Answer the $64,000 Question Correctly

Answer the $64,000 Question Correctly - June 9, 2013

State Representative David Perryman

On June 5, 1955, Redmond O’Hanlon, a Stanton Island policeman with a flair for facts about Shakespeare was the first contestant on a new CBS sensation called “The $64,000 Question.”  The game show’s format allowed a person to answer up to eleven questions of increasing value in a quest to win $64,000.

Every contestant was initially asked a $64 question and the prize increased with each successive correctly answered question.  To add suspense, after the seventh question, when the prize reached $4000, the contestant would be asked only one question per week.

In a matter of ten weeks, the show had gained 47 million viewers.  No television show’s audience had ever gained such popularity so quickly.  According to historian Robert Metz, President Dwight Eisenhower was a faithful weekly viewer and did not want to be disturbed while the show was on.  Metz also claimed that during the show’s timeslot each week, the nation’s crime rate, theater attendance and restaurant patronage all dropped dramatically.

Even today, 58 years after the show’s debut, the top grand prize of $64,000 is nearly $23,000 more than Oklahoma’s average annual salary.  In fact, $64,000 in 1955 is roughly equivalent to $555,000 in 2013 dollars.  Needless to say that was, and is, a lot of money.

Because of the immense popularity of the program, the name of the show quickly became a catch phrase that was used anytime a person was faced with a vitally important question that was difficult if not impossible to answer.

In the wake of the 2013 Legislative session, Oklahomans are faced with a number of $64,000 Questions:

1. Will state voters step up to the plate and demand that their elected officials protect students by requiring and funding storm shelters and safe rooms in Oklahoma’s schools and child care facilities?

Governor Mary Fallin has said that no law requiring storm shelters in schools will be approved because Oklahoma cannot afford it.  She says that of the state’s 1752 public school sites, 94% of the them do not have storm shelters.   Rep. Joe Dorman of Rush Springs has filed a request for a legislative study on the issue.

2. Will Highway Patrolmen, Correctional Employees and other state workers get a raise next session after seven years of no salary increases?

Two bills passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives promising highway patrolmen raises, however, the budget submitted to the Governor did not include any money to pay for the promises. Governor Fallin said that she wanted to postpone any pay increases for state employees until a study could be done.  She has requested a comprehensive study to determine appropriate pay and benefits levels for employees.

3. Will a bill be heard on the house floor next session that would prohibit texting while driving?

Despite the introduction of multiple bills last session, Speaker T.W. Shannon refused to allow even one anti-texting bill to be heard.  Speaker Shannon says that he is “not a big fan” of any bill that would outlaw texting while driving.  According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, persons who text while driving are 23 times more likely to have an accident and texting while driving is six times more dangerous than drunk driving.

In 1955 Redmond O’Hanlon, a husband and father of five, chose to stop after he had correctly answered nine questions and won $16,000.  If he had missed either of the next two questions, he would have lost all of his winnings and received a new 1955 Cadillac as a consolation prize.  The Cadillac would have had a cash value of $3,977. Mr. O’Hanlon chose wisely.  Is the legislature?

You have the right and the duty to vote for elected officials and to let your elected officials know your thoughts on issues.  Get involved. Let us know your thoughts.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as the State Representative for District 56.  I look forward to hearing from you at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.