Global warming is upon us. My rhododendron told me this decades ago as it bloomed during the middle of a brutal January ice storm. However, we have been made a bit confused about the issue because some very rich people’s income and wealth accumulation, along with their economic and political power, is greatly dependent upon the rest of us believing something else despite what is happening right before our eyes.

We have been divided, sliced and diced into competing camps. A great many people believe either in the nonsense the Wall Street/billionaire controlled Democratic Party has conjured up, or the nonsense the billionaire/Wall Street/Big Oil controlled Republican Party has placed before us. We have been divided by social issues by the competing camps of billionaires while the big boys of both sides rape us financially. Most of the faithful of both political parties appear to be just like European soccer fans. It’s our team against their team and we’re going to believe whatever the leaders of our team tell us to believe. This is called WAR, which is an acronym for “We Are Right.” Some people are as zealous in this regard as the European soccer fans who duke it out in the stands and parking lots of stadiums over men kicking a ball.

Sometimes, however, the truth can win against the lies of either group of billionaires. Mother nature has been telling us for decades that global warming is occurring. We could see, for example, flowers that used to bloom in Spring blooming in December and January, insects we’ve never seen before that belong in hotter climates than the Pacific Northwest, in some places river and lake water levels have been reduced by 50 percent in just the last five years, and ducks and geese migrating south in November and December, and then flying north in February.

Hopefully, enough people have experienced the severe and record-breaking heat in the Pacific Northwest, along with historic droughts throughout the west, to understand the great danger to the people and other species of the world that global warming is bringing because these current events are only the tip of the ice berg of what the future holds, no pun intended. As late as early June 2021, nobody living in Portland, Oregon would have believed the record mid-June temperatures of 108 and 116 degrees would ever occur. The same thing has happened to the people of Montana, Idaho and Washington, among other places.

Hopefully, enough voters in the Republican Party will understand the billionaires who control the party have been lying to them that global warming is not occurring, and if it is by some miracle, it is not man-made; We can hope enough of them will believe the eyes and brains that God gave them, and they will demand action from their party leaders. By now many should have come to understand global warming is a reality in the same way many Democratic voters have come to realize the Wall Street controlled Democratic Party leadership and its news media has been lying to them that free trade agreements do not result in the exporting of jobs, although tens of millions of jobs have been exported over the last thirty years. The billionaires who control both parties and all three branches of the federal government, along with the corporate news media, have been lying to us for forty and more years over a great number of issues, thanks to their Supreme Court. It isn’t your Supreme Court, and it certainly does not belong to the U.S. Constitution; the super wealthy own the court.

We can only hope change will come in the midst of record setting heat waves and drought before those of us living outside of gated communities experience the full brunt of global warming, which will continue to get worse. 116 degrees is Portland Oregon is only the beginning unless action on a massive scale is taken.


How much have the corporate news media brainwashed us? The answer is plenty of times and ways.

We have, for example, been told by the corporate news media over the course of many decades that the United States Constitution protects free speech, except in certain cases, such as yelling “fire!” in crowded movie theaters. This is not entirely true, and the results of the brainwashing campaign have opened the door for the United States Supreme Court to give the billionaires vastly more constitutional rights via their corporations than the rest of us, and deliberately so. These newly created legal rights have enabled the billionaires to turn the United States government from a democracy for all into a government of the highest bidders. A small clique controls everything within government nowadays.

These new billionaire constitutional rights came in stages over almost 200 years, but most began when the billionaires began to organize themselves into a single political force back in the 1970s in response to a series of political victories by the 99 percent, such as the fight for clean water and clean air, the war against pesticide spraying on people, the protests to end the profitable Vietnam War, the civil rights protests, etc…. These political battles showed democracy was alive and well. So the billionaires politically organized.

A critical stage in this organized campaign occurred in November 1977. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, the guy who wrote the manifesto for the corporate takeover of our government and many institutions called the Lewis Powell Memo, led the charge in his guerilla war against democracy and the United States Constitution.

The First National Bank of Boston vs Bellotti case came before the United States Supreme Court. The attorneys for the management of the First National Bank of Boston argued that corporations possessed First Amendment free-speech rights with regard to political speech, that money was the same as speech, and that therefore the laws that the good citizens of Massachusetts had passed to prevent the rich and their corporations from throwing money around in political or advocacy campaigns should be thrown out.

Powell delivered the majority opinion that decided the rich could use their corporations and the money they generated from employee effort as free political speech.[i] It is strange that money spent by the people who managed corporations on political campaigns was free speech, but money spent by non-corporate persons on prostitutes and illegal drugs was not free speech since purchasing such illegal things could clearly be making a political statement that such things should be legal. Nonetheless, in making his decision, Powell was making his own political statement, outlined in his memo, knowingly turning the tide against democracy by giving immense power to the super-wealthy via their corporations, while simultaneously constricting the constitutional rights of all non-rich citizens.

Rich individuals suddenly could use their supreme court created free speech rights via their corporations in ways the majority of voters disapproved of, and in which the vast majority of American citizens could not participate because they simply lacked the cash to spend as freely as the rich and their corporations. In the Bellotti decision, the Supreme Court gave the rich a massive megaphone with which to drown out the voices of everybody else, and deliberately so. This was a five to four decision, a close vote that helped to turn the United States from a democracy into a plutocracy, which is a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.

