Monday, August 14, 2006
VISIT WITH PARTY DIGNITARY
The Militant Moderate and two friends met for lunch with an officer of the Oklahoma Democratic Party this week. This meeting was prompted by expressions of concern made previously to ranking figures in the stae party. These included a number of different points, such as the influence on the party of leftist groups seeking their own agenda through the party, failure to field strong candidates, and a failure to challenge republicans campaigning on religioous virtue and tax cuts instead of the real issues and problems of the average voter.
As a result of the meeting, we came away very impressed with the mental agility of the party spokesman, his quick command of voter statistics, and the compilation of a computer data base on voter demographics and polling issues. Our concerns were not assuaged, however.
We are still quite concerned with the failure of party leadership to focus on issues which our position clearly differs from the opposing party. National weaknesses such as mismanagement of the Iraq War and Katrina, the inept effort to scuttle Social Security, loss of middle income jobs, bankrupting the nation with tax cuts for the wealthy and war spending, and incompetence in foreign affairs -- all should be exploited in the state. A gallon of gas is now 60% of the minimum wage for an hour's work. The president's approval rating is down to 33% again. Two-thirds express disapproval of the republican-led Congress.
Perhaps the most irritating part of the conversaton was the party officer's repeated statement that "Oklahoma is well off," and not affected by national woes.
The Militant Moderate would take issue with the belief that Oklahoma is "well off" and unaffected by blunders. Oklahoma is cutting taxes for the wealthy while the state continues to go further into debt each year -- adding perhaps as much as a billion dollars to that debt in the last two years. Issuing bonds payable from future general fund income, while clearly not constitutional, continues to be an annual occurrence. State debt in the form of billions of unfunded liability in the teacher retirement system remains unaddressed. A multi-million dollar law enforcement training facility has been sitting idle in Ada because of no appropriations to function. Yet we cut taxes by $600 million? Do we need a new definition for "conservative?"
Oklahoma incarcerates more women proportional to population than any other state, and ranks in the top ten in total incarceraton rate. We have jails full because prisons are populated heavily with the mentally ill, substance abuse offenders, and non-violent property offenders. We have a "lock 'em up and toss the key" mentality, but no willingness to pay the bill. We offer few rehabilitation programs in mental health, or in basic, vocational, or higher education for prisoners in Oklahoma. We have foolishly closed most of our mental health custodial treatment beds.
Oklahoma's property tax rates are 47th lowest in the nation. The state and local tax burden of our citizens is 40th in terms of proportion of earnings. Per capital state spending is $1200, or 42nd in the nation proportionally.
Who is getting taxed in Oklahoma? The top 5% in income pay 9% of that income in state and local taxes, while the lower 60% in income are paying 11% of theirs in taxes. Why? Because we rely so much on the sales tax. And, who benefited most from the recent income and estate tax cuts about which republicans brag so much in their campaign ads? Right, it is the high income group. They should be ashamed.
The Militant Moderate and his friends contend that there is much wrong in Oklahoma, and that the wrongs are becoming worse as a result of the type of unreasoning, ultra-conservative republican involvement in state affairs that we have witnessed. Moderates of both political parties need to reject those leaders and actively work together to move Oklahoma forward in a progressive but cautious political fashion.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Sunday, August 06, 2006
ADVICE TO DEMOCRATS
Now, just what should we tell this party officer?
Maybe we should first remind him that the democrats are an opposition party nationally. We are opposed to much of that going on, and we think government should be different. President Bush governs for the Republican Party, and all of them share in the credit or the blame for what he has or has not done. A republican vote is a vote for Bush.
Republican votes favor tax cuts for the wealthy, Bush's war in Iraq, running huge budget deficits, increasing debt to China, shipping American jobs overseas, tax evasion by corporations, do-nothing response to illegal immigration, opposition to minimum wage increases, violation of American liberties, politicizing of science and medical research, and the dividing of America with wedge issues.
Republicans in Oklahoma have tried hard to make the election issues religious in nature. That is subterfuge. Most democrats believe in family values, most are religious and church oriented, most believe in the traditional definition of marriage, they respect the ten commandments, and they say the pledge of allegiance. No one advocates abortions. Trying to make these election issues is political chicanery.
Democrats should make it clear that they favor traditional marriage, and that they say the pledge of allegians as it is. Democrats favor teaching the ten commandments at home and in the church, and they believe in the practice of private prayer.
However, democrats favor keeping the government out of religion and out of people's personal business. Apparently, republicans do not.
Other than naming God, church, school prayer, pledges, gay marriage, and life, all of which are personal more than governmental in nature, republicans like to call for tax cuts, tort reform, and workers' comp reform. If the average voter ever wakes up to understand that all of these are against him the democrats will take back all of state government in a landslide.
Tax cuts advocated by republicans have consistently been for the wealthy, and it was the senate democrats last session who held out for increasing personal deductions so that average wage earners would get cuts. Tort "reform" is to keep average consumers from suing irresponsible businesses and health providers. Workers' comp "reform" is to keep job-injured workers from suing employers and insurers who try to cheat them.
The Militant Moderate wonders why average voters don't understand these things. Democrats need to get that news out to them. As the MM has often said, those measures are "main street" -- but they favor the owners inside the businesses and not their customers walking down the street.
While the public is being deluded by largely irrelevant or uncontested emotional issues, they are being blindsided by republican led opposition to school support and teacher retirement, but favoring increased incarceration at public expense without rehabilitation, cuts in medical programs for children and the elderly, mental health cuts, children's protective service cuts, and leaving the mentally ill on the streets. Republican politicians are callous about the economic and social vicissitudes assailing the average wage earner and family.
This is the message the democrats need to get out to the public.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate