new to a generation of Oregonians who have never seen them in operation.

It’s time for change in Oregon and you aren’t going to find it by hooking up the old swayback nag to the buggy.