What the Inflation Reduction Act can mean for rural Oregon

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is an important and long needed step in mitigating worsening effects of climate change. This attempts to curb inflationary pressure through easing consumer burdens and stimulating effective demand (consumers), while pulling back demand of suppliers (corporations). The purpose of this short response is to highlight what the IRA could do for rural areas. Paying for this bill, based on increased tax and accountability for corporate tax avoidance, is truly the least we can do. There are significant limitations and legitimate criticisms of the gutting of social safety net provisions (that ought to be accounted for by Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley), though I will focus on how this climate funding and healthcare benefits can be utilized in the future at the state and local level.

(Photo credit: ‘Progressive Farmer’ at https://www.dtnpf.com/)

Over $360 billion will be invested in climate change mitigation, including investment in electric utilities, broadband, wind, solar and other renewable energies. The IRA also contains significant tax deductions for those who may be able to afford electric vehicles and appliances, and deductions for small businesses to ‘green’ their property and capital inputs. Investment in public works can build on the American Rescue Act in future funding for a Civilian Conservation Corps (a 21st century CCC modeled on the New Deal) to revitalize our natural capital in rural Oregon. This can mean long-term employment and modernized job training, increased effective consumer demand, union labor, and the attraction of business investment in rural areas. 

Investment in mitigating pollutants in Klamath Lake would be worth the cost, allowing both updates to agricultural and zoning practice, overtime reducing our contamination footprint. This is also an opportunity to work more closely with the Klamath Tribes, using the mediating influence of past federal and state officials to develop plans for fish, wildlife and economic impacts. Grants from the IRA focused on wind, solar and renewable energies can build upon important solar projects being done in Southern Oregon. Over $20 billion is put aside for rural development, climate and wildfire mitigation.

Klamath, Jackson, Clackamas, Lake and Douglas county are primed for an evolution in sustainable practices. In providing the funds for stabilizing farm production and enabling farmers to modernize practices, the IRA also provides assistance to those who experienced discrimination historically. Agriculture, natural resources, and residential sources can contract with community colleges, high school graduates and union apprenticeships to train and put to work rural Oregon in building solar and wind energies that can power homes, schools, hospitals and farms. 

The IRA significantly increases access to healthcare coverage, though was limited from an original framework (and certainly less than a universal healthcare program). While costs have increased in recent years, wages and pensions have not. An important step included in IRA is enabling Medicare, the state, to negotiate prices for the market; not allowing businesses to raise prices without regard to market effects. The bill highlights the unique needs rural areas have: insulin, mid-life care and vaccines will be capped at $35; seniors annual out of pocket pay for prescription drugs will be capped at $2,000, and families and individuals buying insurance via the Affordable Care Act will keep average monthly premiums low. If Oregon passes the HOPE Amendment in November, rural Oregonians can move toward more comprehensive and equitable healthcare access.

What was left out of the original Build Back Better bill is worth noting. Policies that would have helped reshape our social safety net and lift up the working class – from continued $300 monthly child tax credits, public community college, the PRO Act, pre-k for all, free childcare, and an increased minimum wage (few Oregon House members have pushed for a statewide $17 minimum overtime). The IRA, nonetheless, is a step toward the kind of investment rural America and rural Oregon needs for a sustainable and thriving future.

Dobbs: Where do we go from here? 

Rural areas will be disproportionately affected by the overturning of Roe v. Wade through the Dobbs v. Jackson decision. This is of enormous consequence for all states, Indiana, Idaho and Oregon alike. This decision signals major consequences for individual and minority rights, tied here specifically to women and some transgender peoples. The decision also signals a dangerous neo-fascistic turn in the GOP; the culmination of decades of work on the part of the right, symbolized in the Trump moment. The Republican Party is no longer a vessel for containing the ‘factions’ in democracy, but has itself become a dangerous faction. In all of this, there is hope, and through state legal protections, elections, Congressional action, direct action and utilizing various avenues of change – we can stand for women, democracy, and working people everywhere. 

