I enjoy reading the descriptions of natural history that condense the life of the universe into the scale of a single year, sometimes called the Cosmic Calendar, so that if the Big Bang happened on January 1, the solar system formed on September 2, life on Earth started on September 21, fish appeared on December 17, the ice age ended on December 31 at 11:59:33 p.m, and so on. I also appreciate the similar scaling of the federal income tax and the concept of Tax Freedom Day, the day of the year on which the nation has earned total income equal to its federal and state income tax burden. It's in late April.
Something I read inspired me to condense income taxes and the federal budget into a single workweek -- the Laquedem Cosmic Federal Budget Workweek. Imagine that your annual work and income are condensed into a single workweek of five 8-hour days, each running from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (For this exercise, skip lunch and breaks.) The tax freedom moment is Tuesday at 1:29 p.m., including state taxes. Your federal income tax freedom moment is Tuesday morning at 9:20 a.m.
But let's take this scale one step farther. If your income tax is allocated ratably among the $2.854 trillion (net of certain offsetting revenues including Social Security and Medicare taxes) that our federal government spends, for how much of the LCFBW are you working for which program?
The answer is that from 9:00 to 10:52:19 Monday you're working for the Defense Department, from 10:52:20 to 12:37:26 you're funding other discretionary spending, from 12:37:27 to 1:19:39 you're funding the interest on the national debt, from 1:19:40 to 2:24:08 you're funding Medicaid, and from 2:24:09 to 3:51:23 you're funding the gap between Social Security and Medicare tax revenues and expenses. For the rest of the Monday (remember, no breaks!) and 20 minutes Tuesday morning you're supporting everything else the government does that has some mandatory element, including SNAP (food stamps), federal and military retirement benefits, the earned income credit, some veterans' programs, and unemployment benefits, net of all offsetting revenue.
Mr. Trump proposes to cut funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. How much of your workweek goes to support those three programs? Last year the federal government funded public broadcasting with $445 million and sent about $150 million each to NEH and NEA. On the Laquedem Cosmic Federal Budget Workweek scale, one minute equals $5.708 billion and one second equals $95 million. The answer, then, is that the $745 million for those three programs together correspond to about eight seconds of your workweek. If you read at a respectable 300 words per minute, in the time it took you to read this post you funded your share of the three programs twelve times over. Now get back to work.
They may wish to review the history of how the nation's tax burden has shifted from corporations to individuals. In the early years of the federal income tax, the burden lay about evenly on individuals and corporations. In eight of the first ten years, the government actually collected more from corporations than from individual taxpayers. That tenth year -- 1943 -- was the last year in which the United States government collected more income tax from corporations than from individuals ($9.56 billion from corporations and $6.51 billion from individuals).
The last year in which corporations paid as much as two-thirds as individuals was 1954 ($21.1 billion from corporations and $29.5 billion from individuals).
The last year in which corporations paid as much as half as individuals was 1967 ($34 billion from corporations and $61.5 billion from individuals).
The last year in which corporations paid as much as one-third as individuals was 2006 ($353.9 billion from corporations and $1,044 billion from individuals), and before that was 1977 ($54.9 billion from corporations and $157.6 billion from individuals).
The tax cut that the Republicans champion has already happened.
On this day in 1919, when Tom Moyer was born in an upstairs bedroom of this unassuming building in Sellwood, his father, who had boxed as "Silk Hat" Harry Moyer, might have imagined that Tom would himself become a boxer some day, and so Tom did, being for a while the second-best amateur boxer in the United States. Harry Moyer might not have envisioned, however, that his son would go on to success in the business world as the founder of the Luxury Theatres chain, which grew to 190 screens before being acquired by Norman Lear's company Act III in 1988. (It's now part of the Regal Cinemas chain.) Nor would Harry Moyer have pictured his son becoming a Portland real estate tycoon, and then a quiet philanthropist who gave millions of dollars back to the city in which he lived and prospered, and donated the land and part of the construction cost for Director Park.
Late in Mr. Moyer's life, the city recognized his civic contributions, and some awards followed -- not many, for he disliked talking in public, even in the form of the words of gratitude that audiences expect honorees to utter from the stage. "Thank you very much" was one of his longer speeches.
In 2014, on the gray November morning on which he died in his downtown apartment, the city had one final farewell gift for Mr. Moyer: it ticketed his hearse.
