It’s every man for himself

June 20, 2011

Last week Keith Ballard expressed hostility to tax cuts, smaller government, and school choice, and in yesterday’s Tulsa World David Averill picked up on Ballard’s education-is-being-starved theme. But a shrewd observer with many years of experience under the dome sent along some interesting observations which I think are worth sharing. “Ballard has it backwards,” this observer writes. “Rather than being an outcome of smaller government, it is the growth of big-government programs in Oklahoma that has crowded out spending” for things like education, roads and bridges, and other services.

For example, Medicaid was cut only one percent this year, “in spite of the fact that the program’s budget had increased 54 percent in just five years, leaving plenty of room for streamlining and cost-saving efforts.” (Not to mention the fact the medical-welfare lobby pushed through their much-sought-after tax increase, which could generate some $118 million plus another $208 million in federal funds.) Moreover, “the legendarily incompetent Department of Human Services was cut only 1.1 percent and other similar agencies received very small cuts.”

“Without major reform to reduce welfare dependency,” this observer writes, “the problem will only get worse in the future.” (OCPA agrees.) “Oklahoma must embark on a program of aggressive reform to slash the number of citizens depending on state government for support. If lawmakers do not embark on that path, I have a word of warning for Mr. Ballard: If you think things are bad now, wait until government gets even bigger.”

And so it begins. With further tax increases unlikely (indeed, tax cuts are more likely), it’s time for Oklahoma’s various tax-eaters to start eyeing one another like men on a life raft.