BY DAVID PERRYMAN
Most of us experience some kind of phobia. Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders and ophidiophobia is the fear of snakes. The fear of heights is acrophobia. Phobias often make normally logical people act illogically.
Oklahoma’s legislators are no different. It would be very unusual for a person to file for office with the intent of representing corporations and corporate lobbyists instead of the good people who elect them. However, during the election process and while serving as an elected official, certain fears become evident.
For instance, a candidate may be approached by a group that promises support if the candidate will simply sign a pledge. The candidate fears that if the pledge is not signed, votes and ultimately the election will be lost. One of the most common pledges is the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge that says that a candidate will not under any circumstances vote for any bill or other measure that would raise revenue at any level of government.
Americans for Tax Reform is led by an individual named Grover Norquist. By way of background, in the 1980s, Grover Norquist was quoted as saying, “Our goal is to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.”
Over the years, thousands of candidates who had filed for offices on the federal, state and local level signed that pledge. Each election cycle, Mr. Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform circulate the pledge form to new candidates.
Today, the Oklahoma Legislature is full of senators and representatives who have signed Mr. Norquist’s pledge.
That pledge, together with atychiphobia, a fear of failure, gives rise to a phobia that would properly be called “Election related atychiphobia” or electoatychiphobia for “short.”
There is nothing that is more dreadful to many elected officials than the fear of losing the next election. In fact, many elected officials will literally forsake the trust and best interest of their constituents and vote as directed by Grover Norquist or some corporate lobbyist.
The fear of losing campaign contributions from lobbyists and the fear of being “exposed” by Mr. Norquist makes governors, senators and representatives do illogical things like casting votes and “hoping” that their constituents don’t find out how they voted.
Currently, many legislators who have signed Mr. Norquist’s pledge are busy trying to convince Oklahomans that Oklahoma does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. They have been busy over the past decade cutting Oklahoma’s income taxes and gross production taxes on oil and gas and are telling Oklahomans that our state government has all the money that it needs and more money will not cure our problems since we will simply never be satisfied with the amount of money that we have.
Well, Mr. Norquist has attained his goal in Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s system of public education has been starved to the point that it is quickly becoming unable to fulfill its function. Oklahoma’s roads and bridges are severely neglected. In short, Oklahoma government is on the verge of being undermined and shrunk to the point that it can be drowned in Mr. Norquist’s proverbial bathtub. The problem is that a drowned state government can no longer provide any services to its citizens.
When a state can no longer provide services to its elderly or to its children or take care of its infrastructure, its existence is no longer necessary. When a state refuses to be concerned about Medicare and Medicaid recipients and rural hospitals and mental health services for the vulnerable or to provide for agricultural conservation, the state is not only inept, it is morally bankrupt.
Oklahoma is at a crossroads. Do voters want to go ahead and drown the state or do they want to nurture a state where our children and grandchildren will have a future? There is a fundamental difference between those who believe that we need recurring revenue and those who believe that we need to make further cuts in services.
Recurring revenue is available if we reverse income tax cuts for those couples earning more than $200,000 per year and restore the oil and gas gross production taxes to at least the regional average.
Those legislators who fear not being re-elected often are the ones that suffer from athazagoraphobia, the fear of being forgotten. They tend to want to be remembered for their accomplishments.
By ignoring the needs of the people of the state of Oklahoma, they stand to be remembered for a long, long time.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House