Yes on SQ 779, but with a giant asterisk
It’s news to no one that our state leaders have failed and failed hard at supporting education. While I do think SQ 779’s 1% sales tax increase will be good for teachers and is much needed, I don’t think it’s the only way. And even though I voted for it, I think it’s a lame effort on the part of Oklahoma leaders, as usual.
I think SQ 779 is a bailout. Not a bailout for teachers, a bailout for Mary Fallin and other Oklahoma leaders. They’re going to do next to nothing except hold out a collection plate, force people to donate, and then take credit for giving teachers a raise. But who pays for it? Actually, the better question is: who suffers the most from it? The lower and middle classes. I cannot stand it when people say “it’s just a penny.” It’s not just a penny. 1% can mean hundreds of dollars per household every year. For families struggling with money (you know, like teachers), that’s a lot. When poor people struggle, they go hungry, they lose their house, they can’t pay medical bills. But what’s 1% to someone who makes, say, $1M a year? I guess they’ll have to make some real sacrifices and go without buying that $10K piece of jewelry. And that’s 1% of their INCOME, not what they spend on sales tax.
Which brings me to a broader issue. Why aren’t we taxing rich people more? Let’s do some super-simple math. SQ 779 predicts $615M per year. Let’s see if we can come up with that money with minimal impact on Oklahoma. Remember when The New York Times found that Trump declared $916M in business losses that allowed him to basically skip out on those taxes over 18 years? I have no idea what he would’ve paid if he didn’t declare it as a loss, and I’m no CPA, but just bear with me for a minute. Let’s just assume that he would’ve paid 10% of that as taxes. Even though I made up this scenario, hopefully you agree that it’s safe to assume that there are definitely people who make this kind of money and have avoided paying taxes in these amounts. $916M over 18 years is more than $50M a year, and 10% of that is $5M. So just 1 person paying 10% instead of avoiding it could’ve accounted for a pretty significant chunk of the $615M. Imagine what a handful, even hundreds of these taxes could do. The outcome will be that the few super rich people are slightly less rich, but still filthy rich, and the other 99% is way better off. There are A LOT of people in the realm of Trump’s wealth, even in Oklahoma. Just google “wealth inequality” and see just how out of whack it’s become.
So if SQ 779 is a strain on the poor and middle-class, why am I supporting it? Because real Oklahomans support each other. Real Oklahomans make sacrifices to help their neighbors. But we can’t keep this up. Oklahoma leaders can’t keep shifting financial responsibility on the 99%. And that’s where my “giant asterisk” comes in. It’s the government’s job to act in the best interest of the people they represent. That’s why we elect them. We have to hold Oklahoma leaders accountable. And let’s face it. They are doing a shit job. Yes, teacher raises are a good thing, but there’s a long way to go. Not only does the teacher raise still keep our teachers at the lowest paid in the country, teacher salary is just the tip of the education crisis iceberg, not to mention the state of education in the country as a whole. And the best thing our leaders came up with was “meh, make poor people pay for it”. Not good enough. Demand more from your elected leaders, local and beyond. And if they can’t hack it, replace them with people who can.