Keizer Public Square

Public Square welcomes all points of view. Published submissions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Keizertimes.

Liberty: a precious gift

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Simple, yet powerful, words, written 248 years ago by citizen politicans in the Declaration of Independence. Wonderful words to govern and to live by.

Almost 250 years later many Americans seem to have let the important words of the declaration fade into history. The country is more politically divided today since it was in the 1860s. There are some who take America’s right of liberty to an extreme. “It’s a free country” is a common refrain. 

The United States is a free country, with liberties citizens in other nations do not enjoy. 

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves.

One can argue we do have a more perfect union: 50 united states. Today, these states have been divided into red states and blue states. Residents of both are certain their beliefs and ideologies are correct and those with opposing views are unAmerican. That’s the beauty of a free democracy: Individuals can think what the want and express their views. Unfortunately, people with opposing views are often cast as unworthy.

Our democracy, which some corners of the country, fear is shaky and fragile. Imagine the debates that went on in Philadelphia in 1776. At that time it was not unheard of for politicians to physically attack their opponents. These days politians use words to attack their opponents. One can suppose that being attacked by words is better than being physically attacked. Sticks and stones, so to speak.

Our liberty allows for free speech. Everyone wants the same things called for in our Constitution: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The disagreement comes from how to achieve those things. There is the conservative way and the progressive way.

As we prepare to celebrate America’s 248th birthday next week, it would be a good time to think about how the United States came to be and our individual part in it. 

There are billions of people in the world who would love to have what we have.

Democracy and liberty are precious. Let each of us treat it that way. — LAZ

School finances in jeopardy, with districts facing layoffs, larger class sizes

By GARY CONKLIN and PAT McCORMICK Of the Oregon Capital Chronicle

Oregon school finances have not been in greater jeopardy for decades.

Large Oregon school districts are cutting millions of dollars from their budgets, which translates into significant cuts in personnel and larger class sizes, as state funding has failed to keep pace with inflation and expanding expectations.

The problem isn’t limited to large school districts. Medium and small districts face the same financial stress. More school districts will face the dual threat of teacher strikes and deep personnel cuts as they enter collective bargaining this year.

The challenge faced by public education runs deeper than budgets. Schools have inherited a new generation of students and, along with them, a new paradigm for education. 

Students in K-12 school classrooms today are demonstrably different than their counterparts just 20 years ago (Facebook was founded in 2004). Educating these students requires different teaching methods, updated classrooms and a wider array of support. It also requires a different approach to school funding that recognizes new demands on students, teachers and support staff. 

Today’s students are internet natives, have experience with online learning, depend on school-prepared meals and fear college student debt. Classrooms are impacted by aging infrastructure, overflowing classrooms, lack of connectivity, increasing student diversity, chronic absenteeism and the threat of school shootings. More students face mental health issues, increasing demand for school nurses, counselors and social-emotional teaching techniques.

Teachers, many of whom are parents of school-age children, share the trauma. They are on the front lines of teaching students who need individual instruction. They manage in classrooms that lack adequate heating and cooling. They struggle to keep up to date on digital trends and educational innovation. Burnout is an occupational hazard. Good teachers leave because they earn more in other occupations.

Funding schools based on enrollment doesn’t capture the complexity of educating and preparing today’s K-12 students in the face of rapidly changing job markets. Head counts don’t capture the dimensions of pandemic learning loss, unequal digital resources, special education needs and emotional stress that are the everyday stuff of today’s K-12 classrooms.

Declining public school enrollments, resulting from low birth rates and flight to private schools by those who can afford it have resulted in funding reductions and will force closure of neighborhood schools, as parents in Seattle Public Schools are discovering.

We must find the right school funding formula. The one we have doesn’t work anymore because it doesn’t reflect demands schools are expected to meet every day and the individualized education students deserve.

Oregon lawmakers have tried to reconcile funding with emerging educational needs. But the result has been a hodgepodge of grants and directed spending that has been tacked on to a school funding formula designed to ensure equity among school districts after passage of major property tax limitations in the 1990s.

Finger-pointing is unproductive. We need an informed effort to rethink how schools are funded in light of current-day expectations. Just as important, we need to see school funding reform as critical to restoring public and parental trust in our schools. 

There is no time to waste. The 2025 Oregon Legislature reconvenes in six months.

(Gary Conkling has most recently provided strategic communications counsel to Portland Public Schools and Salem-Keizer Public Schools.)

