BY DAVID PERRYMAN
Between the 30th and 38th Parallel are high pressure belts that are often characterized by low winds and little rain. Over land, this phenomenon produces dry arid deserts like northern Mexico and the southwestern United States. At sea, undependable winds and extended periods of calm made the zones dreaded by early sailors.
During the era of sailing ships, vessels transporting goods across the Atlantic to and from the New World would often become stalled for days or even weeks when they encountered the areas of no wind. Many of these ships, particularly from Spain, carried horses to the Americas as part of their cargo.
Stalled and unable to sail, crews frequently ran low on drinking water and to conserve scarce fresh water and lighten their load they sometimes threw the horses overboard. Explorers and sailors reported that the seas were strewn with bodies of horses. Consequently, the area became known as the Horse Latitudes.
Coincidentally, Oklahoma also lies squarely between the 34th and 37th Parallel and failed policies have proven every bit as catastrophic to our state as the lack of wind was to 17th and 18th Century sailing ships.
Instead of throwing horses overboard, Oklahoma voters have been duped into casting citizens aside.
What began as an attack on the wages of Oklahoma’s middle class has resulted in low pay and few benefits for hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans. What started as an assault on our public schools has evolved into a devastation of our educational system from kindergarten through college.
For the past 10 years, Oklahoma voters have chosen elected officials who govern at the whim of corporate interests and lobbyists hawking tax cuts for the wealthy and tax increases on the poor and working class.
After a decade of blind adherence to trickle down economic theories, the poor get poorer. Hospitals, ambulance services and clinics are closing because of the number of uninsured Oklahomans who rely upon emergency room doctors as their primary care physicians.
Last week the House leader of Oklahoma’s majority party admonished the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for cutting programs serving vulnerable children and adults. Those programs include senior nutrition, foster child care and keeping disabled adults in homes rather than nursing homes. In truth, the blame falls on a lack of funding and not the Department of Human Services.
Earlier this month, the state Department of Education announced that Oklahoma would break another record this year in the number of non-certified teachers in our classrooms. Once again, the fault lies with a lack of funding and not the state Department of Education.
The lack of revenue continues to affect scores of agencies that deal with government services like roads, mental health and corrections. Perhaps Oklahomans will someday realize that elections matter.
Not that it can’t get worse … along the equator is another dead zone. It’s called the Doldrums. In the Doldrums, moist air is superheated generating extreme weather like squalls and hurricanes that bear down on stalled ships that were unable to get out of the way. Shipwrecks and castaways often resulted.
Oklahoma’s “Ship of State” is already in Dire Straits and does not need the Doldrums.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House