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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wyden Gets the Public Option Message

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 10:00 PM

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Dr. K's Radical Prescription for Health Care

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2009 at 8:42 PM

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cats Out of Control: Time for a Sensible Policy

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 8:58 PM

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Dealing With the New "Slacker" Economy

Posted By on Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 11:43 PM

The Wall Street Journal has published a first-rate piece on Bend's economic debacle, using it as a microcosm for what's going on nationally.

The story (pretty long, but well worth reading) begins by describing anecdotally how the collapse of Bend's economy has created "slack" - a gap between the economy's productive capacity and what's actually being used:

"A year and a half of recession has left local manufacturer Bright Wood Corp. with too much capacity at its plants that make window and door components. Bright Wood has laid off nearly half of its work force, shut an 80,000-square-foot factory in Bend, and sold or stored its extra equipment.

"Additional underutilized industrial space, housing and workers are apparent across town. More than 9,000 people have lost jobs since mid-2006. Some 29% of homes are vacant. 'For Lease' signs hang on store windows near the town's main drag, Wall Street.

"Similar slack ... is evident across the U.S. Thousands of airplanes and hundreds of thousands of train cars sit unused, hotels report their highest vacancy rates in at least two decades, and millions of Americans are underemployed."

Calculating the degree of slack in the economy is important to the Federal Reserve Board, the WSJ explains, because it needs to steer a delicate course between pumping too much money into the economy (and thus igniting inflation) and not pumping enough (which could stifle recovery and even lead to a disastrous deflationary spiral).

With the amount of slack in the national economy, the Journal says, the inflation risk appears small. Unneeded, surplus productive capacity means employers lay off workers and close plants, and that keeps wages (and prices) low. However, "some Fed officials have been arguing for months that the central bank is putting too much weight on this argument and risks being behind the curve in combating inflation."

In Bend, at least, the prospect of inflation seems like the a very remote worry. Unemployment is at record levels, the housing market is still glutted, and banks aren't handing out a lot of loans.

"At the Bank of the Cascades - Bend's largest locally based bank, with $2.4 billion in assets - total loans and leases are down 14% from a year ago," the Journal writes. "Its holdings of government securities and debt issued by government-backed lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are rising. In August, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. ordered Bank of the Cascades to improve its capital and liquidity, an indication the bank won't be flooding the local economy with cash anytime soon."

At another local lending institution, High Desert Bank, President and CEO Larry Snyder says customers aren't coming in asking for loans. "'The dentist office that's thinking of expanding and adding another dental chair is holding off,' he says.

"From groceries to home prices to wages, costs haven't shown any hints of rising. And inflation? 'I don't see it on the horizon whatsoever,' Mr. Snyder says."


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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fighting the Socialist Menace of 1961

Posted By on Sat, Sep 19, 2009 at 9:19 PM

Our local daily newspaper offers a great editorial rant this morning about an impending socialist menace, warning ominously of "the specter of a vast and sprawling federal bureaucracy [that] is too horrible to contemplate."

Is the editorial attacking liberal health care reform ideas like single-payer or the "public option"? Nope - it's attacking federal aid to education, and it came from the paper's archives of 1961.

Specifically, the editorial is ripping the Crook County School Board for showing interest in accepting - horrors! - federal money to help with school construction and - double horrors! - teachers' pay.

"There may be some justification for federal help in school construction, particularly in the more hard-pressed areas of the country," The Bulletin conceded. "But the proposal to provide federal money for teacher salaries is a piece of political skullduggery.

"The specter of a vast and sprawling federal bureaucracy in control of America's schools is too horrible to contemplate. We're convinced that federal money for paying our teachers would be an opening wedge. This must not happen."

It might be hard for anybody born after, say, 1955 to believe that federal aid to education was once hotly controversial, but it was. When I was on my high school debating team in the mid-1960s, the topic one year was "Resolved: That federal aid to education should be significantly increased."

The argument on the anti side was that the eeee-vil, tyrannical federal government wanted to "take over" education and extend its slimy, socialistic tentacles into every classroom in America - just as we're hearing today that the eeee-vil, tyrannical federal government wants to "take over" health care and extend its slimy, socialistic tentacles into every doctor's office.

Of course conservatives have said pretty much the same thing about every progressive idea going back for more than a hundred years. They said it about Social Security, they said it about Medicare and, as we have just seen, they said it about federal aid to schools. Today only the lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe wants to abolish these programs, and it would be hard to imagine America without them.

For progressives, in addition to a good laugh, the 1961 Bulletin editorial offers some encouragement. It shows that change for the better does gradually happen - although the conservatives have to be dragged along kicking and screaming every inch of the way.

