Friday, November 17, 2006

Senator Gumm’s “Senate Minute” Column
for November 17-23, 2006

DURANT, Okla. – Hello again, everybody! Let me begin this week’s column by wishing you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving holiday.
As our nation pauses to give thanks to Almighty God for the many blessings He has bestowed on us, I remember the closing words of President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address. “Here on Earth, God’s work must surely be our own.”
Those words are among the statements that eloquently embody the spirit of our nation and our state. The challenge of those words was reminded to us by column written by U.S. Sen.-elect Jim Webb of Virginia.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Senator Webb began with a statement with which I deeply agree: “The most important – and unfortunately the least debated – issue in politics today is our society’s steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century.”

While corporate executives send American jobs overseas, they are compensated at an incredible rate. Making it worse, some support a tax policy that would make this divide greater, giving larger tax cuts to the wealthy than the rest of us. I strongly disagree.

That is why during my two years as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, I fought efforts to give smaller tax cuts to working Oklahomans. Because the Senate held firm on this point, every Oklahoman benefits from the tax cuts we passed, not just the wealthy.

Compounding the problem are the challenges facing working families in this new century. Cheap labor overseas and the “vast underground labor pool” from illegal immigration are helping squeeze working Oklahomans.

The way to stop illegal immigration is to dry up jobs for illegal immigrants by punishing companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants. Just as serious as illegal immigration is the legal out-migration of American jobs to countries with cheap labor. Our area suffered the loss of manufacturing jobs at Wrangler in Coalgate and, more recently, Ethan Allen in Atoka.

Some politicians try to make political hay out of this, but the truth is nothing state government could do attracts the eye of some corporate executives like ridiculously cheap labor.

Short-sighted executives see cheap labor overseas as the key to more profits.
Congress should use tax policy to punish companies that export American jobs. State government should step in as well, but our reach extends only to Oklahoma’s state lines. The federal government can punish any American company that turns its back on American workers.

Every American, every Oklahoman – regardless of whether they are born to wealth – deserves the chance to reach their potential. We should put a high value work; Americans who work hard and play by the rules should be able to earn enough to support their families.

As we give thanks this holiday, may we rededicate ourselves to the notion that every American deserves the chance to enjoy the full bounty of our blessings. Here on Earth, that is surely God’s work, and nothing is more “American” than that.

Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute.” Have a happy Thanksgiving and may God bless you all.