Now here is where we have been brainwashed by the corporate news media.

The 1st Amendment reads;

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

When looking at this amendment, the most striking thing is that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech….”

Congress did not make the law that First National Bank filed suit against; the people of Massachusetts voted for the law, a power the Constitution gives them. The 10th Amendment of the Constitution reads,

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Clearly, congress cannot make laws “abridging the freedom of speech…,” but the states can under the 10th amendment via a vote of the people or its legislature. State governments and the people can restrict corporations from funding political campaigns. The court ruled against 100 years of campaign finance law when the court ruled in favor of the rich and their corporations. The self-proclaimed original intent conservative corporate members of the court effectively ruled in their decision that the 10th amendment did not really count, and that in this case the founding fathers had made a mistake, but the billionaires news media did not mention this latter part at all.

Another part of the corporate news media brainwashing is the constant reference to corporations as plaintiffs in this and other cases. The headlines usually go something like, “Amazon sues so and so, or so and so sues Amazon. Business corporations cannot speak without spokespeople since they are inanimate. Amazon, for example, cannot operate without employees, either in management, the board of directors, or in warehouses and delivery vehicles. You can rest assured the people in Amazon’s warehouses and delivery vehicles are not calling the shots at Amazon about what they want their political representatives to do. The people at the top of the financial food chain are calling the shots, and it is they who are benefiting from Supreme Court rulings. So we have been brainwashed to think of corporations as single entities rather than conduits, or weapons, used to create greater constitutional rights for the owners of corporations.  

In short, with the Bellotti decision, the Supreme Court decided the tenth amendment of the United States was null and void and the founding fathers had made a horrible mistake, and the court legislated that a tiny minority of U.S. citizens should be given greater free speech rights via their corporations than the vast majority of U.S. citizens. This decision paved the way for the rich to dominate political discussion in the United States with their vast resources of money, a not so subtle violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment since it made free speech vastly more abundant for rich people and CEOs via their corporations than for everybody else, and deliberately so.

Meanwhile, the corporate news media focused our attention on whether or not business corporations were persons with free speech rights protected by the constitution. Not many, if any, mentioned the Supreme Court’s decision violated the tenth amendment, and likely the fourteenth amendment. And this is just one way the billionaires have used their corporate news media to brainwash us.

The Bellotti decison helped to create the income and wealth inequality we have experienced over the last forty+ years in the United States and throughout the world, and the decision was also a primary factor in creating a great deal more global warming, but these latter realities are for another time.

[i] Unequal 26

Presidential candidate Joe Biden proposed last year a $7 trillion fiscal package to update U.S. infrastructure. Recently, President Biden proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure package designed to upgrade bridges, roads, rail, etc…. The president insists taxes should be raised on corporations to pay for the package, which will be phased in over eight to ten years, which means he is proposing peanuts to upgrade everything.

One has to wonder if Biden is serious about this, or is he just proposing something he has no intention of fulfilling in order to placate the increasingly bigger progressive wing of the Democratic party? Conservative Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin has reportedly called for a $4 trillion package

As you can see from the poll above, 65 percent of Americans support raising taxes on corporations in order to pay for Biden’s program. Even Manchin has publicly called for raising the corporate tax rate from 21 to 25 percent. Most major corporations pay little or no federal tax as it is, which suits the billionaires who fund both major political parties just fine since they get more money in their bank accounts via higher share prices and rising dividends with less corporate taxation. More corporate taxation means lower share prices and less dividends.

“The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a progressive think tank, revealed in a report last week that no fewer than 55 of America’s biggest businesses did not pay any federal corporate income taxes in the most recent fiscal year. This is in spite of the fact that they netted hefty pretax profits in 2020, a development that the think tank attributes to decades of tax policies that benefit the wealthy.”[i]

So one has to question how serious Biden really is on this issue since the billionaires fund his campaigns, and will provide stipends of $350+ thousand for every speech the president will give once he is out of office. The answer may be that Biden is not serious at all about this issue, that he is only faking he is serious, and the Wall Street Democrats will engineer a way to inflict a defeat on their own infrastructure package and force President Biden to feign public anger in the face of such a mortal wound.

The president can use the budget reconciliation process to raise the taxes of corporations to fund his proposal, undercutting Republican party efforts to shoot it down. The guess here is that the billionaires funding the Democratic party will insist on the self-inflicted defeat. That is not what the base wants, or what 65 percent of the American public wants, but thanks to the billionaires control of the Supreme Court, the United States is a democracy in name only. So expect Biden to opt for the self-inflicted defeat. Otherwise, the proposal is something that will be done.

[i] https://www.salon.com/2021/04/07/americas-biggest-corporations-paid-no-federal-income-taxes-last-year-study/

There are an estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States as of 2021. This estimate has remained relatively constant throughout the last few decades. In the billionaire’s news media there is always a political issue of what to do with these people. The Democrats under newly elected President Joe Biden want to push through immigration reform, which means providing a road to citizenship for the undocumented. No penalties will exist for those who enter the United States illegally after legalization is granted. Biden’s basic plan, then, is to encourage more undocumented immigrants to enter the United States after legalization is granted. But this is a ploy that will ensure the president will not be able to fulfill his pledge on this issue.

