BY DAVID PERRYMAN
A few years ago I was fortunate enough to visit the incredible city of Boston. Highlights included the site of the Boston Massacre on King Street, the Old North Church where two lanterns were used to relay Paul Revere’s warning that the British were crossing the Charles River by boat, and the naval shipyard where the USS Constitution [Old Ironsides] is moored.
While the city gave colonists so many examples of pride and patriotism, one, the Boston Tea Party, is so deeply engrained in our collective DNA that its relevance to our democracy has transcended generations. The “party” was in fact an act of patriotic defiance against a government’s attempts to favor the commercial interests of a business entity over the welfare of citizens.
In 1773, the government was the British Parliament, personified by King George III, and the business that the crown wanted to protect was the East India Company. Colonists saw the British government give favored tax status to the company and shift the burden of taxation to the people living in America.
Apparently, the East India Company had more powerful lobbyists and were more astute at distributing campaign contributions among members of parliament than were the colonists who were occupied with trying to make ends meet in the new world. Some things never change.
Oklahoma citizens continue to feel the effect of increased taxes as the Legislature shifts more tax burden on the people and away from corporate entities that utilize their financial resources to promote governmental policy that favors them over people.
Some of the new “fees and charges” that Oklahomans will notice as this year’s legislation becomes effective will be a new 1.25% surcharge when they purchase a new or used automobile and a new 7.5 cent per cigarette fee. Those fees and others that come directly out of the pockets of working Oklahomans are eerily similar to the tea taxes to which America’s earliest settlers were subjected.
Notably, by refusing to increase the gross production tax on oil and gas production to 7% or even 5%, the Oklahoma Legislature took the same tack as did the British Parliament 244 years ago by persisting in shifting the burden of taxation to the people.
The only departure from colonial example of British policy was the fact that Parliament did not see the necessity of enacting legislation to hinder or otherwise prevent citizens from assembling and engaging in protest of commercial projects or activities or holding those who support such protests liable for fines and assessments.
There is little doubt that it would have made no difference to the Sons of Liberty, who boarded the Dartmouth, the Beaver and the Eleanor in Boston Harbor for the “destruction of the tea,” if Parliament’s assessment had been called a “fee” rather than a “tax” on the tea. Likewise, they probably would not have been dissuaded from destroying the ship’s cargo even if an Oklahoma-type anti-protest statute had been in effect.
It doesn’t matter if we are discussing underfunded education, the poor health outcomes of Oklahomans, or our deficient roads and bridges, the cause lies squarely at the feet of Oklahoma politicians who pander to corporations that “make legislators’ worlds go round” as the plight of working Oklahomans continues to worsen. – David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House