(State leaders broke a promise to raise teacher salaries, blaming it on declining tax revenues. But what are the larger ramifications and implications of this inaction? Read DocHoc's commentary, "Nothing new for teachers," in this week's Oklahoma Gazette.)
A recent poll shows only 39 percent of Oklahomans would definitely vote to reelect U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe right now.
The poll, commissioned by Daily Kos, also shows state Sen. Andrew Rice (D-Oklahoma City), who is running against Inhofe this year, lacks name recognition. More than half of the Oklahomans polled—52 percent—have no opinion of Rice, for example.
Overall, the poll shows Rice trails Inhofe by a 53 to 33 percent margin, but Inhofe’s reelect numbers are “remarkably low” and Rice’s name recognition problems can be solved through grassroots support and advertising. Rice has also been traveling the state in recent months and will continue to do so.
More than 50 percent of the Oklahomans polled indicated they would either “consider someone else” or vote to “replace” the 73-year-old Inhofe, suggesting the state’s voters are tired of Inhofe’s grandstanding on issues like global warming and his staunch support of the full Bush agenda on the economy, the Iraq occupation and basic civil rights.
The largest obstacle facing the Rice campaign is the state’s biased, right-wing corporate media, which is led by The Oklahoman. The state’s largest newspaper refuses to cover in any depth Inhofe’s infamous world reputation as a Washington obstructionist on pressing contemporary issues—the environment and the economy—and his ties to special interest lobbying groups. He is one of the most reviled politicians in the world because of his outrageous remarks on climate change, but The Oklahoman, and especially its so-called Washington “correspondent” Chris Casteel, gives him a free ride.
Unfortunately, other state media outlets—in an era of diminishing advertising revenue and declining readership and viewership—often take the newspaper’s lead on issues because of low staffing, general laziness and the lack of sensationalism in routine political coverage.
So how does Rice overcome this obstacle? It is obvious Rice must go around the corporate media in order to get his message out. The state’s progressive blogosphere can help out here. Progressives must continue to pressure The Oklahoman to cover the election fairly and allow consistent dissenting views to the right-wing mantra—the dead ideologies of the GOP—on its editorial page. Rice should continue to travel the state, especially targeting the Tulsa area and southeastern sections of the state.
As the election nears, Rice's story and message will surely get more recognition. The young state senator decided to get into politics after his brother was killed in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, and he wants to help change the partisan political climate in Washington. He is one of the brightest, most articulate political leaders in Oklahoma right now. He and his physician wife, Apple, represent a new era in Oklahoma politics. This election, the poll shows, is definitely in play.
This was a tax cut for average Oklahomans. Let no one say it was a tax cut for "the wealthy.”
That class envy argument doesn't just have whiskers. It has a beard down to its knees.
Let no one say it was a tax cut for "the wealthy.”—unsigned June 8, 2008 editorial in The Oklahoman
The recent tax cuts in Oklahoma were for “the wealthy” and a part of the national neoconservative con job to widen the income disparity between the rich and middle class.
A June 8, 2008 editorial (“Common ‘wealth’: Low wages carry high burden”) in The Oklahoman is just another deceitful attempt to try to convince people that recent state income tax cuts for wealthy people somehow result in a better standard living for everyone. Does anyone still believe in this neoconservative nonsense?
Here is an appropriate analogy about these recent neoconservative tax cuts: Let us say you get a $20 check in the mail as an incentive from a credit card protection plan. If you cash the check, you are automatically enrolled in a program that will cost you $19.95 a month for one year for basically nothing. You do not really need credit card protection, but you are low on cash, and the $20 will buy you a case of beer for the weekend. Besides, the $19.95 will not come due for an entire month and by then you might have a better job or get a raise. So you cash the check, enjoy your weekend, and a month later start paying up the do re mi to the credit card company. This is called a basic con job, and this is how the recent tax cuts work for most Oklahomans.
Sure, poor and middle-class people get a token amount of extra money when taxes are cut, but then they end up paying a lot more for lousy health care, college tuition, gasoline and groceries under the neconservative agenda. They end up with underfunded schools and terrible roads. Oklahomans pay more because the neoconservative agenda always and forever ensures the richest get richer while ordinary people barely survive because they must pay more and more to live. The issue transcends tax cuts. The issue is how much money you have. Do you want $100 now but $1,000 in extra living expenses? What if you did not get the $100 but your living expenses actually dropped by $1,000?
The editorial, of course, never addresses this obvious argument against its claims. If the neoconservatives take credit for the wonderful tax cuts in recent years (the state lowered its income tax rate to 5.5 percent), then they also need to take credit for the awful economy and rising prices. Certainly, Imperial President George Bush and the neoconservative movement failed to produce an adequate energy policy, and the failure resulted in rising gasoline prices. Here are the only truthful sentences in the editorial: “Do those who earn far more than $26,000 a year get a bigger break from the tax cuts? Of course they do!” Note the money amount and the exclamation point.
Perhaps, the biggest deception in the editorial is its bizarre innuendo that those who opposed the tax cuts for the wealthy or who thought the state should have proceeded more cautiously with the cuts actually believe poor people should pay more in taxes. The person who wrote this editorial knows that is not truthful. Someone earning only $12,000 a year should not have to pay state income taxes at all. Progressives have always favored tax cuts for low-income and middle-class people. Let the richest pay more or, better yet, let us improve wages for poor and middle-class people. But, see, wage increases are not part of the neoconservative philosophy.
