There has been some unwarranted criticism of the Oklahoma Legislature lately in editorial columns and particularly a speech given to a local business organization. Sadly, these “critics” have fallen into the “blame-and-shame game,” accusing the Legislature for the current budget shortfall and education problems in Oklahoma. Elected officials are easy targets for these self-appointed “revilers” because they have the luxury of not knowing what we do about the real issues facing the state.
Most critics by nature are said to have “pre-conceived biases” or too often operate from a false sense of understanding towards particular issues or undesirable events that occur. Such is the case here.
Webster’s Dictionary even uses synonyms such as “detractors” or “attackers” to describe the “critic.”
The unfortunate reality is that the “critic” more often than not doesn’t deal in hard facts – only “opinion”. So we have to understand that’s where they come from. Regrettably, we in the House of Representatives don’t have the luxury of blaming a billion-dollar shortfall on a miniscule 0.25 percent tax cut (even though similar tax cuts have produced billions of dollars in additional revenue for the state over the years). We have to live in the “real” world with declining revenues from oil prices that have dropped 70 percent-plus from $103 per barrel to $30 per barrel in just two years.
The Legislature also has to be reasonable in our approach to severance and production taxes in the energy sector. The reasonable person only has to look at the latest rig counts, lifting rates, fracking profits, job losses and economic impact to our state to imagine what the increased damage to our economy would have been now if we had listened to these “all knowing short-sighted” critics and raised taxes.
I don’t want to be overly harsh, but the only solution these “critics” have offered for the education woes here in Oklahoma these last 30 years is to “throw more money” indiscriminately at the problem. We all see how that has worked.
Again, the State Legislature doesn’t have that luxury – we have to deal in “reality” not “fantasy.” With over 50 percent of our budget appropriations going to education, we have to look the taxpayer in the eye and explain the poor performance numbers, return on investment, low NAEP Student Achievement scores, a D-plus score nationally in getting rid of ineffective teachers, and even worse, explain the almost $100 million it costs us in crime and lower earnings because of our high dropout rate.
The adverse part of the equation is liberal “critics” generally suggest they have “all the answers” – but regrettably don’t seem to grasp even basic Economics 101 – “when you tax something you get less of it” and that principle certainly applies to revenue in our state.
Nor do they endorse the classical education model that has advanced our republic. With all due respect, as legislators we fight these battles every day and spend time away from our families and businesses. The “critic” doesn’t experience this because as a wise statesman once said, “The critic doesn’t have to have the courage to face opposition and trials that elected officials do on a daily basis.” Unfortunately, when you are excessively concerned with your own “opinion” or the business special interests that sustain you, you can often lose sight of who really counts – the taxpayer.
Theodore Roosevelt said it best, “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or when the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena whose face is marred by dust, sweat, and blood, who strives valiantly and at the least while daring greatly and fails will never be with those cold and timid souls, who never knew victory or defeat.”
Words to live by in whatever you do…