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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Creating Jobs, Rhetoric

Right now, elected officials are focused on the goal of job creation in Oklahoma and the same can be said for elected officials in all 50 states.  Job creation is always part of campaign rhetoric, but rarely are there statements about what kind of jobs candidates desire to create.  And state-by-state, campaigns promised to create jobs but you have to ask yourself whether or not it was/is a legitimate promise or if it is just more rhetoric.

By way of illustration, when someone expresses their desire to "go on vacation," it is always followed up with the question, "Where?" Therefore, it is perfectly logical and right for us to ask our elected officials and candidates for public office, "What kind of jobs?"

Mayor Mick Cornet boasted of job creation and the jobs created were largely service industry jobs and call center jobs.  When Bass Pro Shops came to town, they did in fact hire from within the city populace but the vast majority of those jobs were not exactly high-paying jobs but rather were customer service positions paying marginally above minimum wage.  The high paying jobs were given to individuals within the Bass Pro Shops management structure who were willing to relocate to Oklahoma City from other markets.

Dell Computers was another example.  Gorgeous facility along the river, the jobs at Dell Computers were call center jobs.  While it served to be a feather in the cap of campaign coordinators, the aggregate result wasn't what was promised.

To be intellectually honest about job creation, there must include the realization that across the country, the economy is ailing.  Inflation is rising, the cost of goods is increasing due to commodities pricing on the NYMEX and elected officials are lean on real dialog about these problems but are big on rhetoric.  At recent Chamber of Commerce back-patting sessions, the cheerleading about creating jobs and an environment that is positive for new jobs in Oklahoma reached epic proportions and lacked only the pom-poms.  Well, the pom-poms and reality, of course.

If companies in Texas, Colorado, Washington and other states are struggling under this economic down-turn, what could Oklahoma reasonably do to entice them to relocate here?  Honestly?  Not much.  Large corporations are fearful of Obamacare and federal regulation that is a hindrance to growth so, for elected officials and Chamber officials to say that we can accomplish that which no other state in the Union has been able to is intellectually dishonest at best.  But, we can literally pave the way for business as the economy begins to pick up again.

We could work on our disastrous infrastructure.  Roads and bridges in Oklahoma are horrendous and it is pathetic that we have hired the same people who have proven to be failures in the past.  That, my friends, does not show companies that we're serious about business and job creation when we continue to tap empty resources of our failed past.

We could certainly work on education delivery systems.  If we think for a moment that our educational system doesn't need reform, we're insane.  If you're the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and you see that our education system in Oklahoma has over 450 school districts and those administrators are morbidly overpaid, what would make them think that our efficacy in the classroom is anything short of failing?  Spending more money on education isn't the answer, but a better use of existing resources is part of the answer.

And then there's the issue of illegal immigration.  Illegal immigration costs Oklahoma taxpayers an estimated $300 million per year but the Chamber would have us believe that while immigration is a constitutional issue, it is merely "social" in nature.  Do you want the truth?  The truth of the matter is that the largest companies in Oklahoma who spend the most money with the Chamber have subcontractors who do, in fact, hire illegals therefore the pressure on the Chamber and the mainstream media is epic to ensure that illegal immigration is marginalized whenever and wherever possible. 

So, are we talking about real job creation or are we talking about rhetoric?  The Obama administration boasted of job creation but at the end of the day, it was mostly government jobs that were created and they were short-term.  Much like the wind industry boasting of job creation in small communities, those jobs are few and exceedingly short term.  Once the wind turbines are built, they dramatically reduce the number of jobs in said communities. 

The people we elected this last cycle are heavy on "job creation" rhetoric - but we must hold them accountable and keep an eye out for what kinds of jobs are created and whether or not they are simply playing a shell game with us, changing the terms of the debate in midstream.  When we see them fulfilling their campaign promises on the 2nd Amendment, on the problem with illegal immigration, then and only then can we take them seriously.  We don't need more window dressing.  We need real reform.