The billionaires who control both major political parties are against legalization. This is why Biden has instructed Democratic party senators to keep the filibuster, meaning that it will take sixty votes in the senate to pass Biden’s immigration plan. That is not likely to occur with Republican Party opposition. Biden has already sent his stimulus package scurrying through the senate using something called a procedural vote. Notice he refuses the do the same thing with immigration reform, as well as raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, and other promises he made to the Democratic Party grassroots voters. There is a reason for this. It is called profits.

Roughly 73 percent of all immigrants detained by the government are sent to private prisons. This is a $4 billion a year industry. CoreCivic (CXW) and Geo Group (GEO) are the two largest private prison corporations. CoreCivic’s share price was $41 in 2015, but dropped to $7.19 as of February 20, 2020. Likewise, Geo Group’s share price plummeted under President Trump from $32 in April 2017 to $7.30 on February 20th. Lobbyists for these and other corporations that benefit from the apprehension of undocumented immigrants are battling tooth and nail to ensure the filibuster is not shoved to the side on immigration reform. Campaign money has been given to the president to ensure a rising tide of undocumented workers cross the border, while stifling immigration reform, all of which should push share prices higher.

Immigration reform would hurt the profits of a number of corporations and private businesses in food service, technology, ground transportation, air transportation, “bail bond companies, health care companies, food service groups, money transfer services and more” are “working in tandem with for-profit prisons and ultimately, the U.S. government, to help run the multibillion dollar business of immigration enforcement.” This is big business!

So don’t expect immigration reform. Don’t expect an increase in the federal minimum wage. The billionaires who control both major political parties are saying no to both, and President Biden must obey. Enacting either piece of legislation would reduce corporate profits, share prices and dividends, which would lessen to a small degree income and wealth inequality. Biden’s job is to ensure that does not happen.

The people of the United States have been sliced and diced by the billionaires into two large points-of-view over the last forty years, and deliberately so. The billionaires have used their money, their corporations, their control over the news media, as well as their control over the right-wing of the United States Supreme Court to divide a large segment of the U.S. population into two opposing camps; grassroots Democratic Party voters and Republican Party voters.

These people have been emotionally programed to support one side or the other, pretty much on par with English soccer fans, who will swap punches and riot over a referees call or a perceived slight where none might exist.

Many Democratic party members will cheer their team on with unbounded enthusiasm and little critical thought, especially if it means their Democratic Party team triumphs over the Republican party team, regardless of what those teams actually support. Many Republican Party voters are just as thoughtless.

One of my favorite examples is when Donald Trump was elected president. The Wall Street controlled Democratic National Committee (DNC) and its associate organizations immediately began to campaign that Donald Trump was the worst U.S. president of all time. Democratic voters were repeating this message even before Trump took office. Republican voters have been just as susceptible to this kind of messaging for decades.

Few Democratic voters are critical of Joe Biden because he won the election and that is all that counted. Our team won! The other team is the worst!

Forget that then Senator Biden continuously voted to redistribute $2.5 trillion for every year over the last twenty-five years from those who work for a living to the billionaires who pull his strings. That amounts to $50 trillion. Forget that Biden voted for numerous, but profitable wars, voted to incarcerate a high number of African-American males, and refuses to eliminate the senate filibuster for most things, like raising the minimum wage, immigration reform, and other things that would reduce the profits of the billionaires and their corporations. Many Democratic Party voters like to brush off these issues because, well, Biden is a Democrat, and he won, and when he won our team won. Hooray for our team!

That is the problem with Trump voters. When he lost, their team lost, and that is not acceptable.

Sliced and diced we have been. The billionaires have used social issues to divert our attention while financially raping each and every one of us for their own benefit. But we get emotionally lifted when our team scores a victory, or emotionally deflated, when our team loses. The billionaires can even lead many of the grassroots to feel great anger if our team loses.

All of which means the issues do not matter. Everything boils down to whether or not our team wins or loses, rather than how much the billionaires controlling both political parties close ranks to financially rape us using whatever corrupt means possible.

This is nice situation for the billionaires because we working folks are fighting each other rather than them and that is the point of it all.

What will occur when the Covid-19 vaccine is fully distributed? What will happen if President Biden gets his stimulus? The assumed answer to both questions is that the economy will enter a business expansion, things will return to normal, and everything will be peachy. Maybe and maybe not.

Nearly 100,000 U.S. businesses disappeared from March to December 2020. Gross domestic product has dropped in the last three quarters. Despite the CARES Act and the last stimulus, the number of people applying for first time unemployment benefits has exploded to nearly one million people during each of the last two weeks, compared to less than 360,000 during the height of the Great Recession.

The underlying economy has been gutted by the billionaires, leaving a dying carcass in the place of a once healthy economy. According to a study by Carter Price of the Rand Corporation, the rich have been redistributing $2.5 trillion from the 99 percent to themselves on average for the last twenty-five years using their hired hands in government, which includes Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and Wall Street’s favorite U.S. senator, Ron Wyden, who is appropriately the only U.S. senator to be called a “Useful Idiot” by a Nobel Prize winning economist in an op-ed in the New York Times.

