Koch Brothers’ Mouthpiece At It Again

Steve Buckstein

Steve Buckstein, Koch Brothers Mouthpiece

If you’re looking for the billionaire Koch Brothers’ own mouthpiece in Oregon, look no further than the Cascade Policy Institute, which has received at least $1 million from the Kochs’ State Policy Network.

Cascade Policy Institute, in turn, has spent years trumpeting a lot of really bad ideas that would hurt workers, hurt consumers, and greatly benefit corporate shareholders and the very wealthy. They’re relentless in their attacks on worker protections.

Over the weekend, the Oregonian published a guest opinion from CPI’s Steve Buckstein, trumpeting the results from a poll that are so bogus and dishonest they’re not even worth debunking. Suffice it to say that you can ask people something that isn’t true, and the results won’t reveal anything except that you’re lying to them.

So what is the agenda of Buckstein, Cascade Policy Institute, and the Koch Brothers? To convince the public that it would be good for the country if workers had even fewer protections and even less of a voice on the job. Why? Because they know that if workers no longer have the ability to stand together for decent wages, benefits, and working conditions, corporations won’t be able to get away with the ugly race to the bottom that has benefited their CEOs so greatly.

Here are the basic facts: Corporate profits are at an all-time high. This is a great boon to wealthy shareholders, who are seeing their incomes skyrocket through dividend payouts. The 1% is getting richer and richer every day.

But profits are up and shareholders are getting richer because corporations are squeezing more and more out of workers (and our communities) while paying less and less. Wages and incomes are stagnant or falling, although productivity is up. Corporations are cutting hours and shipping jobs overseas—while also taking advantage of massive tax breaks. The gap between the obscenely wealthy and everyone else is growing by the minute.

You might think that this would be enough for the billionaires and their PR henchmen. But, no. They’re engaged in a nation-wide campaign to destroy the ability of workers to organize and advocate for themselves.

And that brings us to Buckstein and his column, meant to highlight something with the Orwellian title “National Employee Freedom Week.” He uses the example of Michigan to argue that if we just did away with unions, things would be better for workers.

We’re always up for some fact checking, so here goes:

Buckstein points out that per capita personal income has gone up in Michigan. As it turns out, income in Michigan has been going up, but it’s only mirroring national trends. The adoption of Michigan’s anti-worker law in 2012 has had no discernible impact on income trends.*

Per capita income mirrors U.S. growth, but these figures mask the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else.

Per capita income mirrors U.S. growth, but these figures mask the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else.

More importantly, however, per capita income is a poor measure to use for evaluating policy impacts, because it hides the real story about who’s winning and who’s losing. The top income households claim many times more income than everyone else, and most of the income gains are going to the wealthy, not to average families.

Nationally, in the three years after the 2008 economic meltdown 95% of the income gains went to the top 1%.** In Oregon, full-year filers reported gains of $6 billion in new personal income between 2011 and 2012, but more than half of it went just to the top 1%. Michigan is no different. There, half the income gains between 2011 and 2012 went to millionaires. Though the trends are especially striking in the aftermath of the economic meltdown, this is a long-term trend. The share of income going to the top 1% has been rising since the 1980s, while the share going to the bottom 90% has fallen.**

Things are getting worse for 9 out of 10 people, but are great for the top 1%.

Things are getting worse for 9 out of 10 people, but are great for the top 1%.

The top income earners get most of their money from capital gains and stock dividends. In other words, they’re making millions because they are already rich. As corporate profits hit record highs, more and more money is flowing to the top 1%.

But that’s not enough for Buckstein’s backers, the Koch Brothers. They want to make even more money by paying their workers even less. In states that have the anti-worker laws Buckstein is pushing for, business owners keep a larger share of personal income and working families get less, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

In 1980, business owners’ income amounted to 6.8% of the total amount of wages, salaries and benefits paid to workers. By 2013 that number had more than doubled to 14.8%.*** That’s more going to business owners, less going to working families.

The Koch brothers spend millions of dollars to make their extreme agenda sound good, but don’t be fooled. These anti-worker attacks won’t benefit working families, and won’t improve Oregon’s economy.

* Bureau of Economic Analysis, SA04 State income and employment summary
** Emmanuel Saez (2013), Striking it Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States
*** Bureau of Economic Analysis, SA04 State income and employment summary

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KATU: Here’s the Real Story About Childcare in Oregon

Over on Facebook, new KATU anchor Rob Youngblood is asking for help for a story he’s working on about childcare:

Finding a Nanny... If You're a Single Parent

“I’m putting together a story on the difficulties of finding a great nanny when you’re a single parent.”

Whoa. I literally gasped when I read that. It’s sort of like saying, “I’m putting together a story on the difficulties of choosing the right Mercedes when you’re homeless.” The truth is, single moms and their families are barely making it and the recent recession has only increased their challenges.

In Oregon, most parents are struggling to afford even basic childcare—let alone single parents with only one income. Oregon has the least affordable childcare in the country.

Here are some facts that we hope Mr. Youngblood uses in his story about child care in Oregon:

• The median income for single mothers is $21,828.

• The average annual cost for infant care in a day care center is $13,452—61% of the median income for single moms.

Costs of Infant Care

• The average annual cost for a 4-year-old in a day care center is $10,200—47% of the median income for single moms.

• According to the latest Census figures, 43.7% of households led by single mothers are below the poverty line. For a mom with two kids, that’s less than $20,000 a year.

• Since the beginning of the recession, Oregon has cut assistance for struggling families and single parents. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families has been cut, and the Employment Related Day Care program has also been slashed. ERDC provides day care subsidies so that parents can actually afford to work. Without ERDC, many single parents simply can’t afford to put their kids in day care while they work.

• While the ERDC has seen minimal amounts of money restored to the budget by the legislature, thousands of working parents are still on the waiting list.

• According to the International Nanny Association, the median hourly rate for nannies is $16. Assuming 40 hours a week, that’s an annual salary of $33,280.

For the majority of single moms, the question isn’t “where can I find a great nanny?!” It’s “will I make enough at this job to pay for the childcare I need in order to take the job in the first place?”

Women make 79 cents for every dollar paid to men in the same job. Childcare now costs as much or more as college, and budget cuts that slashed public assistance benefits mean even less of an opportunity for women to work and ensure that their children are in safe childcare. It’s as though we set out specifically to design an economic system that punishes women for being single, working mothers.

If you have a chance, drop Mr. Youngblood a note and encourage a different story, “What can our community do to make childcare affordable so more working families can get by?”

8 Responses to “KATU: Here’s the Real Story About Childcare in Oregon”

  1. DebraP

    I thought it was just me when I read it-nannies are so far outside of what most single parents can afford, it boggles that this is the focus of the “story.”

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Julie, just an FYI, once a kid turns 5…childcare for a working parent doesn’t end. Oregon doesn’t have full day kindergarten until next year. Half day daycare for kinders is 4 hours, but as kindergarten is only 3 hours long, parents end up either trying to win the lottery for full day kinder (and then have to pay $4000 to the public school for the privilege) or they have to still pay for full day day care at the majority of places. But being 6 doesn’t help either. School is from 8a-3p, but most folks work from 8a-5p (or later). That means before and after school care for that extra 2-3 hours of commuting to and from a job (you can’t legally leave your kids at home in Oregon until they are 10). Most of those programs are financially even worse for parents, as even though the care is for a significantly less about of time you still pay $300/mth for each child (and that is a cheap program).

    Reply
  3. Lou

    You have to be kidding me. People need jobs to survive. Go to work for an employer, you have to accept the conditions of employment or you don’t get the job.
    This is nothing more than feudalism.

    Reply

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MEDIA WATCH: More Backwards Priorities from the Oregonian

As you probably know, we’ve spent years watchdogging the Oregonian Editorial Board and exposing their agenda of tax cuts for big corporations and the wealthy, budget cuts for the things that matter, and decimation of worker protections. When they weigh in on matters of the economy, it’s to cheerlead for policies that would benefit those at the very top by making things worse for everyone else.

Over the weekend, they published an editorial that’s a tad more subtle than usual, but nevertheless pushes an agenda completely at odds with making Oregon’s economy work for everyone. This time, they’re cloaking their agenda in the guise of “small business.”

First, a bit of background: The Oregon Employment Department recently put out a report explaining why Oregon has income rates lower than the rest of the country. The short answer, according to the Employment Department, is that we have a ton of people moving here, willing to work for less as a tradeoff for living in the splendor that is the Beaver State. There are also more part-time workers and more self-employed people. In short, there’s little reason for employers to pay more.

Among people who are “self-employed” (or are “entrepreneurs”), those in Oregon make 72 percent of the national average. Why? The Employment Department says it’s “difficult to figure out,” and many of the estimates are based on reporting at the national level.

The Oregonian Ed Board, though, think they have it all figured out: the state should focus on “reducing regulations and initial fees” on businesses, which really is their answer for everything. Never mind the fact that Portland ranks #5 on Forbes’ list of “Best Places to Launch a Startup in 2014,” and never mind the fact that Oregon is home to some of the world’s most innovative new companies. And never mind the fact that we’ve got one of the lowest—if not THE lowest—corporate tax burdens in the country.

The writers at the Editorial Board think we should cut fees, taxes, and regulations so that when the startups grow into successful large companies, they don’t relocate to another state.

It’s an unsurprisingly myopic answer from the conservatives at the Oregonian—and one that would lead nowhere if legislators chose to listen to them. If we really want to boost the state’s economy (in both rural and urban areas), we’ve got to invest in education and infrastructure at all levels. And that’s going to require some actual investment of funds.

Right now, though, Oregon is continuing to underfund those core needs, and it’s largely because big corporations (the ones the Oregonian wants small businesses to turn into) aren’t paying their share of taxes. In fact, they’re paying a lower overall tax rate than small businesses—and much lower than individuals pay.

corptaxrates

That’s due to a couple of reasons: First, Oregon’s tax code contains hundreds of tax breaks, many of which are really only available to large, profitable corporations, allowing them to reduce their tax rate to negligible amounts. Second, Oregon’s corporate minimum tax is capped at $100,000 for corporations with more than $100 million in sales, which means that the largest corporations have a far lower minimum tax than small businesses relative to their sales.

Oregon’s tax system should be structured so that small businesses and individuals aren’t carrying the entire tax burden because large corporation are getting off the hook. And yet, the model we have now lets the biggest corporations continue to avoid paying their fair share.

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