Congress Hits the Road to Listen to Americans’ Concerns

YUKON, Okla.—Finding dependable workers, dealing with a disrupted supply chain, and coping with inflation are some of the biggest challenges in today’s economy, said witnesses in a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee in this central Oklahoma city of 22,000.

According to a press release, the March 7 “Hearing on the State of the Economy: The Heartland” was to hear Americans’ concerns firsthand.

“Over the next two years, this committee will partner with the American People to develop solutions that will reverse the course of the Biden economy and deliver results that will improve their livelihoods,” the press release reads.

The hearing convened at Express Clydesdales, a working ranch and events venue in Yukon.

The panel included Bryan Jackson, the co-founder of Route 66 Processing; Chuck Mills, owner and president of Mills Machine Company, Inc.; Kelli Payne, president of the Oklahoma National stockyards and a rancher from Mustang, Oklahoma; Joe Brevetti, founder and managing member of Charter Oak Production Co., LLC; and Shiloh Kantz, executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute.

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
Oklahoma business owners Bryan Jackson (L) and Chuck Mills (C), and rancher Kelli Payne (R) testify before a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee in Yukon, Okla., on March 7, 2023. (Michael Clements/The Epoch Times)

As employers, Mills, Jackson, and Brevetti said their biggest challenge is finding quality employees. They said this had been an issue before the pandemic, but expanded unemployment benefits during COVID lockdowns had exacerbated the problem.

“The pandemic made the struggle so much harder for my company and employers all across Oklahoma. The lack of a workforce is the root of all our problems,” Mills said.

Mills company produces equipment for shallow well drilling, such as water wells.

Jackson agreed with Mills’ assessment. He said he takes an unconventional approach, such as hiring people who may not be qualified but are willing to train or hiring people other employers might be hesitant to take on board, such as convicted felons.

Jackson told The Epoch Times that he views employment as “relational” rather than transactional. He aims to instill in them that they are meeting a challenge and accomplishing something more than just earning a dollar by working.

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
Kelli Payne, a rancher from Mustang, Okla., talks with members of the House Ways and Means Committee after a hearing in Yukon, Okla., on March 7, 2023. (Michael Clements/The Epoch Times)

“The American dream is not lived on Easy Street,” he said. “We’re there to help them better their lives.”

Jackson began his testimony with a slogan: “Hard times make good people; good people make comfortable times; comfortable times make weak people; weak people make hard times.”

He said that the deterioration of the family structure, an erosion of the work ethic, and a sense of entitlement have combined to make finding job candidates willing to work a challenge.

“I see, firsthand, weak people creating hard times,” Jackson said.

Kantz acknowledged the issues the employers outlined. However, she said other issues contribute to the problem.

The Oklahoma Policy Institute is a non-profit, non-partisan think-tank that advances public policy to remedy such problems as unemployment, child care, and health care, among others. She said many people could not work because they need adequate transportation or childcare.

Targeted Relief Could Be Solution

According to Kantz, reinstituting the expanded Child Tax Credit of $3,600, keeping the Earned Income Tax Credit, expanding Medicaid, and instituting policies to promote paid leave and childcare will help alleviate the issue.

“I believe that targeted relief is the way to go,” Kantz said.

Republicans on the committee said the expanded benefits caused more harm than good and will only make matters worse if they are not ended.

Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) said the Biden administration had increased spending despite being warned that it would cause inflation. According to Smith, Biden’s budget is expected to include even more spending, putting more pressure on taxpayers.

“America’s heartland should expect a budget that will contain its assault on Americans’ way of life,” he said.

Democrat Defends Policies

The Committee’s ranking member Richard Neal (D-Mass.), defended the Democrats’ work. He claimed the Inflation Reduction Act increased Oklahoma’s gross domestic product, reduced unemployment, and cut health care costs for seniors.

He also touted the green energy industry saying it had created 2,000 jobs.

“We want to make sure the wealth of America is evenly distributed,” Neal said.

Brevetti, a petroleum engineer, said government regulation, supply chain issues, and inflation drive costs higher daily. He said reducing Americans’ tax burden would better provide much-needed relief.

“I’m having a hard time thinking of any country that taxed itself to prosperity,” he said.

Payne agreed. She said government regulation and taxes make it difficult for ranchers, farmers, and others in agriculture. Like Brevetti, Payne believes the best solution is letting taxpayers solve their problems.

“Anytime hard-working Americans can keep money in their pockets, we should let them do that,” she said.

Yukon is the second stop on the committee’s tour of the country. Before Oklahoma, the committee heard from residents of West Virginia.

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