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|Tuesday, December 08, 2009|
State labor economist Art Ayre took the stage before Portland’s City Club last Friday to try to explain Oregon’s persistent problem with high unemployment. It’s easy enough to understand why statewide unemployment shot up from 5 percent in early 2007 to 12 percent in early 2009. The economy was crashing and jobs were vanishing everywhere. But why was Oregon among the hardest hit, once again? Why has Oregon exceeded the national average for unemployment for 25 of the past 31 years?
Congressman David Wu had organized a round-table discussion with academic, government, labor and business leaders to explore ways to create jobs in Oregon, now and into the future. It was a lively forum, but a powerful theme emerged early. The research institutions wanted money for research, the growing companies wanted capital to grow faster; the community colleges wanted money for workforce training, the utilities wanted money for transmission lines, the renewable energy businesses wanted money for renewable energy, the micro-loan providers wanted money for micro-loans, the energy efficiency experts wanted money for energy efficiency, the contracting firms wanted money for building projects, the union reps wanted money for union jobs and the tech companies wanted money for higher education.
At the end of the discussion I asked Wu which of the many proposals he had heard seemed most innovative. He told me it wasn’t a matter of which were most innovative but which of them will work best, then proceeded to praise almost every one of the ideas he had heard as worthy of federal investment. “The New Deal didn’t get us out of the Great Depression,” he said, “because it was too small.”
Sounds like a pork fest is on the way, for better or worse or both.
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