A perfect example of this political corruption is the CARES Act signed into law on March 27, 2020. Congressional leaders made certain the billionaires were due to receive $4.994 trillion from the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill. You read that right. The $2.2 trillion included $454 billion for large corporations, allegedly in loans. The rich receive 66 percent to 100 percent of their income and wealth from, you guessed it, corporations. The bill was written with a proviso that the Federal Reserve could print up to ten times $454 billion and lend the total of $4.994 trillion with a nod and a wink to large corporations ($4.54 trillion + $454 billion = $4.994 trillion). The real total amount of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act was $6.74 trillion ($4.994 trillion + $2.2 trillion – 454 billion). 

The combined profits of all US corporations in 2018 and 2019 were slightly over $4 trillion before taxes. The rich and their corporations, in other words, were getting more than two years’ worth of profits from the stimulus bill. Naturally, the stock market exploded as massive amounts of money was funneled to them through their corporations. The CARES Act, however, failed to authorize the Fed to loan money to those who truly needed it; to stay in the homes and put food on their tables, which would have also strengthened the underlying economy.

The CARES Act gave the 99 percent, numbering about 314,685,000 citizens, $1.75 trillion (about $5500 each on average) to help keep the economy afloat while the roughly 300,000 wealthiest shared close to $5 trillion, which comes out to a little over $16.6 million each.

Nearly 36 million people were thrown out of work from March to May 2020, and the best congress that money has bought saved the billionaires and threw crumbs at the rest of us.

There are numerous political ways the billionaires have used to redistribute income from us to them. Millions of U.S. jobs have been exported over the last forty years, for example, and the difference between the old high U.S wages and benefits and the new lower wages-only compensation in China, Vietnam, Mexico, Pakistan and elsewhere have gone straight into the pockets of the billionaires, thanks to their might-as-well-be-hired employees in the congress, the white house, and the supreme court.

Thus, there is no guarantee the economy will return to normal when the coronavirus is gone and the next stimulus has run its course. The impacts of every recession has gotten worse for the 99 percent because at least $50 trillion has been redistributed from 99 to the 1 percent over the last twenty-five years, depressing the demand for goods and services in the process. The top one percent are now stealing roughly 22 to 39 percent of all income produced in the United States, up from 8 percent in 1979. This trend has not been and will not be reversed with the political corruption in play. In reality, this trend has been exacerbated by the CARES Act.

So when the dust clears, and the virus is gone, there is no guarantee the economy will bounce out of this recession, which may prove to be another Depression. So maybe it will, but then maybe not.

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The political games of the billionaires and their political representatives are afoot and quite noticeable, if one cares to look. Did anybody notice over the last several months that Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell made it abundantly clear that he was not going to consider a stimulus package of more than $500 billion while House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was looking at a minimum of $2.2 trillion.

President Donald Trump tried to negotiate something in the middle since he had to placate both. Now that Trump is soon to be out of office, McConnell and Pelosi are looking at a $900 billion package. They put Trump in a hard squeeze for months, and both made certain he was not going to get a new stimulus deal that might help him win reelection. McConnell and Pelosi proved they are different sides of the same coin; they’re corporatists and globalists and controlled by billionaires. They put their desire for political power ahead of the welfare of millions of American citizens who are unemployed because of Covid-19. The terms of the March 2020 CARES Act are due to expire the day after Christmas. People will be evicted from their homes by the millions, while millions will lose their unemployment insurance, and all Pelosi and McConnell cared about for the last several months was increasing their political capital at the expense of everybody but the billionaires who control both of them.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that “More and more Americans are going hungry as the pandemic continues to spiral out of control and government aid dries up, with children bearing the brunt of the hardship.

More than 27.3 million or 12.7% of Americans — 17.5% among households with children — reported they either sometimes or often did not have enough to eat in the last week, according to new data this week from the U.S. Census Bureau that polled people from November 25 to December 7. That’s the highest level dating back to the last week of April when the Census survey began.”

Even before Covid-19 struck, according to a 2017 CareerBuilder survey, “78 percent of U.S. workers live paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet (up from 75 percent a year earlier), and nearly one in ten workers making $100,000+ live paycheck to paycheck. More than half of minimum wage workers say they have to work more than one job to make ends meet, while nearly three in four workers say they are in debt today. “A quarter of workers (25 percent) have not been able to make ends meet every month in the last year, and 20 percent have missed payment on some smaller bills. Further, 71 percent of all workers say they’re in debt — up from 68 percent” in 2016. “While 46 percent say their debt is manageable, more than half of those in debt (56 percent) say they feel they will always be in debt. It should be noted that 18 percent of all workers have reduced their 401k contribution and/or personal savings in the last year, more than a third (38 percent) do not participate in a 401k plan, IRA or comparable retirement plan, and 26 percent have not set aside any savings in the last year.” 81 percent of workers “have worked a minimum wage job, and 71 percent of them were not able to make ends meet financially during that time — more than half (54 percent) had to work more than one job.” According to a study by the United States Federal Reserve Bank, 61 percent of adults could pay for an unexpected expense of $400 with cash, savings, or a credit card they could pay off the following month. 27 percent would need to borrow or sell something to pay the expense, and 12 percent could never cover it. This was all before Covid-19.

If you think things were bad for the middle class in 2019, it surely has got to be worse for them nowadays. Below are some other statistics that place things in perspective, and all of these were calculated before Covid-19.

