BY DAVID PERRYMAN
On Sept. 25, the 50th anniversary of the dedication of Lake Eufaula Dam was held at the site of the 1964 dedication. As a grade school student, I was at Dam Site South, now Lady Bird Landing, with thousands of other Oklahoma school children and witnessed President Lyndon Johnson arrive in a Chinook helicopter.
The dedication was held only 10 months after the death of President John F. Kennedy. In fact, had the Democratic president lived, he likely would have been present just as he was at the dedication of the Greer’s Ferry Dam near Heber Springs, Arkansas on October 3, 1963.
These and other lakes and infrastructure were conceived and approved during the Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman administrations to provide flood control, hydroelectric power, water supply, and recreation and were essential components of the overall McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System allowing Oklahoma to be home to several of the nation’s most inland seagoing ports along the route.
At Greer’s Ferry Dam, Presidents Kennedy stated, “Realize what this State and other States like it went through in the 20 years from 1919 to 1939 — The depression of the twenties and early thirties and the stagnation on the farms and in the cities. Realize now how this State has boomed relative to the rest of the Nation in the last 5 or 10 years. Realize that a good deal of this was due to the wise decisions taken in the thirties when the framework was laid with great opposition to those who objected to what was being done in Washington, great opposition to the efforts which Franklin Roosevelt and the Congress made in those days.”
He went on to say, “Which is more wasteful: to fail to tap the energies of that river, to let that water flood, to deny this chance for the development of recreation and power, or to use it and to use it wisely? Which is more wasteful: to let the land wash away, to let it lie arid, or to use it and use it wisely and to make those investments which will make this a richer State and country in the years to come?”
It was at Heber Springs that President Kennedy said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Likewise, what is good for Oklahoma’s middle class is good for all of Oklahoma.
Today, partisan politics rules the day. Relentlessly, corporations and the wealthy pursue tax breaks. Politicians in the pockets of the rich readily comply. They allow tax cuts and ill-conceived credits to cripple the ability of the state government to repair roads, pay teachers and provide fire protection.
At the other end of the spectrum, programs that do not incentivize work or accountability are funded, implemented and set up to fail so that an entire class of human beings can conveniently be demonized and labeled as worthless.
Unfortunately, the middle class is forgotten and ends up paying the bills for everyone else. Oklahoma seems unable to recognize the need to step up and elect representatives and senators who are committed to assess each bill with a simple straightforward test: Is this good for middle class Oklahomans?
As Oklahoma House Democratic Leader Scott Inman said, “If it is good for middle class Oklahomans, it is good for Oklahoma, plain and simple.”
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives