Friday, May 12, 2006

Principle of "Cause and Effect," Beyond Tulsa World's Grasp?

Basic Principle: A Rose By Any Other Name Is Not a Rhododendron.

Yesterday the Tulsa World flashed this headline on its front page:

State economy grows in April

Great news, right? Let's read on:

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma's economy continued to grow in April, helped along by major increases in oil and gas taxes.

If you're a liberal, you've just read this and thought, "So what's so wrong with that?" If you're a conservative, you may not be able to put your finger on it, but there's something in that statement that doesn't quite sound right. There's a good chance you conservatives read this lead paragraph and tilted your head to the right, causing you to resemble that dog in front of the phonograph megaphone on the old RCA logo; "his master's voice."

So let me answer, for our liberal friends, what's "so wrong" with the World's lead paragraph.

How was Oklahoma's economy helped along by "major increases in oil and gas taxes?" Increases in taxation are generally a burden on an economy. Does the writer, Angel Riggs, mean that the state's oil and gas taxes were increased, which fueled an economic recovery? Does the writer mean Oklahoma's current oil and gas tax collection rates resulted in higher revenues due to greater gross revenues that are the result of higher prices at the pump and on the average citizen's utility bill?

Let's read on:

Preliminary reports showed that the state's general revenue fund collections for April were $688 million -- $134.8 million, or 24 percent, above the same month last year.

Oh wait! Now it's becoming clearer.

When the headline writer wrote, "State economy," they weren't talking about the whole state. They didn't mean all of the small mom and pop businesses, or even the mega-corporations like Chesapeake. When a liberal paper like the World writes about "revenue fund collections," such statements must be translated into the conservative equivalent, which is "tax collections."

So here is how the statement should have read:

Preliminary reports showed that the state's general tax collections for April were $688 million -- $134.8 million, or 24 percent, above the same month last year.

Good. Now we're getting somewhere.

Let's review one final paragraph from this front-page, above the fold story and then sum up:

[Meacham] attributed steady improvement in Oklahoma's economy since mid-2003 to price increases for natural gas and oil.

Hmmm...Maybe I don't read so well, but here's my take on this comment. Oklahoma's State Treasurer is "attributing" the steady improvement in gross "tax collections" to an improvement in the state's economy, AND that he attributes the improvement in the state's economy to steady improvement in the increased costs being charged to the consumer for natural gas and oil.

Gee...I feel better all ready.

This story smacks of how the press in the former Soviet Union used to tell the masses, "Good news from the steppes, comrades! The Ministry of Agriculture reports that this year's wheat harvest set another record." This would then be followed by the standard party rhetoric designed to indicate that socialism was working, completely ignoring that bumper harvests are more the doing of the farmers who tended the crops, and God who provided the weather.

Implying that results of one industry's toil and Divine providence as indicators of successful governmental policy, stretches credulity like it was Laffy-Taffy.

The chief reasons Oklahoma's economy is in recovery are factors that lie completely outside of state's locus of control. Oil and gas prices are up because of the war and instability in the Middle-East and the fact that our elected officials in Washington, D.C. can't seem to agree on a federal energy policy that makes us less dependent on foreign sources. As such, it is beyond ironic, that Oklahoma's Democrats may be successful in maintaining control of the Governor's Mansion and the Oklahoma Senate, because Democrats in the minority in the U.S. Senate are using the threat of philibuster to block drilling in A.N.W.A.R. and other energy related reforms. But that's for another column, because I promised to sum up.

First, the World's editorial should have read;

State's Tax Coffers Grow in April

Why? Because Oklahoma's economy is not the same thing as Oklahoma's tax collections.

Secondly, the first paragraphs of the article give the casual reader the appearance that this growth is due to our tax policy.

Thirdly, as a conservative, the only good news I'm seeing in the World's story is that the argument is growing every month for the state to begin to wean itself off of the Income Tax completely. I would say do it now, but unfortunately, all it would take is peace in the Middle-East or Congress getting its act together on energy policy for us to be back in deep "item."

I'm not going to be comfortable taking a bold, conservative step like that, until I know that we have bold conservatives at the helm of the ship-of-our-state, to implement such reforms.

As for now, wouldn't it be nice to mandate that reporters and headline writers actually understand the issues they are reporting on? If not the issues, at least the basic concept of cause and effect?

Until then, they're going to try to sell us that a rose by any other name, could
be a rhododendron, if this is an election year.

1 comment:

Paul Tay said...

You need to quit reading da Whirled.