Monday, July 30, 2018

OCPA column: Distorting facts to fit a narrative

Distorting facts to fit a narrative
by Jonathan Small
President of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA)

In a recent interview, self-described socialist and congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tried to explain away low unemployment and recast world history in her own image.

Ocasio-Cortez claimed, “Unemployment is low because everyone has two jobs.” But as James Pethokoukis from the American Enterprise Institute points out, “…. only 4.8 percent of employed Americans hold multiple jobs. That’s lower than before the Great Recession and lower than during the 1990s boom. Indeed, that number has been declining for years.”

The socialist candidate went on to claim that, “Capitalism has not always existed in the world and will not always exist in the world.”

While no one can see the future, the history is clear. And it’s not on the side of Ocasio-Cortez. As Pethokoukis points out, “…. capitalism has pretty much always existed. People have been trading since there was something to trade.” And, let’s not forget that no other economic system has done more for the benefit and prosperity of humanity than capitalism.

Ocasio-Cortez’s comments are another instance of trying to change the facts to fit a political narrative. Such distortions are not just for blue-state socialists; unfortunately, it happens in Oklahoma.

Rep. Leslie Osborn, the former chair of the Oklahoma House Appropriations and Budget Committee, spent much of her time there advocating for tax increases. She routinely blamed current shortfalls on previous tax cuts. The truth, however, is that as soon as you zoom out and see the long term trends, Oklahoma government has been growing, not shrinking. Recent declines in revenue were almost entirely due to the effects of low oil prices rippling through our economy. Still, in the long run, the total tax and fee burden on Oklahomans has gone up.

It is not only candidates and elected officials who sometimes bend the facts. Multiple university presidents claimed last year that Oklahoma was “dead last” in spending for higher education. They cited a national report on higher education funding, but the report actually showed that Oklahoma spent more per capita than a dozen other states.

Everybody has their own ideas about politics and public policy. An open and honest debate is necessary to maintain a free society. When politicians and other government officials play fast and loose with the facts, or intentionally distort them for their own benefit, they corrode our very system of government.

We are all entitled to our own opinions, but we are not entitled to our own facts. Politicos in Oklahoma, and across the country, should stop bending the facts to meet their needs.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs

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