The Oklahoman

Same Boaters

Shipwrecked by Chris Pugh on Flickr’s The Commons

It’s the type of logic that has been used by conservatives for decades in Oklahoma that drives me crazy.

It goes like this: Oklahoma is a low-wage state so we all just need to accept it, especially when it comes to that pesky fact that teacher salaries here traditionally rank 49th or 48th lowest in the nation. Everyone is “in the same boat” here.

Note that the argument isn’t that all working Oklahomans, given the data, should make MORE money and have MORE household income. That would be a more positive message. No, we’re all “in the same boat.” Get over it.

I’ve repeated the cliché “in the same boat” because it was used by The Oklahoman in an editorial brief Saturday as part of their Oklahoma ScissorTales series to qualify how badly teachers are treated here.

Teachers here make some of the lowest pay in the nation when compared to teachers in other states and now the state faces a major teacher shortage that is probably going to get worse because of a state budget shortfall of $611 million and growing.

The answer to the problem by The Oklahoman is, to repeat it again, to say we’re all “in the same boat” here. Here’s the editorial brief:

Much is made of Oklahoma’s low ranking for average teacher pay. Yet new data from the Internal Revenue Service suggest many people across Oklahoma would likely be glad to swap incomes with those teachers. Oklahoma’s average teacher salary is $44,128. IRS data show that the average income in 32 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties is less than $44,000. In Marshall County, the average income is $43,534. The lowest average income recorded is in Adair County ($31,347). The highest average income was recorded in Grant County ($86,864). But that high number, nearly double the amount notched in Grant County in 2009, was tied mostly to oil-field work. Teachers work hard, but oil-field work is not exactly for slackers. And that work is prone to boom and bust cycles, as many are experiencing today. This doesn’t mean some teachers don’t deserve more. It just shows that many Oklahomans are in the same boat.

Seems logical at first, right? It even throws out the idea that “some” teachers should make more money. “Some” is the operative word here. But the problem with this thinking is that it’s self-defeating for all us same boaters. The Oklahoman just wants us to accept our same-boat low wages and get over it. Let’s all bask in our low wages and poverty, people.

It also proposes absolutely nothing of value when it comes to the critical issue of our teacher shortage problem here. Education officials have estimated there are 1,000 unfilled teaching positions in the state, primarily because teachers trained and educated at Oklahoma colleges seek higher-paying jobs in other states. If education funding is cut further for next fiscal year—Oklahoma has cut education funding the most of any state since 2008—then that number could grow even more and what we’ll have here is not a crisis but a full-fledged disaster.

So that whole issue of low salaries for teachers has really nothing to do with how much someone makes working at a convenience store in Adair County. It has to do with educating our children to make sure they get off the ship of fools.

Obscene Editorial

Image of drilling rig

Obscene profits! Obscene profits! That’s what I say.

The editorial board of The Oklahoman always finds a way to take a serious local issue and turn it into a snarky smack down of anyone that doesn’t agree with its distorted right-wing conception of the universe.

In an April 6 editorial titled “Falling prices continue to take a toll on energy industry in Oklahoma, U.S,” the newspaper pointed out the negative impact of layoffs in the state’s oil and gas industry on the economy because of falling prices. That’s pretty typical stuff.

But this is the way the editorial gets into the issue:

THAT sound you don’t hear right now is the din from oil industry critics kvetching about “obscene profits.”

Funny how this group goes down a rabbit hole when things aren’t rosy for oil and gas producers, when profits are scarce (or nonexistent) and when the industry starts shedding high-paying jobs.

What nonsense. No one has gone down a rabbit hole. Continental Resources Chief Executive Officer Harold Hamm is apparently still worth several billion dollars, and that’s obscene. Once prices rebound, he will be worth billions more. That’s obscene.

It’s obscene because of major income inequality throughout the world, and the terrible impact of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on the environment in Oklahoma and elsewhere. The earthquakes here are probably not going to stop until oil and gas executives, such as Hamm, don’t make billions upon billions of dollars. Did I mention how obscene that is?

