Everybody Does Deserve Health Care

Let’s be clear that everyone deserves health care, even those people who voted for President-elect Donald Trump and for Republicans in the House and Senate.

We’re all in this together, whether we’re insured through our employer, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Medicare. All three have a symbiotic relationship with one another. Any adjustment to one of the three affects the other two. So when the Senate passed a bill recently that could lead to the repeal of ACA it created a lot of uncertainty about everyone’s health care in this country, except, of course, for the very rich.

Here’s what Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, a right-wing extremist from a right-wing state, had to say about the vote:

Last night's vote paves a path for the Republican-led Senate to follow through on the promise we made to the American people; we are now set and ready to repeal Obamacare. For the last seven years Americans all across the country have been feeling the devastating effects of this law. And Oklahoma has been among the worst hit. Individuals have lost their health plans and many families have seen their hard-earned dollars come up short when it comes to affording their skyrocketing healthcare premiums and deductibles. Repealing Obamacare will give us the opportunity to make things right again and will allow us to work with the incoming administration to ensure our healthcare system actually works for this country.

Of course, none of Inhofe’s indictments of the ACA are true, and he doesn’t even mention all the millions of people who now have insurance and are happy about it.

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OKC Zoo Defensive Response Offers No Substance

I wrote last Wednesday about how an animal advocacy group has ranked the Oklahoma City Zoo as the worst for elephants, and the zoo’s response to the designation was, as expected, defensive and non-specific.

The organization, In Defense of Animals, gave the ranking to the OKC Zoo based primarily on their treatment of two elephants it obtained relatively recently from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. One of those elephants, 37-year-old Chai, died of a blood infection last year. The other elephant from Seattle, Bamboo, has been attacked and had a section of her tail bitten off. She has also gone on the attack.

Yet another OKC Zoo elephant, 4-year-old Malee, died in 2015 of the elephant herpes virus.

The ranking received widespread attention in the local media. The zoo’s response, which no doubt had to be approved by its director Dwight Lawson, did so in a way that deflected the issues raised by In Defense of Animals. Here is part of the statement:

In Defense of Animals uses deceitful tactics to manipulate the public in an effort to further their anti-zoo agenda. Their latest effort exploits sensitive images of one of the Oklahoma City Zoo's elephants during an emergency medical care procedure. The group accompanies the images with false information about the health and well-being of zoo elephants.

Note the use of the language “deceitful tactics” and “exploits” and “false information” without giving a a shred of evidence. None of the statement fully addresses the deaths of the two elephants or the fact that Bamboo has been attacked and has obviously had a difficult time fitting into what zoo officials insist on calling a “herd.” The elephants at the Oklahoma City don’t constitute a “herd” in any natural use or sense of that word. The zoo is simply avoiding the issues by deploying unsupported allegations by using charged rhetoric.

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Oklahoma Teachers Should Not Count On Raises From GOP

The incoming Republican House Speaker Charles McCall says he’s behind a plan to raise public school teacher salaries by $6,000 over three years, but there’s a major flaw in the proposal.

Here’s the basic flaw: Where is the money going to come from given that the state faces, as of now, a nearly $900 million budget shortfall for next fiscal year? The shortfall could grow in size as well, and I predict it will, unless President-elect Donald Trump and his Russian allies create so much world turmoil, fossil fuel prices take a dramatic jump. But then that just means more earthquakes for Oklahoma.

My argument is, at least for now, that this is just another Republican ruse to make people believe they’re concerned about Oklahoma’s brain drain when they’re getting just what they really want through GOP tax cuts for rich people, which is to drain government funding, especially for education, as much as possible. This way they can declare, along with their fanatical and wildly unpredictable leader Trump, a general failure of government while lying about their true intentions when they suggest raises for educators.

The real Republican position was recently expressed in an editorial in The Oklahoman, which argued “lawmakers should demand greater focus on cost savings and genuine benefit from expenditures” when it comes to requests for additional funding.

The editorial, for example, noted that the Oklahoma Department of Education has asked for a “$221 million increase, plus another $282 million increase for teacher pay raises . . .”, which is a pittance compared to how much school funding has been cut here since 2008 and how low teacher salaries are in Oklahoma. Then the editorial quoted and essentially supported Republican state Rep. Kevin Calvey, who was critical of the education department’s leadership, which he blusters have presented:

. . . no real solutions for streamlining our education system to make it more efficient and to target student needs . . . without accountability for how those dollars are spent related to education results.

In case you need an interpreter, this means that current Republicans lawmakers here try to educate students on the cheap and then complain when the state suffers chronic problems related to the lack of funding. This a deployment of a political tactic to destroy public education, not responsible governance as the great minds of The Oklahoman editorial board want us to believe.

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