Sustainability Is Fine, Unless There’s Nothing Left to Sustain

The University of Oregon may hire four new “hot shot” sustainability professors whose mission will be to “change the world by figuring out how to rebuild and reorganize cities…to account for climate change, population growth and environmental damage.”

Worthy goals, no doubt. But remember what the blind longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer had to say about the role of cities in civilization:*

“I’ve found that everything creative comes from the city. All men’s theories and great achievements―they were not realized in the bracing atmosphere of forests and steppes and mountaintops, but in the crowded, stinking cities! NOTHING OF IMPORTANCE HAS EVER COME FROM THE VILLAGE—how could anything be invented in places where strangers are not welcome?Man becomes human in the city; without the city, man would have been nothing…And, of course, it’s in the cities that man decays, too. America will die if we don’t know how to run viable cities.”

But, Hoffer wouldn’t trust “hot shot” professors to solve our city’s problems. Here’s what he had to say about such men:

“I AM AFRAID OF SCHOOLTEACHERS AND INTELLECTUALS—I THINK THEY MAKE THE WORST TYRANTS IN THE WORLD, AND THEY NEVER HAVE ANY UNDERSTANDING OF THE MASSES.”

Hoffer saw business as “the sphere that most of the energy and ambition and talent in America gravitated toward.” But, then he saw the “social landscape in America…started to tilt away from business, and the rewards offered to intellectuals…loomed higher and higher.”

“Hot shot” professors may be smart; but they won’t create the goods and services we need to truly sustain our lives, liberty, and happiness. For that, we need a vibrant business climate, and I see nothing in the “hot shot’s” job description that allows for that.
* All Eric Hoffer quotes are from Eric Hoffer: An American Odyssey, by Calvin Tomkins, EP Dutton, 1968


 

Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

The Portland Seed Fund: Lots of Fertilizer, Little Growth

By Joel Grey

The Portland Seed Fund (PSF) started in 2011 as a joint public-private venture intended to close a funding gap for entrepreneurs attempting to start a business. It invests $25,000 in each selected startup and reserves money for follow-up investments. The City of Portland, the City of Hillsboro, and the State of Oregon diverted tax dollars to underwrite the majority of the cost for the first Seed Fund and a significant portion of the second Seed Fund. This totaled $3.4 million through 2014.

Another $100,000 was proposed in the requested budget for the Portland Development Commission (PDC) this year. The 2014-2015 budget has been adopted but does not specify whether funding for the PSF is included. The PDC has ignored multiple requests for comment. The City of Portland and the Oregon Growth Account are the two biggest sponsors, both putting in $1.5 million or more.

Portland obtains its money from taxpayers directly; the Oregon Growth Account is a state-run venture capital fund using dollars appropriated from the Oregon Lottery.

The Seed Fund was promoted as a way for public entities to help private companies get started, with the expectation that the Fund would eventually earn money. However, it is not possible to determine whether the Seed Fund is earning a positive rate of return, or even what is being done with its money, despite the fact that it utilizes public funds.

The Seed Fund does not publicize which businesses are still open, and even when contacted did not respond to requests for its return on investment (ROI). The public entities were unable to provide the Fund’s ROI as well. The City of Hillsboro communicated that it was not able to invest directly, but had used an intermediary that would also receive any ROI. Various people at the City of Portland, including several at the City Budget Office and the PDC, were also unable to supply an ROI; some did not know what the ROI was and others have simply not responded to information requests.

Out of the 46 companies funded, most appear to still be open; but one has closed, another has moved to California, and two more appear to have closed, lacking corporation status, websites, and offices.

Regarding the funds spent by Hillsboro and Portland, Article XI Section 9 of the Oregon Constitution states: “[n]o county, city, town or other municipal corporation, by vote of its citizens, or otherwise, shall become a stockholder in any joint company, corporation or association, whatever, or raise money for, or loan its credit to, or in aid of, any such company, corporation or association.” Portland and Hillsboro got around this provision by giving their initial offerings to the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network, which then gave the money to the Seed Fund.

For the second Seed Fund, the City of Portland created its own intermediary, the Portland Economic Investment Corporation, which will be the group that handles the investment.

When asked, the City of Hillsboro said that it is not an investor; but by any standard of common sense it is. The city appropriated money for the Seed Fund, and the intermediary is just a screen. The money was always intended for the Seed Fund.

The managers of the Fund have admitted “[t]he Seed Fund could exist without public money.” This begs the obvious question: Then why is public money involved? If a private enterprise can exist without public money, for what reason is the public money involved?

