Far Fewer Living-wage Jobs in Oregon Come Back Than After Great Recession

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley gave Oregonians some stark news on December 4 at the Human Resources Coalition of Oregon meeting:

Sixty percent of the jobs we lost in the recession of 2008 were living-wage jobs,” he said. “Of the jobs we’ve gotten back, only 40 percent are living-wage jobs.

Oregon PolitiFact found his statements to be true, though I found their description of middle income jobs a bit disturbing:

…approaching income percentiles where you stop qualifying for assistance or safety-net programs.

That’s basing your definitions on top of the definitions supplied by those programs what qualifies you for certain programs, all of which have different requirements that may have additional modifications based on non income factors like gender and race. So is the definition based on when all Oregonians no longer for any programs? If that’s actually true then the lowest income is not all that low.

The key point here though are the numbers of jobs added that are not living wage jobs, that are then considered employment. To be a true financial contributor to the state, you either have to have a living wage, or be a dependent in the household of someone who is bringing in a living wage for a family. Without those things, you cannot pay your taxes, your necessary bills or contribute to the economy.Of the jobs lost in the recession, we’ve gained back only 24% (40% of 60%)  of those that are meaningful indicators of the health of the State of Oregon.

On one hand, with the 24%, you have a loss of meaningful contributions of state income tax from the other 36%. Now consider also what this indicator doesn’t show, and that’s those who continue to lose their homes as result of foreclosure. If you lose your home, do you really have the ability to pay outstanding property taxes?  What happens to the property tax revenue stream that pays for schools?

If you ask many in the government, the solution is to increase taxes, notably, a sales tax, and modify the property tax system so that property taxes can be increased to cover the costs of programs.  What they do not suggest are sweeping plans to reduce costs and tether / prioritize government spending and services based on available revenues – that is, learn to live within their means. Increasing any of these taxes directly and negatively impact the real middle or “living wage” class that still exists in the state – who categorically reject a sales tax. When will the State of Oregon finally conclude that it has to work within its living wage?




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