Monday, December 13, 2010

Weekly Opinion Editorial

by Steve Fair

Governor elect Mary Fallin, and Speaker of the House designate Kris Steele, (R-Shawnee) spoke to about 300 at an Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce Public Affairs Forum last week in Oklahoma City.

“We have a historic opportunity to put Oklahoma on the map,” Fallin told the business leaders. “Getting Oklahoma’s economy back on track, I think that is the most critical issue of the day. I will be focusing on jobs and the economy and creating the very best business atmosphere.”

“A strong, vibrant, healthy economy with plenty of job opportunities actually helps to strengthen our families,” said Steele, R-Shawnee. “We need to take advantage of the national attention we are receiving right now and move the ball forward when it comes to job opportunities for Oklahomans.”

Former GOP State Representative and current State Chamber President Fred Morgan said, “In spite of challenging fiscal conditions, we have made great strides in recent years to create and maintain a pro-growth business climate in Oklahoma, and we cannot let the momentum fade. We are poised to attract jobs and wealth to our state like never before. Our limited regulation, reduced taxes, low cost of living, high quality of life and abundance of natural resources and space has put us on the map, but it is more important than ever that we seek opportunities to grow our economy and create jobs.”

Morgan and some other state business leaders in the state are urging the legislature to focus on getting jobs to the state and de-emphasize social issues like abortion, traditional marriage, the second amendment, and immigration. Morgan says those issues negatively impacts existing Oklahoma business and recruiting business to the state. “Where it negatively impacts business, we will speak up,” said Morgan. “We'll try to educate legislators on how something that while well intended might have some negative consequences to the business climate.”

In an interview published in the Thanksgiving Day edition of The Oklahoman, Steele’s comments made it appear he had brought into Morgan’s strategy of de-emphasising social issues. “The things that I heard time and again were jobs, jobs, jobs,” Steele said. “We want to make sure that Oklahomans ... have adequate and good and healthy, productive job opportunities.” Steele’s comments set off a firestorm with several conservative member of the GOP caucus.

Representative Randy Terrill, (R-Moore), who authored House Bill 1804, Oklahoma's anti-immigration law asked Steele “to clearly, publicly and unequivocally repudiate the comments attributed to him in The Oklahoman and affirm that illegal immigration, Second Amendment rights, and pro-family social legislation will not only be a priority, but will be a central focus of the next Legislature's agenda.”

The truth is this whole brouhaha has been blown out of proportion. Here are my observations:

First, Steele hasn’t done anything wrong- yet. He simply applied the basic principle of public speaking- know your audience- when he addressed the State Chamber. Steele and Fallin both have long records of social conservatism and pro-business views. There is no indication they are planning to abandon those positions.

Second, fostering an attractive business climate in Oklahoma should be at the top of the list for the newly elected Governor and legislative leaders. Oklahoma ranks near in the bottom in virtually every major economical indicator. We have a low per capita income coupled with a high tax burden for business. The GOP campaigned on ‘right sizing’ government and creating a business climate that will help existing businesses and attract new businesses. The best thing state government can do is lower the cost to operate a business in Oklahoma and then get out of the way.

Third, ignoring immigration, the right to bear arms, the threat of Sharia law to our court systems, pro-life issues, and traditional marriage in order to attract business is not the right approach to creating jobs. Practicing situational ethics to gain economically will have dire consequences. Creating jobs is important, but to ignore the Creator of heaven and earth in legislation is to guarantee economic ruin. The aforementioned issues “define” Oklahoma and our ‘lifestyle.’ Taking a stand on those issues is one reason businesses are moving to Oklahoma.

Finally, economics and moral issues are not enemies. Henry Hazlitt, an American economist and Wall Street Journal writer, said “Economics and ethics are, in fact, intimately related. Both are concerned with human action, human conduct, human decision, human choice… There is hardly an ethical problem, in fact, without its economic aspect. Our daily ethical decisions are in the main economic decisions, and nearly all our daily economic decisions have, in turn, an ethical aspect.”

Austrian economist, Hans Sennholz said, “In God’s world, causes and consequences are connected logically. To offend against an economic principle, or to disobey an ethical commandment is to suffer the inexorable consequences of our action… His eternal laws and principles invariably exact a price for all offenses.”

No comments: