Delay the Orange Line One Year!

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The Orange/Milwaukee line scheduled to open September 12 is a splash boondoggle costing $1.6 billion for 7 miles of track ($200 million a mile).

The following letter was sent to Mayor Hales and the Portland City Commissioners on August 26, 2015. Changing our mind, delaying and reflecting can be life-giving!

I am a 60+ freelance translator gratefully surviving on social security and living in Portland. On my website ( are links to 12 free Internet books, 50 videos and over 700 translated articles on the economic crisis and liberation theology. On the website, we are given 700 free movies, 700 free E-books and 450 audio books. Free and shared seem to be tabooed realities to the corporate mindset fixated on profits.

Crisis and opportunity are represented by the same Chinese letter. We are living in crisis times where stagnant wages, missing investments, fear of the future and fear of the unknown make the future blurry. According to mainstream neoliberal economic myths, higher profits should lead to more investments and more jobs. According to reality, soaring profits lead to companies buying back their stock, speculations on currency markets and $11 trillion in tax havens. The TTIP, TPP and TISA trade agreements under negotiation will accelerate income inequality and make labor and environmental protections into trade barriers. Public sector jobs will be threatened by privatization and private investor-state-dispute settlement tribunals. Foreign investors will be able to sue for lost profits. The threat of lawsuits will have a chilling effect.

Shriveling the financial sector and expanding the public sector are two vital lessons from the 2008 financial meltdown. Closing the tax havens, taxing the rich, building community centers (as in Vancouver BC), expanding affordable education, health care and housing are counter-measures to exploding inequality, plutocracy, demoralization and resignation.

Many articles on my website showcase alternative economics. (1) Profit-making is different than profit-maximizing. Profit maximization violates the sustainable ideal and the primacy of politics (cf. Ulrich Thielemann). (2) The neoliberal model promotes profits, not investments (cf. Nicolaus Krowall). (3) Reduced working hours could be a socio-economic investment leading to better long-term health and more time sovereignty. Reduced working hours is not a cost-trap (cf. Michael Schwendinger). Similarly the $15 minimum wage will lead to economic growth and greater economic demand (cf. PSU and Lewis and Clark economists). (4) The economy should be embedded in society; society should not be embedded or commodified in the economy (cf. Peter Ulrich). (5) Community centers have a cushioning and multiplying effect and could be a third way beyond state and market. There are surrogate counseling and classroom possibilities at the Carnegie Community Center in Vancouver BC along with theater, gym, meals, library, game room, TV room and computer room. The market is not self-healing but a mechanism helpful after fundamental political questions are answered: what kind of society do we want? What is the best relation of state and market? How were New Deal lessons forgotten? All personal achievement depends on public investment in roads, schools, hospitals, airwaves, food safety and water. Inequality was long justified as a necessary goad and stimulation. CEOs were stylized as job creators and workers as “cost factors.’ The financial sector was expanded and the young were herded into the co-called “crisis-free” speculative economy! Wages are not only cost factors. Consumer societies depend on consumer demand. All people should share in the benefits of technology and higher productivity. Everyone could receive a post-autistic economy dividend if the financial sector were shriveled and the public sector expanded. Restoring progressive taxation and taxing capital gains would promote generalized security instead of privileging speculators and hedge fund gamblers. Trade agreements like TTIP, TPP and TISA could make labor and environment protections into trade barriers. State intervention is vital to counter market failure, tax evasion, tax fraud and exploding inequality. Market radicalism or market fundamentalism rests on lies, myths, fairy-tales and path-dependency. Authoritarian low growth capitalism often makes criticism and alternatives taboo. Free movies, free E-books and free audio-books are seen as profit-endangering and have a hard time gaining a hearing. News decays to entertainment. Universities become profit centers. Critical thinking atrophies when market-conforming democracy pretends to be without alternative.

Radical change is necessary for a post-crisis, post-growth, post-fossil and post-autistic economy. Those who caused the 2008 financial meltdown through fraud and/or speculation should not evade responsibility and shift risks to taxpayers.

I urge a 1-year delay for the Orange line, the Milwaukee line. Let the 1700 daily riders continue using the busses. Use all your energy and resources to build affordable housing. There should be 20 buildings like the 1200 building. Between 2 and 3 million units have already been created through the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program.

An empathic civilization can develop by redirecting resources and energy and redefining priorities. On a federal level, removing the archaic $118K cap on social security taxes would make social security solvent for 75 years and create public spirit and trust between the generations. Access could replace excess as enough could replace more. The future could be open and dynamic and not closed and static. The future could be anticipated and protected in the present, not extrapolated from the present (cf. Jurgen Moltmann).

A people without vision perish, the prophet Isaiah warns. We see how 35 years of trickle down economics led to exploding inequality, money-out-of-thin-air cynicism, plutocracy, laws by lobbyists and corruption through campaign contributions. Portland is ideal as an alternative to the mega-machine. Making affordable housing a priority would be a sign of healthy iconoclasm (as in Vancouver BC s 26 community centers, SF/LA/NYC s $15 minimum wage). Oregon is wedged between 2 military states and should lead an innovative alternative existence for a more social and more humane world. As prejudice can be overcome by the event of understanding and the fusion of horizons (cf. Hans Georg Gadamer), the cart stuck in the mud could be replaced by paradigms of self-organization and social courage.

The Canada line, a computer-operated light rail from downtown to the airport, opened in Vancouver BC in August 2009. The cost was roughly the same as the Orange line. If we could think Cascadian and congratulate Vancouver, we could save $1.6 billion from the Orange line boondoggle and Jerry Brown could save $800 billion on his turbo-train from Bakersfield to SF!! Here is link to a 30-minute video explaining how the SkyTrain was built:

Thanks for your time and attention. I look forward to your comments and to a postponement of the Orange/ Milwaukee line.


Marc Batko
Portland OR

demandside's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

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