I guess it only makes sense that some members of the GOP-dominated Oklahoma Legislature want to balance next year’s state budget by, among other initiatives, reducing tax credit programs for lower-income people.
— CiviWiki (@CiviWiki) February 6, 2016
It fits with the country’s contrived conservative narrative of “makers and takers” and, on the political operative level, with what seems almost archaic now: The “starve-the-beast” ideology (check out this post) heralded by Republicans as a panacea for decades. The idea is pretty simple. See, the government is a big, bad beast, and it needs to be starved of tax dollars that go to all those awful takers, such as the hungry and poor. This starving leads to less government/beast spending. What’s tragic is that type of thinking, often earnestly deployed by voters receiving Social Security and using Medicare, is based on emotional rage created by conservative fear mongers and demonizers. It isn’t based based on a realistic interrogation of facts, evidence and statistics. That’s the larger issue.
But here’s the local issue: Oklahoma faces an approximately $1 billion shortfall for next fiscal year and has already cut spending this year because of what’s getting called a “revenue failure.” It could also just as easily be called fiscal irresponsibility and mismanagement. The state also faces a major teacher shortage because of low salaries.The huge drop in revenue is because of a relatively recent history now of tax cuts for the state’s wealthiest people and the downturn in the oil and gas industry, which, of course, in recent years, got its own substantial tax breaks.
So now that it’s time to do something because of the budget emergency state Sen. Mike Mazzei, a Tulsa Republican, wants to help by taking money away from poor people and working families. His proposed Senate Bill 977 would make cuts to the state earned income tax credit, low-income sales-tax relief and the state child-care tax credit for the next two fiscal years.
— Randy Krehbiel (@rkrehbiel) February 9, 2016
Randy Krehbiel, writing in The World, notes the cuts to lower-income people would amount to $106.5 million. Overall, the bill would implement $150 million in tax credit cuts, but only $4.3 million would go into effect for the state’s next fiscal year. Smaller savings would be generated by tax-credit cuts to historic preservation, the investment and new jobs credit, and aerospace engineering. These cuts have already drawn opposition from the business community, according to the story, as if the aerospace industry is the answer to all the state’s fiscal problems.
But the numbers clearly show Oklahoma’s poor and working families would suffer the most under Mazzei’s proposal.
So to state the obvious, which doesn’t get done much in the conservative, corporate media here: It’s wrong to take money away from people with lower incomes in a tanking economy. It’s wrong to take money away from people with lower incomes when the state has implemented income tax cuts in recent years that have primarily benefited the richest people among us.
Mazzei was quoted this way in the story:
At this point, we are trying to not show any favoritism and just look at everything as we try to get a handle on the cost of all of these tax credit programs.
I’m unsure of Mazzei’s reference point here when it comes to “favoritism.” For example, why are lower-income people getting hit the hardest under his proposal? How is that not showing “favoritism” for higher-income residents and businesses? Why not consider more cuts to credits that corporations use to make profits? Why isn’t Mazzei getting challenged more on his vacuous “not show any favoritism” remark?
In the end, it’s always about power and money. Corporations have the political voice here in the GOP-stacked legislature. But who will speak up for the poor in Oklahoma and who will listen?