I was born and raised in Texas, so about the only thing I knew about Oklahoma when I was young was that it had a lot of Indian reservations and they always had a good football team that had a rivalry with the University of Texas and they played each other every year at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. But as I started growing up I went to school there to learn computer programming, then I got drafted and got assigned to Fort Sill after basic training, got my first job after getting out of the Army there, and ultimately met and married my bride of 40+ years there. So I have a lot of connection to Oklahoma, even though we have been living in Texas the majority of our married life.
I can honestly say that Oklahoman’s are your typical good, hard-working folks. They are farmers, ranchers, railroad workers, school teachers, etc. But something has happened to Oklahoma during this time. As the political state-of-affairs and “civil war type temperament” has escalated throughout the country dividing it into Red and Blue states, Oklahoma has fell victim to the uncaring and big business-friendly rule of the Republican party.
So what does this mean to Oklahoma? A few statistics first:
- Oklahoma’s official poverty rate is higher than the national rate
- Oklahoma is considered a poor state, with the nation’s 16th-highest poverty rate
- According to the Census Bureau, 637,429 Oklahomans fell below the poverty level in 2012 — $11,170 for a single person, $15,130 for two people, $23,050 for a family of four
- Most poor Oklahoman’s are unemployed or underemployed. Excluding children, 17 percent did not work during the previous 12 months, while 32 percent worked part-time or part of the year. Only 11 percent had full-time, year-round jobs
- Oklahoma has the nation’s third-highest rate of people working at or below the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Well aware of these statistics, what does the Republican governor and state legislators do to help their fellow Oklahomans? They go into a state-of-denial.
Minimum Wage & Employee Benefits
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) recently signed a bill prohibiting cities across the state from establishing mandatory minimum wage and employee benefits, including vacation or sick leave days. Her rationalization being that efforts to increase the minimum wage across various municipalities could potentially harm local businesses and noting that “most minimum-wage workers are young, single people working part-time or entry-level jobs.” So to protect businesses, Gov. Fallin and the Republican state legislators decide to take away the ability of the Oklahoma poor to make a living wage, all the while complaining about the number of people that are on food stamps. Common sense says that increasing wages would help reduce the need for food stamps. Speaking of food stamps.
Oklahoma recently passed a law that requires those seeking food stamps to get a job. That’s right, those poor and hungry citizens seeking food stamps in the state of Oklahoma will soon be required to get a job. If you want food stamps you are expected to pull your weight and maintain a job.
ACA & Expanded Medicaid
When the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the federal government could not compel states to expand their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, it provided Republican-led Oklahoma the opportunity to step up and do what was right for their currently uninsured citizens – they declined to participate. The Affordable Care Act requires the federal government to pay 100 percent of the costs of expanding Medicaid for three years. After that period, the law mandates the federal government pay 90 percent of the costs of expansion. By refusing to expand Medicaid, Oklahoma will forgo more than $1 billion in federal funding over time. Meanwhile, the state of Oklahoma will continue to be on the hook for millions in uncompensated care costs – as when uninsured residents visit the emergency room.
Both the Oklahoma House and Senate recently passed a solar surcharge bill that would allow regulated electric utilities to impose a surcharge on customers who install rooftop solar panels or small wind turbines. That’s right, private citizens who want to install rooftop solar panels or small wind turbines will have to pay a fee to their electric company for producing and using their own energy, even though they will be generating extra electricity and pumping it back into the electric company’s system to sell to others. This bill is now in the hands of Gov. Fallin for approval. Not hard to figure the outcome of this decision.
Obviously this shows how the Republicans-in-charge in Oklahoma feel about their citizens. They will go to any extent to protect big business at the expense of their own poor populace. This is the same model currently being pushed across the country in the Red states and demonstrates how the Republicans are the “party of big business.” It’s more important to protect the interests of businesses than the people that actually work in those businesses.
Of course the totally amazing component in all of this is how these same citizens who are getting screwed by their elected representatives, continue to suck up all the one-sided, Republican-provided propaganda and truly believe that their elected representatives are doing what’s best for them.
I suppose the people in Oklahoma deserve what their Governor and state legislators are doing to them, because they voted for them and continue to re-elect them each election.
When will the people in Oklahoma stop voting for their own economic downfall and move towards the 21st century?
Sources: Oklahoman.com, Moveon.org, Washington Post, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census Bureau, Oklahoma Watch, Huffington Post, CBS KOAM Channel 7 News