Understanding larger U.S. political narratives through the biography of previous Oregon governor
Oregon is currently home to Intel’s largest manufacturing cluster in the world. This success can be traced back to the first Arab-American governor in the U.S., Republican Vic Atiyeh. During his time as governor from 1979-1987 and his role in the legislature, he laid the groundwork for Oregon’s economic growth throughout the past thirty years, engaging Oregon in the modern global economy and luring high tech companies to invest in the state. Implementing novel archival research, government documents, and interviews, Dr. Jim Moore, Politics and Government professor at Pacific University, is writing a topical biography on Atiyeh’s life and contributions to our political system. He is exploring the important implications and larger narratives resulting from Atiyeh’s work.
Dr. Moore is the most widely-cited public political analyst in the Pacific Northwest, with a collection of almost 6,000 newspaper articles, interviews, and commentaries explaining current political happenings. He is an expert in U.S. political affairs, international economics, and U.S. foreign policy. Before Atiyeh died in 2014 at age 91, he asked Dr. Moore to write his biography. Atiyeh’s archival records—which were donated to Pacific University—are open without limitations, which is extremely rare for these types of archives. Dr. Moore works in close collaboration with the director and archivist of Pacific University’s library, as well as several other librarians. His research looks at the changes that occurred as Oregon moved from a timber-dependent economy to one that relies on its connections to the global economy. Dr. Moore looks at the results of Atiyeh’s 28 years in elected office; no other work has examined this phenomenon in such a holistic way. The biography explores diverse political topics of both the state and U.S. government, including the understanding of economic growth, complex laws, the development of state taxes. It also includes an in-depth telling of domestic terrorism incidents and the quiet—yet effective—approach Atiyeh took in handling those experiences. Dr. Moore aims to complete this transformative biography by Spring 2017.
Current research topics include:
- Understanding How Economic Growth is Fostered by Government - Dr. Moore is looking at the way the government sets the economic framework within a state and the U.S. as a whole. During 1982, the Northwest faced the worst recession since the Great Depression. Atiyeh believed government funds had been cut too much and an income tax surcharge was needed to amend this. Though now a novel perspective from a Republican, he argued that the government serves an important role, and therefore should not be starved so that it cannot perform its job. During this time, Oregon had a unitary tax that taxed companies on their global earnings, and not just on the earnings in the state. This prevented many outside companies from investing in Oregon. Atiyeh got the legislature to overturn this tax in Oregon, the first state to do so. Without this large barrier, countries eager to invest in the U.S., such as Japan, were encouraged to do so. Atiyeh’s role in overturning this tax demonstrates the way the government can step in to change laws and guide economic growth.
- Understanding Limited Tax Creation - Each state’s government needs funding in order to run, but the ways in which government is paid for has limits. Dr. Moore is examining the few ways taxes can be established, and Atiyeh’s novel solutions to mitigate financial stresses. Oregon has not had a sales tax for the past 80 years; the highest support it has ever received from voters was just 35% of the vote. So how does one run a state without one of the most reliable taxes available? 20 years before he was elected governor, Atiyeh served on the legislature and tax committee. By the time he was 40 years old, he was considered one of the main tax experts in the state. He knew that the state needed to make taxes more equitable while ensuring the government could be adequately paid for. This was an ongoing process for him, and toward the end of his second term in the governor's office, he decided to endorse and establish a plan for a sales tax. This plan involved lowering property and income taxes in an attempt reach a balance. It was voted down—like other sales tax proposals before it—by Oregon’s electorate. However, it exemplifies how this governor understood the importance of taxes. It also revealed the difficulty of explaining the necessity and need to balance taxes to a large group of people, like Oregon voters. This is still an issue; Oregon held a ballot measure in November 2016 that proposed a tax similar to Atiyeh’s 1982 perspective that promoted balancing taxes with government support.
- Identifying How States Independently Engage in Foreign Policy - Dr. Moore is exploring the way states pursue foreign policy on their own, regardless of the U.S. government’s foreign policy. Taking more than 20 trips abroad during his time as governor, Atiyeh opened up Oregon to world trade. He was one of the first U.S. governors who actively encouraged leaders from foreign countries to invest in a particular state. No other governor had pursued foreign policy at the level and consistency of Atiyeh. Truly a pioneer in state foreign relations during the 1980s, his international actions spurred other governors to follow suit. With ethnic roots in Syria, he used his background to try to open backdoor diplomatic communications between the Reagan administration and the president of Syria. Though it never developed, this attempt illustrated Atiyeh’s use of high politics, implementing diplomatic relations to open up ties with foreign states seen as problematic to the U.S. He was able to successfully negotiate with Japanese and Taiwanese companies, encouraging them to invest in Oregon. He pushed Oregon’s developing high-tech industry, resulting in the largest Intel manufacturing cluster in the world.
Dr. Jim Moore attended Stanford University as an undergraduate with a major in history; he spent a year studying abroad in Italy. After graduating, he decided to pursue a career in international affairs. He obtained his MA in international policy studies at Monterey Institute of International Studies. During that time, Dr. Moore didn't know if he wanted to work as a professional in government or for an NGO or pursue his Ph.D. to become a teacher. After the first semester, however, his passion for teaching and research emerged. He then went off to Northwestern University and obtained his Ph.D. in political science. It was there that his extensive knowledge on American and international policy was established; his dissertation was on the United Nations and his coursework focused on both the United States and regions abroad.
As a political analyst and professor, Dr. Moore is motivated by the current dichotomy between that which academic political scientists study and what the public needs to know in order to understand the political systems we all live in. Never one to take partisan sides, Dr. Moore believes it is his job to help evaluate the political world and provide people the analytical tools that enable them to make their own political decisions, with a deeper understanding of their importance and possible implications.
Dr. Moore intentionally teaches at small universities. By teaching in small schools, he is able to reach out to a fair number of diverse students; some of whom are the first in their family to attend college. He believes college should educate students to become adults who are actively involved in their communities. From his graduate studies, he learned that the standard academic model of writing for the professional audience does not communicate outside of that very small group. Inspired by his previous professors who were very active within their communities, Dr. Moore continues his work in explaining the political world to a wide audience.
Having grown up in southern Oregon, Dr. Moore never thought he would live in the state again. However, just before his 10-year high school reunion, he reconnected with a high school friend. They got married two years later and ended up in Oregon, where she was living. When he’s not in the classroom or working as a political analyst, Dr. Moore—who uses Italian, French, and Spanish—enjoys traveling to Europe with his wife. During their travels, they enjoy spending half of their time in a country whose language they know little of. The other half is typically spent in Southern Tuscany and Umbria, Italy, where they enjoy sipping Brunello wine.