Month: April 2012

Kathryn Hickok interviewed on the value of motherhood

We sat down with Cascade’s Publications Director, Kathryn Hickok, to discuss her latest commentary, “Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing.”

Click here to read her commentary.

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The Day We the People Stood Up

By Trent England

On April 19, 1775, a group of ordinary, small-town Americans stood up in defense of their property, their community, and their ideas. First at Lexington and then at Concord, they put their very lives in danger. A new online program called “We The People” offers basic information about American principles and the pivotal events that forged our nation at a time when reconnecting with those principles is once again essential. It begins with the Battle of Lexington….

 

Most people were sound asleep when the alarm came. Men and women roused themselves and heard the news: British soldiers were marching toward their town. Each man and woman faced a decision. They could ignore the alarm, perhaps pretending not to hear, and remain under warm blankets safe from the cold and uncertain night. Or they could rise up, make their preparations, and step out into the misty darkness.

 

In the town of Lexington, Massachusetts, men and women rose up. They lit candles with shaky fingers and tried not to wake their children. John Parker—a farmer and the elected captain of the Lexington militia—dressed quickly, took his flintlock musket from the wall, and went out. He was older than his 45 years, frail and sick, and still a trusted and resolute man. He walked in the darkness to the triangle-shaped field, the town green, which sat beside the road from Boston to Concord.

 

Anna Harrington sent her husband, Daniel, to the green. She knew that her father, Robert Munroe, a veteran of the war against the French and Indians, would be there as well. At least eight Munroes and nine Harringtons assembled on the Lexington green. By 2 a.m., as many as 130 men were standing in the dark in the wet grass on the green.

 

The odds were against them. The soldiers were well armed and well trained; many were hardened veterans. The townspeople were the opposite—mostly ordinary men and women with small farms or businesses and large families. By offering any opposition to the soldiers, the people risked their lives, possessions, families—everything. Yet, hundreds and later thousands would step away from ordinary lives and decide that they, too, were willing to stand, to fight, even to die.

 

The people of Lexington had hurried, and now they waited. With no sign of approaching troops, Captain Parker released his men to wait indoors. They gathered in nearby homes and at Buckman’s Tavern adjacent to the green. It was 4:30 a.m. when one of Captain Parker’s lookouts frantically rode into town yelling that the soldiers were just behind him. Young William Diamond beat his drum to summon back the militia. Sergeant William Munroe hastily lined up the returning men in two ranks.

 

British light infantry—troops selected for their strength and stamina—entered Lexington at a double-quick march. Each infantryman carried the five-foot-long “Brown Bess” musket. Each musket was loaded with gunpowder and a .75 caliber lead ball and topped with a 17-inch steel bayonet. The soldiers were miserable—tired of sitting around in Boston, wet after wading ashore from boats at the beginning of the night’s march, and cold. But they were professional soldiers ready for a fight and convinced of their superiority against this rabble of farmers.

 

Three British officers on horseback rode forward yelling orders at the men of Lexington: “Lay down your arms, you damned rebels, and disperse.” No more than 70 of Captain Parker’s men had reached the field; they faced several hundred red-coated light infantry with a thousand and more on the road behind them. Captain Parker decided it was futile to fight, but he and his men refused to surrender their arms. Just as the militia began to withdraw under a hail of British curses, there was a shot.

A few overeager British infantry fired randomly and to no effect. Then a massed volley of British fire ripped through the Lexington men. Jonas Parker, the Captain’s cousin, returned fire but he was already gravely wounded. He sank to his knees frantically trying to reload; before he could raise his musket a second time he was stabbed to death with a bayonet.

 

Other militiamen fired, others were hit. Jonathan Harrington was shot in the chest as his wife, Ruth, and their eight-year-old son looked on from their home. As Jonathan staggered toward his front door, his wife rushed out to him. He fell and died before she reached him.

 

Seven men were killed and nine wounded on the Lexington green that morning. At least one more would be killed in fighting later that day. This was a quarter of the men who stood there—who stood up for their community and for what they believed.

 

As the British marched away from the bloodied town green, the Lexington fight appeared purposeless and inconsequential. Yet, the sacrifice at Lexington changed everything; it delayed the British and forged in a moment the resolve that would become manifest at Concord. There the unthinkable would happen—the British would turn, flee back through Lexington into Boston, and within a year surrender the city altogether.

