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The Boren Identity: Surprised by Someone I Completely Disagree

By: Andrew K. Boyle

It is easy to complain about government. Our system of self government is well suited for the cranky and cantankerous. Self governing peoples should always be ashamed of the government which orchestrates their affairs -- our government is definitely holding up their end of this bargain.

That said, recent history has pushed this natural and virtuous state of embarrassment to extremes. We are now moving somewhat beyond being embarrassed by our betters and being pushed into a scary future where rebellion no longer seems crazy. From waste that goes beyond criminality into incomprehensible, when social engineering becomes tyranny and as rights multiply at rabbit like rates making God-given rights meaningless, good people seek to leave the system.

In this brave new world it becomes too easy to openly rail against government. As abuses continue undeterred by public objections, political discourse becomes impossible. We see this nationally, all objections are racist, angry, hateful, colonialist, exploitative, and on into absurdity. When the numbers don't make sense, the dialogue quickly follows.

Against this national backdrop, the most peculiar and alien story of tax policy is set. At present, there is a projected state budget shortfall in Oklahoma -- one billion dollars. This projected shortfall triggers spending reduction -- wild stuff. This in and of itself is worthy of front page headlines, as it is something from antiquity. A wildly backwards way of doing things in the era of cost-no-object government, this story is a blue-unicorn in a field of horses.

Here's where the story gets much better. In an effort to "restore education funding" David Boren is gathering signatures for a ballot measure to raise the state sales tax by one penny, with the new revenues being diverted exclusively to education. The measure prognosticates about $600 million dollars to be raised each year.

In a stunningly honest moment, Mr. Boren said the following: "We are facing, I think, really the dismantlement of public education in Oklahoma. I don't think that's an alarmist statement. We could put to productive use a billion new dollars. Instead, we face a $1 billion shortfall in the legislature. It's very likely that there will be even more significant cuts in education this year. If we're 49th now, it's very likely we'll go to 51st after this year, trying to close the budget gap. We'll be at the bottom of the elevator shaft."

When asked why he chose a sales tax Boren said: "This is not where we started out, it was the last option standing. It was the lesser of evils. The biggest evil, I think, was to do nothing."

There is so much to push back against in this statement, but there is no need. Statements that include accusations of a secret cabal of conservatives in dark hoods seeking to sabotage public education, finding joy in being 51st out of 50 in education spending, this is hackneyed tripe -- but in this case, not offensive. Mr. Boren, while holding the line of liberal dishonesty in education spending, is conceding the most valuable ground. He is not seeking to institute new spending underwritten by dishonest economics and flowery future projections. Neither is he promising to make the rich pay for his spending. He is making an honest proposition: every financial transaction in the State should include one additional penny per dollar spent because education funding is that important.

Boren's honesty has since been hijacked by less honest men. There has been a glut of responses claiming this burden will disproportionately fall upon the poor, that this is a step in the wrong direction; all the usual, exploitative. progressive hog-wash. Yet, while I can not do business with the progressive-industrial-complex, I can do business with Mr. Boren.

We don't have to follow the argument down Democrat Lane to object or defend a one penny sales tax. An argument against this proposal is simple, "education doesn't need any additional funding." There is no class, gender, minority, element to this argument. Education today in Oklahoma either has enough funding or it doesn't.

In all likelihood, this measure will pass by wide margins. It is an easy thing to garner support for and a minor burden to place on a very large tax base, everyone. The devil typically residing in the details, this proposal may in time become more problematic and dishonest; but for now it is oddly simple.

This strangest of political propositions, an honest one, is the accumulated fortunes of a state that has excused itself from national excess and fiscal frivolities. For a protracted period of time the Sooner State has sought less of people's income and has now reached the point where the growth-fairy no longer makes up the difference. The state takes in less money, on purpose. Those leading this campaign also claim that the State doesn't require this uncollected money to do the work of the people. One group, represented unofficially by Mr. Boren, claims this is not the case. Here is where self-government is still possible. Over the next year the people of the state have the chance to either confirm or refute the claim that more funding for education would lead to a better result. If that be true, they can then decide if a sales tax is needed, or if OU sweatshirt proceeds should be diverted from the athletic department to fund trans-gender and colonialism studies. Maybe you raise teacher pay at elementary schools by cutting PE, maybe you add 5.3 cents to every combo meal at Sonic. These are political choices that can be made, and Oklahoma is one of the only states still in the position to make them.

Nationally, self government is proving impossible. In Oklahoma, it is still possible. Mr Boren proves this point. He is arguing a position of increasing spending that people of my persuasion are fundamentally against. But in this case, unlike most, I can object in a meaningful way. It is incumbent upon me to make the argument that education requires no further funding, but Mr. Boren has given me the opportunity to make such a case. By being honest and forthright in asserting the need for additional funds and providing a way to raise them, honest people can disagree. It does me no good to claim the Department of Education should be shut down, but here I can object. This measure will be voted upon and either rejected or adopted by the people. Those same people will then begin the process of paying one additional cent per dollar each time they pull out their wallet.

That's a Democrat I can work with. Didn't know they still existed.

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