$30: the Price of Budget Failure

2 Tickets to see Star Wars: the Force Awakens

About 18 gallons of gas

2 hours of babysitting for my 3 children

2 Thunder tickets (in Loud City—that’s the top deck)

This sweater from Old Navy

Three 6-packs of my husband’s favorite beer

3 months of Netflix

1 box of diapers

What do all these things have in common, you ask? Why, they all cost around $30!

Why am I making a list of $30 products and services, you ask? Why, haven’t you heard? Big news! The tax cuts our legislators voted in a few years back will begin in 2016! That means my husband and I could see a savings of…you guessed it…$30!!! Woohoo! I’m having a party and you’re all invited! And by party, I mean a case of natural light and a couple bags of doritos. Because I’m pretty sure that’s the best party $30 will buy.

That’s the amount households with income between $36,400 and $58,100 are projected to net from the new tax breaks. That income bracket includes Oklahoma teachers with at least 8 years experience and all the way to doctorate + 25 on the scale. Sorry, newbies. Those of you at step 7 or lower are projected to save a whopping $9. That’ll buy you about 30 packages of Ramen noodles, which is probably what you’re eating if you’re living on a teacher’s salary in Oklahoma.

While the middle-class will see a miniscule reduction in taxes, about 40% of Oklahomans are projected to see no reduction at all. The wealthiest 1% stand to benefit over $2000.

But here’s the real kicker: these tax cuts are projected to amount to nearly 150 million in 2016. And that’s not all! The plan is to continue to slash taxes primarily in the highest tax brackets in 2017 and 2018 for a projected total of around 560million dollars of lost tax revenue for our state. And what really makes my stomach turn is that this comes at a time when Oklahoma is projected to have a budget SHORTFALL of nearly a billion dollars. That’s a billion. With a “B”.

Those of us who live in the real world and have to operate a household budget understand that when you don’t have enough money, you have two options. 1.) Make more money.   2.) Spend less money. It’s clear which option our legislators and governor favor. That means less money for: roads and bridges, healthcare, DHS (and the 11,000 + kids in fostercare), education (highest cuts in the country), prisons (one of the highest incarceration rates in the country), and so on. girl-with-hand-upQuick show of hands—how many of us would rather the state keep our measly tax cut and spend it on the aforementioned endeavors? That’s what I thought.

I know, I know. We’ll all just have to tighten our belts. The problem is, we’ve already seen the steepest cuts to education in the nation—MORE THAN 24% IN THE LAST 7 YEARS. Education isn’t the only place where funding has fallen short. Other agencies that rely on government funding, like the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, have also been cut to the bone. Now we’re being told to brace for yet more cuts to funding. In education, we’ve been tightening our belts for 7 years. Our budget has slimmed down so much we had to cut new notches in that belt. There are no more notches to tighten (but hey, maybe $30 will buy us a new, MUCH SMALLER belt).beltpixxjpg-d4b4ecb7f5a6e651

Republicans like to blame the revenue shortage on the catastrophic drop in the price of oil. The fact is, they were making cuts to education and other state agencies starting 7 years ago when we were in a “boom” economy, and oil was at $100+/barrel. Hence, I’m not buying the idea they’re peddling: these are just hard times, and these tax breaks will miraculously stimulate our economy. They were starving education while there was plenty at the table to go around. Now, they just have more excuses for why we’re only getting the crumbs.

But I suppose in times like these, it’s important to focus on solutions and not stand around pointing fingers.

To hell with that.

I know exactly who’s to blame. The people who voted into law the bills that slashed  taxes using “economic stimulus” as their jedi mind trick. I particularly like what Scott Inman, house minority leader, has to say about it:

“It’s disingenuous to wring one’s hands in despair when the house is on fire, if you helped light the match.”

So, friends, if you’re among us lucky ones here in the middle-class, how do you plan to spend your $30? I know what I’m doing with my $30. I plan to stimulate the economy the best way I know how:   by donating it to the campaign of somebody running against the jokers who got us into this mess.

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