I don’t necessarily see anything wrong about raising the state’s cigarette tax by $1.50 a pack, but the legislative effort to pass it again shows how Oklahoma is still dependent on small fixes to help shore up its budget.
Looming peak oil demand, a world fossil-fuel glut and Republican tax-cut ideology has structurally changed the state of Oklahoma’s revenue collections, resulting in abysmal and embarrassing funding for education, social services, health programs and corrections.
— Carbon Brief (@CarbonBrief) March 19, 2017
Renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, continue to grow incrementally around the world, lessening the need for fossils fuels, especially to produce electricity. New oil reserves, such as the tar sands in Canada, have been discovered throughout the world in recent decades. Oklahoma, as we all know, has been sustained by the fossil-fuel industry, which now pays a limited amount of production taxes.
The only thing that could push up oil prices, and thus increase production tax revenue on a major level for Oklahoma, would be a seismic disruption in the fossil fuel supply chain caused by a world war or at least a major conflict involving several countries. Obviously, that’s nothing to wish for, although I bet there are people who have their fingers crossed it will happen.
Meanwhile, most Oklahoma Republican politicians, whether they actually believe it or not, push the idea that tax cuts actually help the economy by increasing state revenues, but that’s not the truth. The truth is the state currently faces an $878 million shortfall in an average budget of approximately $7 billion. The truth is this comes after income tax cuts that primarily benefited wealthy people that then led to huge cuts to state agencies, including our education systems, in recent years. The truth is the state has cut public education funding on a percentage basis the most of any state in the country since 2008.
It’s difficult not see the state at a huge breaking point. The Trump presidency will make it worse. More deregulation of the fossil-fuel industry and ending particular rules on energy companies related to the environment, which the Trump administration supports, will only accelerate global warming and pollution, and possibly the number and intensity of earthquakes here, while increasing the glut of oil, which drives prices even further down.
It took conservatives in the Oklahoma Legislature several years, but they are now likely to pass an anti-science bill, which is a “strengths and weaknesses” measure that will mean schools can dilute the teaching of evolution and other scientific facts in the state’s public classrooms.
"Meanwhile, the go-to source for news on education legislation, the National Center for Science Education, has… https://t.co/A0mO7V8NP5
— Humanist Community (@HumanistOhio) March 16, 2017
Senate Bill 393 has passed the full Senate and a House committee. The House will almost certainly pass it if it comes to a vote. I’m fairly sure Gov. Mary Fallin will sign it into law, but maybe fiscal conservatives can convince her how this bill could hinder economic development by depicting the state, once again, as a place in which many of its residents have a difficult time accepting basic scientific truths.
Here’s the relevant paragraph in the bill, which may seem innocuous, but is really an effort to undermine the teaching of the scientific method in the state’s classrooms:
The State Board of Education, school district boards of education, school district superintendents and school principals shall endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies.Teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.
Previous versions of this type of bill through the years have referred specifically to the theory of evolution and climate change as two of the controversies. The bill’s main sponsor is Sen. Josh Brecheen, a Republican from Coalgate, who has been pushing such legislation for years. Years ago, as The Lost Ogle noted in 2011, Brecheen published an article in the Durant Daily Democrat that included this gem of a paragraph:
Trumpcare—for surely we must call it this as our duty now to exercise our historical right to collectively practice ignoramus politicalpsychosis juvenilia—exposes, again, that our new emperor is a liar and a sham populist, but still it’s unsettling and unnerving on a couple of even more deeper philosophical levels.
— Slate (@Slate) March 15, 2017
Perhaps the most philosophically unsettling layer of the new health care plan rollout by Trump and his Republican dumbass mob this week, at least for me, is how it was greeted by feigned and rote media surprise over its dire consequences, which have now been confirmed by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Oh really? My, my, who would have even guessed it would benefit the most wealthy in our country? Are you really telling me Republicans want to stop poor people from having medical access? Really? Oh no, I’m going to faint, that just can’t be true.
Eventually, if this repeal of Obamacare gets signed into law, the CBO estimates that 24 million Americans will eventually lose their health insurance or, to put it more accurately, medical access or, well, to put it in reality, they will die. These are mostly people, we can surmise, that either voted for Trump and/or wanted him to win so he could make them poorer and sicker. That they’re sick mentally is a certainty, and, no, no, never try to engage them in their sickness for it will make you sick as well. The time has come for closure with these rubes, who wear their rubeness as badges of honor.
Yet, and here’s my point, what did mainstream media journalists expect in terms of health care from Trump and the charlatan and ever-shifty, slippery, squirmy House Speaker Paul Ryan? Tax hikes on the rich to help the less fortunate? Compassion? Medicare for all? Haha. But the great Harvard/Yale-educated reporters responded with breathless reporting and righteous indignation that just one contrarian article by someone in their ranks will render obsolete in the five minutes it takes to read. It’s what passes as intellectualism in this country these days.
So the script remains the same, and it’s so sad, and that’s not a Trump “sad.” It’s a real, depressing sad that leads to people dying. The Republicans lie about their intentions on any given policy, and well, on everything, under the false rubric of reform, give tax breaks to the rich and take from the poor, and the media then acts aghast and frantic because the GOP and Trump are doing just what they have indicated they will do and have done for decades now. What is new here? Not the media’s response, that’s for sure.
It’s no real surprise, of course, but it didn’t take that long before Oklahoma’s former Attorney General Scott Pruitt, now head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, openly revealed his anti-environment philosophy and his crass and open embrace of the fossil fuel industry.
Scott Pruitt, the new head of the EPA, does not believe that CO2 is a primary contributor to climate change. Honestly, this is pathetic. pic.twitter.com/zFM0H1sG35
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 10, 2017
When asked recently in an CNBC interview whether he thought carbon dioxide had contributed to global warming, Pruitt responded:
I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.
This very important “no” contradicts his agency’s own web site and his earlier comments at his confirmation hearing in which Pruitt conceded “. . . the climate is changing, and human activity contributes to that in some manner.” For the record, there is no question among numerous and credible scientists that carbon emissions accelerate global warming through the amplification of the greenhouse effect.
But let’s be clear again that Pruitt is a halfway decent manipulator of the political landscape, and his ongoing and intentional slippery comments about global warming are aimed at financially benefiting the oil and gas industry, which has openly funded his campaigns and endorsed him for years. His comments, which drew swift condemnation, are not at all surprising for anyone following his political career in Oklahoma.
So just to state the obvious: President Donald Trump appointed Pruitt as head of the EPA and Republicans confirmed his appointment to dismantle environmental protection and to give a financial boost to the oil and gas industry, which is in a major slump, maybe even a permanent realignment. Given that knowledge, there seems to be little point beyond creating a spectacle in teasing Pruitt into making outlandish comments about climate change and global warming.
Pruitt will absolutely continue to make outlandish and goofball comments, which always pass for intellectualism and leadership in Oklahoma, but what matters more, all hyperbole aside, is the damage he will inflict on the planet as the top EPA administrator.
I think it’s important to point out, again and again, that the mainstream media’s contrarian and equivocating reporting has created a rhetorical failure in this country in which our leaders can brazenly lie with impunity.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 7, 2017
The Washington Post journalist Amber Phillips is just one latest case in point. This week in a blog post she criticized former presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders for stating the obvious, which is that President Donald Trump is a liar who consistently lies. In Phillips’ view, however, the media and our leaders should be careful not to follow Sanders’ example of calling Trump out on his lies because, maybe, just maybe, Trump doesn’t even know he’s lying.
I know I risk reducing here the litany of problems of their own making faced by mainstream media outlets, but it’s hard not to see Phillips’ piece as the typical contrarian type of journalism that has brought us to this particular point of uncertainty and fear in our country’s history. Under the rhetorical formula of contemporary journalistic contrarianism, even wild lies that have been called out and proven as lies deserve some type of media redemption from great thinkers like Phillips.
It goes like this: Well, yes, Trump says untruthful things, but maybe it’s not intentional lying really and the political discourse is so extreme these days, anyway, so why increase the incivility? There you have it. The Contrarian Stance.
One has to wonder what major lie leading to some type of major authoritarian act under a Trump administration—martial law, massive illegal deportations and imprisonments, war—would make Phillips drop her equivocations and contrarianisms, or would she even drop them then? Why didn’t she spend some of her time this week writing a post demanding Trump release copies of his tax returns instead of picking on Bernie Sanders of all people?
Here’s a longer piece on the back-and-forth between Sanders and Phillips. Essentially, Sanders tweeted about Trump’s well-known lies because he’s creating awareness and is concerned about democracy. Phillips then wrote her post criticizing Sanders for his lack of civil political discourse, and then Sanders responded to Phillips with a real question without a whiff of hyperbole or personal attack because, well, that’s Trump’s style, not Sanders’ style.
So what do we do, Sanders simply asked, when the United States president is a consistent, verifiable liar? Nothing?
The fact that a legislative bill that would have created education savings accounts in Oklahoma has been pulled from consideration is a victory for public education and overall a positive development this session.
— Americans United (@americansunited) March 7, 2017
One always knows something good has happened on a legislative matter when it prompts a wildly misleading editorial in The Oklahoman, the ultra-conservative newspaper, which lamented the bill’s demise because, get this, everyone, it would have helped children from low-income families.
Since when has The Oklahoman cared about impoverished people or overall poverty in this state or even basic children issues? Since never, and it still doesn’t. The newspaper is a stalwart entity of right-wing extremism that not only supports further enriching the extremely wealthy people in the state through income tax cuts but also sells daily its toxic brew of income disparity initiatives and trickle-down economics as modern miracles of bold, enlightened thought.
What the editorial leaves out is what’s important here. It’s the wealthy, not the impoverished who ultimately benefit the most from education savings accounts in which families are given taxpayers dollars, or per-pupil dollars, to use to pay for private schools. Let’s be clear that poor and even middle class people usually don’t have enough money to come up with the tuition of most private schools, such as Oklahoma City’s Casady and Heritage Hall, even with partial financial help from the government. But the extremely wealthy, whose kids are already in private schools, could always use the extra money, right? That’s how vouchers work. It’s a transfer of money to the extremely wealthy.
The editorial, titled “Poor families lose with withdrawal of Oklahoma ESA bill,” begins by quoting liar-in-chief Donald Trump and then commences with its own series of whoppers. The editorial notes that Republicans “ignored the needs of some of Oklahoma’s neediest children,” without acknowledging how similar voucher programs in other states, such as Indiana, have primarily been taken advantage of by people who would have sent their children to private schools anyway.