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Republicans, Democrats Gather At U. Oklahoma To Square Off

This story was written by Hailey Branson, Oklahoma Daily
Democratic state Rep. Wallace Collins' remark that President George W. Bush would starve to death if paid by merit was not met well by the University of Oklahoma College Republicans to whom he spoke.

Former Republican state Rep. Thad Balkman's statement that Democrats did nothing to lower college tuition when they had the chance was not met well by the Democrats sitting next to him.

Quarreling and open discussion between parties were the desired effects of a panel discussion hosted by the College Republicans Thursday night in the Oklahoma Memorial Union's Frontier Room.

The panel consisted of four men -- two Republicans and two Democrats. They were Brian Hobbs, Republican and director of marketing for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs; Todd Goodman, field director of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, Collins and Balkman.

Each panelist was given a chance to voice his views about what would make Oklahoma more prosperous.

Balkman said Oklahomans and Americans need to be optimistic first and look at the positives, because there are many. He said the positives are completely tied to the economy.

He said America is a prosperous country because it has followed conservative fiscal policies. He said on any given day there is no place in the world that enjoys as much prosperity.

Balkman said Democrats think there are only a few prosperous people, and they became wealthy by dishonest means.

"Those who make that argument do not see prosperity," he said. "They only see victims and the downtrodden."

After traveling internationally and seeing true poverty, Balkman said he realized Americans do not realize what true poverty is.

"In America, we have the opportunity to make it," he said. "If we are taught self-reliance and the value of hard work, we can be successful."

Balkman also said tax cuts have brought undeniable prosperity to society.

Hobbs said Oklahoma can increase its prosperity by holding to the three pillars on which the economy rests: family, property ownership and liberty.

He said Oklahoma should be a relatively low tax-burden state and should be free from an abundance of frivolous lawsuits.

Hobbs said the link between the three values he addressed is opportunity.

"I think Oklahoma ought to be an opportunity state," he said. "I think the era of a welfare state has passed."

Ingenuity is the key to future Oklahoma success, Goodman said.

"We have to invest in Oklahoma," he said. "We have to invest in our infrastructure."

Goodman said when people consider coming to Oklahoma, tax cuts are not a top reason. He said people look at the quality of education and the workforce, infrastructure and the amenities offered.

Goodman said the keys to bringing prosperity to Oklahoma will be biofuel and sustainable energy.

"I'm for prosperity," he said. "Obviously, I'm for freedoms and liberties. That's what Democrats fight for every day."

Collins said Oklahoma needs rail transportation, prison revitalization and a look at mental health issues in the state.

"Oklahoma's prisons, jails, detention centers ... any place that locks people up are all bursting at the seams," he said.

Collins also said the state needs to focus more on rehabilitation and less on revenge.

He said many inmates are mentally ill, and their illnesses need to be assessed properly and treated.

"They come out in worse condition than they come in," Collins said. "They don't have the opportunity to succeed. Nobody chooses to be mentally ill. We need to show some compassion and intelligence by dealing with those issues."

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