The men and women who actually make things in the economy continue to be oppressed by a deplorable piece of legislation that was signed without debate by both Senator Whitsett and Representative Garrard. Further proof of how out of touch with reality incumbents were and are.

In late 2009, the Oregon Legislature passed a bill that restricted the transport of scrap metal without a permit, charging the Oregon State Police with the sole responsibility of issuing it (but you still can’t go anywhere in person to get one). All law enforcement agencies have the right to right to issue citations for failing to carry this elusive, nonsensical permit.

Pundits said this bill was put forth in response to requests from the agriculture and construction industry that saw an increase in thefts of metal by those seeking to cash in on the scrap value. Not a single legislator voted against it.

Those involved clearly have no idea how small manufacturing works in Oregon and by passing this draconian legislation, added further overhead and devastation to small businesses and startups engaged in inventing new products, remanufacturing, or keeping their equipment operational.

While it is true that some horror stories about wire being stripped from homes under construction actually occured (mostly in 2007, the peak of the construction boom), and it is likely some metals have been appropriated from farms, this legislation was INCORRECT by any reasonable measure.

This is a clear case of the ignorant in charge treating a symptom, rather than the cause of a disease.

The real problem was the skyrocketing value of scrap metal. Scrap is the cheapest way to produce metal for manufacturing goods. The USA makes a tiny fraction of the metal it used to and now outsources most of its manufacturing to China, the buyer willing to pay as much as necessary to obtain more metal to make into goods to sell back to us.

The prices for scrap steel on the street, for example, rose from around $75 per ton in 2004 to over $300 per ton in 2008. When the global recession hit, the prices contracted slightly on steel, but other metal comodities, such as copper and aluminum remained incredibly high.

The cause of metal theft, which was not a concern a decade ago, is the high prices being paid for scrap. This cause could have been addressed by taxing the shit out of shipments to foreign buyers, thus reducing demand for exporting scrap and stabilizing prices domestically for localized recycling and manufacturing.

Since the USA hardly produces any new metal and exports most of its scrap, this core element to manufacturing most goods remains prohibitively costly, along with the high theft rate for what can be stolen.

How is anyone in this country supposed to make anything on a competitive basis when we are selling our scrap metal to other countries? The global demand pushed the cost of all metal up, so many small businesses turned to buying scrap to use for prototyping. Many can’t even afford this inferior option.

Granting such a sweeping, indefinite power to law enforcement to detain people for hauling anything considered scrap metal, which by definition could be construed as a bag full of pop cans, sets civil liberties back many decades, harms the manufacturing base and in turn the economy.

We should be recalling Whitsett, rather than electing him to another term for this alone. The legislation has been 100% ineffective in curbing metal theft. Theft of metal remains at an all time high (they are even stealing real estate signs…anything they can pry from buildings too), while law-abiding people can’t figure out where to get permits and are fined for moving their own metal because the legislation doesn’t account for a person issuing a permit to themselves.

Remember…every single state legislator voted for this. That’s how out of touch, and/or controlled by special interests the winning politicians are. Locally, Garrard is finally retiring, but Whitsett is about to be re-elected again, and his wife is poised to take Garrad’s house seat. They both blatently sell themselves to the public as highly intelligent scientist types. How could any intelligent person vote for, or support legislation of this kind?