What the editorial fails to focus upon is that it’s not the richest executives who are losing their jobs. It’s mostly the men and women doing the geological and physical work of actually extracting the oil and gas from the ground. No one wants these people to lose their jobs in a personal sense. The green movement, of which I’m a member, would like to see a decline in fossil fuel drilling and more renewable energy development, but oil and gas companies are driven by the fact they can make obscene profit when prices are high. Many do so, and then when prices fall, they cut workers. That’s a fact.

What would be NOT obscene is if the oil and gas industry had sensible policies that would limit the impact of the boom and bust cycle, which has defined The Oil Age in the planet’s history.

What would be especially NOT obscene is if the federal government would establish an overall sensible, long-term energy policy that still encouraged the development for now of fossil fuels but also encouraged the development of renewable energy sources.

Let’s face it: The burning of fossil fuels has done much damage to our planet, which faces a global warming crisis. On the local level, the fracking process has been blamed for the huge surge in earthquakes, which is undoubtedly taking its toll on our buildings and infrastructure.

Billionaires like Hamm make billions of dollars off the wreckage.

Newspaper Gets Gorey

Image of Al Gore’s office

The Oklahoman editorial board has decided former Vice President Al Gore has a “blood vendetta” because he gave his normal speech warning about climate change and putting a price on carbon emissions.

A snarky mini-editorial that appeared Saturday in the newspaper’s Oklahoma ScissorTales section begins with a typical ad hominem attack on Gore and ends with illogical clichés and basic craziness. The writer was apparently reliving the 2000 presidential election that Gore actually won but was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in George W. Bush’s favor. But what does that have to do with global warming and rising sea levels? Nothing. Editorial writers at The Oklahoman don’t want to deal with science and facts when it comes to global warming.

Gore spoke at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival last week, and, as usual, called for putting some type of price or cost on carbon emissions. He also used apparently the word “punish” when referring to politicians and people who deny scientific claims about global warming. This is Gore’s regular speech about climate change. It’s nothing new as far as I know. The right-wing got stuck on the word “punish.”

But this is the way an editorial writer at The Oklahoman saw it:

It’s been almost 15 years since Al Gore narrowly lost the 2000 presidential election. He continues to demonstrate why that was such a positive outcome. Speaking at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, Gore again displayed the blind zealotry that made him unfit for the presidency.

Well, if we want to relive 2000, let’s remember that Gore received the most votes in the election, and he only lost because the U.S. Supreme Court essentially awarded the presidency to George W. Bush, who later began two long and costly military occupations. Who is the real blind zealot? The environmentalist Gore or the warmonger Bush?

The editorial goes on to note:

. . . instead of urging attendees to develop technology that allows people to shift away from power sources that Gore believes harm the environment, he called on them to pursue a blood vendetta and promote high taxes on working people who can’t afford trendy, niche environmentalism.

There’s much wrong with this sentence. First, it’s highly doubtful an editorial writer for one of the country’s most conservative metropolitan newspapers really wants anyone to “develop” anything that would lower the profits of the oil and gas industry. Second, note the term “blood vendetta.” Isn’t that “overkill” in this case? Newspaper hyperbole is one thing; this rises to another level. Third, what in the world is “trendy, niche environmentalism”? I guess the point is to dish up the tired cliché and stereotypes perpetuated by the right-wing about some mythical elite group of people flying around in their fuel-guzzling private jets while trying to save the environment. It’s not based on reality. It’s a lie. Many, many people from all walks of life throughout the world believe in the reality of global warming and want to do something about it.

What IS the reality is that “working people” will be harmed the most if the world does not get serious about reducing carbon emissions because of human migration from certain areas of the planet that become unlivable and widespread economic devastation. Or do you think it would be wealthy politicians, such as U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, who would suffer the most if rising sea levels destroy coastal communities?

Gore, who founded the Climate Reality Project and whose environmental efforts were featured in the 2006 award-winning documentary film An Inconvenient Truth, has the stature, intelligence and experience to speak about climate change and suggest ways in which we might address it. The fact that the right-wingers who oppose him consistently rely on ad hominem attacks and hyperbole is telling.

Instead of attacking Gore and cherry picking his speech, why didn’t the editorial writer try to refute the scientific evidence about global warming and the cause for rising sea levels that have already led to flooding in coastal areas? The answer to that should be obvious.

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