Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Um...Governor...Thanks, But Could You Fix That Other Problem First?

Worthy Adversary Pam of Pam's House Blend tipped me off to the recent State of the State address by the Governor of Oregon, Democrat Ted Kulongoski, which touched specifically on Oregon's economic and business climate.

When one looks into the situation, it would seem that Oregon's problems with "economic climate" and "business" stem from hostile local and state governments, which, under careful Democratic tutelage, have created the third-highest unemployment rate of all the states (including DC), and businesses considering relocation in droves. Indeed, Inc. magazine named Portland the eighth-WORST metro area to do business in because of its "high costs and anti-business mood" -- not to mention its top unemployment ranking and punishing taxes. Of course, the state needs taxes -- it's all necessary to fund the fourth-highest government spending rate in the country.

Obviously, it would seem that Oregon has some serious issues in its tax structure and governmental philosophy. However, according to the Democratic governor, gay civil rights legislation and civil unions are more important to fixing Oregon's economic problems.

While I appreciate the governor's gesture and its underlying reasoning -- after all, he's presided over two of Oregon's worst years from an economic standpoint in history and is probably desperate to focus blame for the economy elsewhere -- giving us "rights", especially the right to be in "separate but unequal" civil unions, is not going to solve the economic problem. As I've said before, we gays may be "biological errors" to some, but superhuman mutants we're not. Second off, Governor, your voters have made it clear to you through your recent state constitutional amendment that they have other priorities.

As someone who has used (successfully) the correct argument that tolerance and acceptance of glbts, both in corporate policy and government ordinance, is good for business, I know the economic and social benefits provided, including a better business climate. However, when it's used in Dallas and Fort Worth, it's used to improve an already-good business climate, not as a means of getting around antibusiness laws and taxes. What Governor Kulongoski is doing is akin to putting a fresh coat of paint to sell a house with major foundation damage -- yes, it makes the house look better, but it doesn't fix the underlying problem.

I think it would be an enormous gesture for gay leaders in Oregon to stand up and say, well, while we agree civil rights are important and we thank you for bringing the issue up, why don't you do something to assure that there are jobs, housing, and business opportunities to be had before you worry about us being discriminated against in getting them? As Garrison Keillor wisely puts it, the rich can afford to be progressive, while the poor have reason to be afraid of the future. Working together with straights to fix the economic problems that make people afraid of the future will pay dividends, both in improved relationships and in a better social climate.

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