(Pat McCormick has worked in various public affairs capacities for more than 40 years to advocate for adequate K-12 school funding in Oregon.)

How a long, debt-loving bipartisan consensus has warped American business


Economic policy during a second Joe Biden term would be even worse than policy during a second Donald Trump term. Both, however, would continue a bipartisan consensus that for decades has grown broader, deeper, and more economically and culturally debilitating. Americans are sleepwalking toward convulsive pain, a consequence of decades of easy money policies to prevent minor pains.

Social outcomes that are deemed flaws of capitalism—increased inequality and corporate power—are actually largely consequences of government. It has grown excessively interventionist and confident as it and the nation have become addicted to prolonged low interest rates, the “socialization of risk” and the resulting misallocation of capital. Because of government’s “paternalistic fear,” a “bailout culture” has grown: “A safety net once meant to catch the poor at the precipice of hunger was extended under the financial markets.” This was the result of a vow by the Ayn Rand-reading Alan Greenspan, appointed Federal Reserve chairman by Ronald Reagan.

So argues Ruchir Sharma, investor and chairman of Rockefeller International, in his invigorating What Went Wrong With Capitalism. This nation has become “the biggest deficit spender in the capitalist world” by increasing increments of risk-aversion and pleasure-delivery by government.

President John F. Kennedy’s proposed tax cuts, enacted after his assassination, were, Sharma says, an American first: a tax stimulus to fuel an ongoing expansion. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s innovation was a spending stimulus to accelerate an ongoing expansion. In 2017, Trump “instituted tax cuts later in a recovery than any previous president, pushing the practice of constant stimulus to a new extreme.” And pushing the deficit to a peacetime record.

Because of the fiscal follies during the pandemic—“forgivable loans” (hitherto called grants), cash downpours (recipients, including most Americans, many of them gainfully employed, fattened bank deposits by $3.5 trillion)—the government issued more debt in 12 months than it had in the first two centuries after 1776.

Hitherto, the “cleansing effect” of large recessions culled weak companies, causing a 20% increase in bankruptcies. But because of the bailout culture, during the pandemic corporate bankruptcies declined. Did you even notice Biden’s $36 billion bailout of the Teamsters’ retirement plan in 2022? Sharma on the indiscriminate “impulse to rescue”:

“By the summer of 2020, the Fed owned debt issued by major companies in virtually every industry … even a utility held by Berkshire Hathaway. In effect, the government was offering unsolicited financial aid to Warren Buffett.”

In 1987, after the Black Monday stock market crash, a ripple in an expansion, Greenspan declared the Fed’s “readiness to serve as a source of liquidity to support the economic and financial system.” That is, to support everything. His wielding the central bank for stimulus during an economic expansion was, Sharma says, a step toward government operating “in permanent crisis mode.” And toward almost four decades of what the political class relishes: cheap money.

Since Greenspan’s 1987 promise, Sharma writes, “the stock market has grown from half the size of the U.S. economy to two times larger,” disproportionately benefiting the wealthy. But economic stability can disguise loss of dynamism. The economy was in recession half the time in the late 19th century, one-fifth of the time between 1945 and 1980, and just one-tenth of the time since then.

But, Sharma argues, the business cycle is dampened by piling up debt. In the bailout culture, slowing growth stimulates financial markets, which anticipate fresh gushers of government money. Especially benefiting the wealthy.

Between the 1790s and 1970, Sharma writes, the nation “ran consistent surpluses, with significant deficits only during five crises: the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Great Depression, and the two world wars.” Since 1970, there have been significant deficits every year but four. 

Conservatives’ faith that tax cuts will pay for themselves is mirrored by progressives’ faith that their “investments” pay for themselves. The result is the same: debt.

Greenspan’s successor, Ben S. Bernanke, said the Fed’s bond-buying was designed to drive down interest rates, thereby driving up asset prices for a “wealth effect”: Feeling richer, Americans would spend more. This was not demand management, it was the manufacturing of demand; government planning, not capitalism, wherein market forces allocate wealth.

Socializing risk benefits the rich most, but others, too. Total U.S. social spending—including health and pension benefits delivered by private employers but mandated or subsidized by government—is about 30% of gross domestic product, and the welfare state is world’s second-most (behind France) generous. But everyone eventually loses from what Sharma calls “a business culture pickled in debt.”

(Washington Post)

Contact Keizertimes Staff:
[email protected] or 503-390-1051

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