As of 2020, the average working citizen in the USA no longer could afford to raise a family on his or her yearly salary, demonstrating how badly off the middle class has become since 1980. In 1985, a middle class male had to work thirty weeks in order to pay the $13,227 it cost for housing, healthcare, transportation and education. By 2018, the average cost of those four items had risen to $54,441, and it took a male head-of-household fifty-three weeks to pay for them. This stark reality was even worse for female heads of households. Women had to work forty-five weeks to pay for the same things in 1985, but it required sixty-six weeks to earn them in 2018. By 2018, both male and female head-of-households had to work more than a year to pay for a year’s worth of those four items.

There are many reasons why millions of middle class people are in such dire straits; trade agreements, for example, have exported middle class jobs by the millions. Pelosi and McConnell supported every one of these boondoggles. This is why they are different sides of the same coin. Meanwhile, the fifty richest billionaires are worth as much as the poorest 165 million Americans. Both Pelosi and McConnell have worked hand-in-hand to ensure this outcome.


Bjorn Sorensen for NW & Associates, LLC

The purpose of this report is to start the conversation in suburban areas like the Greater Vancouver, Washington area, part of the metropolitan area of Portland, Oregon, and as Vancouver competes with Washington’s major metropolis of Seattle. We hope to clarify issues with those who choose to start and stay on this journey of the business founder who is looking for resources and technical assistance.

The United States has a thriving entrepreneurial culture, with a rapidly expanding landscape of small businesses in particular. Each new venture brings jobs, products, solutions, and the strengthening of communities. Our country is referred to as The Land of Opportunity for this very reason.

Yet it takes a lot to set up and maintain a small business: long hours, sources of cash and credit for growth and challenging times, networking with more experienced business owners, education, luck, and a lot more. We frequently hear about the mainstream tycoons who’ve beaten the odds, but not as much from the risk-takers who lost. Despite the risks, many brave it all because they believe in the value it contributes to our society.

When we look at where jobs are created around the country and in Southwest Washington, we know that a high percentage – and often a majority – come from small businesses.[1] That has been our track record.

We also know that many small businesses are women and minority-owned. “I’m not aware of any large minority-owned enterprises [businesses employing 250 or more] in the SW Washington area. They’re going to be small businesses,” says Tyrone Foster, the owner of Precision Landscape in Portland – a small, minority-owned business.[2] Mr. Foster would like to expand into SW Washington.

Nationally, the number of minority-owned small businesses has increased by 25 percent from 1997 to 2007. Women-owned businesses are up by seven percent. All White-owned businesses grew by only six percent.[3]

Yet this year, even in the midst of national social justice protests and heightened awareness about racial inequality, large imbalances persist in terms of race, class, and gender. The average Black person has 1/10th the wealth of the average White person in the U.S. today.[4] For the purposes of the discussion here, that means Black small business owners have less equity and credit to start and grow a small business.

While all businesses have been challenged in 2020, an analysis of U.S. Labor Department data by the University of California, Santa Cruz economist Robert Fairlie found that Black small businesses have been forced to shutter during the pandemic at well over twice the rate of White businesses.[5] Reports recently cited in The Week magazine show that Black business owners asking for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds in banks typically got less than Whites – even when the Black owners had better financial profiles.[6]

Since minority-owned businesses are closing at a far greater rate during the pandemic, local municipalities, such as Vancouver, can focus more on business diversity, providing a huge economic boost to our area as a whole. This effort would more accurately reflect the make-up of Washington school districts: Vancouver (43% minority students), Evergreen (42% minority), and Camas (26% minority) are reflective of larger trends. Almost half of the K-12 student body (46%) in the State of Washington is non-White. [7]

For the purposes of this article, we will be looking at the awarding of state contracts vis-a-vis gender and race.

In 2015, Washington Governor Jay Inslee formed the Subcabinet on Business Diversity. The Subcabinet states: “Washington’s diversity is one of its greatest economic and cultural strengths. Yet for the fiscal year 2018, only 3.6 percent of the nearly $5 billion that the state spends with the private sector is with small businesses owned by women, minorities or veterans. We need to do better. Diversity in state contracting is good business and good for the State.”[8]

We all see SW Washington growing, as offering more business zones and fewer taxes than what entrepreneurs often find south of the river in Portland. We’ll examine business opportunities with the I-5 Bridge replacement, Vancouver’s waterfront development, and contracts offered by the City of Vancouver.

NW & Associates, LLC started digging into these important questions regarding the diversity of small businesses via the State of Washington’s Disparity Study, released in 2019.[9] It details the number and dollar amount of state contracts awarded across dozens of industries, like transportation, construction, and banking. It breaks down what percentages of available and capable minority and women-owned businesses (MWBEs) typically are getting contract awards relative to the gender and racial ownership makeup of firms in the State.

The study was put out by the Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises (OMWBE). As Sarah Erdmann, Deputy Director of OMWBE, told NW & Associates, LLC: “Diverse businesses create more competition, which in turn drives solutions that are innovative and cost-effective.”[10] The more companies that apply for a particular state contract, the more options for the State to choose from in satisfying taxpayer demand, providing services to the public, and expanding resources for businesses.

What emerges from the Disparity Study is that many qualified minority and women-owned business enterprises are underutilized relative to their availability to fulfill state contracts. Black-owned firms were utilized at 2.52% relative to their overall availability, while Asian-owned firms were utilized at 30.37% and White female-owned firms at 53.06%.[11] This illustrates overall patterns of large state work contracts being awarded to the same large, non-diverse firms year after year.

