© 2022 Tootie Smith for Oregon. All Rights Reserved.

The Perils of Progressive Policies

As of right now, so-called progressives have been in charge of Portland for decades, the Oregon Legislature for years, the U.S. Senate and Congress and the White House.

So what, exactly, do we have to show for it?

We are literally surrounded on a daily basis by mounting evidence that the policies they champion continue to fail.

Let’s start at the local level. The City of Portland has long been dominated by the most far-left politicians that city’s population has to offer. There are no Republicans in charge, or even anywhere at the table. How’s that working out?

A soft-on-crime approach has led to an explosion in the number of car thefts. An attempt to appear politically correct caused the disbanding of the gang violence task force. Shootings are a regular occurrence, and the city is now covered in graffiti.

An “anything goes” approach to drug use and homelessness has resulted in the proliferation of tents on public sidewalks. Garbage lies in piles immediately visible from multiple major freeways corridors.

It’s increasingly obvious that what they’re doing isn’t working. And yet, we aren’t hearing any new ideas from the city’s leaders. All we get are excuses and promises that with even more of other peoples’ money, they’ll start to turn the corner on solving these problems.

At the state level, Democrats have held the governor’s office in Oregon since 1987. Even though Republicans held legislative majorities up until 2006 and managed to bring the House to a 30-30 split in the 2010 election, they’ve since been in the minority and superminority in both the state House and Senate.

The state has frequently had record revenues in that time. Taxes have been raised over and over again. But there is no indication whatsoever that state services are any better than they’ve been or that its agencies are more responsive to citizens.

Again, all we keep hearing is that lawmakers absolutely must have more money to make these systems work. But they never will, because there is no accountability for lack of performance or poor customer service.

At the federal level, we’re seeing a culmination of many issues coming together in disastrous fashion. Fiscal literacy and sanity were long ago thrown out the window, and the costs of essential household goods continues to skyrocket. The energy independence we achieved under the Trump administration has been replaced by a return to depending on other countries to meet those critical needs. A foreign policy based on the projection of weakness caused us to abandon our allies in Afghanistan and sit back and watch hopelessly as Russia attacked the Ukraine.

Luckily, we don’t have to be stuck on these trajectories.

We are months away from the November 2022 election, which gives us the chance to get back on the right track at the local, state and federal levels. Pretty soon, voters will be able to ask themselves if these current crop of candidates and policies are working, or if we can stand to do something different.

I eagerly await our opportunity to change course. Because it’s obvious that these progressive policies are not working and that we deserve so much better than this.

Of Results and Intentions

If it’s true that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then it must not have very many potholes.

Time and time again, we find in the public policy arena that decisions are often based on stated intentions. But when push comes to shove, the results of those decisions, policies and programs often come up short and may sometimes make problems worse than they would have been otherwise.

This is especially true when we see candidates running for office. Their pledges are cloaked in compassion. It’s no accident or coincidence that people have been talking about the same issues for decades. Of course they support health care, education and helping the poor. Doesn’t everyone?

What many of them don’t actually say out loud, or publicly, is that once they get into office, the plan all along was to get government more involved with health care and education. And it has. But has education gotten better? No. The federal Department of Education was founded in the late 1970s, with little to show for it since. While I don’t doubt that the intentions behind this were honorable, the results have been disastrous by any measure.

The intentions behind the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act seemed harmless enough on the surface. What candidate would be willing to say on the record that they don’t want people to have access to health care if they need it?

But here we are, a decade later, which is long enough to determine the results. Has health care become more or less affordable in that time? All indications are that it’s less affordable than it’s ever been. Is the government more involved with health care? Absolutely. Is that proving to be a good thing? No.

Our federal government declared War on Poverty back in the 1960s. Who could possibly be against helping poor people?

Since then, literally trillions of dollars have been spent in the name of combating poverty. Entire government agencies have been formed, and their budgets have grown exponentially. Are we any closer to eradicating poverty than we were back then? No. Some studies even show that the results would have been the same if we had done nothing.

We are now at the beginning of another election year. That means that we’ll spend the next several months hearing from candidates for local, state and federal office. They’ll be making all kinds of promises, and we need to pay attention to what they’re saying.

Some of those candidates have already been elected to their positions and are seeking additional terms. Similarly, as voters, we need to base our support on the practical impacts of their policies on our daily lives and not the flowery language used to justify and perpetuate more things that just don’t work.

Most importantly, we need to be mindful of the fact that results and intentions are very seldom the same. We need to demand more results, and remember that intentions aren’t the be all, end all of public policy.

Are We Being Ruled or Governed?

One of the main debates of our time is one that is nothing new. Society has always seemed to be split between people subscribing to two competing political philosophies—some want to be governed and some want others to rule over them and everyone else.

It’s often easy to tell the differences between being ruled and being governed.

When you’re being governed, there’s a rule of law that applies equally to everybody, regardless of status, class, family, who you know or who you are. Those laws are decided through deliberate processes that are open to scrutiny and input from the public. The decisions are made by representatives elected by citizens. Those representatives are regularly held accountable through elections and can be removed and replaced if they fail to represent the peoples’ interests.

