| May 23, 2012

Taking your money, lobbying for more (cont’d.)

“The taxpayers of Oklahoma are being asked to carry the burden of an additional $535 million in new bond indebtedness this year if the legislature moves forward and passes the pending bond issues that have been brought forward during this last week of the legislative session,“ state Sen. Patrick Anderson (R-Enid) said yesterday. “The $535 million only accounts for the principal repayment of the bond issues -- the interest on these bonds will obligate the taxpayers of Oklahoma for millions more in addition to that amount. … I personally feel that it is irresponsible to be running up the state’s debt in this manner.”

Of that $535 million in new bond debt, $40 million is for the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. Interestingly, the same day Sen. Anderson issued his statement, a full-page ad appeared in the state’s largest newspaper (and perhaps elsewhere). It said: “On Behalf of the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority, The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum would like to thank the following for their generous support. It’s 50% Complete – Let’s Finish It!” (One has to admit, “Let’s Finish It!” does sound more upbeat than “Let’s Put More Stuff on the Kids’ Credit Cards!”)

Listed in the ad were several private benefactors and Native American tribes, which is all well and good. But what’s troubling is the many tax consumers on the list. (Not that tax consumers have ever been bashful about taking out full-page ads.) Why are these entities taking our tax dollars and using them to give “generous support” to a museum? And why are they lending their name to a poorly disguised lobbying effort? Some of the more disappointing names on the list: Department of Central Services; OU Medical Center; State of Oklahoma; Northeastern A&M University; Seminole State College; Southwestern State University; City of Oklahoma City; U.S. Department of Energy; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and U.S. Department of Transportation. The funniest name on the list—emblematic of the entire problem—is “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

Andrew Spiropoulos, OCPA’s Milton Friedman Distinguished Fellow, has masterfully dissected this problem of taking your money and using it to lobby for more of your money. Unfortunately, his article is just as relevant today as ever.

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