The Disparity Study concludes by saying that measures by the State to help all firms (“race- and gender-neutral” measures) do not go far enough in leveling the playing field for MWBEs. In other words, not having more specific and enforceable targets for gender and racial inclusion means we cannot reach our full employment and business potential.

“The good news about the Disparity [Study] is that, we have, for the first time, data. Every time we would share with legislators or stakeholders, particularly those who maybe weren’t as enthusiastic about supporting women or minority-owned firms. We could actually go in and say we have data,” says Lisa van der Lugt, director of Washington’s OMWBE. “The bad news is it confirmed everything we thought.”[12]

Sophie Somers, owner of the Vancouver-area small construction firm Somers Design Build, echoes some of what the Disparity Study reveals, especially in how difficult it can be for small businesses to bid on huge contracts. For example: “Liability and insurance are much harder for a smaller company to deal with. [It’s] harder to deal with employee turnover, with the training. I pay my guys really well, so we don’t have turnover, whereas the larger companies sometimes pay less and can afford turnover.”[13]

Her situation is reflective of a larger pattern. Ten percent of construction firms in Washington state are women-owned, which would seem like a small number. However, it’s the highest percentage in the nation.[14] Rough data shows more than 25,000 women are working statewide in some form of construction that involves family-wage jobs.[15]

Access to capital is another issue for smaller businesses. “How do smaller firms get the additional money to be able to pay for the additional equipment and people?” asks small business owner Tyrone Foster. “Sometimes that’s what kills them! They don’t have a relationship with a bank like the larger companies.”²

With business zones opening up around Vancouver and development projects being completed along the waterfront, SW Washington could position itself as one of the state’s future leaders in diverse (and therefore overall) business development.

Within Washington state, we hear a lot about the Seattle/Everett area. We don’t hear as much about Spokane, the Tri-Cities – or the Greater Vancouver area. “Does a city’s strategic plan include values for diversity, equity, and inclusion?” van der Lugt asks. “Sometimes municipalities aren’t considering it. If you look at the leadership in that part of the state, there were no people of color, so it’s offering that assistance,” because there are a lot of new opportunities. There are also a lot of situations that hadn’t been faced before by an area’s political or business leadership. “Some of it is the fear of the unknown. How much is this going to cost me? What kind of work does this mean? You’re worrying about something that we [the OMWBE] may be able to help with [and] give you even an inclusion template to use. It’s just [that] getting the discussion going sometimes will spur other ideas, which is really exciting.”¹¹

Evidence of inclusion plans, whether enforceable or not, in projects like the I-5 bridge replacement, waterfront development, and in city contracts were difficult to find or to understand. Gramor, which leads the business partnerships for Vancouver’s waterfront development, did not respond to repeated calls for an interview with NW & Associates, LLC.

It should be pointed out that WSP, selected as the main engineering consultant for the bi-state I-5 Bridge Replacement Program, is working within a contract that will include a 15% Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE)[16] goal, which opens doors to more minority-owned businesses.[17] This is based on federal mandates. In our conversations with Jackie Bayne, the Policy Manager in WSDOT’s (Washington Department of Transportation) Office of Equal Opportunity, the 15% DBE goal is “considered enforceable… contractors have to meet the goal, demonstrate Good Faith Efforts, or face penalties/sanctions.”[18] The engineering consultant has a Chief Equity Officer to guide the Program in following an inclusive process with equitable outcomes, and in meeting their commitment of 20% DBE involvement. The current phase of the I-5 Bridge Replacement Program includes public engagement, environmental analysis, and preliminary engineering, which will take an estimated three to five years. Ongoing outreach, diversity initiatives, and strategies to provide assistance to DBE firms will continue through the life of the Program, according to Casey Liles, Design Manager for the Program. The construction phase, if funded, could take more than ten years and would have a separate DBE goal.[20]

NW & Associates, LLC also spoke to Vancouver City Procurement Manager Anna Vogel about the importance of diversity in promoting business contract opportunities. Vogel talked about the City hosting or attending events like diversity fairs and reverse vendor trade shows – where government agencies sit in the booths and business owners walk around and visit them, learning about opportunities and how to take advantage of them. “The city attends one that typically would be held in October – of course, this year [it] won’t be held [due to COVID 19] – in Oregon, and then there’s a couple in the Seattle area that the City attends. We’ve hosted our own, but not in recent years.”[20]

Vogel also mentions Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) – run by the Federal Small Business Administration – which provides trainings and one-on-one sessions, which aim to pair more seasoned businesses with newer ones in order to learn how to navigate complex and sometimes daunting business contract offers and other opportunities.

In SW Washington, PTAC found a home in the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, but as of two years ago has been given a space to help small businesses at CREDC (the Columbia River Economic Development Council).[21] While PTAC is a free federal program for all businesses, many of the small business owners we spoke with had not heard of it. Others said that entities like the Chamber of Commerce are better at generating business leads between its members instead of holistically providing resources to small businesses that may be disadvantaged to begin with.

