In 1970, a few more than 12 million members of our national workforce were employed by a government agency, whether Federal, State, or local.  There were almost twice as many working in construction and manufacturing – about 22 million.  This has steadily changed over the past 40 years.  We have voted for more government, whether directly or through the people we have elected or though actions of the courts.  At the same time, pressures on manufacturing and construction jobs came from all quarters.  The end result is that in 2008, the number of government jobs exceeded the number of manufacturing/constructions jobs for the first time.  See chart below

Recently, the top political issue in Oregon has been two propositions that would ratify or kill new taxes passed by the Oregon Legislature last summer.  One would increase taxes on the top 2-3 percent of personal earners in the State.  The other would raise the minimum taxation on corporations and add a gross revenue tax(a tax on Oregon revenues, not profits).  Both measures would tax revenues and income starting January 1, 2009 (that’s not a typo – these are retroactive taxes).  The vote is the 26th of this month and it looks like it will be very close.  Very few people on either the Left (the Yes side) or the Right (the No side) are very confident.  The politics run from class warfare (“only the rich will have to pay and they have been skating by with low taxes for years”) to wild and slanted guesses (“we will lose another 100,000 jobs if these bills pass”) and scare tactics (“schools, police departments and fire departments will be decimated”) and outright lies (“the legislature made every possible cut before resorting to the new taxes.”)

Even in liberal dominated Oregon such tax increases and retroactive taxation would not stand a chance in this economy except for greed and the tidal shift from jobs in the manufacturing sector  to the government sector (as shown on the above graph).  Now, one in five is employed by a government agency.  Think how many households that is if you assume large numbers of two income families.  Yes votes on these two measures ensure that cuts will not be made (we are told) in those government jobs.  Since, according to the Yes campaign only 2.5% of the taxpayers will pay more tax, that is pitting 97.5% of the population against “the rich” and the “greedy corporations.”

In Oregon the average government employee costs $34.13 per hour versus the average private employee who is at $23.41 per hour, yet to hear the campaign propaganda, they are all underpaid and we can’t afford to lose one of them.

Oregon’s unemployment rate has been in the 12% range since the start of this recession, yet State Government has continued to grow. Statistics from the Oregon Labor Department shows that in the past year non-farm employment has dropped by 104,400 jobs while the State has employed 400 more.

All this is my way of saying I think the Legislators in Salem have chosen a very poor time to increase the size of government and to tax the people more to do it.  If current trends and attitudes continue, at some point, we will have more than half the population working for government agencies.  Then it will be a simple matter of voting themselves raises, better benefits, etc.  I think we are almost at that point now.  I hope most Oregonians understand that someone has to pay for this.  In spite of tremendous peer pressure through PTAs, etc., I hope most will bring themselves to vote against these two measures.

Of course with all balloting done by mail in Oregon, the opportunity for fraud is great.  There is a growing number of people losing faith in the integrety of our system.  Watch for a huge number of late ballots from liberal Multnomah county (Portland) to swing the vote in favor of both measures long after ballots have been counted elsewhere (and mostly against the measures).