Response to DPO 2012 Legislative Agenda

Posted on February 8, 2013 by

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The Democratic Party of Oregon came out with their “2012 Legislative Agenda Items” so I decided to respond to each of the agenda Items to show from a Republican point of view what we felt about them (but these are my words, and I do not represent the republican party):

1.       Not surprising they want to overturn Citizens United, but the implications of this as written would also mean that corporations are not guaranteed freedom of speech (1st amendment) nor protection against arbitrary takings (5th amendment).  This would mean any newspaper or TV could be prevented from saying anything the government does not want, and the government could seize anything it wants from any company including non-profits, churches, and charities.   By allowing the government to silence its opposition and seize whatever it wants it would in short destroy our country.  Our government is not run by angels and we should not pretend it is.  There are other reasons not to overturn Citizens United, but I am not going to get into them now (maybe if they made a more limited proposal?).

2.       Again not very surprising, but again the implications of this are quite extensive.  Our fractional reserve banking system allows banks to accept deposits and then turn around and loan that money out to people for homes and businesses.  Sometimes these homes and businesses fail and they default on the loan.  Now Glass–Steagall itself allowed “subsidiaries” owned by the bank to do these things, but the bank itself couldn’t, this in effect eliminated the protections Glass–Steagall tried to do because they could do whatever they wanted (as long as it was in the subsidiaries which is just ends up meaning some clever budgeting), I assume they mean to get rid of this loophole in Glass–Steagall as well.    The only “bank-eligible securities” (what they could use the depots to buy) allowed under Glass–Steagall were US government and general obligation state and local government securities.  So in other words it would force everyone that wanted to keep their money in a bank to fund the government and only the government.  This would destroy any new businesses and the ability for people to own homes in the United States.

3.       Basically keep with the status quo as it relates to Social Security and Medicare.  The only question is what do they want done about when these programs go bankrupt in 2033 for Social Security or for Medicare in 2024?  They don’t seem to answer that question here.  The prohibition on employers avoiding pension obligations in bankruptcy is interesting.  First everyone who is 65 or older their pension is guaranteed up to $55,836 per year (over 55 then $25,128 ) by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (an independent agency of the federal government), so no one is left destitute and unable to work because they lost their pension.    There are more people owed money by a company then it has when it goes bankrupt, some of these creditors must lose money.  There is nothing that prevents a pension obligation from having a preferred status in bankruptcy (it goes to the front of the line as it were), but that must be a term of the pension obligation contract.  This is in other words something that can be negotiated, maybe the employees want more benefits in return for not having this?  That’s the employees choice.  I see no reason to force all employees to have this requirement in their pensions (and reduce everyone’s wages accordingly just as if that was a demand in the negotiations).  Give employees the choice to decide what they want.

4.       The Bank of North Dakota is not FDIC insured, and all deposits are guaranteed instead by the state of North Dakota meaning that the tax payers are on the hook for defaults.  This just seems to be a way to provide more risky loans that when they default (and they will because they are risky), will require higher taxes.

5.       The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is federal legislation that adds sexual orientation or gender identity to the list of attributes which employees are not allowed to discriminateOregon already prevents discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  Any discrimination on these protected characterizes can be done at the state level (and have been done in Oregon).  In the UK a similar law was used to charge Reverend Anthony Priddis Bishop of Hereford because while the UK law like this one exempted churches but only if the position “primary duties consist of teaching or spreading religious doctrine or belief, religious governance, supervision of a religious order, supervision of persons teaching or spreading religious doctrine or belief, or supervision or participation in religious ritual or worship.”  We do not believe Churches should be required to employ people that oppose the churches beliefs.  The most important part of DOMA was the part that prevented one state that allows gay marriage from forcing all other states to recognize gay marriage (through Article 4 section 1 of the constitution).  Each state should decide for itself if it wishes to recognize gay marriage or not (as the people of Oregon choose not to do when they added that to our state Constitution).