Vogel also mentioned small works project contracts the City puts out for bids of between $1,000-$35,000, but did say that large businesses can also bid on these projects.¹⁹

Several recommendations and talking points are offered in the State’s Disparity Report that could be used to start and drive discussions in our Greater Vancouver area about how to develop more business diversity. Here is a refined list along with some local responses:

Adopt more mentor-protégé and other networking programs between larger and smaller firms to help better navigate complex state contract proposals. “A lot of small businesses are started by people who are not business people. Somebody who was an employee somewhere else who had a falling out with the owner, for example,” says Tyrone Foster. “The state [and city government] could help with training, whether that be through community colleges or nonprofits, guest speakers with access to capital, angel investors. and exchange business cards. It’s those connections that help small business build for the long term.”²
Reduce contract sizes – also known as “unbundling” – so smaller firms are better scaled to win bids and build their project resumes. ¹⁸ And OMWBE is starting to collect data from subcontractors – those smaller, often women and minority-owned businesses that might work on less sizable parts of large state contracts. Sophie Somers sees promise in this effort: “I would love more training from OMWBE about getting contracts. We need agencies to reach out to us and show more things we can bid on. Unbundling is a huge thing for small businesses.”¹²
Implement race and gender-conscious contract goals. Review what kind of creative incentives or requirements might be included to increase participation from firms of all sizes. Inclusion plans are a useful item to require, but without hard goals, have not proven consistently effective.[22] Offer bonuses based on enforcement: “It can be financial incentives earmarking more projects [for MWBEs] not only setting them, but enforcing them. Things get documented [by larger firms], but the goals consistently fall short,” says Foster. “The problem is larger firms didn’t put in the work. They didn’t go out and pound the pavement, press the palms, and engage with the communities [to bring MWBEs] in on those projects.”² So the State or City can award larger contracts to the bigger firms if they can document and achieve true networking and other assistance to help small businesses get more contracts and projects. A potential win-win.
A suggestion from NW & Associates, LLC would be to tie improvements in the state’s unemployment and income rates to efforts that improve business inclusivity, so that everyone could see the shared benefits.
Finally, there’s an effort, by some, to correct the assumption that local and state leadership leveling the playing field for MWBEs is a zero-sum game. According to van der Lugt, the goal is clear. “Not pitting equity requests against each other-that tends to happen-because there’s room for everyone.¹² In other words, more room for new businesses to open, to hire, to provide more services, and subsequently lead to the generation of more tax dollars. The tax dollars could flow back to small businesses in the form of grants, loans, and training, or, more generally, for education, technology, and transportation improvements.

What follows the Study? The OMWBE is continuing to assist in the development and completion of Community of Practice (CoP) standards, created with the state’s Subcabinet on Business Diversity, that provides diversity, equity, and inclusion resources to state agencies (including the inclusion plan templates and suggestions). This in addition to guidance on community outreach and engagement. By the end of June 2021, the plan is to have piloting completed with the six state agencies that represent 2/3rds of state spending. The remaining agencies (including all educational institutions) will be in the final report, targeted to be out by the summer of 2023. An updated electronic data collection system, which will capture subcontractor data, is in development.¹⁰

“I would encourage folks to reach out to us,” says van der Lugt. “Having conversations like we’re having with you [NW & Associates, LLC] are important because it elevates what’s happening in your area. There’s a lot going on out there that we don’t know about.”¹¹

The OMWBE is also asking the State for more language access assistance for contract bidding opportunities and more Internet broadband service, especially in rural areas.

Ask a small business owner in the Vancouver area: is SW Washington a good place to make business connections?

“I’ve talked to people in Vancouver who are business owners who say ‘I’ve got to drive across the river to Portland to do networking,’” says Tyrone Foster.

He concludes our interview by saying that the attitude of business owners both in Portland and Vancouver play a huge part in business developments large and small. “I’ve seen these things, I’ve heard things. I’m an optimist. To me, that sounds like an opportunity. It’s not where it should be. If like-minded people are really committed, I think that it is very possible to move in the right direction. It just takes smart people getting together and saying yeah, we’re really committed. We’re really going to roll up our sleeves.”²

We know that a good source of job creation is a healthy small business and start-up environment. So:

Have you heard of or read the Washington State Disparity Study?
Regardless of whether you’ve heard about the Study, what are your experiences with the issues it brings up?
Have you been a part of a successful mentor program or worked with incentives in ways that helped you and other businesses?
What can SW Washington do to lead the charge toward more business diversity?
Please share your comments and questions!

Bjorn Sorensen, M.A.T., worked for nine years as a K-12 classroom teacher in Oregon, Washington and abroad, three years in community organizing and the last 13 as a business manager in the Greater Vancouver area. He has spent much of the pandemic working out, camping, safely visiting relatives and dreaming about international travel.

The electoral college is allowed to exist because the Republicans and the Democrats are indispensable enemies, at least for the billionaires who control both parties. If not for the electoral college, the last Republican United States president would have been George H.W. Bush from 1988 to 1992. The balance of power in Washington D.C. would have been in the hands of the Democrats for most of the time since. Those politicians serve many of the same billionaires who control the Republican Party. The billionaires and their corporate media divide the Republican and Democratic Party grassroots by social issues so as to take our eyes off the prize.

Nowadays, many of the grassroots of both parties are like European soccer fans. They root for their teams regardless of the economic issues that impact them, they engage in fistfights, protests and counter protests, and issue damning insults in person and on social media, much to the delight of the billionaires of both parties who have been pulling their strings as though they are mindless puppets.

George Carlin on education and political corruption

In the meantime, three billionaires own more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of Americans. According to Inequality.org, as of November 17, “the combined wealth of 647 U.S. billionaires increased by almost $960 billion since mid-March, the beginning of the pandemic lockdown—an increase of nearly $1 trillion in less than a year. Since March, there are 33 new billionaires in the U.S. Driving this exploding inequality are 12 companies whose profits are coming at the expense of workers and communities. These “Delinquent Dozen” companies are emblematic of the corporate greed that has grown rampant over the last 40 years. They include retailers like Walmart, Amazon, Target, and Dollar Tree and Dollar Store, gig economy companies like Instacart, and food producers like Tyson Foods.”

Worse yet, this massive increase in wealth inequality is driven by a huge rise in income inequality. The top 1 percent now take roughly anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of the total income produced every year in the United States, depending on whose stats you use. This is up from 8 percent in 1980. Extreme poverty has risen over the last thirty years from 36 percent of the world’s people to roughly 50 percent as massive amounts of income and wealth have been redistributed from the poorest to the most wealthy. The world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60 percent of the planet’s population, according to a recent study by Oxfam. See https://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/worlds-billionaires-have-more-wealth-46-billion-people

During these decades our democracy has been turned into a plutocracy (government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich), our utterly corrupt Supreme Court has given massive power to the rich via their corporations while weakening our labor unions, which was once the primary counter balance to corporate power in the United States.

Sure, there are important issues the billionaires and their corporate news media have directed our attention to, such as transgender bathrooms, voter fraud, racism, gay rights, wars against Christmas, wars against women, global warming, abortion, wars for and against dirty diapers, etc…. While most of these are important issues for which many of us are passionate about, they are also issues intended to take our eyes off the prize.

Take racism, for example. Most of the people impacted by extreme poverty (defined in 1990 as living on $1.90 a day) throughout the world are our brown and black brothers and sisters from lesser developed nations. And yet, the policies which have pushed more and more of these people into extreme poverty, such as international trade agreements involving the United States, and lending actions by the U.S. dominated World Bank, are pushed by billionaire controlled politicians of both major political parties. Racism is never talked about in this context because the billionaires have directed our attention away from racist economic policies and how these policies have been directed by Republican and Democratic Party leaders over the last four decades and have pretty much kept our eyes off the big pictures of income and wealth inequality and how these two policies impact all working people, but in particular, black and brown people.

If the electoral college was eliminated, the Republican Party would be a largely permanent minority party unable to stop the Democratic Party leaders from enacting the demands of the Democratic Party grassroots for reforms, some of which would reverse income and wealth inequality, such as raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, which would cut into corporate profits, as well as ever rising share prices and dividends, which is the primary conduit by which the rich receive their income and wealth. Immigration reform would succeed, but the current policies are very profitable for a handful of publicly traded corporations, and which benefit billionaires.

The indispensable enemies must continue to coexist so as to provide the illusion of democracy. Eliminating the electoral college would go a long way toward destroying the illusion, which is something the billionaires do not want.

The combined wealth of U.S. billionaires increased by $850 billion since March 18th, 2020, the beginning of the pandemic, an increase of over 28 percent. The billionaires like that.

The billionaires who control the Republicon Party want as small of fiscal stimulus as possible since it will be directed at the needs of the 99 percent. The billionaires who control the Democratic Party support a large stimulus directed at the 99 percent, perhaps because our severe recession is only beginning. Democrats control the U.S. House of Representatives and have pared down a $3.4 trillion stimulus to $2.2 trillion in negotiations with Senate Republicons.

Republicon Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already stated no stimulus will occur before the election of November 3rd. What if, as expected, the Republicons lose the senate and President Trump loses his reelection bid? Will the Senate Republicons pass a stimulus bill before President Biden enters office on January 20, 2021?

And the answer is; not a chance.

In 2008, McConnell made it a crusade to ensure that newly elected President Barack Obama was going to be a one-term president even as the nation was burning during the Republican created Great Recession of 2007 to 2009. Expect McConnell’s job will be to ensure Biden becomes a one-term president if he wins the election, which means letting the raging coronavirus financial conflagration lay waste the United States as much as possible before Biden takes office on January 20th. For the billionaires who control the Republicon Party, no pain and no suffering is enough to achieve this end so long as the 99 percent get all the pain and suffering.

Expect McConnell to oppose any stimulus after Biden takes office, except perhaps a tiny one. This means the economy will burn, and Republcons will try to blame the Democrats in order to retake the House and Senate in 2020. This tactic will not work since once the election is over changing demographics will ensure the Republicon Party becomes a permanent minority party whose influence at the national level will consistently decrease until it can no longer stop legislation in the senate with a filibuster, and that moment is no more than ten to fifteen years away.

On the other hand, a President Biden is unlikely to ask his other billionaire controlled Democratic senators to eliminate the filibuster for one time even to pass a much needed stimulus because to do so will mean the grassroots will demand they do the same for other issues, such as raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, creating a public option for health care, raising the taxes on the billionaires who back Biden and other Democrats, immigration reform, and many other issues.

If President Trump wins but the Republicons lose the senate, McConnell is still likely to oppose a major stimulus package for the reason stated above. So don’t expect a major stimulus package to help fight off this economic disaster. We may get one, but it is unlikely or will be too small to be of much help. Keep your fingers crossed.

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