By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

'Gross-thought' ignores basic rule

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Many people — and far too many politicians — think only about the “gross” consequences of their actions. I’m more likely to consider, which is why I applaud a recent article by Ian Kullgren of The Oregonian on the impact of a major hike in Oregon’s minimum wage law.

Comparing gross versus net outcomes usually involves financial analysis, but the concept applies to all manner of human actions that produce unexpected reactions.

The minimum wage story described what might happen if Oregon increased its minimum wage from the current $9.25 to $15.10, a 63 percent hike. Quick, simple math reveals that a wage-earner working 40 hours a week would receive $1,000 more in monthly gross pay, rising from about $1,600 to about $2,600.

Unfortunately, our “net” life is far more complex. The article cited Oregon Legislative Revenue Office analysis revealing that after losing income-based tax breaks and public benefits, our hypothetical wage-earner would realize a net gain of just $49 per month.

Even more shocking, a rise in the minimum wage from $9.25 to $13.10 actually could reduce the unsuspecting worker’s net finances by $30 per month.

A variation of this phenomenon occurs when someone local takes a Portland job paying $5 more per hour and ponders how to spend the $865 monthly raise. But then, most of the net take-home gain goes to auto expenses, not to mention the loss of valuable personal time.

Government usually publicizes its actions with gross-thought blinders securely in place. Officials forget, or ignore, the swirl of financial consequences that can affect or even reverse their latest great idea.

On a broader scale, people overlook the reality that human reactions always come into play: The price of gasoline drops for everyone, but tens of thousands of people lose their jobs; raise taxes on a particular transaction, and people will gravitate toward alternatives; install speed bumps on one street, and traffic will speed up in adjacent neighborhoods.

In physics, as Isaac Newton taught us, one type of force creates an equal and opposite force. The so-called law of Karma preaches that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Government regulators somehow forget the basic rule of physical, intellectual, emotional, cultural, social, political and personal affairs: If you push on something, it’s going to push back at you.

“Gross-thought” is a lazy and often counter-productive way to view important political and life decisions. It’s almost always safer to think “net.”

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.


Don Dix

gross thought = lazy = politicians. Sounds about right!

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