dochoc's blog

Right-Sizing Oklahoma Into A Disaster

With the legislative session winding down, it’s important to note that beyond some suggestions and the presentation of larger ideas on how to deal with Oklahoma’s budget crisis, not much is happening on the issue at the state Capitol.

That’s bad news, although I’m sure Republicans, who dominate the legislature, would disagree that “not much is happening.” Well, I assume there’s talking going on among the conservatives, for sure, but where’s a realistic budget plan? What it all means is that it’s entirely possible that the budget and its $1.3 billion shortfall next fiscal year will get addressed at the last minute and before major stakeholders can address its specifics. This could be the tragedy in the making this session. By the time the fiscal damage becomes clear all the legislators will have gone home.

The legislature is scheduled to adjourn by May 27, and time is quickly running out.

Some of the ideas suggested by various legislators and other state leaders include ending some corporate tax incentives, “rebalancing” Medicaid by, among other things, increasing taxes on cigarettes by $1.50 a pack, and using bond money for road and bridge work thus freeing up more money for other agencies. I think it’s fair to say that overall all the plans or portions of the plans include at least some cuts for state agencies, including higher education.

The main problem, however, remains the general recalcitrant nature of the conservatives in the House and Senate. Elected on conservative platforms to “right-size” state government, their stubbornness is understandable. Gov. Mary Fallin’s particular use of ”the “right-size” jargon in previous years seems jarring and cruel right now as education, health programs and social services endure major cuts and are staring into a financial abyss for next fiscal year, which begins in July.

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How Will Peak Oil Demand Impact Oklahoma?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news or futuristic predictions, but what if Oklahoma’s current economic crisis is structural and systemic and can’t be resolved with higher fossil fuel prices because of peak oil demand?

Remember the days when everyone talked about peak oil, the concept that fossil fuels soon would reach their finite moment and then start to dwindle as the world weaned itself from carbon-based energy? Well, now the concept is that the world may have reached a peak in its demand for oil and natural gas as more and more countries turn to renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power for electricity, and as car manufacturers sell more fuel-efficient and electric-powered vehicles.

Michael T. Klare, writing on TomDispatch.com, explores the world oil order and its current turmoil in an excellent, detailed article, but what should stand out for any Oklahoman in the piece is the concept that green energy is slowly but surely helping to drive down the price of fossil fuels. The fracking boom in Oklahoma may well be a short-lived phenomenon in historic terms. Klare writes:

As a result of advances in drilling technology . . . the supply of oil has continued to grow, while demand has unexpectedly begun to stall. This can be traced both to slowing economic growth globally and to an accelerating “green revolution” in which the planet will be transitioning to non-carbon fuel sources. With most nations now committed to measures aimed at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases under the just-signed Paris climate accord, the demand for oil is likely to experience significant declines in the years ahead. In other words, global oil demand will peak long before supplies begin to run low, creating a monumental challenge for the oil-producing countries.

Meanwhile, the American Wind Energy Association just reported that Oklahoma added more wind power than any other state in the nation during the first quarter this year.

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Real Stunts: Conservative Bullies Increase Winning Streak In Oklahoma

Trigger warning: The Oklahoman editorial board and its commentary writers are made up of a bunch of bullies looking for ways to snark attack anything that doesn’t fit into the reductionist and inhumane conservative worldview.

Yes, “trigger warning” is meant as humor. Yes, I get it. I’m stating the obvious. But one of the newspaper’s recent editorials follows the similar bullying pattern in an archetypal framework so much so that it deserves at least a modicum of analysis. The editorial attacks state Democrats on the flimsiest of evidence, omits crucial details, doesn’t follow a logical sequence of thought, and never even begins to answer the question of why it’s even addressing this non-topic of the day in the first place.

The editorial is titled “At OK Capitol, taking potshots doesn't equal leadership,” (April 28, 2016). The gist of the editorial (drum roll, please) seems to be that Democrats at the state Capitol have “provided little leadership and even engaged in stunts” and that’s the reason why they remain a decisively non-force these days in Oklahoma politics. The commentary uses as evidence the recent Democratic-sponsored House resolution, which called for a disaster declaration because of a state government leadership failure, a resolution that everyone from here to Mississippi knew had no chance of passing.

The commentary also mentions its favorite so-called “progressive” think tank, The Oklahoma Policy Institute, as its “got ya now” cudgel to beat the Democrats into submission or maybe oblivion. Just act like the astute staffers at OKPolicy, Democrats, and you will get some respect for once, Democratic leaders. Yeah, right. Under the OKPolicy rubric, Democrats are absolutely NOT going to get a voice in government and no chance to realistically deal with revenue failures and a predicted budget shortfall of $1.3 billion next fiscal year, which begins in July.

So some refutation, of course, is needed here just for the record.

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