BY SHARON MARTIN
Oklahoma’s state Capitol, with its crumbling exterior, is a metaphor for Oklahoma governance. Where the people’s business is conducted, plumbing is inadequate and wiring is dangerous. So, do our leaders stop the leaks and shore up the walls? No, but they plan to build a chapel.
The government of the people has only two functions – provide services and protect citizens. It isn’t our leaders’ job to tell us how to live. They are not here to promote a state religion or to decide if some citizens deserve justice and tax breaks while others deserve nothing. We pay their salaries and they represent our interests. Period.
Our interests demand a solid infrastructure, defined in the Random House dictionary as “the fundamental facilities and systems serving a country, city, or area … ”
What services and systems do you expect? Safe bridges and roads that don’t ruin your tires? Health inspections, public education, clean water, and rural electricity?
Reality is that many of these expectations are not being met. Like our state Capitol, our infrastructure is crumbling.
Two glaring examples are the soft systems of health and education.
Our governor refused the federal money that would have expanded Medicaid in Oklahoma. She said we couldn’t afford the expansion, so she gave back the federal dollars that would have paid for said expansion.
State hospitals, urban and rural, will still have to treat the working poor, but they won’t receive the federal money they need to keep doors open.
Gov. Fallin, we can’t afford your idea of saving money.
Even as our population grows, we lead the nation in education spending cuts, all the while diverting what’s left into private pockets.
The money spent on charter schools and high-stakes tests could teach a lot of third-graders how to read. We need community schools, reading specialists, good books, librarians, and smaller class sizes, not shenanigans.
Gov. Fallin, we can’t afford your idea of economy in education. We aren’t cutting spending; we are cutting investments in human capital.
Meanwhile, we are cutting revenue, especially our already-low income tax rates.
Here’s an idea: let’s invest in education and healthcare for our citizens. Educated, healthy people earn more money over a lifetime. They contribute more tax dollars into the system and take fewer dollars out for corrections and special services. Investments, not tax cuts for your favorite donors, will turn this state and its economy around.
Of course, healthy, educated citizens won’t fall for our leader’s trickle-down bull. They will see the crumbling infrastructure for what it is. There’s the rub.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer