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July 5, 2006 A thought for Oregonians Imagine such a gift as the Gates Foundation’s $30 billion, augmented by Buffett’s $30 billion plus. It will be interesting to see what two of the world’s richest men can accomplish in impro

A thought for

Oregonians

Imagine such a gift as the Gates Foundation’s $30 billion, augmented by Buffett’s $30 billion plus. It will be interesting to see what two of the world’s richest men can accomplish in improving U.S. education, agriculture, world health, and conditions in the Third World.

Warren Buffett, a critic of the greedy compensation packages of CEO’s, also opposed the tax cuts of Bush. Buffett, whose holding company Berkshire Hathaway has stakes in American Express, Coca Cola, Gillette, Fruit of the Loom, Comcast, and See’s Chocolate to name a few, takes no credit for his good fortune. He maintains that he won the lottery when he was born to terrific parents and received a good education. He feels that he was given much and should pay something back to society. Bill Gates is committed to his mother’s advice: “From those who are given great resources, great things are expected.” This desire to give back to society is absent from Oregon’s current thinking. We do not dare to dream how we can make Oregon better.

These men see the opportunity to accomplish what the political gridlock in our country cannot. According to the Kaiser Commission, there are 45 million non-elderly people who are uninsured; 8 million are children. The US Census Bureau figures 36 million people live in poverty. Yet the Senate just refused to raise minimum wage from $5.15 an hour. Bringing the problem closer to home, the Oregon Population Survey in 2004 reported 600,000 people without insurance, and one child in six living in poverty. We cannot fund our libraries, police and firemen, and RVTD can’t afford a run that goes past our hospital and medical offices. Oregon Republicans and Democrats, more mindful of the tax bill than the greater good, can’t agree on budgets, educational funding, or anything more important than cougars. With no party affiliation, Bill Gates, who contributes to both parties, sees the problem this way: Republicans do a good job creating wealth while the Democrats think about spreading wealth around. His vision is the two in perfect combination could do great good. Years ago, when Republicans and Democrats compromised and worked out laws and programs together, society — rich and poor — benefited.

Voters have had it with bills like Medicare D, which benefit drug companies more than the people they should help. We need voters willing to make personal sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Most of all, we need legislators who are grounded in the philosophy of Gates and Buffett — great things are expected of those who have been given so much. It is time to get rid of legislators who pay tribute to lobbyists and interest groups, and elect people who are willing to work in a nonpartisan way to solve some of Oregon’s biggest problems — health care, education, and the preservation of the environment.

Maryann Nitzke Mason

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