How more removed from the day-to-day reality of most Oklahomans can you get than flying to Copenhagen, Denmark to tell the international community the United States will not pass legislation anytime soon dealing with global warming?
But that’s just what U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe says he intends to do, according to the National Review. Inhofe says he will lead a “truth squad” to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this December. This squad will argue there’s not enough support in the U.S. Senate to pass a bill.
In other words, he will work against the interests of the current American government in an international setting.
Inhofe’s planned trip is part of his avid opposition to climate change science. The senator, in his most famous quote, once called global warming the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people?” He has also compared climate change activists to the “Third Reich.” (Here’s an interesting post on the issue in Talking Points Memo.)
If Inhofe’s point is to represent the interests of oil and gas companies, then he should come home to Oklahoma and hold some press conferences with energy executives, oilfield workers and natural gas employees. He could argue how important the energy industry is to the state, and argue how climate change regulations could hurt it. People here could debate the issue.
But his planned appearance in Copenhagen will be nothing but a political stunt and an embarrassment to the state on the international stage.
In an editorial Monday, The Oklahoman argued that people try to avoid debate by marginalizing opponents using McCarthyism. According to the editorial (“Ghost story: Demons invoked to avoid arguments,” September 28, 2009):
A timeless form of avoiding debate is to marginalize opponents, associating them with a McVeigh, a Hitler, a Stalin.
Then the editorial makes this point:
Congressional town hall meeting participants wearing T-shirts with President Obama a la Hitler are extremists.
Okay, a lot of people would agree with this. So why doesn’t the newspaper’s editorial board hold Inhofe accountable for his “Third Reich” rhetoric about global warming or his political stunts, such as the planned trip to Copenhagen to work against his own government? The editorial seems to criticize or at least lament the lack of serious debate, but the newspaper has long been a strong supporter of Inhofe, who remains the epitome of extremism and polarization.
I wrote earlier about new U.S. Census Bureau numbers that showed the number of Oklahomans without health insurance has been declining in recent years. The report estimated that overall 15.9 percent of Oklahomans were uninsured in 2007-2008, which was down from 18.3 in 2006-2007.
This is good news, but it doesn’t change the need for health care reform.
Another recent Census report, however, claims the uninsured rate in Oklahoma City and Tulsa is around 23 to 24 percent. The report focused on the state’s largest metropolitan areas and on people younger than 65. Under this ranking or frame, Oklahoma is fifth among the states in uninsured people under 65.
These numbers are constantly changing and can be framed in different ways, but this is clear: There are too many uninsured people in Oklahoma and the nation. Uninsured people often put off going to the doctor and sometimes use emergency rooms for care. Often their conditions are in an advanced state because they didn’t seek treatment earlier. Their inability to pay for treatment then drives up the overall costs for health care and insurance. This is a cycle that has been in place for decades, and it needs to stop.
As debate begins on U.S. Sen. Max Baucus’s health care reform proposal, it’s important to realize that the some 47 million uninsured Americans are a part of a broken health care system that needs to be fixed.
Oklahoma’s tax revenues continue to come in under estimates, which means more cuts are on the way.
Oklahoma Treasurer Scott Meachum reported last week that August revenues were down 32 percent from the same month a year ago. This news will trigger automatic five percent cuts in budgets for state agencies.
The OK Policy Blog, as usual, had the best take on the issue:
However, indications are growing that agencies that have thus far been able to absorb successive budget cuts by managing expenses more tightly are now being forced to consider more painful measures. The Office of Juvenile Affairs, for example, has already submitted a plan for up to 22 furlough days, along with measures to reduce staff. As the Tulsa World noted in an editorial last week, such proposals raise serious concerns about security at juvenile detention centers like the L.E. Rader Center.
The blog also mentioned recent comments made recently by Terri White, Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
Here are some of those comments as reported by NewsOK.com:
People will lose services if we have to make more cuts. There’s no other way around this.
All of those programs have outstanding outcomes and are very cost-effective. When we don’t provide the care we see people coming into contact with the criminal justice system. We see people injuring themselves and ending up in the emergency room, or children going to foster care because they may have a parent with a substance abuse issue.
Oklahoma has fared better than many states during the national recession, but the latest budget news is not good. Legislators could use some of the state’s Rainy Day money to help fix the budget problems, but right now it doesn’t look like they will meet in a special session anytime soon to vote on the issue.