Feminist movements have helped to reveal the ways in which government and institutions has been largely shaped by upper-class/caste men. Institutions may of domination may leak the benefits and status to upper-middle class or caste women, Black and Brown people, lgbt people, though all in supporting the ‘common sense’ ideology, the legitimation of power and what serves the interests of those on top. Thus, the premise that denying basic rights upholds ‘traditional’ and ‘universal’ morals is not new, though it takes on a new form in our age. In a concrete sense, the struggle over women’s sexual autonomy and economic power has been fundamental. 

This campaign and many others stand unapologetically with women and all persons around the world. Rather than address the alienating effects of American capitalism, the Republican Party elite and our local leadership – including my opponent, focus on religious fanaticism. Fear and hysteria over transgender women (in particular), the gay and lesbian community. Sexual freedom, reproductive freedom impacts everyone. Parenthood and the ‘care economy’ impacts everyone including men and husbands. In this, rural areas and the poor will be significantly hurt, the identity of ‘independent,’ ‘local control’ will reveal its own contradictions as economic access, political and bodily autonomy are further tightened, and the effects of climate change are transposed onto “liberal Portland leadership.”

What can we do going forward? First, we must note that abortion continues to be protected in Oregon – a state known for a unique amount of access and protection in the nation. Second, it is important to recognize that the majority of Oregonians support the individual right to abortion services. There are some actions in the next year and the next legislative cycles that can be worked on: we can build on our $15 million investment in endorsing abortion and reproductive care access for Oregonians in rural areas and those traveling across state lines. We can vote to pass the HOPE Amendment in November, guaranteeing affordable healthcare access for all Oregonians, enabling access to reproductive care a right. Legislators must also make sure that insurance companies do not deny or inhibit abortion access – explicit protections must continue. In doing so, we can work to bring greater service networks to rural areas that will be disproportionately affected by the loss of Roe. Further, professional and network professionals can team with outreach and activist organizations, ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ that work to safely navigate transportation and networking for women and persons seeking abortion services. And, culturally, ending stigma, shame, and learning to embrace inclusive language can do good to help individuals through the very personal process of choosing reproductive care. 

What is unique about our time, while we face a neo-fascist threat, is that the democratic systems in place are authentic and real. Voting is but one process of effective change; union power is a real ‘countervailing power’ to corporate hegemony – and can be leveraged to expand reproductive care. Direct action can save women’s lives; and activist, feminist, gay rights, and environmentalists movement do change public consciousness.

American politics has been said to have a pendulum effect, swinging from liberal to conservative. We can have a ‘political revolution’ where the working- and working-middle classes have greater political influence. Where local news is supported, funded and work for the citizenry. Where urban and rural regions, people of all colors, genders and sexuality; and people from all faiths and class backgrounds have access to a respectable life, work with purpose, and social connections of solidarity and love. 

Statement on rejecting the NRA endorsement questionnaire:

In the standard campaign process of filling out endorsement questionnaires and working with the hardworking organizers around Oregon, I received an endorsement questionnaire from the National Rifle Association (NRA) that I will not answer. This is due to the unprofessional political threat they implied in their request: “If you choose not to return a questionnaire, you may be assigned a “?” rating, which can be interpreted by our members as indifference, if not outright hostility, toward Second Amendment-related issues.” 

In general, I will happily speak with most any group – conservative, liberal, ‘off-center’ group, etc., given a level of professionalism and earnest dialogue. While disagreements come with all groups, I have not experienced ‘political threats.’ Thus, I will briefly share our position on gun rights without playing to the NRA’s ‘smoke and mirrors.’ Gun rights are not a central facet of our campaign, though I recognize it has social significance to many. 

Here are my views, generally stated: 

  • I do not support a total ban on guns or ammunition. 
  • I don’t assume that because something works in California, that it can or should be implemented in Oregon. 
  • I do not support any repeal of concealed handgun licenses.
  • I support reasonable regulation, licensing and expanding training requirements for gun ownership. 
  • I support certain qualifiers that would disallow some individual gun ownership. For example, background checks, locking up guns while not in use in homes, and closing the “boyfriend loophole.” 
  • I do not support the ability of municipalities or sheriffs to inviolate state and federal checks on gun ownership and use. 
  • I would vote for some version of a 1994 assault weapons ban if put forward in Oregon. 
  • I do not think it is an accepted or historically accurate interpretation of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution to imply a literal, all encompassing ‘right’ to bear any type of firearm to individuals; nor is this a suitable principle for civil society. 

We have to recognize the difference in recreation, economics, and tradition in different areas. That is legitimate. I do not come from a gun owning family, it was not something we did as a family for recreation, etc. Thus, if I don’t exercise empathy and the willingness to learn, research, and understand the amount of regulation, licensing, sportsman accountability, quotas and tags in place; we may paint guns with a solitary picture of tragic violence associated in cities and schools.

All this said, the focus on the 2nd Amendment has become a source of ‘personal identity,’ the single issue vote that can be used to divide workers and voters on the basis of personal animus, cultural wars and fear. This has become ‘smoke and mirrors’ on the part of many GOP candidates and politicians, to hide the concentrated power of the upper-middle class, the rich and corporations – and the lobbyists. 

We deserve better than political games. 

Economic development, reductions in income inequality, and the opportunities for all communities to live the lives they love should be our goals. 

We can do this together. 


We Need A Feminist Change

I’m Jonathan Chenjeri and I’m running for State Representative in District 56. I write to defend Oregon’s commitment to abortion access and to protect individual liberties. Oregon rightly maintains unrestricted access for women and transgender Oregonians to access reproductive care. The significance of Roe v Wade cannot be understated. Yet, while declared “settled law” by the last three Supreme Court nominees, 26 states stand poised to enact abortion bans, disproportionately affecting poor and rural families. We need a feminist cultural and political change, as well as an economic one – one that expands the idea of ‘care’ and equality for all.

Virginia Woolf wrote (1929) that women could only write novels with some money and “a room of one’s own” – a metaphor for autonomy. Betty Friedan (1963) wrote of unfulfilled middle-class women limited to ‘housework,’ where the unpaid ‘care’ economy further limited opportunity. These struggles are coupled with reproductive choice. While we have rejected the subordination of women as ‘natural’ or ‘God’-given, we struggle with sexual and reproductive independence. 

The modern GOP has embraced cultural authoritarianism over cultural pluralism, rejecting the majority of Americans who support access to abortion. In extending rights of bodily autonomy, along with expanding the domain of the ‘care’ economy to men, we move toward a healthier society. This demands we protect our individual liberties and choice. Without, we exacerbate already glaring inequities.   

Rural areas uniquely need organizations like Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization that provides a host of critical health services and community education focusing on inclusion, and body and sex positivity. We need the feminist change: where all can have ‘a room of one’s own,’ fulfilling work, and meaningful relationships. A change with institutions built on care and a deep respect for individuals. We need rural leadership in Oregon to help move us there. 


(Source: https://www.radicalhistoryreview.org/)

Inflation isn’t the problem

I’m Jonathan Chenjeri and I’m running for OR House District 56. 

Concern over inflation and pandemic spending in Oregon, or Build Back Better, is misguided. Opposing childcare support, rent stability, and climate change mitigation reflect outdated ‘scarcity’ fears, and obscure the real issue: the misuse of our national wealth. We should pay for these bills by finally raising taxes on the rich, raising wages for taxable income, and planful short-term borrowing. This is how our system functions best: countering market instability with public regulation.

Talk of “Bidenflation,” national debts, or disobeying ‘the market’ echo the false narrative of resource and labor ‘scarcity.’ It is rather public underinvestment, unhealthy wealth concentration, the household supplementation of wages for credit cards and debts, and overpaying for childcare or insurance that make our dollars unproductive. This economic pattern gives rise to macro-concerns like the national debt. 

Critics argue that child tax credits, unemployment, and ‘supply’ issues have led to a whopping 59% price rise in gasoline; eggs in 8%; and local restaurants, 10%. Inflation, thus, is holding back working families. These numbers are misused, as overall inflation is 6.2%. For example, that “59%” is about $1.20, a small spike over 10 years; that “8%” is $0.32, and the 10%, $1. This is the “inflation-scare” game: distract with present inconveniences from long-term declines in household income, rising debt, displaced small business, and corporate privileges. ‘Class warfare’ is saying we cannot raise wages, because the ‘consumer’ will suffer. Inflation can ultimately help business – high demand, higher prices and higher wages brings more income. 

A bright future is possible if we work together now. Supporting families with wage increases, debt relief, unions, and infrastructure investment will help everyone in the long-run. These times do call for patience and moderation, the lessons of history are often that we didn’t spend enough.


Why I Am a Socialist

I’m Jonathan Chenjeri and I’m running for the Oregon House of Representatives. I proudly consider myself a part of the American socialist tradition. I will discuss below what this means, how it shapes my policy perspective, and why it is relevant for rural politics and enables us to think about the changes necessary to resolve other political, social and ecological challenges. 

Progressive politics are a means to an end. A job guarantee; housing, education and healthcare for all, and frameworks like a Green New Deal – these are necessary but not sufficient to confront our present. Rather than seeking purity among Democrats or Republicans, socialists aim to put workers in the driver’s seat. We seek a freer society, where Americans can have dignity inside and outside of work; with time to be the best parents, artists, or community leaders they can. We see the fulfillment and purpose of human life as more than labor and dollars – distinguishing labor for basic needs and ‘labors of love.’

The American socialist tradition is unique and built off many of the existing, admirable institutions we have. The tradition is pro-democracy, feminist, antiracist, antiwar, anti-imperialism, pro-free speech and press, and tolerant of religion. Socialists question both traditional business models and markets, and emphasize the role of class interest in politics and society (by ‘class’ we mean our relationship to capital, i.e. owner, employee, manager, gig worker, or those in extreme poverty). These positions create a ‘class consciousness’ that informs our political decision-making. 

Class-conscious politics is common among the upper-middle and business class. If business activists aim at union-busting, keeping wages down and having the public subsidize basic needs, corporate subsidies, and supplying political lobbyists, this is organizing for power – class warfare. Socialists organize for the working- and middle-class, whose labor makes profits possible.

Rising income inequality is inherent in the capitalist structure – not the fault of bad public policy, immigration, or life choices. Wages are our means of subsidence and are ‘costs’ to be kept down to maximize profits, thus the property owner must exploit this to survive in the market. Wage labor is itself intended to reproduce groups subservient to capital, and our politics developed an ideology to reinforce and rationalize this. 

We advocate for economic models where those who do the work have ownership and voice, and are not simply rented; and where monetary value is not placed on all aspects of life. These models include cooperatives, employee-ownership stocks, employee representation in corporations, trade unions, and state-planning boards for public utilities and natural resources. Within these models, it is possible to remove contradictions to confronting core issues like sustainability and inequality; we build from the voices of those who live and work in affected communities, and waste no time with political haggling or incentivizing business behavior.

Many of our values cross ideological lines. We value the individual as an end in themselves; freedom of expression; the family; unions; the voice of the historically marginalized; and, that we are obligated to be stewards of the earth. In this, we echo libertarians in believing future generations are entitled to a life ‘as good, if not better;’ and reach out to the liberal focus on representation. We too question some taxes, while supporting a strong social safety net; socialists understand that the core of these questions is the decision-making process in production and distribution. 

Only the Left is asked, “how do you not repeat the mistakes of the past?” Capitalism is seen as ‘natural,’ the ‘last best hope.’ This is folly. No one owns the idea of markets and competition, capitalism is one variation. If the old adage is correct that “government is best which governs least,” to get there is certainly not in the standard capitalist mode.

Rural areas have a long socialist history. In the south, socialists developed some of the first African-American and cross-racial unions and cooperatives. Christian socialist networks made important gains in the early 20th century, and we see groups like Democratic Socialists of America revitalized in rural America. Rural areas have experienced a version of third-world exploitation. Coal and timber provided the raw materials for industrial cities, once inefficient, capital moved and with it the lifeline of the rural working-class. Today, it is justice to ameliorate the conditions of isolation and lack of resources, and in the long-term to reinvest and revitalize sustained and ‘green’ cooperative industry. 

