Lankford Says Oklahomans Dissatisfied with Direction DC is Taking Our Nation
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WASHINGTON, DC – After traveling the state during August work-period, Senator James Lankford (R-OK) brought perspectives from across Oklahoma back to Washington, DC, on a variety of issues. During his travels around the state, Lankford visited with nursing homes, business owners, teachers, manufacturers, veterans, active duty service members, social services providers, agricultural producers, energy producers, and more. One common theme Lankford heard around the state is how worried Oklahomans are about our nation’s economic future as prices keep going up because of Democrat policies from Washington, DC, and particularly how they will affect those on a fixed income and businesses trying to keep their doors open.
For example, compared to last year, according to the Joint Economic Committee, Oklahoma households are paying $593 more per month and $7,115 more this year for the same things, spending roughly $71 more on food a month, $58 more on shelter, $282 more on transportation, and $201 more on energy. According to Consumer Price Index (CPI) data, eggs are up 38 percent compared to this time last year. Baby food is up 15 percent. Butter is up 22 percent. As Lankford discussed in his remarks, those aren’t just national data points, Oklahomans continue to share the higher costs they’re paying for these goods and more.
I want to go into some comments about some things I heard from Oklahomans in August and thankfully a deep breath moment we were not in session here for a little while. But I first need to make a couple of quick comments for those who heard my colleague from Illinois say that Republicans believe that electric vehicles are socialism, if you promote electric vehicles, and we oppose electric vehicles and electrification. I actually just have to make a quick comment on that. I don’t hear Republicans in opposition to electric vehicles. I hear Republicans in opposition to handing companies billions and billions of dollars of taxpayer money and saying, ‘If you’ll produce electric vehicles, then we’re going to give you these billions of dollars to be able to do it.’
And I also hear Republicans like myself in opposition to say, ‘85 percent of the lithium to run the electric vehicles come from China.’ So until we get our own supply of lithium, we shouldn’t be running toward electric vehicles. Because if you run toward electric vehicles and then you’re dependent on communist China for your fuel, that’s a bad idea. I also hear Republicans say that our infrastructure is not ready for this. And it’s not some fairy tale on it. Today in California, they’re telling people to turn up their thermostats because they don’t have enough electric and don’t charge your electric vehicles.
So what I hear is a little bit of common sense on our side of the aisle to say, ‘We don’t have a problem with electric vehicles.’ People should be able to choose to drive whatever vehicle they want to be able to drive and that the consumer will actually purchase. But when you hand companies billions of dollars and say, ‘You only get this money if…’ and if you push people to use a fuel that’s dominantly coming from a communist nation, and we don’t have the infrastructure to actually support it but say, ‘You need to get it anyway,’ we think that’s a challenge.
The market is going to drive this. People will make choices. And the market will be able to keep up, but when government arbitrarily pushes that forward faster, that causes a problem in our economy. And we’ve seen it already.
Now, as I traveled around the state, our state like several other states, go back to school early. It’s always funny to me when I return after Labor Day and people are talking about their kids going to school this week, and I always smile and say, ‘Our kids returned to school three weeks ago, actually.’ So August is a great time to be able to see families getting organized, people heading back to school, talking to teachers and superintendents, and talking about their hope and prayer for a normal school year where there aren’t mask mandates and all the things coming down on them. It’s a time for me to actually have some evenings to be able to stand out in the yard and be able to talk to my neighborhoods.
It’s great to be able to visit and catch up. To be able to chat with someone in my Sunday school class and be able to hold their young child and to be able to look in the face of a new baby. To have the opportunity to be able to be home and stand in a funeral home with a law enforcement officer who was murdered in the line of duty.
It’s an opportunity to be able to talk to some of our our electric cooperatives, getting power to our rural areas and making such a difference. It’s an opportunity to stand and pray with a cancer survivor in Guymon who has had a really bad couple of years. That’s been tough.
It’s the opportunity to be able to visit with an aerospace company in Oklahoma, in fact several, that are doing the technology and the innovation that are making quite a difference in both our national security and our own aerospace safety. To visit with small business owners that are making things work in a very tough economy based on their work, not based on what’s happening in Washington, DC—based on their work.
August is an opportunity to go visit stockyards, feed lots, get a chance to be able to talk to folks that are every day making our food supply work. It’s an opportunity to be able to visit with big companies based in Oklahoma that have large facilities like Amazon, Macy’s, major companies that are out there that are doing business across our state and quite frankly to be able to interact with companies that are just as large that are also coming towards my great state in Oklahoma because it’s a great place to be able to do business.
Those individuals that I got a chance to be able to visit with in the fire training center. Many of them volunteers that come to this fire training center that they want to be able to learn better about how to be able to fight fire because this is literally neighbors taking care of neighbors. I hear so much conversation in Washington, DC, about how Washington, DC, is solving all the problems of the country. But when I meet with volunteer firefighters, they know full well, it’s everybody taking care of everybody’s neighbors, doing what they can to be able to help each other.
I had the opportunity to both sit in church and watch 25 people get baptized in one Sunday. I saw life change literally happening before my eyes. But also the opportunity to be able to visit with folks in nursing homes, and visit with their staff who are really struggling under some of the mandates that are on them still. I have to tell you—for many of the families that are living with nursing homes, and are dealing with CMS right now and some of the mandates that are still on them. It seems like life is returning to normal in many places, but the mandates are still on prisons, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and Head Start facilities. And for those kids, and for those seniors, it’s tough. And they’re looking for relief from DC.
