Oklahoma Economic Woes Continue

The Republican-induced financial morass continues in Oklahoma, and the overall economic outlook for the immediate future here remains bleak.

That may seem unduly negative or harsh, but it’s the reality. Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller announced this week that tax receipts for August were down 4 percent from last year, making it the eighteenth straight month of “downward trajectory.” To make matters worse, Oklahoma’s unemployment rate is now at 5 percent, or, as Miller put it his monthly news releases of doom and gloom, “Oklahoma’s jobless numbers exceed the national rate for the first time in almost 26 years.”

Let’s be clear that the recent GOP-sponsored income tax cuts and tax breaks in recent years for the energy industry are a major contributor to the state’s dwindling revenues. Obviously, the world’s oil glut has contributed to a decline in gross production taxes here, but the reality is the Republicans have created this mess here with a failed ideology.

That failed ideology goes something like this: Let’s cut taxes a little bit for everyone and then give rich people and big corporations huge tax breaks, and then our economy will boom like never before! The real question, of course, is whether many of the Republicans pushing this ideology really believe in it or if they just don’t care about public education and want to reward the richest among us.

Did you just feel an earthquake? I did. It has been brought to you by the Oklahoma Republican Party and the oil and gas industry, which are synonymous, and your kids are paying for that earthquake with larger class sizes and outdated textbooks and equipment.

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Earthquakes? What Earthquakes?

An editorial published yesterday in The Oklahoman lauding the oil and gas industry failed to mention the state’s major earthquake crisis and even credited the industry with waging a fight against global warming, which the newspaper hasn’t even really supported as a concept through the years.

The editorial, "Oklahoma energy industry remains an economic cornerstone,” is pure spin. It’s a lie in so many different ways. It’s as if it was written by industry officials themselves, which it was in a way, because it mainly cites a report by the American Petroleum Institute, hardly a neutral source.

That the energy sector is important to Oklahoma is obvious. So that’s not a lie. What’s not so obvious in the rosy assessment by The Oklahoman of that well accepted fact is that the state’s financial welfare is overly tied to the sector and that the state has failed to really diversify its economy. It’s a major problem here, and it has been for decades.

All these earthquakes here—from the 5.8-magnitude Saturday, largest in Oklahoma recorded history, to the smaller ones that strike on a daily basis—have brought the failure of economic diversification to a crisis, a point the editorial doesn’t make.

What happens when the actions of a state’s “cornerstone” industry cause massive property damage resulting in lawsuits and most likely even more lawsuits in the future? These are lawsuits that could stop hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, here altogether.

Here’s a counter argument or at least a different frame on the issue: A report by the American Petroleum Institute shows, again, how the state needs to find different ways beyond oil and gas to save the economy and to keep Oklahoma viable.

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Large Quake Rattles Nerves, Shakes Up New PR Narrative

On Aug. 16, The Oklahoman editorial board published an in-house commentary, which carried the headline, “Oklahoma on the right course in addressing earthquakes.”

On Saturday, Sept. 3, around 7 a.m., a terrifyingly long manmade 5.6-magnitude earthquake centered near Pawnee rattled this state and neighboring states even though oil and gas industry puppets like the great minds at The Oklahoman had declared the quake crisis all but solved. The earthquake caused one injury and widespread damage throughout the state.

Saturday’s morning earthquake should be considered yet another wake-up call to Oklahomans. If they don’t get it now, they’re never going to get it. The quake was the same size of a temblor that hit near Prague in 2011, but to me it felt longer and more powerful.

Oklahomans need to “get” that state officials, such as Gov. Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), the oil and gas industry and the corporate media here are not going to do what is obviously necessary to stop what’s causing the earthquakes.

Even the OCC’s decision to order the shut down of a broad swath of injection wells after the earthquake is not enough.

Despite its obvious dire economic consequences for this place, the state and the oil and gas industry needs to eventually shut down every injection well in the state. The corporate media, forever wrong on this issue, needs to step up and call for that action. No more injection wells in Oklahoma.

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