The official mantra from many Oklahoma Republican and corporate leaders over the last two years or so is that the state is a national “success story” for the way in which it has weathered the 2008 economic downturn.
Another trope that has surfaced these past two or three years is based on the idea that Oklahoma has much to teach Washington, D.C. and President Barack Obama about the way to operate a government.
This, for example, is what Mary Fallin had to say about that issue in her last State of the State speech:
People all across the country are noticing: Oklahoma stands as a testament to the fact that low taxes, limited government, and fiscal discipline are a recipe for job creation.
Our success stands in stark contrast to the record of dysfunction, failed policies, and outrageous spending that occurs in Washington, D.C.
In Oklahoma, we could teach Washington a lesson or two about fiscal policy and the size and proper role of government.
But while it’s true that the state’s unemployment rate remains low—even despite a small rise in July—Oklahoma is hardly an economic miracle or a textbook example of what to do or not to when times get tough. There also remain major problems and the state has hardly recovered from the 2008 downturn.
Let’s outline some of those problems, and see how the federal government in some cases has helped Oklahoma through the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression.
This is just a partial list of why Oklahoma might not be the type of ‘success story” that Fallin wants it to be, and it also shows the federal government’s involvement in whatever success we do have here is readily apparent to anyone who can get beyond the conservative sloganeering and political tropes.
As I pointed out in my last post, Oklahoma continues to receive more money back from the federal government than it pays in federal taxes, according to 2010 statistics. That means people who live in “donor states,” such as Massachusetts, continue to bankroll whatever success that we do have here. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that on some level, although some donor-state residents no doubt see it much differently. But this much is clear: Oklahoma is highly dependent on the federal government.
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