 

Once again we hear the call for America to “return to her Founding principles.” The ideas that forged our heritage―like limited government, federalism, and religious liberty―matter only to the extent that we understand them and apply them to today’s challenges. The American story is a gripping story with real heroes—people who made choices, took risks, made mistakes, and, in the end, set the stage for the American nation. Today, ordinary Americans―many of whom have never been involved in politics―are getting involved in their local governments, taking a stand in their communities, and joining with their neighbors to defend their rights as Americans. The “We the People” project hopes to assist today’s patriots in defending those principles for America’s next generation of citizens.

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Working to Live―or for Runaway Government Spending?

Tax Freedom Day arrived this year on April 17, coincidentally the same day tax returns were due. Tax Freedom Day is a calendar-based measure of Americans’ cumulative tax bill. It is calculated as the day on which Americans have worked long enough to pay all their taxes. Americans worked 107 days to earn enough money to pay this year’s combined federal, state, and local taxes. These taxes include personal income taxes, payroll taxes, corporate income taxes, and property and sales taxes.

 

However, this is only what Americans actually pay, not what government spends. According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, “if the federal government raised taxes enough to close the budget deficit—an additional $1.014 trillion—Tax Freedom Day would come on May 14 instead of April 17. That’s an additional 27 days of government spending paid for by borrowing.”

 

Americans currently pay more in taxes ($4.04 trillion) than they do on food, clothing, and housing combined ($3.89 trillion). The saying goes, you should “work to live, not live to work.” But the more government grows, the more Americans are working less to live and more to pay for runaway government spending. That leaves fewer resources to invest in the real engines of economic growth: private sector businesses that create jobs and produce goods and services for a market fueled by Americans’ hard-earned purchasing power.

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Testimony Before TriMet Board of Directors Regarding the Proposed FY 2012-13 Budget

 

 

Testimony of John A. Charles, Jr.

 

Before the TriMet Board of Directors

 

Regarding the Proposed FY 2012-13 Budget

 

 

 

April 25, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

There are some elements of the proposed budget that move TriMet in the right direction. I support the proposals to eliminate the free-rail zone and reduce streetcar funding. Rail passengers have been coddled for far too long and these changes will require them to finally put some skin in the game.

 

 

 

Notwithstanding this progress, the budget overall has serious problems that the Board needs to address. The first is the assumption that management will win its protracted dispute with the ATU. Management has been forecasting this outcome for years, and has consistently been wrong. Examples of past predictions include the following:

 

 

 

  • TriMet press release, April 13, 2011: “The FY2012 budget assumes that a new Working and Wage Agreement with the ATU has benefits more in line with peer agencies, and consistent with those contained in TriMet’s July 2010 Final Offer.”

 

 

 

  • TriMet FY 2012 budget message, July 2011: “A critically important assumption upon which TriMet’s financial forecast and the FY 12 Adopted Budget are based is that TriMet enters into a Working and Wage Agreement WWA) with the Amalgamated Transit Union, probably through the binding arbitration process, and that the wages and benefits are consistent with those contained in TriMet’s July 2010 Final Offer….” 

 

 

 

  • TriMet press release, October 26, 2011: “The contract expired in 2009 and both parties are now heading to interest arbitration scheduled for mid-January 2012.

 

 

 

  • TriMet FY 13 budget message, April 2012: “…the FY 13 proposed budget includes a $12 million revenue increase/expenditure reduction package, based on the assumption of a labor arbitration decision favorable to TriMet.”

 

 

 

Given that every recent prediction about the ATU contract has been wrong, it might be time to change the forecast. A more prudent forecast would be that the ATU wins, creating a $5 million imbalance for FY 13. Perhaps that should be addressed now in the current draft budget.

 

 

 

The second big problem with the budget is the continued fantasy that rail construction has no harmful effects on bus service. Some board members may not be aware that in February 2011, TriMet succeeded in getting the Oregon Transportation Commission to approve $13 million in scarce OTC “flex funds” for the Milwaukie light rail project, by promising that TriMet will “agree to refrain from requesting Capital bus Program funds for bus purchases for the next three biennia…”  This deal was made even though TriMet had been so desperate for new buses that it had put a $125 bond measure on the ballot the previous November. My testimony to the OTC is attached.

 

 

 

TriMet management simply does not value bus service; all the glamour is perceived to be in the ribbon-cutting ceremonies for new train lines. In FY 13 TriMet will sell bonds for PMLR and thus incur $3 million in new debt service. The agency is already paying more than $25 million in annual debt service for previous light rail bonds. This debt is a major reason why bus service has been cut by 13% in recent years, even though buses move 2/3 of TriMet customers each day.

 

TriMet has never demonstrated that the alleged “operating cost savings” of rail transit offsets the debt service and other “opportunity costs” associated with new rail construction.

 

 

 

There’s a very simple solution: terminate all rail expansion plans. It doesn’t matter how attractive rail may have once seemed; moving forward, the capital costs cannot be justified. It is indefensible to impose service cuts year after year, while spending more than $205 million/mile for tiny expansions of the rail empire (7.3 miles for PMLR and 2.9 miles for the CRC).

 

 

 

A third point is that the proposed budget once again hides the true cost of labor, by planning for another token payment into the OPEB trust fund of $865,760. While this is better than the FY 12 contribution of $410,000, the level recommended by the outside auditor last July was $77.7 million.

 

 

 

The unfunded actuarial accrued liability for OPEB is at least $876 million, and because TriMet is allowed to carry this debt off-book the public naturally assumes that all is well when the agency announces that it has a “balanced budget” each year. This practice of shifting obligations downstream simply sets up a ticking time bomb for future TriMet board members.

 

 

 

While making the full ARC payment of $77 million would be impossible now, a substantial down payment – with the tough decisions it would force right now — would have the medicinal effect of waking up the public to the seriousness of the problem.

 

 

 

Finally, attached is a chart showing the juxtaposition of TriMet’s huge revenue increases since 2004 with the steady decline in transit service.  This is a disgrace, yet the Board continues to accept it year after year, without even considering fundamental changes in strategy.

 

 

Business as usual is not going to work anymore. It’s time for board members to stop acting like victims and start taking control of the organization.

 

 Click here to see February 14 OTC Testimony.

TriMet Financial Resources, 2004-2013 (000s)

 

 

FY 04/05

FY 08/09

FY 10/11

FY 11/12 (est)

FY 12/13 (budget)

% Change 04/05-12/13

Passenger fares

$   59,487

$   90,016

$   96,889

$   104,032

$117,166

+97%

Payroll tax revenue

$171,227

$209,089

$224,858

$232,832

244,457

+43%

Total operating resources

$308,766

397,240

$399,641

$476,364

$465,056

+51%

Total Resources

$493,722

$888,346

$920,044

$971,613

$1,111,384

+125%

 

Note: TriMet payroll tax rate increased effective 1/1/05, and will rise .01% every January through 2024.

 

 Annual Fixed Route Service Trends since 2004

 (light rail, bus, commuter rail)

 

2004

2006

2008

2010

2011

% change

             

Peak veh

625

606

613

618

601

-3.8%

Revenue hrs

143,784

137,973

144,469

133,776

128,435

-10.7%

Vehicle hrs

2,621,657

2,476,114

2,532,453

2,375,802

2,247,113

-14.3%

 

Sources: Annual budget documents; monthly TriMet performance reports.

 

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Sarah Ross talks with Bill Post about Oregon's slipping economic outlook

In her first weekly interview on the Bill Post Show, Cascade’s communications coordinator Sarah Ross talked with Bill about Oregon’s slipping economic outlook and the benefits of a right-to-work system.

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The Proper Use of Road Tolling in Oregon

John Charles presented his views on the proper use of road tolling in Oregon with ODOT’s Long Range Planning Manager,  Robert Maestre, and the Chair of the Birdshill CPO/NA, Charles Ormsby, during Birdshill’s panel discussion in Lake Oswego earlier this week.

 

Video by Jim Karlock.

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John Charles talks with Victoria Taft on light rail use and TriMet

Talk show host, Victoria Taft, talked with John Charles Monday about light rail use for the Expo Center’s Cirque de Soleil event, the Sustainability Center, and the future of TriMet.

 

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A Mother’s Gift Is Priceless

Democratic adviser and CNN contributor Hilary Rosen caused widespread offense April 11 by saying that Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, “never worked a day in her life.” Rosen’s remarks suggested that because Ann Romney was a stay-at-home mother, she “never worked” and cannot understand the American economy like women with paying careers. Romney later responded: “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.”

 

Romney’s statement is true. However, the ensuing public focus on how “hard” it is to raise children seems to imply that the difficulties of being stay-at-home mother are what make it an equally worthy choice as a paying career. But raising children doesn’t derive its worth from being “hard.” Motherhood isn’t so much a “tough job” as it is a gift of self―a loving act of recreating the universe anew for her child.

 

All work―paid and unpaid―derives its value from the dignity of the human person. Despite market price comparisons for the things stay-at-home mothers do (which are considerable), no price can be placed on the gift of self that is motherhood. Utilitarian arguments forget that human beings are valuable for their own sakes, not for what they produce in the economy or for the equivalent monetary value of their unpaid work. A mother raising children is worthy of reverence, not because motherhood is hard, but because it is great.

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Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing

Democratic adviser and CNN contributor Hilary Rosen caused widespread offense April 11 by saying that Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, “never worked a day in her life.” Rosen’s remarks suggested that because Ann Romney was a stay-at-home mother, she “never worked” and cannot understand the American economy like women with paying careers:

 

“Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing, in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school?”

 

Romney responded via Twitter: “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.” On a FOX News interview, she elaborated: “My career choice was to be a mother, and I think all of us need to know we need to respect choices women make.”

 

The overwhelming political, media, and public responses to this incident involved women and men reiterating that women have the right to make their own choices about career and family, raising children is a vital endeavor, women running households are on the frontlines of the economy, and motherhood can be the hardest job in the world.

 

Of course, all these statements are true. However, focusing on relative definitions of “hard” misrepresents the value of motherhood and misses the fundamental point of what all mothers do and are. In fact, the utilitarian value system represented by words like “hard,” or to equate a meaningful investment of one’s life and energy with paid work, is one of the greatest fallacies of modernity.

 

Work―of any sort―does not have relatively greater value because it is “harder” or because it earns money. Work derives its value from the dignity of the human person who performs it. It is an extension of one’s personality and a manifestation of human creative power. Work derives its meaning from human beings, not the other way around. Sometimes work is performed for pay. Sometimes it is given as a gift of love.

 

Motherhood, and mothers foregoing careers or making other sacrifices to raise children, should not be respected and appreciated because raising children is “the hardest job a woman can do.” Mothers must be respected and appreciated because who they are and what they give their families is intrinsically of great worth―in more ways than the dollar value (which for stay-at-home mothers is considerable) or the difficulty of the tasks they perform.

 

A mother brings a child into the world. She creates a new “world” (the home) for that child to inhabit. She is primarily responsible for the child’s first and deepest experiences of love, the quality of life in this miniature world, how the child discovers the world beyond, and the child’s development from tiny human being to mature adult. Motherhood isn’t a “tough job” so much as it is a total and loving act of recreating the universe for another human person. Motherhood is a gift of self.

 

Oscar Wilde famously defined a cynic as one “who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” A culture that assigns worth to lives based on individuals’ public roles, especially in the workplace, equates people’s personal “value” with their economic value―that is, with producing goods or services in the marketplace and how “hard” they are working to do it. This is likely because money is an age-old determinant of purchasing ability, and hence, of worldly power.

 

Because market economics has played a dominant role in shaping modern society, what people do as a profession often earns more subjective respect than what people do unpaid for family, friends, community, and strangers in need. But despite market price comparisons for many of the tasks mothers perform at home, mothers who do not work for pay bring a kind of wealth to the family and to the wider world for which an equivalent monetary price never could be determined. No price can be placed on a gift of self.

 

Women who desire―and are able―to devote themselves primarily to raising their children endow the tasks they perform on behalf of their families with a depth of meaning beyond any comparative monetary price or secular job description. British commentator G.K. Chesterton mused about this in his book What’s Wrong with the World:

 

“I can understand how [raising children] might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a [mother’s] function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.”

 

Utilitarian value arguments tend to lose sight of the fundamental truth that human beings are valuable for their own sakes, not for what they produce in the economy or for the equivalent monetary value of their activities. Whether a mother works for pay or not, the value of her life and her children’s lives cannot be measured in economic terms. Regardless of the path a woman chooses, her dignity is always in herself and in her gift of self to others, not in society’s assessments of her labor. Likewise, a mother raising children is worthy of reverence, not because motherhood is hard, but because it is great.

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Steve Buckstein explains Oregon’s slipping economic outlook

We sat down with Cascade’s senior policy analyst, Steve Buckstein, to talk about his latest commentary describing Oregon’s falling on the Rich States, Poor States rankings.

The ranking system looks at the economic outlook for each state based on policies controlled by state legislators, not the national or world economy.

Read his commentary here.

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