Oklahoma is Venezuela.

Peyton Benge
4 min readJul 9, 2020


Taken at the Black Lives Matter March in Oklahoma City.

Conservatives and moderate progressives love to blurt out a lot of blarney when the topic of democratic socialism arises in a friendly, political conversation.

While us “lying liberals” go on about our unctuous utopia, opponents of our political theology foam at the mouth until they notice a momentary lull in our dastardly dialogue.

Then, with a seismic release, they cleek the discussion and screech with percussion, “BuT wHaT aBoUt VeNeZuElA?!?”

Ah, Venezuela!

I’m glad you mentioned them. Let’s talk about the country and how it collapsed into the economic state it is in now.

Contexto of the Collapse

At one point in time, decades after the military coups the U.S. propped up in the region had been overthrown, Venezuela was a “relatively stable democracy with one of Latin America’s fastest-rising economies.”

This was in part due to the fact that Venezuela contained one of the largest oil reserves in the world at the time.

But with their boom came a bust.

“The decline of oil prices, the massive social spending of the Chavez and Maduro governments, U.S. sanctions, and a combination of economic mismanagement and corruption at the top have contributed to the economic collapse.”

–– Jo-Marie Burt, Associate professor of political science and Latin American Studies at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University

Venezuela’s dependence on a single industry left it vulnerable to an oil price shock, and with poor leadership in place and the U.S. federal government refusing to aid them, the state began to collapse.

Sound familiar?

Sooner or Later

Although the land area of Oklahoma is almost six times smaller than Venezuela’s, it might suffer the same levels of economic catastrophe.

This is because we’ve left ourselves economically vulnerable to shocks in the world economy by depending too heavily on the fossil fuel industry. These shocks can come in the form of price wars, pandemics, or in the case of this miserable year we call 2020, both!

And that’s exactly what is quickly plaguing the Sooner State.

For context, this OERB report was created to illustrate how the oil and gas industry is a catalyst for the state’s economy:

  • 1 in 3 dollars of earned income is earned through oil and gas.
  • Almost 1 in 5 jobs in Oklahoma are created by oil and gas.
  • 7 out of 7 state representatives are brought to you by oil and gas, along with probably 75% of Oklahoma’s State Congressional legislators.

(Ok, those last two weren’t in the report, but prove me wrong.)

Although this report was thoughtfully put together and was a nice set of data to work with, it only further illustrates how dependent Oklahoma’s economy is on this one industry.

Hell! This article is written by someone with two parents who were employed by the oil and gas industry, along with a brother, uncles, cousins, and countless friends and acquaintances.

It is quite apparent that the industry is vital to our economy. But its criticality can also be vile to our economy. By putting all our eggs in one basket, we’re setting up folks to be covered in yolks.

Boomer Breadlines

Tune in to a Fox News segment about democratic socialism, and they’ll show you images of the lengthy breadlines in Venezuela and share stories about the horrific Maduro diet.

Although these are truly dreadful occurrences that need not be celebrated, they need not be used to politically gloat, either. Especially, when the lines are beginning to form in the capital city of Oklahoma.

In fact, my future mother-in-law is using her day off from working in the middle of a pandemic to go stand amongst non-socially-distanced, huddled masses in hopes to receive her temporary unemployment claim that hasn’t come in, in months.

And her sister will do the same.

A street protest held at the intersection of Classen Boulevard and NW 23rd St.

Viva la Revolución

This particular scene is playing out in cities across the US, and the lines are only going to continue to lengthen as the pandemic spikes and the economy plummets. Florida, Arizona, and California are all seeing spikes in cases, and Oklahoma’s numbers are rising.

Oklahoma politicians can continue to use Venezuela as their excuse for why they don’t believe in socialized causes like free health care and higher education, but simply put, Oklahoma is Venezuela.

Just like Venezuela set itself up for massive economic failure by depending on a single industry to fuel the nation’s economy, Oklahoma is in a bind that doesn’t look like it’s going to unfasten any time soon.

Just like Venezuela has a history of cruelly punishing opposition leaders and unjustly locking up people in prisons, Oklahoma continues to struggle with high incarceration rates and police killings of unarmed citizens.

And just like Venezuela, the people of Oklahoma are going to need to unite together and rise up to the authoritative powers that be. Currently, the citizens of Venezuela are ceaselessly fighting for a return to a true, social democracy. Will Oklahomans join them in our own struggle?