I was not the first, or the second, or even the six hundredth person to be surprised by Amanda Fritz's decision to close her City Hall office and travel to Arizona with six of her senior staff to attend a three-day residential training session on diversity in the workplace, at a cost to the city of $4,750 per person plus travel costs, for a total cost to the city of about $40,000. Many of the raised eyebrows, including mine, arched skyward because White Men As Full Diversity Partners, the organization that will provide the diversity training, is headquartered in Portland a mere two miles from City Hall. (To be fair, the organization offers the residential training only in Arizona and Illinois, but not in Oregon.)
In 2011 the city created an agency, named the "Office of Equity and Human Rights," to educate city elected officials and their staff on issues of access, opportunity, race, and disability. Commissioner Fritz was the Council's strongest voice to support its creation. The Office has a staff of ten and provides mandatory training to all city employees. That Commissioner Fritz believes it valuable to take her staff out of town for three days or more to obtain diversity training that is readily available in Portland, from the same organization that's providing the training in Arizona, suggests that she believes that the Office of Equity and Human Rights is failing at its job. Else why would the additional training be necessary?
Sometimes I think that the Portland City Council does not understand that a dollar spent on Project A is a dollar that is not available to spend on Project B. This is one of those times.
Comedian Irwin Corey billed himself as "The World's Foremost Authority." Authority on what? Anything you might wish him to talk about, if you were willing to overlook how he could spiral from coherent and professorial English into a whirlpool of substance and syntax so mangled that George W. Bush would have cringed. Professor Coreydied yesterday at the advanced age of 102, and his death leaves vacant the post of being the world's foremost authority. Until a less suitable substitute is located, I'm happy to claim the title.
Hidden within Donald Trump's executive order on immigration is this little gem, section 9:
Sec. 9. Visa Validity Reciprocity. The Secretary of State shall review all nonimmigrant visa reciprocity agreements to ensure that they are, with respect to each visa classification, truly reciprocal insofar as practicable with respect to validity period and fees, as required by sections 221(c) and 281 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1201(c) and 1351, and other treatment. If a country does not treat United States nationals seeking nonimmigrant visas in a reciprocal manner, the Secretary of State shall adjust the visa validity period, fee schedule, or other treatment to match the treatment of United States nationals by the foreign country, to the extent practicable.
"Nonimmigrant visas" are visas for business, education, and tourism. The ringer here is that a few nations, most notably Saudi Arabia, prohibit tourist visits entirely: this website states that Saudi Arabia allows foreign visitors only for sponsored business travel, religious purposes, and family visits. Conspicuously absent are visits for education and tourism.
If this portion of President Trump's order is upheld, and it might be, then he has directed the Secretary of State to treat Saudi visitors the same way that Saudi Arabia treats American visitors: that is, to keep them out of the country. He's told the Secretary of State to exclude from the United States all Saudi nationals who are coming for education, or for non-specific business purposes, or simply to visit the United States -- even though Saudi Arabia isn't one of the nations on his list. He's actually moved to exclude from the United States citizens of one of the nations that produced the 9/11 terrorists, even if he hasn't realized it yet.
A year ago I'd written about Richard See and Paul Gold, who dominated downtown real estate for decades and whose exploits included acquiring and assembling the block where the Georgia-Pacific Building (now the Standard Insurance Center) became downtown's first modern tower. Messrs. See and Gold were both immigrants, Richard See from Germany and Paul Gold from Russian Poland. In 2011 I'd written about the three remarkable sons of Italian immigrant Carlo Piacentini, who landed on August 16, 1913. Carlo's sons - John, Frank, and Carl - all became prominent in our city.
Last week I discovered an interesting coincidence. On March 4, 1931 Paul Gold and Carlo Piacentini stood together in a Portland courtroom to be sworn in as citizens of the United States. Messrs. Gold and Piacentini, as aliens, had served in the United States army, and qualified for expedited citizenship, and March 4 was the last day on which alien veterans could be naturalized without waiting out the arduous process prescribed for other would-be citizens.
I thought the story of Paul Gold and Carlo Piacentini especially poignant when I read of Hameed Darweesh, the Iraqi man who had served as a translator for the United States army, and who had acquired the proper permits to enter the United States because of his service, who was stopped and detained by the Customs and Border Patrol last week solely because of President Trump's sudden change of policy.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, if this is the way the new leaders of our government choose treat the foreigners on whom our troops depend to communicate, we don't deserve to have any.
