BY DAVID PERRYMAN
His relationship with horses began of necessity during the Great Depression as he grew up in Holson Valley below the north side of what is now as southeastern Oklahoma’s Talimena Drive. Horses began as a tool for him and his family skidding logs, clearing rocks and stumps and pulling plows. Through the years they served as a means of transportation and during his later years have become his hobby.
From his youth, he realized that the value of a horse depended to a large extent on how the animal was treated. Not only did mutual respect and affection maximize the depth of the bond between man and horse, a lesson learned early was that a horse should not be “ridden hard and put up wet.” That phrase has been misused and abused through the years, but with clarity it simply means that a horse’s future health and vitality depends upon how it is treated at the end of the workday.
Not only the horse’s longevity, but also its physical ability to perform the next day is integrally dependent upon the systematic process of cooling the horse down, allowing it to re-hydrate and rejuvenate. Because of its living, breathing existence as a flesh and blood animal, its quality of life requires care and compassion.
This realization is not new. Shakespeare acknowledged this truth in the third act of Macbeth when Banquo’s predictable treatment of his horse resulted in ambush and death.
Much has changed through the years. Today, we live in a rapidly changing world where new technology becomes outdated in a matter of months. Computers with insufficient memory or ROM that is too slow are cast aside. Big box stores locate on leased property and within 10 to 15 years have “used up” two or three locations. Equipment is classified as “antiquated” and auctioned for salvage as soon as it is depreciated out on a corporate tax return. Fleet vehicles are disposed of for cents on the dollar. All things are routinely replaced with modern, efficient models.
Disposable resources become the norm. Corporate bottom lines dictate decisions based solely on the cost of raw material, the cost of equipment, the cost of infrastructure, the cost of real estate and brick and mortar. Factors such as real and personal property taxes, intangible or not, income taxes, and capital gains taxes drives long range business plans and future investment. Investors want return and corporate managers and boards of directors comply.
Lost in the never ending quest for quarterly earnings reports is a 21st Century adaption of the old adage about “riding it hard and putting it up wet.” Over the past 30 years, the saying is more relevant to employees than it is to horses.
Working Americans struggle to make ends meet. Salaries have been relatively stagnant for nearly three decades. Health care costs and the costs of health insurance have skyrocketed. Pensions and other retirement benefits are under attack. Even workers compensation benefits for injured workers have been cut. Workers have less buying power today than at any time since statehood.
Employees and their benefits are scrutinized and downsized as if they were any other item in the “cost of doing business” computation. As a result, America is experiencing a disparity in the distribution of wealth that has not been seen since the era of the 1920’s just before the collapse of our economy in the Great Depression.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, income for all Americans grew substantially and equally from World War II to 1979. Since 1979, however, income for the top 1% of Americans has grown by 304% while income for the bottom 80% has grown by less than 40%. In 1980, the top 1% of wage earners earned 10% of the nation’s income. In 2007, that same 1% received nearly 31% of the country’s income.
Even greater disparity exists between the top 1% of wage earners and public sector employees who routinely earn less than their private sector counterparts.
Oklahoma is no exception. Public employees are often vilified and labeled as “part of the problem” by those forces who march lockstep on a relentless campaign to cut pensions, decrease benefits and stymie attempts to increase salaries for our teachers, highway patrolmen and other state employees.
Until Oklahomans engage and call senators and representatives, this trend will continue. Until Oklahomans engage, we will continue to experience irresponsible cuts such as the 22.8% decrease in Oklahoma’s education funding that was greater than any other state’s since 2008. Until Oklahomans engage, Oklahoma workers will continue to be “ridden hard and put up wet.”
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives