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All articles by David Blatt

Settlement will help help more Oklahomans vote

by | August 20th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (3)

Low voter turnout is a serious problem in Oklahoma, as we’ve discussed previously in issue briefs and blog posts. Most recently, just one in three eligible voters in Oklahomans went to the polls in the 2014 mid-term election. Electoral disengagement is especially acute for  low-income citizens. Yet thanks to an important agreement reached last month, it will be easier for more low-income Oklahomans to register to vote and engage in the electoral process.

Electoral participation is a cornerstone of our representative democracy. The vote allows citizens to participate freely and fairly in the political process and ensures that elected officials stay accountable to their constituents. When citizens don’t vote, their opinions and interests may go unrepresented. The vote is especially important for disadvantaged groups, such as low-income citizens, racial minorities, and those with disabilities, who have little capacity to hire lobbyists, donate to campaigns, or find other ways to exercise political influence. Yet, with some exceptions, these groups tend to have the lowest rates of voter turnout.

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Grim and Grimmer: Voter turnout hits all-time lows

by | August 12th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (4)

Every two years, the U.S. Census Bureau issues a report on voter participation in the most recent elections based on a national survey conducted the previous November. The news from this year’s report ain’t pretty. Fewer Americans voted in the 2014  midterm elections than in any election in at least 45 years. In Oklahoma, barely one out of three adults (34.2 percent) went to the polls. Among voters age 45 and under in Oklahoma, less than one in five voted. All this makes the efforts to repair Oklahoma’s broken democracy, which gained some momentum and enjoyed some modest progress this past legislative session, all the more urgent.

Here are three major takeaways from the report:

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New savings initiatives will boost financial security for Oklahoma’s Native Americans

ONAC_Circle_logoRecently, the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition (ONAC) announced a pair of exciting new initiatives for Native American families in Oklahoma. Supported by a $200,000 grant from the Michigan-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation, both initiatives aim to support savings as a way to promote family financial security and opportunity.

For families and individuals, savings are a basic cornerstone of financial well-being. Having savings to draw upon cushions the impact of temporary financial disruptions like the loss of a job or a medical emergency, serving as a private safety net that can avert a crisis and reduce reliance on public programs.

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Two great opportunities for Oklahoma college students

by | August 5th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

okpolicy_mugsOK Policy is pleased to announce two exciting opportunities for Oklahoma college students. We are now accepting applications for our Fall Internships and for our 2015-16 Research Fellowships. Students working with OK Policy have a wide range of opportunities to conduct research, write blog posts, and contribute to OK Policy projects and events. We invite all interested candidates to apply; the deadline for both programs is Friday, August 28th.

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Happy birthday, Medicare and Medicaid!

by | July 30th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

LBJ signing

President Johnson signing the legislation creating the Medicare and Medicaid programs, July 31, 1965

This is an edited and expanded version of a column that ran in the Journal Record.

Until a half-century ago, if you were elderly, poor, or living with a disability in America, chances are you were without health insurance and couldn’t get the medical care you needed. Thanks to Medicare and Medicaid, two landmark public initiatives that were signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson fifty years ago this month, the health and financial security of nearly one in three Americans has forever been improved.

Medicare, which covers almost all seniors and younger people with serious disabilities, pays for a wide range of preventive services, as well as hospital stays, prescription drugs, and critical medical supplies. Before Medicare, almost half of all Americans 65 and older were without health insurance. Today it’s only 2 percent. Between 1970 and 2010, Medicare contributed to a five-year increase in life expectancy at age 65 by providing early access to needed medical care. Medicare recipients are also less likely to miss needed care or have unmanageable medical bills than working-age adults with insurance, as a recent New York Times editorial noted.

Medicaid, the other program signed into law by President Johnson in July 1965,  may forever be Medicare’s less renowned and beloved sibling, but it is an equally important part of the health care safety net. Medicaid provides comprehensive medical coverage primarily to low-income children and pregnant women, while covering premiums, deductibles, and additional services such as long-term care for low-income seniors and people with disabilities who also receive Medicare.

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We’re hiring!

by | July 28th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

okpolicy_mugs

OK Policy is seeking an experienced and effective policy analyst to lead our work on economic issues affecting low- and moderate-income Oklahomans. Click here to see the full job description and for information on how to apply.

The policy analyst will conduct research and analysis on state policy issues, with a particular focus on economic opportunity, financial security, inequality, and disparities. Primary responsibilities will also include directing the Oklahoma Assets Network, a statewide coalition of individuals and organizations led by OK Policy working to build stronger financial foundations for all Oklahomans.

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Please don’t feed the stereotypes

by | July 22nd, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Economy, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

This is an expanded and revised version of an op-ed that ran in The Oklahoman.

The Oklahoma Republican Party recently ignited a local and national firestorm with a Facebook post pointing out a so-called irony of signs in national parks warning that feeding animals can create dependence on handouts at a time when a growing number of Americans are receiving federal food stamp benefits.

The post, which was later deleted, displayed a callous and mistaken understanding of the food stamp program and the people it serves. The program, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is among the most effective ways that the United States helps hard-pressed families to stay afloat and ensure they can afford enough to eat.

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Overtime update is long overdue

by | July 13th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Economy | Comments (0)

An earlier version of this post appeared in the Journal Record

overtime work

Photo by Tom McNemar

For a long time now, hardworking, middle-class Americans have seen their wages stagnate, while the benefits of economic growth go mostly to the wealthiest. One reason for this trend is the erosion of hard-fought labor standards, such as the minimum wage and overtime protections.

Recently, the Obama Administration proposed a new rule aimed at restoring overtime pay for millions of Americans by raising the income threshold under which all salaried workers are eligible for overtime.

The requirement that most employees who work more than forty hours a week be paid at least time-and-a-half their regular rate of pay goes back to the Fair Labor Standards Act enacted by Congress during the Roosevelt Administration in 1938. As economists Jared Bernstein and Ross Eisenbrey explain in a brief that helped shape the Administration’s proposed rule, “The right to a limited workweek provides time for leisure, civic participation, commuting, self-improvement, and tending to family and work.”

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Understanding Oklahoma’s new tax rates on oil and gas production

by | June 30th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (2)

With the start of the new fiscal year tomorrow (July 1), many new laws are set to take effect. Perhaps the most consequential new law is one passed last session, HB 2562, which extended and made permanent tax breaks for the state’s oil and gas producers.

Under current law, the standard tax on gross production is 7 percent. However, over the years the Legislature has enacted a series of exemptions that lower the tax rate for various forms of production, including enhanced recovery projects, inactive wells, new discovery wells, and 3-dimensional seismic shoots. The most significant of these exemptions is for horizontally-drilled wells, which are taxed at just 1 percent for the first 48 months of production. As the lion’s share of new oil and gas drilling in Oklahoma has shifted from vertical to horizontal production over the past decade, the cost of the horizontal tax break has ballooned to $282 million in FY 2014 from just $2 million in FY 2004. The cost in FY 2015 was projected at $379 million by the Tax Commission in December.

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Our new Director of Operations and Development

by | June 29th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

Shiloh KantzOklahoma Policy Institute is very pleased to announce that Shiloh Kantz has been promoted to the position of Director of Operations and Development effective June 1, 2015.

In the newly-created position, Kantz’s responsibilities include financial management, fundraising and development, event coordination, strategic initiatives, and human resources. She is also coordinating the Summer Policy Institute, an annual program that brings 60 students from across the state to Tulsa in August for a four-day training in state policy issues.

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