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On human trafficking, legislation better than an executive order

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: September 29, 2012

IN an address to the Clinton Global Initiative this week, President Barack Obama announced that he has issued an executive order to strengthen prohibitions against human trafficking in government contracting.

Sadly, the United States has become complicit in the horrendous crime of modern-day slavery through the actions of subcontractors working for the State Department to supply workers to embassies in global trouble spots. Those subcontractors are known to lure foreign workers with false promises and then trap them into servitude at American facilities.

The order is based on legislation authored by U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Edmond, which has already passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support and awaits a vote in the Senate.

While Obama's actions are a nice gesture, Lankford said the problem “can't be solved through an executive order.” In a meeting with The Oklahoman editorial board, he noted roughly 20 previous executive orders on the topic haven't ended the problem. By nature, those orders are temporary; statutory changes have more effect. Lankford's bill would require that U.S. government contracting include worker protections provided even in some Third World countries to prevent human trafficking.

If Obama had pressured Senate leadership to schedule a vote on his bill, Lankford noted, the president “could have had a big bill signing today” instead of announcing a mere order. Lankford's bill is tentatively scheduled for a Senate vote in a November lame-duck session. Here's hoping the president's dedication to this issue extends beyond the desire for one day's headline.

So far, so weird

Two old jokes came to mind when reading that a Tulsa woman accused of pushing her husband out of a high-rise apartment window is suing the apartment building's owners. The first joke is the one about a man who jumps from a high-rise and is asked midway down how things are going for him. “So far, so good” is the reply. The other joke is about the guy who kills his parents and then pleads for mercy based on his status as an orphan. Amber Hilberling is charged with second-degree murder for her alleged involvement in husband Joshua Hilberling's 17-story plunge on June 7, 2011, which prosecutors say resulted from a domestic fight. She's suing the apartment owners, claiming the window glass was too thin and substandard. Her criminal trial is scheduled for next March. No trial date has been set for the civil case.

Rudderless nation

The driverless car is coming, the Wall Street Journal said in a special report Monday. Driverless cars actually have drivers but the car itself does the hard work with robotics. Why not? We live in a driverless country now. The president is in the driver's seat but hasn't been driving the growth of jobs or foreign policy. Leading from behind on Mideast policy isn't driving. It's abdication. The analogy can be stretched only so far because Barack Obama has been driving the health care reform debate (at the expense of economic expansion) and driving us toward a cliff on the deficit. On energy policy he's driving us in the wrong direction or going 25 in a 70 mph zone when it comes to energy independence. The country needs a new driver. The car of the future may tool down the road while the driver watches a video, but countries need someone behind the wheel who can steer, brake when needed and pass slower-moving vehicles.

Who pays the price?

As head of Continental Resources Inc., Oklahoma native Harold Hamm has been at the forefront of the shale revolution that has turned North Dakota into a boom state. Now Hamm has donated $10 million to the University of North Dakota's school of geology to enhance educational offerings in petroleum geology and related fields. It is the largest gift ever from someone who is not an alumnus of the school. President Barack Obama claims people like Hamm need to pay “a little more” in taxes as a matter of supposed fairness. But Hamm's success in creating jobs and associated philanthropy far exceeds anything done by Obama in spite of the billions he's wasted in stimulus funding. If Obama gets his way, it will be students and job seekers currently benefiting from the vision of the Harold Hamms of the world who will ultimately pay the price.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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