The Portland Seed Fund is an example of “mission creep” in government. The three jurisdictions that launched this Fund have important work to do in such areas as law enforcement and protection of property. There is no reason to spend public money on non-essential and highly risky tasks such as equity investing in new private companies. The Portland Seed Fund should be shut down, and a full accounting of its spending should be provided to taxpayers.

Joel Grey is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

Understanding and Defending Your Property Rights—And Why It’s So Important

Please join us for Cascade’s monthly Policy Picnic led by Pacific Legal Foundation’s Christina Martin on July 14, at noon. An attorney, Christina was a project director at Cascade Policy Institute before joining Pacific Legal Foundation.

For decades, your property rights have faced major challenges from local, state, and federal regulations. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has begun to push back. Come learn about recent property rights cases to better understand your rights, why they are important, and what you can do to protect them.

Admission is free. Please bring your own lunch. Coffee and cookies will be served. Space is limited to sixteen guests on a first come, first served basis, so sign up early.

Sponsored By

Friedman Legacy Day 2014

Cascade Policy Institute cordially invites you to participate in this year’s Friedman Legacy Day. This annual, international event provides fans of Milton Friedman and lovers of liberty the opportunity to learn about the late Nobel laureate, to share his ideas, and to celebrate the impact they had on our country and the worldwide movement for freedom.

4 pm – 5 pm Policy Picnic on Milton Friedman with Steve Buckstein (SOLD OUT. Register below for our main event!)

5 pm – 7pm Complimentary food and beverages

We will also be holding a book fair and video showing!

Understanding Oregon’s Common School Trust Lands and the Financial Crisis on the Elliott State Forest

Please join us for Cascade’s monthly Policy Picnic led by Cascade Policy Institute President and CEO John A. Charles, Jr. and attorney Katie Walter on Thursday, June 26, at noon.

The Common School Trust Lands serve as an endowment fund for Oregon’s public schools. Unfortunately, the most valuable asset within the Trust Land portfolio – the Elliott State Forest – lost $3 million during 2013. This seminar will discuss the history of the Trust Lands, the legal requirements to manage them for the benefit of students, and the crisis on the Elliott State Forest.

Admission is free. Please bring your own lunch. Coffee and cookies will be served. Space is limited to sixteen guests on a first come, first served basis, so sign up early.

Sponsored By

What Should Have Happened with Cover Oregon

By now, people around the country know our state’s attempt to create a health insurance exchange website was a colossal failure. Fingers of blame are pointing in all different directions; and last month the U.S. Attorney’s office issued broad subpoenas seeking information from Cover Oregon and the Oregon Health Authority about who did what, who knew what, and when.

On May 29 Governor John Kitzhaber spoke at a legislative committee hearing to announce that he blamed the prime website contractor, Oracle Corporation, for failing to deliver a working website. He asked Oregon’s Attorney General to consider suing Oracle to “get our money back.” Of course, the money he’s talking about isn’t really “our money” because we got it from the federal government. And, that same federal government is considering whether to ask Oregon for “its money” back as well.

Later in that same hearing, Oregon’s new Chief Information Officer made an interesting observation.* Alex Pettit wasn’t here when Cover Oregon began its long march toward failure in 2011. Legislators asked him if anything would have been different if he had been overseeing Oregon’s IT projects back when the ObamaCare state exchanges were being born.

Mr. Pettit discussed how he viewed such big IT projects, how he evaluated them, and how he decided if they should proceed or not. He noted that, as Governor Kitzhaber and others have admitted, Cover Oregon was a very ambitious project with a very broad scope. Pettit said that to be successful, such projects must instead have a narrow scope.

He explained that since he came to Oregon in January, he has acted to slow down other big projects until they met his criteria, even though they might be priorities of the Governor as Cover Oregon was. He then explained that in 2011 he was the Chief Information Officer in the state of Oklahoma when it applied for and received a $134 million federal grant to build that state’s health insurance exchange.

Pettit noted that his team evaluated the proposal for the Oklahoma exchange and they decided that “We did not have the capacity to do this.” And so, as he told Oregon legislators, they “sent the money back.”

If Oregon officials had made a similar decision in 2011, we wouldn’t be where we are today, having spent some quarter billion tax dollars on a project that caused nearly everyone involved nothing but grief and heartache. In the future, let’s hope that we follow Mr. Pettit’s advice when he or his successors determine that we should simply “send the money back” or, better yet, not ask for it in the first place.


 

Steve Buckstein is Founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

* Audio of the entire Joint Committee On Legislative Audits, Information Management and Technology (5-29-14) hearing is here:http://www.leg.state.or.us/listn/archive/archive.2013i/JLAIMT-201405291400.ram

The questions leading to Mr. Pettit’s answer about what happened in Oklahoma begin at about 1:48, and his answers run to about 1:55.

