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On haves, have-nots, wealth and taxes

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It never ceases to amaze me that an erudite discussion of the impact of the current distribution of wealth contains no mention of its history. 

When I was growing up, federal taxes on annual incomes over $250,000 ($2 million or $3 million in today’s dollars) were 91 percent. The wealthy in my community recognized that the source of their wealth came from efforts of all. They didn’t live in isolated compounds, and their children, on the whole, went to the same schools I did.

It’s not that these problems are particular to Portland, but few citizens of San Francisco deny the devastating effect of the invasion of Silicon Valley wealth on their community. Portland, however, maintains its illusion of weirdness and is further handicapped by the unique “pioneer spirit” of Oregon. Oregonian aversion to taxes makes the staunchest Democrats sound just like their Republican counterparts. 

Meanwhile our schools, our streets, the very fabric of our communities languish.

The problem, of course, is that a single family can consume only so much. Beyond that point, amassing additional wealth can only serve a drive for power and control. Beneficence by the rich, however well motivated, inevitably serves to establish their personal interests at the cost of everyone else.  As clearly demonstrated by the Tribune article “To Have and Have Not” (Jan. 14), this is a very real problem in Portland and all of Oregon. Failing to address the distribution of wealth in our community can only lead to continued economic decline.

Peter Laughingwolf

North Portland

Downtown needs more good jobs

There are too many hotels being built on scarce downtown properties — from boutique hotels to the publicly subsidized convention center hotel.

Hotel jobs do not pay well. The workers cannot afford to rent or buy a living space in Portland, resulting in long commutes. These precious Portland properties would have been better used to attract businesses with well-paying jobs. (It seems those jobs are all out in Beaverton and Hillsboro.) Portland desperately needs to attract businesses the allow the workers to live and purchase property in Portland — not more hotels.

Susan Blevins

Downtown Portland

Some thoughts on garbage disposal

I noted the Metro Council authority is making decisions regarding garbage burning. Some thoughts follow:

1) State agencies may wish to study Japan’s waste management methods starting at the grocery store level.

2) Manufacturers of waste products need a percentage cover cost for ultimate disposal costs up front.

3) Needed are charges for purchases of waste products to cover recycling center upkeep and new installation costs.

4) Methane results from

litterers; a heftier fine for resultant air pollution, gas emissions, may also be in order. 

5) Folks with access to clean watersheds, like Bull Run in Portland, could fall back on their own piped-in water.

6) Perhaps the Water Bureau could help by lowering bills for those that install new pipes with the goal to reduce plastic or glass waste and encourage tap water usage once again.

7) The air we breathe in Oregon and Washington is perhaps the best in the country, and as a precious commodity, we don’t need the residue that clogs lungs, that causes breathing problems, and in some cases even death. What we do need is to encourage recycling and reduce air pollution particulate from waste incineration.

8) We need not send debris to landfills, where even more methane fills our lungs and atmosphere, but rather we need to have a cohesive, recycling cooperative between communities, counties and cities.

9) Truck drivers dumping waste currently may be offered jobs in recycling once recycling takes hold. Besides drivers, other recycler positions will be created, which help toward our GNP ultimately.

10) Perhaps federal aid to states spearheading such programs may result.

11) Earth needs lobbyists to protect it; if they aren’t there in Washington D.C. already, they should be! We need to protect what we have left for future generations. 

Ann Roberts

Southeast Portland

What do waiters get paid for?

I was intrigued by the argument put forward by Kurt Huffman against the adoption of a higher minimum wage (To Have and Have Not, Jan. 14 Tribune).

Mr. Huffman spoke of the restaurant industry, in which he is expert. He opposed increasing the minimum to $15/hour because, within the restaurant employees, “the move to fast casual dining” (which is a nice way of saying McDonalds-ambience) eliminates the best paying jobs, which is waiters, Huffman says. That doesn’t seem like progress to him.

What do waiters get tipped for? Obsequious behavior. At $15/hour minimum wage, the number of people paid for bowing and scraping will decline, and those paid for cooking food and washing dishes will increase. That indeed sounds like progress to me. Especially where the issue is inequality — economic and social — within our present society. Stop encouraging obsequiousness toward the wealthy.

Michael Meo

Northeast Portland

Could this happen in Portland?

Portland’s economy will probably collapse someday from the high-minded obligation of being the only city on Earth that can save the planet, and even worse, whoever counts the votes around here will never allow a fiscally conservative city politician to be elected before it’s too late.

No, it’s never going to happen, but what if, just once, we could have a mayor or commissioner who ignored the visions of utopia and instead actually looked at how to get things done for us right now, and maybe even save the taxpayers some money?

He or she could start by firing all the City Hall staffers who produce nothing useful for the working citizen, and then turn around and hire some accountants to go in and find out where the money has really been going all these years.

Instead of peddling influence into the hands of political friends for causes that have nothing to do with reality, maybe this new leader might address things happening right now, like maybe actually getting the roads worked on this year, or maybe we could improve the overall traffic system, or maybe teachers, instead of having to spend all their time socially engineering the kids, could go back to teaching some useful skills like math and science, like they do in China?

I’m telling you, it would be refreshing to be able to believe for once that a Portland politician could actually be doing something useful for the people who work and pay the taxes. But like I said, it’s never going to happen here in Portland, Oregon.

John Tomlinson

Portland