When you’re being ruled, mandates are issued without regard to public process. The people issuing the edicts were never voted into power by anybody and were appointed to their positions. It’s impossible to determine how those mandates were developed and no immediate process to challenge them exists. Exemptions seem to be made for certain groups of people and not others. Certain select groups of people appear to always benefit from these decisions, and they’re often the same entities that supported those officials and enabled them to attain their positions of power.

Any citizens who dare question their authority are singled out, treated poorly, made examples of and subject to retaliation.

When you’re being governed, agencies exist for the purpose of providing services to you. Policies governing those agencies are directed with the consideration of input from citizens. Taxes are collected to fund those services and pay employees or contractors to provide them. Citizens are able to contact those agencies and get a response. There are repercussions for managers and personnel if the public is treated poorly.

When you’re being ruled, you are treated as if you exist to serve the government and not the other way around. Rulers think of budgets in terms of what agencies need. If they feel it’s not enough, taxes or fees are raised to achieve the desired results and amounts.

When you’re being governed, agencies’ resources are based on budgets whose amounts are set by citizens and their desired level of taxation.

When you’re being ruled, you are told what you can and cannot do. Your conduct is limited, and you must ask permission to do anything.

When you are being governed, you are assumed to be free. The government is limited to what is necessary to provide the shared services that you and your fellow citizens have agreed upon.

In just under a year, we’re going to be facing another election. When considering which candidates to support, we should ask which of these two philosophies they follow. Candidates who are currently in office who feel we should be ruled need to be removed immediately and replaced with those who feel that we should be governed.

Enough is Enough

Every election is about choices, and the upcoming May 19 primary voters will never see a bigger contrast in two candidates.

Citizens decide every two or four years if they’re happy with their political leadership. If are, they stay the course and incumbents are re-elected. But if they aren’t, they decide it’s time for a change and new leaders take office.

Elections are never without consequences.

In 2016, voters took a chance on electing Jim Bernard as chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners. They gave him the benefit of the doubt and believed his campaign promises. So, what do we have to show for almost four years of Bernard’s chairmanship?

When Bernard took over as chair, the county’s budget was not only balanced, but it had a surplus. That was the result of my own personal efforts, and it was achieved without raising taxes on county residents.

As chair, Bernard also had the benefit of record revenues coming into county coffers. Instead of prudently managing those limited resources, Bernard decided the county government should rely more on consultants and pay them for all kinds of “special projects” that don’t benefit the average citizen.

The results of this approach have been predictably disastrous. They’ve led to the county’s budget being $20 million in deficit the last couple of years. Officials have called for a “rightsizing,” which is an acknowledgement that county government has grown beyond the means of properly funding it.  

When I was on the Board of County Commissioners, Clackamas County residents were being asked to pay higher vehicle registration fees to pay for a bridge in Multnomah County. Our taxpayers were being put on the hook for bailing out a neighboring county because of its inability and unwillingness to maintain its own infrastructure. I took up the efforts to fight back, and we were successful. The people of Clackamas County stood up, said “no,” and were heard.

Under the chairmanship of Jim Bernard, county residents will see an increase in their vehicle registration fees. But it wasn’t due to a vote of the people. Rather, it’s due to a decision that was made behind closed doors without public input.

As county commissioner, I fought to make sure Clackamas County had its own unique identity that was independent of Portland and Metro. Jim Bernard has spent the last few years catering to interests representing those entities. In fact, he personally contributed money to the political action committee that is promoting Metro’s new income tax measure. Metro also billed the county $5,000 for campaign measures, essentially using your tax dollars to campaign for more tax dollars.

Not only is Jim Bernard personally contributing to this campaign—you are, too, through your tax dollars.

One of the reasons Bernard is able to contribute to campaigns to raise taxes is because his own personal property taxes have been reduced by almost one-third. Last year, Bernard, as chairman of the board of commissioners, successfully petitioned the county assessor’s office for the reduction. That office obliged. It’s surprising that he would need any tax relief, as he and his wife, a county department head, bring home over a quarter of a million dollars in taxpayer-funded salaries every year.

Over the years, Bernard has also been fined $12,000 for failing to report a campaign contribution and found guilty of abusing his position by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission. After he was found guilty, he fully intended to have county taxpayers pick up the tab for $20,000 in legal bills he incurred fighting the proven charge. Political pressure prompted his fellow commissioners to make Bernard pay his own attorney fees.

They say that that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. If that’s the case, then Clackamas County residents know what to expect from another four years of Jim Bernard as chair of the board of commissioners. It involves higher taxes for you, lower taxes for him, more consultants, more special projects, more billion-dollar boondoggles and questionable ethics on display. The big question is, have you had enough?


I’m running for chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners to give voters a clear choice. There is an alternative to the high tax, high spending policies that continue to undermine the prosperity of businesses, individuals and families in Clackamas County. I proudly stand behind my over two decades of public service as I ask for your support and your vote.