Cover Oregon: Out of the Frying Pan

 

*This event is currently sold out. You can add your name to the waiting list by clicking the “Add to Waitlist” link in the Eventbrite registration box below.

 

Please join us for Cascade’s monthly Policy Picnic led by Cascade Policy Institute founder and senior policy analyst Steve Buckstein on Wednesday, May 21st, at noon.

Cover Oregon’s board has admitted its $200 million plus website failure, but the decision to move Oregonians to the healthcare.gov website could backfire big-time. Not only might the board not have the authority to pull the plug on Oregon’s health care exchange, but a federal court case threatens to deny Oregonians the tax credits that ObamaCare promised would make our insurance premiums “affordable.”  What else could go wrong?

Admission is free. Please bring your own lunch. Coffee and cookies will be served. Space is limited to sixteen guests on a first come, first served basis, so sign up early.

Sponsored By

Knowledge and Courage: What the West Needs to Take Back Our Public Lands

By Ken Ivory

The federal government continues to control more than 50% of all lands in the western United States. Locked up in these federally controlled lands are more than $150 trillion in mineral values and more recoverable oil―in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming alone―than in the rest of the world combined. Failed federal forest policies prevent harvesting timber, which would improve forest conditions and wildfire resilience, provide useful consumer products and renewable energy feedstock, and revitalize rural schools and communities. FBI criminal activity alerts now warn that terrorists are encouraging the use of wildfire in fuel-laden federal forests as weapons for jihad.

There is no good reason for the federal government to retain control over these lands and resources in states like Oregon. We in the West have, in good faith, simply tolerated the federal government’s delay in honoring its more than 200-year-old obligation to transfer title to these lands for so long that now most people assume there must be some valid reason the federal government controls our lands and resources.

But there is none. At a recent Continuing Legal Education seminar to several dozen lawyers, a law professor (who is frequently quoted as saying it is “clearly unconstitutional” for states to take action to secure the transfer of title to their public lands) displayed an annual average precipitation map indicating that the federal government retains control of western lands because they are “arid.”

The second reason he gave was that the founders of the western states simply gave up their lands as a sort of ransom for the privilege of statehood, citing half a sentence in the statehood enabling acts: “… forever disclaim all right and title….” The funny thing is, this same half sentence is word-for-word the same in the statehood enabling acts of almost all states east of Colorado, where the federal government did dispose of their public lands.

In fact, for decades, as much as 90% of the lands in Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida were kept under federal control. Then, one man had the knowledge and courage to rally citizens to compel Congress to transfer title to their public lands. His name was Thomas Hart Benton, a Democratic U.S. Senator from Missouri featured in President John F. Kennedy’s best-selling book Profiles in Courage.

The statehood enabling acts promising to transfer title to the public lands are the same for all states west and east of Colorado. It’s been done before―repeatedly and recently. And, returning these lands to state control is the only solution big enough to fund education; better care for our lands and forests; protect access; create jobs; and grow local, state, and national economies and tax base.

If we fail to stand up and take action to secure state and local control of our lands and abundant resources, it will not be because it is illegal, unconstitutional, or impossible. It will only be because we―and the local, state, and national leaders we “hire”―lack the knowledge and the courage to do what has been successfully done before.

Do your local, state, and national leaders know why there is a difference between the way the federal government has handled eastern and western lands? Have you inquired what specifically they are doing to compel Congress to honor the same statehood promise for our children and our future that Congress already kept with Hawaii and all states east of Colorado? Have you asked them what groups or influential individuals they will bring to the effort? Have you asked them what specifically you can do to help?

Now is the time to let our representatives know how transferring federally controlled lands back to the state can vastly benefit Oregon’s economy while preserving and using wisely our wealth of natural resources.

Ken Ivory is president of the American Lands Council and a member of the Utah House of Representatives. He was a guest speaker on this issue for Cascade Policy Institute in November 2013.

Press Release: Angry Protesters Reject Proposals for Employees’ Freedom to Choose

For Immediate Release

Media Contact

Patrick Schmitt, patrick@cascadepolicy.org

503-242-0900

Angry protesters reject proposals for
employees’ freedom to choose

Attendees and Speaker Harassed at Northwest Employee Freedom Event

VANCOUVER, Wa. – Several dozen union protesters marched outside Clark College’s Columbia Tech Center in Vancouver on Thursday evening. The hostile group tried to block attendees from entering the event venue scheduled to hold the first Northwest Employee Freedom One Night Event, jointly sponsored by Cascade Policy Institute of Portland, Oregon and The Freedom Foundation of Olympia, Washington.

