BY DAVID PERRYMAN
Long before Cher sang Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves, a song about a girl who was “born in the wagon of a traveling show,” patent medicine salesmen hawked their wares from village to village across rural America.
Whether the goods they sold were elixirs with a high alcohol content, miracle cleaners or Carter’s Little Liver Pills, before the sales pitch began, there was normally some sideshow to garner the attention of potential customers. Often an illusionist or magician fulfilled the role of “crowd-gatherer” while a salesman loosely using the title of “doctor” barked off the nostrum’s wondrous powers.
Harry Houdini and Buster Keaton’s parents traveled throughout the Midwest including Kansas and possibly Oklahoma Territory as the Mohawk Indian Medicine Company. Another such venture was called the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company.
Most did not involve real Native Americans; however, one show starred Leo Kahdot, a Potawatomie Indian from Oklahoma who traveled under the stage name “Chief Thundercloud.”
The common thread among all such traveling commercial ventures was a variety of snake oil that they peddled and that the itinerant merchants had very little accountability for the claims that they made. Like the magician could make his assistant disappear, the magician himself would most certainly be gone before morning.
“Now you see it … now you don’t,” was a phrase used by the magician and a phrase that would have been appropriate to describe the pitchman before dawn the next day. Unfortunately, it is a phrase that is amply descriptive of some of the smoke and mirrors being used at the state Capitol.
We have had promises made and promises broken, but there is no deceit that runs as deeply as the bait-and-switch surrounding the state’s income tax. Tax cuts are supposed to save citizens money. Get ready for the Oklahoma Legislature’s version of snake oil.
First, the governor, the House Speaker and the Senate President Pro Tem brokered a tax cut to go into effect in 2015 that will not cut taxes one cent for the 41% of Oklahomans who earn the least in our state.
Those who earn up to $36,000 per year will get a tax cut of 75 cents per month. Those who earn $58,000 per year will have to figure out how to spend their tax cut of $2.50 per month.
To save really big bucks, all a taxpayer has to do is get a job paying $97,000 per year and they will save a whopping $6.75 per month.
By now most readers will have figured out the where the real tax cut is. The top 20% of all taxpayers save up to $169 per month. As a result, the state will have $237 million less to spend on education, storm shelters in schools and roads and bridges.
Second, the governor, House Speaker and Senate President brokered a budget that left funding for Oklahoma’s children at 49th in the nation and prevented Oklahoma Highway Patrolmen and other state employees from having a raise for the seventh straight year.
In fact, common education, health care, corrections, transportation, CareerTech and juvenile affairs all were cut.
Now … for the grand finale of this year’s medicine show: The state continues to replace taxes with increased fees. For example, renewing a driver’s license will now cost $12 more than it did before this legislative session.
As a result of these fee increases, the Legislature can claim that it is lowering taxes.
What the Legislature does not tell want voters to know is that the receipts from fees, licenses and permits collected by the state is increasing faster than taxes are scheduled to decrease.
Oklahoma has raked in nearly $600 million in fees, licenses and permits this year. That is a 48% increase over just a year earlier.
Now you see it, now you don’t is a phrase that has no place in the legislative process.
You have the right and the duty to vote for elected officials and to let your elected officials know your thoughts on issues. Get involved.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 46 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives