A straw man is easy to knock down


Harry Seay III has a guest editorial in today's Whirled in which he conducts a mock debate with imaginary opponents to Myopia 2025. The piece is beautifully written, but it's apparent that he hasn't had any contact with actual opponents.

He divides opponents into hardcode "aginners", whom he dismisses out of hand, purists, defeatists, tax protesters, and refined defeatists. For the remaining four cases, he puts words in the mouths of the opposition and proceeds to refute them. Here's an example:

Defeatists say Tulsa is on the skids and efforts to prepare for tomorrow are futile. Go back to sleep; the tooth fairy may bring us a shiny new industry.

But industry doesn't fall to earth like the dew or come here for the climate. It looks for communities with civic integrity and ambition, qualities that have defined Tulsa and are with us today unless counsels of helplessness, which in our own lives we shun, extinguish the flame.

The only counsels of helplessness I hear are coming from the proponents of this package. "The free market doesn't work! We must give a billion dollars to the County Commissioners! They will save us!" Likewise, belief in the jobs fairy is at the heart of this sales tax plan. The proponents can't tell us how this package will recover the thousands of high-tech jobs lost in the failures of WorldCom and Williams and other tech companies, but they are certain that wonderful things will magically happen if we just do something.

Tulsa is certainly not helpless, and the opponents to this tax package have been making constructive recommendations for improving Tulsa's economy. State government reforms are needed to make Oklahoma a good state for starting and growing a business. A CPA friend has advised Oklahoma to look to Delaware -- cut tax rates, streamline government procedures and businesses will come flocking. Locally, city government needs to implement the recommendations of the Mayor's performance review, and the review process needs to be continued to cover all areas of local government (including the county and suburban municipalities).

A couple of ideas need public leadership and private money: First, we need a local pool of venture capital to help local entrepreneurs get their creative ideas off the ground. Second, Tulsa has a pool of highly talented knowledge workers in the ranks of the unemployed and we need to provide assistance to keep them here -- private donations and assistance with job networking can help keep them from moving to Texas.

Industry doesn't fall from the sky. It starts with the seed of an idea and some seed money. We can pay big bucks to transplant industry from somewhere else, and hope the transplant works, or we can water and feed the tender seedlings that are already growing here, and grow a diversity of businesses, adapted to local conditions, able to withstand times of drought.

Mr. Seay goes on to deny that Tulsans are over-taxed. Mr. Seay may not feel overtaxed, and this tax may be pocket change for him, but for most Tulsa families, $8,000 is a lot of money, especially when budgets are already tight.

As an attorney, Mr. Seay knows that it would be easy to win a court case if the counsel for the other side was just an expensive pinstriped suit stuffed with hay and straw. A real trial involves skilled advocates on both sides, each presenting evidence and testimony, each cross-examining the evidence of the other. The public deserves such a full debate, not just setting up a straw man and knocking him down.

[Seay is pronounced "see", and I was very tempted to headline this entry "Seay III, PO-ed". But that would have been silly.]

Another note: The Republican and Democratic County Chairmen submitted a precedent-setting joint letter rebutting the Tulsa Whirled editorial attack on the parties' neutral stance. The Whirled has refused to run it, citing length as an objection. The Whirled could have run their letter as a "Readers' Forum" piece, like this column, but they chose not to do so.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 24, 2003 1:04 AM.

Truth in Whirled headlines was the previous entry in this blog.

Editorial diversity on display is the next entry in this blog.

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