Socialists have always seen through the cynical ploy of dividing the working-class by race, religion, or geography. The modern GOP campaigns on non-reality and use social resentment as strategy, ie “CRT,” transphobia, or “at least we aren’t Portland.” These culture wars serve to mask Koch Brother donations or flights to Cancun. Our shared interests and humanity are much clearer. To quote Eugene Debs, “in every age it has been the tyrant who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both.”

Socialists reject the liberal conclusion of “just getting things done” within the status quo. To reject structural questions assumes that all questions are answered and that left are only adjustments. Wages and identity questions are examples. While the minimum wage should be raised, this doesn’t change workers’ positions, but increases purchasing power. In lifting up marginalized voices, we question the liberal tendency toward identity politics as the cure for systemic problems. Our lives are intersectional and complex in practice, though Democrats have tended to put diverse faces on the same policy solutions. Socialists are wary of ‘reductionism’ to identities without context, or the ‘extreme relativism’ of modern culture wars. Rather, we understand that material conditions bring about social access and political power. Our mindset envisions “the free development of each [as] the condition for the free development of all.”

Such changes embrace the uniqueness of work and life expressed in varying degrees of collective property relations. In this, we still have debates over intellectual, spiritual, artistic, familial, and even political matters, but we do so in a state without homelessness, hunger and a lack of access. This is a brighter future that recognizes the continuity of perennial questions.

We envision a future of hope and opportunity, not of gloomy tragedy. This is the only politics worth working toward.


The Decade of the Green New Deal | Sierra Club
(Source: Arrt! Group)

How ‘Build Back Better’ Can Help Rural Oregon

I’m Jonathan Chenjeri and I’m running for House District 56. 

I want to write today on why rural areas need the kind of spending in the Build Back Better and Infrastructure bills. While the price tag is significant, focus here overlooks how the money goes directly to the middle-class and working people, newborns, youth and families. Spending can be a problem without the demand behind it (not mentioning continued corporate subsidies and increased defense spending), though these are long sought after investments in our communities. Our hometowns are the best places for public investment that enables long-term development.

House Committee on Education and Labor

Apart from what the bill does not do, like increase the minimum wage or support union growth (like the PRO Act), it does help build the foundations for a healthier and more productive workforce. The BBA cracks down on corporate tax loopholes, invests in universal childcare, pre-k, public transit and broadband; lifts up disabled workers, expands Medicare, incentivizes clean vehicles, and creates a Civilian Climate Corps to hire young people to restore our natural resources. 

Too often, rural investment has meant incentivizing business from the outside-in through deregulation that doesn’t ultimately result in economic development. A narrow definition of “growth” has led to an underinvestment in rural areas. BBA funds can be locally directed and planned to invest in people, resources and the communities that then generate wealth (making the income more valuable), which can lead to greater supply chains – building from the inside-out. 

Our campaign is about innovative thinking and making a New Deal for Rural Oregon. We need leadership in Salem to better advocate for funding in rural areas, not distract with cultural animus. A 21st-century mindset is how we will approach legislation when we get to Salem, please join this effort today for a brighter future. 



Tell our senators to vote for the BBA!

Invitation to my Republican friends


I’m Jonathan Chenjeri, and I’m running for the Oregon House of Representatives in the new District 56. I’m a teacher, union member, and proud resident of Klamath Falls. I’m running as a Democrat and am running to organize a campaign that builds for 2022, 2024 and beyond. Our campaign is about building a New Deal for Rural Oregon.

I’d like to reach out to my Republican and libertarian leading friends to have a discussion on what future we want for our community and the next generation of Oregonians. A dialogue of vigorous discussion and debate is what makes a healthy democracy, I think we can do this better.

I suspect we will have much in common and areas of disagreement. I am convinced that much of the current GOP leadership has hurt our areas through a kind of “smoke and mirrors,” dividing people using cultural wars, misusing faith, and the deliberate spread of misinformation. I think our current district leadership has been irresponsible and has not used their taxpayer-funded position in our best interest. I am convinced that this campaign puts us on a better trajectory for a sustainable future.

Let’s have a discussion! Live on social media, in person, in print, over the phone.

I’m ready to help build the best possible rural Oregon for all with you.

Thank you,

Jonathan Chenjeri