The Oklahoman published an editorial Sunday that tries to spin a huge increase in federal spending in the state, but it omitted crucial details.
Here are the facts: The U.S. Census Bureau released a report that shows federal spending in Oklahoma reached $37.5 billion in 2009, which is an 18 percent increase from 2008. The bureau’s report attributed the increase at least partially to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Overall, federal spending was up an average of 16 percent.
As I argued last week about the report:
The point here is that Oklahoma continues its reliance on the same federal government so many of its conservative citizens criticize and protest. Given the current budget crisis, this state would have been in terrible financial shape without the recent federal stimulus money.
In the editorial (“Oklahoma should strive to be below national average in federal spending impact,” September 12, 2010) ostensibly about the report, The Oklahoman fails to directly acknowledge the increase and only focuses on the fact the state ranks 26th in the nation among states in federal per-person spending, which is “just about where you’d expect it to be – smack in the middle statistically.” In other words, it’s no big deal.
The editorial begins like this:
Liberals will find fodder in a report showing Oklahoma gets so much benefit from federal largesse. So much, in fact, that perhaps its citizens should stop opposing the federal government’s rapid expansion. And stop giving U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, a deficit hawk, a virtual free pass to re-election this year.
Well, there’s really no question about the fodder. Here’s even more fodder, according to a state website about ARRA: The state received $578 million to stabilize its budget, $316.8 million for education and a whopping $905.2 million for health and human services. What if the state hadn’t received this money? How many more teachers or state workers would have lost their jobs? How many people would have been denied health or social services? This place would have been a disaster area.
In the past, the state has been described as a “receiver” state by The Tax Foundation, which means it get more money back from the federal government that it pays in taxes.
Along with omitting information about the increase, the editorial focuses on federal spending on the state’s large number of military installations. In other words, as usual, The Oklahoman tries to change or deflect the argument instead of engaging it. The most important part of the report is that spending rose so dramatically.
The kicker to all this is that The Oklahoma Publishing Company, which publishes The Oklahoman, is among several state companies participating in a federal health care program for early retirees. The program was created by the Affordable Care Act, which the newspaper opposed on its editorial page. According to Healthcare.gov:
Businesses, other employers, and unions that are accepted into the program will receive reimbursement for medical claims for early retirees and their spouses, surviving spouses, and dependents. Savings can be used to reduce employer health care costs, provide premium relief to workers and families, or both.
The market fundamentalism beliefs espoused by The Oklahoman editorial page and others led to The Great Recession, which required federal intervention to prevent a complete budget disaster in Oklahoma and other states. Do we really want to stop this so-called “rapid expansion” of government and go back to a failed economic system determined solely by market factors?