Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Economic recovery needs more than platitudes

As if we don't have enough problems in Bend with high unemployment, constant foreclosures and deadbeat developers, we now have more "experts" to tell us how to solve all of our problems.

Writing in the local daily newspaper, the co-chairs of the Deschutes Economic Alliance (DEA, not to be confused with the Drug Enforcement Agency) offer a six-point plan to jump-start our local economy.

This new group joins Economic Development of Central Oregon, Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council and others to inform us what we really need to grow our economy.

No. 1 includes "eliminating governmental 'D.U.R.T.'"

And what is "D.U.R.T.?"

Well, these econ-nerds define it as eliminating Delays, Uncertainty, Regulations and Taxes.

What the ....?

Bend has eliminated impact fees for new building. Uncertainty is caused by the marketplace. Regulations haven't been tightened lately and taxes remain flat.

But eliminate taxes? Are these econ-terrorists serious? It's like Michele Bachmann saying we shouldn't have taxes at all. Gee, how can we wage war without taxes?

The right-wingers and teabaggers claim that taxes are the root of all evil, but these same groups want all the services and benefits that the government, with its taxes, provides.

Which leads to the writers's second point: "Enhancing local higher education."

That's nice.

Yes, we need a four-year university here in Bend and OSU-Cascades at COCC is evolving toward that goal. But, if we can't raise taxes or borrow money to make this four-year university a reality, how in the hell do we do it?

Will the private sector step up to fund it?

Okay, enough with the laughter.

As I've noted before, at the rate we're going, the only four-year institution we'll see here is a Bible college. That's not exactly a job generator, but what the heck. I guess it could be worse. Could it? A Koran college, maybe?

The DEA co-chairs' third point is "developing more premier athletic events, services and facilities."

Well, we have more athletic events here than most places in the country.

Yes, we do need facilities, but again, if we can't raise taxes or borrow money to make these new facilities emerge in the High Desert, how in the hell do we get them?

We don't.

The private sector will never fund these athletic facilities. Case closed.

The DEA brain trust says we need "investigating energy-efficient system-built housing."


Apparently, we need to compete in the emerging "green" system-built housing.

Okay. No one is stopping anyone from competing in the "green" housing realm. What's pathetic is that for a region that sells itself on all its abundant sunshine, we don't have an aggressive solar initiative to mandate all new buildings, homes or businesses, to be solar-energy sufficient.

What's preventing any real growth in this economy is the lack of demand. Any attempts by government to stimulate demand is met by derision by the right-wingnuts in our society.

Okay, private sector. Have at it.

Point Five in this "strategy" is "working with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs."

This is the only point I agree with and it's refreshing to hear a call for greater cooperation. But, the motive here is dubious. The tribes are building a new casino along Highway 26, the main artery between Portland and Central Oregon. When that casino opens, it will siphon off much of those tourism dollars on which the rest of Central Oregon has grown accustomed to. No wonder the DEA co-chairs want greater cooperation with Warm Springs. Follow the money.

The last point is a complete non-starter: "Creating a Central Oregon economic corridor leadership council."

We already have that. We don't need more councils, commissions or alliances to show us the way.

What we need is realization that no matter how much we need or want something, we won't get them until we realize that it costs money to get those things. Yes, we can blame government for not funding these grandiose ideas. But, unless we want to pay more taxes or allow our state government to borrow money for these ideas, they will never become reality.

What we've learned in this Great Recession is that the private sector, on its own, is incapable of spurring economic growth. The government alone isn't capable either.

What we really need is an epiphany: that the private sector is dependent upon the public sector and vice versa. We're all in this together. We are not enemies, but compatriots. Until this epiphany happens, we'll continue to wallow in the mire.

Light your own fire, baby.

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