For conservatives, the lesson of the editorial is that they need a new line. Your old one's getting mighty tired, folks.


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Mild-Mannered Merkley Turns Into a Tiger on Health Care

Posted By on Sat, Sep 19, 2009 at 1:26 AM

A freshman senator is expected to defer to his seniors, make no waves, and rise to address the chamber only on such controversial topics as the virtues of motherhood and the flag.

But not Oregon's Jeff Merkley, who came across as a bit of a Milquetoast during his campaigns but has become one of the Senate's firebrands on the subject of health care reform.

Merkley's determined stand in support of a public option for health insurance has earned him praise even from former opponents such as "torridjoe" of the Loaded Orygun blog, who backed Steve Novick against Merkley in the primary.

Merkley "continues to be one of the more repetitively vocal members of the chamber when it comes to support for a robust public option," the blogger writes. "His insistence has not wavered throughout a long summer of angst-ridden tea-leaf reading over whether the PO would survive the deliberative process. His refusal to sit quietly on the back bench and let the seasoned pros handle things is enormously welcome, and a big poke in the ribs to doubters (like me) who thought the key word for Merkley's first term would be 'languid' rather than 'loud and liberal.'"

As evidence, Joe posts video clips of a couple of appearances Merkley made Wednesday on MSNBC's "The Ed Show" and on CNBC. The public option is "absolutely not dead," he told host Ed Schultz. "We have a public option that has come out of the [Senate] Health Committee [of which Merkley is a member]. We have every reason to include it in the final bill. The House wants to see it done, the American people want to see it done, and we're gonna keep pushing. Because if we don't take on the [health care] costs doubling every six years, we will not have fixed health care for American citizens."


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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Kitzhaber Bandwagon Gets More Crowded

Posted By on Thu, Sep 17, 2009 at 8:43 PM

Barring something totally unexpected, it looks more and more like John Kitzhaber will be the once and future governor of Oregon.

At a press conference yesterday the former two-term Democratic governor announced he's picked up a slew of endorsements from prominent state Democrats, including Treasury Secretary Ben Westlund, Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo and Attorney General John Kroger as well as 17 of the 54 Democratic state legislators, including Bend's Judy Steigler. (The Oregonian's Jeff Mapes has posted a full list of the endorsers here).

With all those Democrats jumping aboard Dr. K's third-term bandwagon, former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury - who officially announced this morning - faces an uphill struggle against Kitzhaber in the primary.

Trying to stay upbeat, Bradbury told supporters, "This will be a campaign not won with millions of dollars in television ads, but in discussions in living rooms and union halls and neighborhoods across this state."

Still, those millions of dollars won't hurt.

The surge of supporters toward Kitzhaber also seems likely to discourage Rep. Peter DeFazio - regarded as the only Democrat besides Bradbury with a chance of knocking off Kitzhaber - from making a run. DeFazio and Kitzhaber held a private meeting last Friday, but the congressman still hasn't announced if he'll mount a challenge.

Meanwhile, Kitzhaber holds a commanding lead against the only two announced Republican contenders - businessman Allen Alley and state Rep. Jason Atkinson - according to a poll done for the Portland Tribune. Kitzhaber is ahead of Atkinson 43% to 23%, and leads Alley by 46% to 21%.


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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Shrinkage Isn't Always a Bad Thing

So the local daily rag reports this morning that, for the first time in 22 years, overall enrollment in Bend-LaPine schools is expected not to

Posted By on Wed, Sep 16, 2009 at 10:10 PM

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Chinese Tire Tariff: WWLS?

What would Les say? Les Schwab, born poor in Bend, used borrowed money to buy a dilapidated shack of a tire store in Prineville

Posted By on Sun, Sep 13, 2009 at 8:13 PM

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Van Jones: Condemned for Thoughtcrime

Ordinarily we like to keep The Eye focused on local or state matters, but today - the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist massacre -

Posted By on Fri, Sep 11, 2009 at 9:26 PM

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Noisy Trains Are an Eastside Bane, It's Plain

Scanning our local daily newspaper this week, The Eye noticed that an Eastsider named Lisa Burley is trying to get the city to do something

Posted By on Thu, Sep 10, 2009 at 8:42 PM

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

BBC's Bend Bubble Story Fizzles

The long-awaited (well, since last week) BBC piece on Bend's big boom and bust appeared Friday, and The Eye reluctantly must conclude it was a

Posted By on Sun, Sep 6, 2009 at 12:13 AM

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