6.       I have no problem with a Rainy Day Fund, that is properly protected (with super majority status in our constitution to make sure it is not used unless it is really an emergency).  There is a rainy day fund specificly for education the “Education Stability Fund” which is a 3/5 supermajority fund set in our state constitution and funded by the state lottery (Article 15, Section 4, part 5) .  We also already have the “Oregon Rainy Day Fund” (see ORS 293.144), this this is only a statutory fund.  If a simple majority wants to take money out of it, they can amend this law and do so.  We need a Rainy Day Fund that is set in our constitution to require a supermajority to remove money from (or more than one with different levels of “super majority” such as 3/5, 2/3, 3/4, that way if a larger % of the assembly believes it is really needed they can pull more money out).  In a true natural disaster or other situation that clearly requires it, I bet even a 9/10 majority would be found.  But I would prefer that funding for that goes through normal budgetary funding to put away some money for a rainy day every year, rather than just when the state makes a mistake in budgeting.  And then just through the standard budget practices, we should place money in each of these funds every year (at least up until we feel they are funded enough given how rare a 9/10 majority fund would be used it would probably quickly fill up and sit waiting for when we needed it).

7.       Why stop there?  Why not provide for every want of every person and require the state to pay it?  And what happens when the price for all these things go up? (here is a hint “rationing”)  This will utterly destroy any private market and is socialism (if not communism), pure and simple.  Do you really want the government to have the power to say who gets the lifesaving medicine or treatment and who doesn’t?  We already have laws to make sure that those that require critical care are stabilized.  And we provide ways that even the poor can get access to health care.  What we instead need to do is focus on the price of health care, increasing competition so that hospitals/doctors/insurance companies cannot charge cartel like prices and instead their profit is reduced by competition.  That is the only way to reduce the cost of medical care and allow everyone to have access to what they want and need at prices they can afford.

8.       We got a major problem in our education system in Oregon.  We are the 4th worst in the country for graduation rates, and no state did as poorly as Oregon when it came to getting white students to earn high school diplomas.  We have more full time staff per population than any state but North Dakota (2009 data).  We pay teachers about 2.1% more than average in 2009-10.  The question is not funding (although do we need to continue to fund our schools and that should be one of our first priorities along with critical fire/police services), but the question is what do we do with the money we have?  I believe there is only one way to improve the efficiency of the system and that is to introduce competition.  Competition between public school districts started a little bit last term (allowing districts to open slots that the home district could not prevent people from transferring), we should continue that and add more (such as more lenient charter school rules that do not require permission from the school board to open).  Additionally we should add more competition within the existing schools, I propose we do this by adding a bonus pay system where money is specifically put aside to only pay the teachers that do the best at educating their students (in terms of improvement of the student under their care).  This was just started in 6 school districts (total $2.75 million) based on federal money, but should be extended throughout the state where of the money to be spent a specific percentage is only allowed to be spent as a bonus to “in the classroom” teachers based on their performance (as determined by the school board) with no more than 50% of the teachers allowed to receive a bonus.

9.       The super majority requirement to raise taxes was added for a reason, to prevent the government from taking more money then it needs to run.  If you want to change this, ask the people of oregon to change the constitution, but I like many of them will not be supporting that at all.

10.   Most of this I can agree with (especially a postal service that does not require taxpayer money to run), except the pre-payment of retiree benefits.  Its very important that we make sure that we don’t leave our children paying for our current needs.

11.   As I said before in #8, education of our children is one of the most important things our state does (and it should be funded as such).  All of those things are nice to haves, but we need to let the local school boards make determination on exactly how they will spend the money to best educate the children, while providing incentives to teachers to do a better job.

12.   Our state constitution defines the word marriage, it does not in any way limit the rights of same sex unions (which can be done through domestic partnership in Oregon and provides virtually all of the rights afforded to married couples see ORS 106.340).  I do not support changing our current laws in Oregon as to domestic partnerships or marriage.  But as to the definition of the word “Marriage”, I believe that should be left up to the people of Oregon to decide (as they have so far done so by putting it in the state constitution).

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