'Singularly Dishonest'

Image of oil gushing

An Esquire blogger has also noted that Gov. Mary Fallin's anti-federal government tirade Tuesday at the Republican National Convention ignores the state’s historical reliance on the feds.

In a post titled “On RNC Opening Night, Republicans Dare To Build A Lie,” Charles P. Pierce quotes a portion of Fallin’s speech that celebrated the state’s first oil well and then put it as bluntly as it gets.

“. . . it was perhaps the most singularly dishonest speech I have ever seen a politician give . . .,” Pierce writes.

I had posted on the same issue before Fallin’s speech on Tuesday when it leaked out she was going to extol the virtues of local oilman Harold Hamm, the wealthy CEO of Continental Resources, an energy company here. Fallin argues that Hamm embodies the Oklahoma spirit, whatever that means. We should all know Hamm’s legacy could be fleeting because it’s quite probable the Oil Age will be a small blip in the history of mankind if carbon emissions from fossil fuels don’t destroy the planet first and there actually remains a history to consider.

Pierce takes issue with this portion of Fallin’s speech:

. . . And, in 1897, eight years after the land run, a handful of adventurous pioneers risked their own money — not the federal government's money — to drill Oklahoma's first oil well, the Nellie Johnstone. By doing so, these early-day pioneers changed the future and Oklahoma forever and today Oklahoma is one of the nation's key energy producers and job creators. President Obama wants us to believe that Oklahomans owe that success to the federal government — to the Department Of Energy, to the EPA, to the IRS, or maybe even to him. Mr. President, we know better. As we say in Oklahoma, that dog won't hunt.

Note the “not the federal government’s money” aside and all those scary, terrible government agencies she mentions. Pierce’s point, and it’s a point I’ve been arguing here for years, is that Oklahoma owes its very existence to the federal government.

Pierce writes:

My god, Oklahomans wouldn't even have Oklahoma without the federal government, without the Homestead Act of 1889 or the Railroad Act — both, by the way, achievements of a Republican presidents named Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Harrison.

And, of course, that doesn’t mention all the help the state has received through the years since statehood in 1907, including a long time period when the federal government built the state's major lakes. Recent U.S. Census and Internal Revenue figures show that the state receives $1.30 back from the federal government for every $1 it pays in taxes. Like many red states, Oklahoma is a “receiver” state, essentially taking money away from “donor” states, which are most often blue states.

All this gets omitted from Fallin’s extremely selected history of Oklahoma. As I’ve written before, Oklahoma is only sustained and viable because of the federal government, and its very creation was definitely a multi-layered and multi-year federal project. The history of Oklahoma as an ongoing federal project supported by people in the East doesn’t necessarily diminish the state, but obviously the truth doesn’t fit with Republican ideology.

This doesn’t mean that Fallin or other Oklahomans should never criticize the actions of the federal government, but to completely ignore the obvious reality of our state’s history and its current reliance on the federal government is a deliberate gross distortion.

But Fallin isn’t the only Republican with a “facts” problem at the convention. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee, gave a speech Wednesday night that sent fact checkers into a frenzy. Joan Walsh, editor of Salon.com, published an insightful piece titled “Paul Ryan’s brazen lies” on the issue.