Is there anything more anti-Oklahoma than denying help to state residents after they have suffered through a weather-related disaster?
The state’s turbulent weather, some of the worst in the country, includes tornadoes, wildfires, blizzards, ice and hail storms and drought. It kills people, destroys property and sometimes ruins lives. It’s part of living on this tough section of the country’s prairie, and the destruction is always followed by a we-won’t-be-defeated attitude, an outpouring of neighborly help and, most importantly, federal financial assistance.
So it should be nothing short of state treason that U.S. Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe recently voted against a bill that would have bolstered the funding of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Without FEMA assistance through the years, it’s hard to imagine Oklahoma as a viable, thriving place.
The Center for Public Integrity, in an iwatch analysis, recently pointed out that Oklahoma and Texas have accounted for more than 25 percent of all the FEMA-declared disasters since 2009. All four senators from those two states, including Coburn and Inhofe, opposed the bill unless it was offset by cuts.
As the analysis pointed out, Coburn even said it would have been “unconscionable” for him to vote in favor of the bill. Actually, Coburn’s vote should be considered unconscionable because he represents a state that has had 45 FEMA-declared disasters in the last two years, second only to Texas with 75. He’s playing political games with Oklahomans in dire need of help.
As I’ve written before, Oklahoma often ranks among the top states in FEMA-declared disasters even though it’s much smaller in population size than other top-ranked states, such as Texas and California. Back in February, I wrote:
Oklahoma has a population of 3.7 million and ranks 20th in terms of land size. By comparison, California, the most populated state, has 37.2 million people and is the third largest state in terms of land size. Texas, the second largest state in terms of size, has a population of 25.1 million.
What this means on a practical level-as if longtime state residents don’t know-is that Oklahoma has some of the worst and catastrophic weather in the entire nation.
Coburn and Inhofe can get away with their anti-Oklahoma votes because they have sold conservative voters here on the idea that they’re representing their interests. That may be true in some meaningless ideological sense, but take away all federal assistance after weather disasters and parts of this state wouldn’t even be livable, and that affects all of us. It absurd to think the state could handle disaster-assistance on its own.
The two senators also get a free ride from the corporate media here. If the state’s two largest newspapers were consistently pointing out the anti-Oklahoma positions of Coburn and Inhofe, it seems unlikely they could get away with it. Let’s hope the next time Oklahoma City or Tulsa get hit with a big weather disaster, The Oklahoman and Tulsa World will fight for people whose lives have been disrupted and not side with the ideologues they have helped create.
After Coburn and Inhofe voted against the interests of Oklahomans, Gov. Mary Fallin announced that about 500 Oklahomans, in a lottery process, will be awarded $2,000 rebates to install storm shelters. Where will the money come from? FEMA, of course.