Divisive Politics

We Are Better Than That

We Are Better Than That - June 16, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

Most Americans, including me, don’t know how social media algorithms work or how posts from across the political spectrum show up on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. Like most red-blooded grandparents, what I really want to see is the latest photograph of any or all of my eleven grandchildren.

Nonetheless, last week up popped a message that said, “If you do not support our president, please find a country whose leader you do support and MOVE there.” My first thought was whether the poster had sent a similar message during the administration of the last president? Of course, the current political and societal division is not the first time that this sentiment has been vocalized. Those of us who are past our late fifties remember the “America Love It or Leave It” slogan from the Vietnam War era.

My next thought centered on why anyone would choose to promote a black/white, either/or false dichotomy in a country that is founded on equality and freedom of expression and freedom of ideas. Rather than urging citizens to relocate them and their families to another part of the world, we should be looking at the hundreds of concerns that unite us like a common desire to have better roads and better paying jobs. Those are issues that we should focus on collectively.

It makes sense that the more Oklahomans that are around the table the more likely the proposed solutions would be relevant and viable and it is incomprehensible that Oklahomans, of any political stripe, are not united on these issues:

Health Care and Health Outcomes. Oklahoma ranks second highest in the nation for its percent of uninsured citizens and fourth in the nation for its percentage of uninsured children. Nearly one in seven (545,000) Oklahomans are uninsured. That is 14.2% of our citizens according to the Oklahoma Hospital Association webpage. Consequently, Oklahoma hospitals provide more than $592 million in uncompensated care annually. The Governor and the Legislature should put aside partisan bickering and enact a legitimate solution to this situation.

Untreated Mental Health Issues. Oklahoma’s rate of mental illness is second in the nation. One in five Oklahomans (more than 630,000) is suffering from some form of mental illness. According to a 2014 Report in the Oklahoman, Oklahoma trails only West Virginia for the percentage of residents with a severe mental illness, and only Utah in the percentage of residents suffering from mental illness of any kind and with budget cuts over the past four years, the situation has gotten worse. Right now the only proposed solution is to reduce the uninsured rate by accepting federal dollars (like we do for about 40% of the state budget) through the initiative petition process.

It is time for Oklahomans to call upon all Oklahomans to bring all solutions to the table. Currently about 40% of the Oklahoma budget is made up of federal funds that pass through to agencies. Additional federal funding is available that will help both of these issues. Accepting federal funds at the rate of $9 for every $1 that would be invested by the state legislature is a win-win solution that addresses both physical and mental health outcomes. That is one solution. We should be all ears from any others regardless of party affiliation. What we cannot afford is divisive rhetoric that does not come with solutions. We are better than that.

Questions or comments, please call or write 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.