Monday, June 16, 2008

Weekly Opinion/Editorial
Poverty in Oklahoma!
by Steve Fair
Oklahoma is a poor state. We rank 43rd in the country in per capita income. The average Oklahoman earns $5,000 less per year than the average American doing the same job. For a state centrally located in the heart of the country with a good climate, it’s apparent the reason we have not prospered has been a lack of progressive principled leadership in our state government. Democrats controlled our state legislature for the first one hundred years. Their lack of vision and leadership, coupled with a multitude of political scandals got us to this point. Economic challenges tend to lead to social challenges such as poverty. In a recent study, Oklahoma came up short in providing for our children.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation annually rates states in ten categories in child well-being. Last year, Oklahoma was 42nd in the U.S. overall, but this year we slipped another notch to #43. One of the disturbing items in the report was that twenty four percent of the kids in Oklahoma live in households with income below the poverty line. When the report was issued, the education lobby in the state seized the opportunity and blamed the problem on Oklahoma’s lack of education. To the educators’ way of thinking, if we could just get everyone educated, poverty would disappear. Evidence does support the theory that states with more educated citizens have less poverty, but many states with education levels similar to Oklahomans are doing much better. Opportunity and jobs increase income, not just education.

Oklahoma has made some flawed decisions through the years concerning education. A major one was seeking education funding solutions by becoming partners with the gambling industry. The increase in the availability of gambling in our state is one of the main contributors to the poverty problem in our state. It’s a statistical fact that gambling negatively impacts a state by increasing social problems. Gambling produces nothing- it consumes and the more frequent gamblers are usually those who can least afford it. Gambling is a classic example of self-inflicted poverty, yet in Oklahoma education has formed an unholy alliance with the gambling industry to increase funding.

If we want to get serious about poverty in Oklahoma, the state legislature must address and deal with some hard issues. A couple of those issues are tort reform and workers compensation. There are others, but these two are a good place to start. State legislators must get serious about creating a more positive business climate in the state. By doing that, existing business will expand and potential business will consider relocation to the Oklahoma.

If we want to combat poverty in Oklahoma, educational leaders must get serious about educating our state’s children. Their solution is always to ask for more money, but throwing money at education has proven to not be the answer. If the education establishment really cares about moving the state forward, they must start thinking outside the box and get off the “give us more money” soapbox. It’s been a drum they have beat for decades and we are still poor and uneducated. They can start by embracing concepts like administration and infrastructure sharing by school districts.

If we want to combat poverty in Oklahoma, men must become the leaders of the family. Instead of being satisfied to let the government provide the basic necessities of life, they should take some personal initiative and get a job. Our state government using our tax dollars has created an environment that rewards laziness and inactivity. When energy based employers in the Sooner state are begging for help, there is no excuse for any able bodied man to be on the government dole. The Bible teaches that a man who doesn’t provide for his family is worse than an infidel. It also teaches if a man won’t work, he shouldn’t eat. Oklahoma males must step up to the plate and take more personal responsibility and equity in their families.

Poverty is a universal problem. Christ said the poor would always be with us, so permanently alleviating poverty will never be achieved no matter how generous a public policy toward the poor. And just because an Oklahoma kid lives in a home without an X box, that doesn’t make them poor. What makes them poor is living in a state where educators use them as pawns to try to justify more funding. What makes them poor is living in a state that fails them by having not creating a business environment that creates jobs for their parents. What make them poor are parents who spend more time at the casino than they do with their kids.

No comments: