Inflation Hits Central Oregon Hard
If you feel poorer than you did a year ago despite making more money, you’re not alone. Oregonians’ real wages, which are workers’ wages adjusted for increases on prices of the goods and services those wages buy, on average declined by 1.6% between February 2021 and February 2022. That’s in spite of the fact that the state’s average private sector wage increased by $1.82 per hour over the same time span. The average Oregonian is, in real terms, poorer now than a year ago.
Today’s inflation is caused by government policies, restrictions and spending. Plain and simple. Our state government needs to refocus its priorities on helping make Oregon a more affordable place to live.
I’m a business guy, not an economist, but I remember college Economics 101 and the teaching that one way of understanding inflation is what happens when you have too many dollars chasing too few goods and services. Massive federal spending in recent years and the federal reserve rapidly printing money pumps out lots more dollars, but those dollars are declining in buying power. Supply chain disruptions, government-imposed COVID restrictions and workforce turbulence have produced shortages in the amount of goods and services available. Consequently, you get the high inflation we’re seeing today.
Federal spending and regulations are the biggest drivers of inflation, but state policy contributes too. Oregon government-imposed lockdowns and restrictions over the last two years were massively disruptive to the economy. The Oregon legislature went on a huge spending spree this year, pumping $5.8 billion into various programs, including a $600 direct payment to 250,000 low-income Oregon households – that’s a $150 million cash “stimulus” to an economy that is already superheated. Those same low-income households will suffer the most from the inflation Oregon’s spending binge makes worse.
Oregon also creates false scarcity for the housing people need to buy. Its land use system severely restricts the land upon which houses, apartments, commercial and industrial structures can be built. In addition, the Governor is currently pushing regulations to introduce major new restrictions on land use in the name of climate change. I doubt the restrictions on Oregon citizens will have material impact on the global climate, but they will certainly drive up the cost of housing for Oregonians.
Rising gas prices have also taken a big chunk out of Central Oregonians’ spending power. Oregon is tied for fourth most expensive gas in America. We can anticipate gas prices going higher as the state pushes citizens to drive electric cars. Then, people have to purchase electric cars, and that’s not cheap. When you can no longer afford or find fuel for your perfectly functional gas-powered car, buying a Tesla, the darling of the electric car set, will set you back $45,000 - $100,000. This hardly seems like “savings.”
Rather than taking prudent steps to bring down the price of gas, our state government has instead aggressively sought to raise that price. A couple years ago, the legislature very nearly passed a cap and trade bill that would have increased gas prices by another 78 cents per gallon today, according to the Legislative Revenue Office. And the impact on prices would have increased each year, driving up prices by $5.64 in 2019 dollars by 2050. Once again, this bill and the pain it would have caused Oregonians already suffering from record-high gas prices would not have impacted global climate conditions in any measurable way. Yet, it required the drastic step of a Republican legislative walkout to stop the bill.
Today’s inflation is caused by government policies, restrictions and spending. Plain and simple. Our state government needs to refocus its priorities on helping make Oregon a more affordable place to live. We should reduce taxes and eliminate harmful regulations that drive up costs. We should reform our irrational land use laws to make it easier for people to find affordable workforce housing. Oregon government has been part of the inflation problem; it needs to become part of the inflation solution.