Rich people here got enough money from the income tax cuts to easily meet all the rising prices in today’s world and much more. But if you mention this, you have what The Oklahoman calls “class envy,” a terrible scourge only alleviated by giving more tax cuts to the rich. The rich here want more and more from the poor and middle class, and they are going to get it until people wake up. What did you get from the tax cuts? A Wal-Mart spree? Some extra cash that does not even cover your college tuition increase or your co-pay on an expensive medical test?
The state could end up gutting its schools once again, losing more qualified teachers and making college unaffordable for many. Many people with health insurance cannot even afford adequate medical care now. But, hey, why worry when you have a case of beer in the fridge and the bill is not due until next month? The Oklahoman wants it that way.
(State Reps. Sally Kern and Randy Terrill have drawn Democratic opponents this election year. Ron Marlett is running against Kern. Democrats Troy Green and Charles Barnes are running against Terrill. These Democrats deserve not only the support of their local House districts but also the help of Oklahomans who care about the intellectual integrity of the state’s educational systems and its national and world image.)
Gov. Brad Henry did the right thing by vetoing state Rep. Sally Kern’s disingenuously named “Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act,” which was nothing more than another right-wing legislative attempt to bring fundamentalist Christianity into our schools.
As we know, the extremist legislator from western Oklahoma City has a clear agenda. Kern, pictured right, is world famous for it. She wants to make Oklahomans suffer under her narrow, ugly religious views. Certainly, Kern and her followers would not use the words “suffer” or “ugly,” but who can really deny that she does not want her vision of religious reality mandated by the state of Oklahoma and its tax dollars? Kern made national headlines recently and embarrassed the state with her infamous gay-bashing remarks that were recorded and later distributed on YouTube.
The vetoed legislation, House Bill 2633, would have essentially allowed more religious conflict and turmoil, under the benign rubric of “expression,” in our state schools and could have prevented teachers from penalizing students who use Biblical evidence for school assignments. The main idea behind the bill was obviously to advance the fundamentalist Christian theocratic initiative. Students can already express their religion or pray at schools, but the theocrats want more. The fact Kern and other supporters of such legislation use the progressive language of “anti-discrimination” is just another example of the political deceit used by the radical, right-wing religious folks here to abolish the separation of church and state.
Kern, a former school teacher, and her followers seem to think Oklahoma students do not need grounding in basic science and history. How do we train future doctors in a state that would allow students to earn “A’s” by denying basic scientific principles and theories? Do the local energy companies want to employ geologists and engineers who think the earth has only been around for 6,000 years or so?
Henry’s veto message, of course, did not include a word about Kern and her religious agenda. Nonetheless, his stated logic for the veto was based on sound logical and legal arguments, and Henry continues to provide the state with level-headed and rational leadership. Here is his veto message:
Under current state and federal law, Oklahoma public school students are already allowed to express their faith through voluntary prayer and other activities. While well intended, this legislation is vaguely written and may trigger a number of unintended consequences that actually impede rather than enhance such expression. For example, under this legislation, schools could be forced to provide equal time to fringe organizations that masquerade as religions and advocate behaviors, such as drug use or hate speech, that are dangerous or offensive to students and the general public. Additionally, the bill would presumably require school officials to determine what constitutes legitimate religious expression, subjecting them to an explosion of costly and protracted litigation that would have to be defended at taxpayers’ expense.
These are the some of the same arguments advanced for weeks now by Dr. Vic Hutchison, a zoology professor emeritus at the University of Oklahoma, who led a drive to defeat the legislation. Hutchison and the group, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, were diligent in keeping people informed about the legislation as it slowly and surely made its way to the governor’s office. David Averill published an excellent piece opposing the legislation in the Tulsa World on May 25. Here is my Oklahoma Gazette piece on the act. It was published on March 12.
Most of the GOP ideological legislation was defeated this year. Going down in defeat along with Kern’s legislation were the misguided Carry On Campus and English-only bills. The first bill would have allowed some college students to carry weapons in classrooms. It was opposed by every college president in the state. The second bill, sponsored by state Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore), would have put the issue of making English the state’s official language on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. The English-only mandate, if passed, would have made the state seem intolerant of other cultures. Terrill’s House Bill 1804, which gave the state the strictest anti-immigration laws in the country, has already placed a “Not Open For Business” sign on the state, but extremists like Terrill will always want more. Earlier in the session a bill called the Higher Education Sunshine Act, which many educators saw as an unnecessary right-wing intrusion into the classrooms of college professors, failed to make it to a vote.
Unfortunately, hybrids of all this legislation are sure to come back next year as the national GOP continues to use the state as a laboratory to push its dead ideologies. Those people who care about Oklahoma’s educational systems and its national image should start preparing now for the next onslaught of ideologically-driven legislation. Is it tiresome to fight year after year? Yes. But it is extremely important work to oppose this GOP radical legislation.
Kern and the anti-illegal immigration ideologue Terrill have drawn opponents this election. Ron Marlett, a Democrat, is running against Kern. Democrats Troy Green and Charles Barnes are running against Terrill. These Democrats deserve not only the support of their local communities but also the help of all those Oklahomans who believe in intellectual integrity and want the state to prosper.