Oklahoma for America

We’ve heard a lot about the disastrous embrace of far-right Republican policies in Kansas.  But Paul Waldman focuses on the case of Oklahoma, where it seems to be even worse.  He could’ve thunk that cutting government revenues to the bone so that rich people could pay less taxes would actually have negative consequences for things like education and infrastructure?  That’s right– anybody paying attention at all who’s not hopelessly blinded by Republican ideology.  Waldman:

Republicans, on the other hand, advocate low taxes, less social spending and less regulation. Both sides have moral arguments for why their models are better, but they also make practical arguments. They say that their model works, and that when it is implemented, we see positive results.

While the moral argument may not be resolvable, the practical argument can be tested. And right now we’re seeing tests take place all over the country. I want to focus on one such test, in the deep-red state of Oklahoma, and what it says about what Republicans are doing in Washington.

Like many states controlled by Republicans, Oklahoma has for some time been putting the GOP theory into practice: low taxes, little regulation and weak social spending. On the tax front, it has been particularly aggressive, since state law mandates that no tax increase can pass without a three-quarters majority in the state legislature. This has created a one-way ratchet, in which any tax cut is effectively permanent and taxes can only go down.

And has it produced the boundless prosperity Republicans predict? Well, no. In fact, the state is now in a full-blown fiscal crisis. Here’s a summary of the situation from NPR:

Riding high on the oil boom of the late 2000s, the state followed the Kansas model and slashed taxes. But the promised prosperity never came. In many cases, it was just the opposite.

Around 20 percent of Oklahoma’s schools now hold classes just four days a week. Last year, highway patrol officers were given a mileage limit because the state couldn’t afford to put gas in their tanks. Medicaid provider rates have been cut to the point that rural nursing homes and hospitals are closing, and the prisons are so full that the director of corrections says they’re on the brink of a crisis.

Just to reiterate: The state has so little money that 1 in 5 schools is open only four days a week. Gov. Mary Fallin and Republicans in the state legislature are debating a plan to increase taxes to try to address some of these problems, including giving a raise to teachers. Which is sorely needed, because Oklahoma pays its teachers less than any other state in the country…

There are two lessons here. The first is that trickle-down economics just doesn’t work. Giving benefits to the wealthy and corporations doesn’t produce prosperity for all. It just doesn’t. Every time Republicans propose a tax cut, they say that this time will be different, but it never is. [emphasis mine] And second, people actually value the services government provides — like having schools that stay open five days a week. When you slash revenue so that you can’t afford those things, the public isn’t happy about it…

So on the whole, while Republicans in Washington won’t be able to turn the entire country into Oklahoma overnight, they’re going to give it their best shot. And they’ll keep saying that if we just cut taxes for the wealthy and slash social spending, everything will work out great. No matter how many times they’re proved wrong.

Facts?  Evidence?  Who needs ’em when you just know lower taxes for rich people always works.  Don’t let pesky things like 4-day school weeks get in the way of just knowing that lower taxes is always better.

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