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Big, bloated government
Mickey Hepner’s lament about income tax cuts (Commentary, “Death by a thousand cuts,” June 5, Oklahoma Gazette) claimed that “one small tax cut shrinks our government services.” That assumes that current government services are being wisely funded, but even a cursory look at the state budget raises doubts about that.
Let’s start with Mickey’s home in higher education. Unlike most states with a consolidated higher ed system, ours is fragmented, with nearly 30 separate colleges and universities, each with its own president, squadrons of vice presidents, deans, provosts and other administrators and enrollment and business offices. Bring all the two-year colleges under one statewide community college system, assign the many four-year schools as subsidiaries of either the University of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State University and you’d save tens — perhaps hundreds — of millions.
Our proliferation of public school districts is an ongoing scandal — 527 in 2012, more than half with 500 students or fewer. LeFlore County alone has 17 school districts, 10 of them small to miniscule, often just a few miles apart. One superintendent could oversee all of them at 10 percent of the current cost. Multiply such savings by 77 counties and you’d have enough to raise pay for classroom teachers significantly.
State government is packed with duplicate and often useless boards and commissions. We have a task force on foreign animal diseases, licensing agencies that oversee dozens of occupations like interior decorators and foresters, a Shaken Baby Prevention Education Initiative Task Force that has never prevented a baby from being shaken.
The State Board of Cosmetology employs 12 people to examine and license beauty operators. Why this should be a function of state government is a mystery, as is the simultaneous presence of a State Barber Advisory Board. One agency to deal with people who cut hair is a waste; two of them is a scandal.
Even when it funds and runs a necessary agency like the state Department of Health, government is a clumsy, spendthrift and sometimes venal beast. In 2000, investigators found a swarm of “ghost” employees there, including a former Democratic state senator and his wife who apparently had been working and being paid as “environmental health consultants” for a decade, without ever showing up for work.
The Republicans who now govern us have made a start at trimming away the deadwood and waste in state government, but it is only a start. Until we have a government that is structured for efficiency and the delivery of maximum service at minimal cost, Mickey’s complaints are specious.
—Mike Brake Oklahoma City
I write with a heavy heart because on June 6, five men on the U. S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, thus erasing fundamental protections against racial discrimination in voting. What the court did takes me back in my mind to the dehumanizing days of segregation in Oklahoma.
In those days, I was a teenager working as a waitress in the bus station in Checotah. When African Americans got off a bus and came up front to the restaurant section of the bus station for food, I had to tell them, “No.”
They had to eat at a counter in back, behind the kitchen, near the toilets. Incidentally, those toilets were labeled “WHITES” and “COLOREDS.”
Because of the court’s recent action, states legally restricted from doing so in the past are now free to enact stringent voter ID laws, limit polling hours, limit polling places and purge voter rolls — all in an effort to keep minorities (mainly Democrats) from voting.
—Wanda Jo Stapleton Oklahoma City
Profile of courage
I greatly appreciate Bradley Manning’s courage and efforts to shed light on U.S. government actions (News, “Cracking the code,” Ben Fenwick, June 26, Gazette). Despite his challenging childhood, I believe he was sincerely motivated to bring about positive change for us and the rest of the world.
It concerns me that the majority of U.S. citizens seem fine with the disturbing secret operations and lack of accountability of our government, as well as the ever-increasing rarity of truly objective, investigative reporting.
—Jackie Schmid Oklahoma City
Wanda Jo Stapleton’s cri de coeur (Letters, “A broken and for-sale Senate,” May 29, Gazette) about Sens. Tom Coburn and James Inhofe (and 45 others) for voting “no” on expanding the background checks for gun buyers is long on emotion, replete with meaningless statistics and flavored with erroneous polls.
The statement that “by opposing background checks for gun buyers, Coburn and Inhofe voted in favor of allowing the mentally ill and criminals to buy guns” is pernicious. First, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System is still in effect for gun buyers just as it has been since 1994; second, opposition to the legislation does not “allow” criminals and the mentally ill any permission to buy anything; and third, the restrictions on arbitrary crimes contained within the body of the leg islation — such as loaning one of your weapons to a friend at a range — would result in an open legal attack on heretofore law-abiding citizens. Liberals have difficulty grasping the fact the criminals do not obey laws.
Is Ms. Stapleton’s concept of a “military-style assault rifle” akin to the Feinstein Flummery citing such evil appointments as the fear-inducing “black shroud” covering the barrel, the bonechilling “pistol grip” and, of course, the ubiquitous “bayonet lug”? The only military-style assault weapons that I am aware of are the original World War II German automatic weapon and the M-16 models currently in use by our military that have a selector that allows a semiautomatic mode, a two- or threeshot mode, and an automatic mode. But they are restricted and not commercially available.
You devote a third of your missive obsessing over the political contributions to various senators but contributions made by the National Rifle Association. I’m sure it was an oversight on your part to not cite donations by George Soros or The Tides Foundation, and how much they donated to Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Charles Schumer and Dick Durbin? Just wondering.
Creating a database of legal gun buyers would be an obvious result of the extended background checks an,d that then would be, for all intents and purposes, a National Gun Registry. As history has proven, confiscation is the next step, as England and Australia found out. For the “It can’t happen here” crowd, it has already taken place in New Orleans, is taking place in California and New York and is promised by a host of Democratic anti-Constitutionalists.
You know what’s amazing? All of this gun-control rhetoric would have absolutely no affect on any of the tragedies. None.
—Pete Lepo Edmond