One Almost Gets The Idea That John Hoeven Invented Oil Or Something

Former North Dakota Governor, and current US Senator, John Hoeven takes to the pages of Human Events today extolling his own economic record.

Amid all the hearty slapping of his own back one gets the sense that Hoeven may be a little irritated that his former second-in-commander, Lt. Governor-turned-Governor Jack Dalrymple has been getting national attention for North Dakota’s economic success.

Hoeven credits himself with having created a tax environment in the state that’s conducive to business, but when he was governor he joined with union interests in the state to kill a ballot initiative that would have cut personal and corporate income taxes. In fact, Hoeven’s idea of major tax relief was a property tax scheme that had the state spending more at the local level in exchange for locals reducing their property taxes. But as anyone with a modicum of common sense knows, that’s not tax relief. That’s a tax shift.

Hoeven also credits his economic development policies, which has state and local economic development committees handing out special subsidies and tax breaks to specific companies. Essentially, picking winners and losers in a sort of policy that’s really not all that different from what the Obama administration did with Solyndra. North Dakota, in fact, has plenty of its own Solyndras. The Obama administration lost hundreds of millions of dollars on Solyndra. Here in North Dakota, on a smaller scale, the state lost millions on Alien Technology. The City of Bismarck lost (or, more accurately, is in the process of losing) millions on the Northern Plains Commerce Center.

Hoeven would have you believe that it was his policies, and his steady hand on the tiller, which steered North Dakota to success. This is nonsense. North Dakota struck oil, and has had some pretty good years in agriculture of late, and that’s it.

Now, to be fair, Hoeven and the state’s other political leaders deserve a measure of credit for keeping a relatively light regulatory hand on energy and business in general. But the reason why North Dakota’s coffers are full of tax revenues, the reason why income is growing in the state and unemployment is at rock-bottom levels, is because we struck oil in the state.

In fact, a case can be made for Hoeven being an irresponsible leader. Under Hoeven’s stewardship, the state’s budget has grown by 125% over the last decade. Not even the federal government has been growing spending that fast.

If oil production in North Dakota went away tomorrow, the unemployment rate would skyrocket. Massive slash-and-burn efforts would be needed to bring the state budget in line with plummeting tax revenues. The economic growth we’ve enjoyed of late would stagnate.

Hoeven is, quite frankly, a political lottery winner. He was elected to office after two terms of tough belt-tightening under former Governor Ed Schafer brought on when the state’s previous oil boom petered out. The hard work being done, and the state’s economy turning around, Hoeven was able to take over the tiller just in time for the state’s next oil boom and then credit himself for the state’s resulting economic boom.

Success he’s now ridden into the US Senate.

North Dakota is healthy economically, but it didn’t have a lot to do with John Hoeven.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • EugeneGraner
    Take a look at the chart above and with very good accuracy I will tell you when ND’s cyclical economy will sputter. Follow the US dollar.
    Since it became a Fiat currency, ND has had a inverse love hate relationship with it. High interest rates in the 80’s brought a strong dollar as money poured in to buy our sovereign debt guaranteed by the US tax payers. The next negative period was the balanced budget in the waning years of the Clinton administration when the republicans forced a balanced budget on him. The end of the 90’s if you remember brought us $11.00 oil and low grain prices again to end and start the new century.
    You may ask, why will the US dollar ever rally again? Look at it now. A higher low then 2008, (notice oil made a lower high) and it is now bouncing. You see, they say you have to walk before you can run. In the case of the US debt and economy, you have to crawl before you walk. For the first time, a debt ceiling increase came with a clause. That never happened . Now we have Dems and Repubs talking about less spending (except the failing president). The dollar may make new lows into the 100th anniversary of the Fed in 2013, which my cyclical work implies, but the greatest thing about our country is we eventually get it right, as Winston Churchill used to say. The economy with or without the Fed, but with new US policy will right itself, and the money sloshing around out there will have to be brought back in with higher interest rate,  which will strengthen the US dollar and cause ND to again see its fortunes reduced. But then quadrupling its oil wells won’t hurt. Let’s just hope there turning a profit. Oh Yah, I now the story well about China, but with ALL oil priced in US dollars, they will be buying theirs, the rest of the world will struggle to afford it. Besides, GE and GM are now moving their headquarters for electrical development to China and they will be running around in tiny electric cars anyway. Did you ever see an SUV in a China picture? Just in case , Past results are not indicative of future results and consider risks before investing. The government makes me say that even though I usually get it right.

  • ellinas1

    You didn’t like the democrat politicians who represented N.Dakota in Washington.
    You worked hard to replace them, and you got what?  Senator John Hoeven working not for the people of North Dakota but for the moneyed elite and special interests.
    Good job Mr Port, keep it up.

    • Rob

      I never campaigned for John Hoeven.  In fact, I’ve consistently criticized him for years, and also wrote that he was no significant improvement over Dorgan.

      But go ahead and attack your imaginary renderings of my position.

      • VocalYokel

        “…was no significant improvement over Dorgan.”

        It would appear his ego is even bigger than Byron’s.

      • Camsaure

        The ONLY good thing about Hoeven was having an “R” by his name contributes towards having a majority eventually. I would certainly love to see him replaced with a real conservative next go round.

      • ellinas1

        I have never said that you campaigned for John Hoeven.
        But you worked hard for the defeat of Dorgan:

        “Fargo Forum political reporter Kristen Daum has a story today about a recently formed sponsoring committee that’s pursuing a petition to recall Sen. Kent Conrad.
        Joseph Wells, a Fargo resident, has been working on the issue for the
        past month, but the news today is that conservative blogger and Fargo
        radio talk show host Rob Port (of Minot) is also on the five-person
        sponsoring committee.”

        You worked hard to send Hoeven to the senate who by your own admission,
        is not an improvement over Dorgan. It only mattered that he has an R
        after his name.

  • VocalYokel

    “Did you ever see an SUV in China?”
    No, but when Barry-O visits to do the ribbon-cutting ceremony for GE and GM I bet we’ll see a couple of big buses.

    “Past results are not indicative of future results and consider risks before investing. The government makes me say that…”
    My favorite is the fine print when car companies tout the fuel efficiency of particular models.
    ‘Actual mileage may vary.’