Culture and the Family
Jonathan Small & Ryan Haynie | March 25, 2022
Liberal billionaire tried to direct Oklahomans’ lives
Jonathan Small & Ryan Haynie
This month marks an important anniversary for those concerned about Oklahomans’ ability to live their lives free from unnecessary government intrusion. Two years ago this month, a liberal billionaire wanted state government to impose significant restrictions on the right of working-class Oklahomans to earn a living and care for their families.
On March 22, 2020, Paycom CEO Chad Richison issued a public letter calling on Gov. Kevin Stitt to order the temporary closure of a range of businesses, “which includes, but is not limited to, hair salons, nail salons, spas and massage parlors.”
He also endorsed requiring grocery stores to provide “drive-thru pick up or delivery for all customers,” and mandating that undefined “critical” supply chain businesses be required to coordinate “with state government.”
Richison also called on state government to mandate how “food preparation and other critical portions of the supply chain” are handled under undefined “newly established uniform standards to prevent transmission of the virus.”
He urged state government officials to “establish and implement best practices for medical providers to use during this outbreak.”
Richison also called for postponement of so-called “elective surgeries” and endorsed having the government collect “all essential medical supplies” normally used for those surgeries or by “med spas and other medical organizations.”
And Richison called for a ban “all non-essential” travel from Oklahoma airports.
Luckily for Oklahomans, Richison’s recommendations were largely dropped into File 13. Oklahoma did endure a brief shutdown in response to COVID-19, and the negative consequences are still felt today, but things would have been much, much worse under the regime proposed by Richison.
It appears Richison’s proposals were based on an unfounded belief in the supremacy of central planning and an unfounded distrust of the average citizen.
But data collected since 2020 shows the hairdressers Richison targeted were not a major contributor to COVID spread. However, those working-class individuals—many of whom are women and minorities—would have faced potential economic devastation under Richison’s plan.
His call to require a presumably substantial share of companies to coordinate with state government would have undoubtedly hamstrung businesses across Oklahoma with red tape. That would have translated into lost jobs and greater hardship.
And making medical providers answer to the whims of government bureaucrats would have reduced the quality of health care and likely impeded effective COVID treatments.
Governor Stitt instead announced, repeatedly, that he trusted Oklahomans to make informed decisions for themselves. We know now that approach works. COVID impacted many in Oklahoma, but the trendlines for the virus’ surge and decline in Oklahoma mirrored the patterns in states across the nation, including those that embraced Richison-style command-and-control policies. Stitt’s approach maximized citizen freedom and allowed families to continue earning a living when their counterparts in other states did not enjoy that same freedom.
For Oklahomans, this two-year anniversary is a time to look back and reassess how the state handled its pandemic response. As they do so, most Oklahomans will find themselves thankful that the businessman in the governor’s office was Kevin Stitt, not Chad Richison.
Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. Ryan Haynie serves as the Criminal Justice Reform Fellow for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.
Jonathan Small, C.P.A., serves as President and joined the staff in December of 2010. Previously, Jonathan served as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, as a fiscal policy analyst and research analyst for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and as director of government affairs for the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Small’s work includes co-authoring “Economics 101” with Dr. Arthur Laffer and Dr. Wayne Winegarden, and his policy expertise has been referenced by The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, National Review, the L.A. Times, The Hill, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post. His weekly column “Free Market Friday” is published by the Journal Record and syndicated in 27 markets. A recipient of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s prestigious Private Sector Member of the Year award, Small is nationally recognized for his work to promote free markets, limited government and innovative public policy reforms. Jonathan holds a B.A. in Accounting from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a Certified Public Accountant.
Criminal Justice Reform Fellow
Ryan Haynie serves as the Criminal Justice Reform Fellow for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. Prior to joining OCPA, he practiced law in Oklahoma City. His work included representing the criminally accused in state and federal courts. Ryan is active in the Federalist Society, serving as the Programming Director for the Oklahoma City Lawyer’s Chapter. He holds a B.B.A. from the University of Oklahoma and a J.D. from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. He and his wife, Jaclyn, live in Oklahoma City with their three children.