I had the opportunity to be able to go through No Man’s Land Beef Jerky, some of the best beef jerky in the country, you ought to try it sometime for folks that haven’t. You walk through No Man’s Land Beef Jerky, and there’s a lot of meat there, let me just tell you. As they’re hand-trimming each section, de-hydrating and preparing it, for customers all over the country and, quite frankly, many places all around the world.
To be able to visit with VA Centers, talk with their staff, talk with veterans that are there getting care. To be able to go to our military bases, and to talk with leadership there about what do they need, as they work every day to protect our nation’s future. To be able to visit our inland water ports and yes, there are ports in Oklahoma for those of you all that are not tracking geography, Oklahoma is the farther, northernmost inland ports in the country. And it’s a vital link to the Midwest, getting fertilizer, taking care of heavy steel and supplies, they’re a vital part of our technology and our transportation.
There are too many places to be able to name, but I do have to be able to call out some amazing folks that are at New Leaf. New Leaf is a group of people that have dedicated their lives to helping the developmentally disabled. There are hundreds of people that serve there, serving hundreds of people. These are developmentally disabled adults that have hopes and aspirations. They want to work. They have dreams and goals for their life as well—they want to get married, they want to engage, and they want to have friends. They’re a group of people that have wrapped around these families and are blessing them in ways that most folks would never know. It is neighbors helping neighbors.
As I travelled around the state, literally from Guymon, all the way across to the east of my state, as I travelled across the state, I heard the same comment over and over and over again: ‘when is inflation going to come down?’ ‘When is the cost of living going to get better?’ From every small business I would talk to, they would talk about supply chain issues, cost, contracts, the prices that they’re selling things for and the prices that they’re getting things for and the challenges they face. NFIB works with a lot of small businesses around the country, they do an optimism index every year. Thirty-seven percent of small business owners now report their single biggest issue as a small business owner is inflation.
I got into a lot of conversations with a lot of folks as probably many people in this room did. But I can’t even begin to tell you the number of conversations that I got into that within minutes, the conversation would turn to the price of eggs. To say ‘wow, have you bought eggs yet? They seem to go up every single week.’ If it feels that way for folks, I can tell you it actually is that way for folks. The data continues to be able to show that.
Studies show in Oklahoma, relative to January of 2021, Oklahomans are paying $593 more a month right now than they were just in January of 2021. That equals out to $7,115 more a year that each family is paying this year, more than they were two years ago. $7,115—this is a real effect on families. And while all of us are grateful that the price of gas seems to be coming down little by little and everyone’s celebrating that gas prices are only $3.50 now, you understand that just a year-and-a-half ago, gas prices were a dollar-and-a-half less than they are now.
The single biggest effect on our economy right now, the single biggest effect is the price of gasoline and the price of energy. As energy prices rise, and they continue to stay high, it continues to drive the cost of every other product, because you’ve got to move products to actually be sold or to be manufactured. Gasoline right now, this July, is 44 percent higher than it was last July—44 percent.
And while it has come down, we forget how fast and how high it rose, and people seem to be relieved now that it’s only three-and-a-half bucks, knowing that that’s 44 percent higher than it was a single year ago.
The cost of breakfast cereal, 16 percent higher than it was a year ago. The cost of chicken, 18 percent higher than it was just a year ago. The cost of milk, 16 percent higher than it what it was a year ago. The cost of coffee, 20 percent higher than what it was a year ago. The cost of butter, 22 percent higher than what it was a year ago. Baby food, 15 percent higher than what it was a year ago. And just household cleaning products? Eleven percent higher than what it was a year ago. Now, for many people that hear this outside of this room, they would say, ‘Yeah all those things are true, they’re obvious.’ But I have yet to run into a family as I’ve traveled around my state and engaged with so many great Oklahomans, I didn’t hear a single one say, ‘Man, I am so grateful that we’re going to have more IRS audits in the next couple years because that’s going to bring down inflation.’
I didn’t have one. I didn’t have anyone say, ‘I’m so glad there’s going to be additional subsides for electric vehicles because that’s going to bring down the cost of eggs.’
There’s a real concern here. People are worried because they don’t know what happens next. For retirees, the latest study that came out, $3.4 trillion has been lost from IRAs in the past year—$3.4 trillion.
So the mix that we have right now are individuals that are worried about just paying for the next thing when the cost of living for them is $7,000 more this year than it was last year, just trying to be able to keep up. And the challenge for retirees watching the value of their retirement go down as many that are on a fixed income also realize costs have gone up dramatically.
It’s real, and people do feel it. And while in Oklahoma I interacted with lots of folks that are neighbors taking care of neighbors, there’s a very real concern about Washington, DC, and what they will do to them rather than for them. And people are worried about it.
I would tell you we as leaders have a responsibility to be able to set a direction, to be able to take care of other people’s money. That’s the tax dollars that are there. That’s other people’s money. To be able to manage the debt of this nation that is accelerating dramatically in the past several years, much of it due to COVID, much of it not.
We have some responsibilities to take care of. And I hope everyone had the opportunity to be able to listen to people in their own states and to be able to hear what I was able to hear in August.