EDMOND — A storm is brewing in the nation’s capital. The result could have wide-reaching ramifications, including fewer Oklahoma jobs. Last week we learned that Democrats in the U.S. Senate plan to hitch their progressive tax agenda to the ongoing debate over automatic cuts to defense spending. The process by which these automatic defense cuts go into effect without congressional action to reduce spending is called sequestration, and will take effect on Jan. 2.
While the Defense budget has been routinely reduced in the past four years by President Obama, these additional cuts of $500 billion would be particularly devastating to our national security.
Democrat congressional aides have even been quoted as saying they have no “heightened sense of concern” for the devastating automatic cuts to national defense. Instead, they hope playing wait-and-see political games will pressure Republicans to cave and go along with the president’s tax hike on small business owners and higher-income earners.
According to a new study by Ernest and Young, the president’s tax hike would place 710,000 American jobs at risk. Now couple it with 1 million additional U.S. workers who, without congressional interventions on sequestration, also could receive pink slips by year’s end.
Senate Democrats are not just running a budget deficit, they are running a jobs deficit. When 23 million Americans are already unemployed or underemployed, our nation cannot afford to have another couple million added to the unemployment line, whether by increasing taxes or compromising our national defense.
If no action is taken, our country faces a devastating fiscal cliff, another recession, and a vulnerable military.
What does this mean for Oklahoma?
According to research by Stephen Fuller at George Mason University, Oklahoma could lose up to 16,000 jobs, possibly 20,000 jobs if military personnel were included in sequestration cuts. This would be devastating to Oklahoma families and communities that have given their strong support to our five military installations.
Furthermore, the total impact on Oklahoma’s economic output would be more than $1.5 billion, around 1 percent of our gross state product. It would affect not only our defense industry but trickle down to our aviation, energy and biotechnology sectors.
Under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act of 1988, employers must give 60 days’ notice of layoffs. That means just days before the presidential election, Oklahomans as well as hundreds of thousands across America will be notified that they will lose their jobs.
Sadly, I have personally heard from industries that the Obama Administration is leaning on them to delay sending pink slips as long as possible. For political gain, he is attempting to minimize the disastrous effects of his failed policies.
Several of my colleagues and I have repeatedly asked the White House and the Department of Defense for the impacts of sequestration with no response. While no one wants sequestration, ignoring or delaying it for whatever reason will not make it go away. Failure to highlight the devastating impacts on our economy and national defense is unconscionable.
The options they are presenting us with are unacceptable. President Obama and Senate Democrats are trying to hold hostage our national security and American jobs to advance their radical liberal agenda. We cannot play roulette with this. We need more jobs — not fewer — and we must keep our national security strong.
If we wait any longer to address sequestration, the damage will be done. We need a permanent fix now, or at least a temporary fix that removes sequestration from the current political environment.
SEN. JIM INHOFE is Oklahoma’s senior U.S. senator. He serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee as a senior member.
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