Today Donald Trump ordered that citizens of seven specified and predominantly Muslim nations, including those with green cards, be excluded from the United States for 90 days unless admitted on a case-by-case evaluation. Mr. Trump based his order on the belief that citizens of those nations are peculiarly prone to commit terrorist acts on American soil.
Setting aside the constitutional issues, in two swoops of his pen the president managed to fail both geography and history. The informing event of terrorism on United States soil was, as most of America recalls, the hijacking of four airplanes on September 11, 2001, three of which the terrorists steered into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, killing more than 2000 people. The terrorists were all from predominantly Muslim countries: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates. None of those countries are among the banned. Coincidentally, the Trump Organization operates twogolf courses in the United Arab Emirates.
The president's lapse is odd, because a year ago he was well aware that 9/11 was an operation planned and executed mainly by Saudi nationals. He even used that fact as a talking point against Jeb Bush, telling Fox News that if the immigration policies he was promoting had been in place in 2001, instead of those of George W. Bush, the 9/11 terrorists wouldn't have been allowed in the United States.
Now he's shown us his immigration policies. They wouldn't have stopped any of the 9/11 terrorists from entering the country. Sorry, Trump voters, but he sold you a bill of goods.
Stores around Pioneer Square are boarding up their windows now in their reasonable belief that this afternoon's protests of our new president will turn destructive. I saw workers in action by 7:00 this morning.
There's something sardonically appropriate in the fact that the very first store to start boarding up, in anticipation of the protests against a candidate who lost by nearly 3 million votes becoming the president anyway, is named "Banana Republic."
Among the anniversaries that passed unnoticed this year was one on November 21, the 75th anniversary of the 1941 death of a Portland city commissioner of the 1920s and 1930s. You think you don't know his name, but you do, and if you own a Portland house that was built before 1931, his work is on your wall. He was Asbury Barbur, first elected to the council in 1920. One of his pet causes was to clean up Portland's system for naming streets and numbering buildings. I should say "systems" instead of "system," for Portland's naming and numbering plans included not only the elements of the Great Renaming of 1891, but also the systems of Sellwood and St. Johns, annexed to Portland afterward. (A remnant of the Sellwood system survives in the Clackamas County portion of the Garthwick neighborhood.)
Portland was plagued by similar and confusing street names, such as Tenth Street, North Tenth Street, East Tenth Street, and East Tenth Street North. Intersections were similarly confusing: for example, from their intersection 42nd Avenue SE ran east-west, and 42nd Street SE ran north-south. The post office misdelivered 2000 letters a day, and streetsigns often didn't match the streets they were on.
Commissioner Barbur spent 10 years persuading the rest of the council to adopt a single unified system of addresses and numbers. In 1931 the council, having been cajoled, wheedled, inveigled, and bullied into joining the modern era, adopted the Barbur plan, which with slight modifications is what we enjoy today. In the Barbur plan, odd numbers were on the west or north sides of streets, even numbers were on the south or east sides of streets, all streets ran east-west, all avenues and places ran north-south, and all boulevards were scenic (he missed the mark on Holgate). Burnside, the river, and Williams Avenue became the baselines, and we adopted the five quadrants of North, Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest as directional prefixes. Numbers increased by 100 per block and 2000 per mile. You could tell from an address such as 4010 SE 40th Avenue that it was on the east side of SE 40th Avenue, 2 miles east of the Willamette River and 2 miles south of East Burnside Street.
Few politicians are brave enough to advocate a plan that would inconvenience every registered voter in the city. Commissioner Barbur took some of the sting out of changing everyone's address by having the city hire a company to manufacture hundreds of thousands of numbered ceramic tiles - the classic black-on-white "Asbury Tile" -- and then hiring crews of the unemployed to go from house to house to install the tiles on the front walls of every building in Portland. They completed their work in 1933. If you have an old house within the 1931 city limits, you probably have Asbury tiles next to your front door, courtesy of the city council.
Another part of the Barbur plan was to rename streets, not just to get rid of the duplicate and confusing names that had accumulated since 1891, but to give continuous streets a continuous name. The most prominent roadway to be renamed was a highway that ran south from downtown, along bits of roadway named Fourth Avenue Extension, Witham Street, and Miles Street. It's now called Barbur Boulevard, and it honors the man who gave you your address.