Starving the Beast and Oklahoma's Children

Starving the Beast and Oklahoma’s Children - November 27, 2016

State Representative David Perryman

Alexis de Tocqueville observed that, “The French want no one to be their superior. The English want inferiors. The Frenchman constantly raises his eyes above him with anxiety. The Englishman lowers his beneath him with satisfaction.”

The predominance of those two cultures in America’s historically white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant society may shed light on our inherent distrust of power and those who hold it; our innate animosity toward authority that is rooted in our melting pot heritage and has found its way into our very DNA.

This natural skepticism of power and those who hold it predispose us toward a tendency to readily believe tales and rumors of governmental misdeeds and malefactions. While it is proper and mainstream to engage in a healthy discussion concerning the role of government, the past thirty years has seen the advent of an anti-government, starve the beast mentality that threatens many core functions of government that we significantly rely on.

While most of the anti-government rhetoric is focused at the federal government (and some is warranted), similar antagonism is directed toward Oklahoma. What is lost in the equation is that there are two stark differences between the impact on the federal government and the impact on Oklahoma.

First, while Oklahomans have total control over the funding and function of our schools, roads, prisons, mental health treatment, fire departments, water and natural resources, there is very little that Oklahoma voters can do to impact federal budgets and federal programs. Second, the federal government, unlike the state government has the ability to engage in deficit spending.

Consequently, when pandering state politicians shovel money out of the back door of the Oklahoma Tax Commission in the form of tax credits, incentives and rebates into the pockets of corporations and other benefactors of political action committees who generously return a portion to the politicians’ campaign accounts, the State coffers come up short.

Likewise, when those same politicians cut the top income tax rate for the wealthy in 2014, (SB 1246), they continued a 10 year course of irresponsible tax cuts that has decreased available state revenue by $1.022 Billion PER YEAR according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. By intentionally shrinking state revenues, their “complaint” that education is “already getting more of the pie than any other appropriation” is deceitfully correct.

In addition to their backhanded cut to appropriations, in 2015, they passed HB 2244 which further cut education funding by capping the amount of vehicle tax going to schools.

These “starve the beast” antics have resulted in “highest in the nation” per pupil spending cuts of 26.9% between 2008 and 2017 according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Unfortunately, along with other core functions of government, one of the “beasts” being starved is Oklahoma’s public education and it is not just our children who will suffer.

The neglect of public education betrays who we are as a state and further fractures our society. Alexis de Tocqueville observed a fractured society in 1848 just prior to that French Revolution as he remarked, “Society was cut in two: those who had nothing united in common envy; those who had anything united in common terror.” Let’s not go there.

Thank you for allowing me to serve Oklahoma. For questions or comments call me at 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.