After yelling, harassing, and shoving event attendees and organizers, protesters entered the venue and began shouting and using bullhorns to disrupt the event. The keynote speaker, Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s labor expert Vincent Vernuccio, was also spat on by a protester. The Vancouver Police Department was called and escorted protesters out of the event center. The two who refused to leave were arrested for trespassing.

This peaceful gathering of Washingtonians and Oregonians was meant to educate them on the story of how Michigan secured the freedom for all of its public and private sector employees to choose whether or not they want to be represented by a union without financial consequences.

“This kind of behavior is most saddening because it shows a real lack of understanding of what Cascade Policy Institute wants for Oregon,” said Cascade founder Steve Buckstein.

“We do not seek to end unions or union representation. We simply want all Oregonians to have the right to choose whether or not union membership and representation is something they desire for themselves,” he said. “All Oregonians deserve that right, even those who reject our efforts.”

“At the end of the day, this is a fight for freedom and justice. No amount of harassment or intimidation will change that fact,” he ended.

Photos from the event, including images of protesters and arrests, can be found here: http://on.fb.me/1aUbH2C

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Press Release: Cascade Policy Institute Report predicts 110,000 jobs for Oregon with enactment of a Right-to-Work Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 2, 2012

Contact:

Steve Buckstein
Senior Policy Analyst & Co-Founder
Cascade Policy Institute
Office Phone: 503-242-0900
E-Mail: steven@cascadepolicy.org

Cascade Policy Institute Report predicts over 100,000
jobs for Oregon with enactment of a Right-to-Work law

Cascade Policy Institute just released a major economic study, The Right to Work Is Right for Oregon, which concludes that Oregon would see major economic benefits if it became a right-to-work state, where job seekers and employees are not forced to join a union and pay union dues to gain or keep their jobs.

Written by Randall Pozdena and Eric Fruits, the same Oregon economists who analyzed the negative impact of tax measures 66 and 67, the Right-to-Work study concludes that enacting right-to-work legislation this year would lead to:

  • 50,000 more people working here in five years; 110,000 more working here in ten years.
  • $2.7 billion more in wage and salary income in five years; $7.0 billion more in ten years.
  • 14 percent more taxpaying families per year moving into Oregon from non-right-to-work states.

Cascade Senior Policy Analyst and founder Steve Buckstein praised the study for not only finding a correlation between right-to-work policy and economic growth, but for actually pointing to a causal link. In other words, Buckstein stated:

We conclude that the right to work actually contributes to more employment, higher incomes, more net in-migration of taxpaying households and faster economic growth. It is, therefore, a policy we believe Oregon should adopt.

The study breaks new ground by covering 70 years of data, every state, and relying on what the authors believe to be the largest datasets ever used to study the impacts of right-to-work laws.

The study confirms that the twenty-two states that do not require workers to join a union and pay union dues enjoy, as a group, more rapid employment and income growth, better job preservation, and faster recoveries from recession. Oregon is not one of those states, yet. Buckstein argues:

Rather than repeat Oregon’s failed attempt to pull us out of recession by raising taxes on high-income individuals and corporations, a better approach is to remove a key barrier to private sector initiative and job creation by enacting an Oregon right-to-work law.

Buckstein added,

Oregonians need to recognize that capital and people are mobile. Tax measures 66 and 67 push high-income people and corporations away from the state, likely losing us up to 70,000 jobs and 80,000 high-income tax filers in the ten years after their passage. Enacting a right-to-work law will put mobility to work in our favor, likely adding 110,000 jobs in ten years and 14 percent more taxpaying families every year coming from non-right-to-work states.

Buckstein continued,

Unlike fiscal policies that must weigh spending against taxes or pit one government program against another, enacting right-to-work legislation will not take a single dime out of state coffers. Indeed, right-to-work legislation is one of the few pro-growth policies that are actually costless to enact.

Buckstein concludes,

Even if our research had not so clearly shown that Oregon’s economic prospects would improve as a right-to-work state, we still would support the policy based on the non-economic benefits that the name itself implies. Everyone should have the right to work if the employer hires them and they accept the position. No third party should be able to deny individuals the right to work simply because they decline to join a union. Right-to-work is, therefore, a moral as well as an economic imperative.

Click here to download the full report.

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The Right to Work Is Right for Oregon
A Comprehensive Analysis of the Economic Benefits
from Enacting a Right-to-Work Law
By Randall Pozdena, Ph.D. and Eric Fruits, Ph.D.
Cascade Policy Institute • February 2012
http://cascadepolicy.org/links/43

 

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