Erin Taylor, PhD, is a mother to five children and a disability advocate.
This year I will receive my lavish savings from Oklahoma’s latest tax cut. It’s likely in the vicinity of $90. What I did not receive, thanks to slashed state services, costs my family a great deal more. My youngest child, who has a developmental disability, is on his sixth year on the Waiting List for the Home and Community Based Waiver. We’re likely to wait at least another six years, because Oklahoma legislators will not fund the state match for available federal Medicaid dollars. Our $90 largesse from the state is not going to provide him with a safe home, personal care, or vocational support.
I lost funding for my second job teaching at a university because they’ve had their budgets cut. This was a second job that I needed to pay medical bills and college tuition. At my younger children’s school, there is no money for paraprofessionals, textbooks, or paper. As I wrote this article, the Western Heights School District called to inform me that budget cuts will eliminate the after-school bus program. For the children in my community, this means little ones go home to empty houses. What are we going to ask Oklahomans — especially our poor, elderly, children, and those with disabilities — to sacrifice next?
I have it easier than many in Oklahoma, with a dual income, health insurance, and a little equity. Hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma families are less fortunate, and we deny their humanity by not adequately funding basic services. Put yourself in the shoes of one of those families. While working two minimum wage jobs, stretch your budget to pay for rent, child care, gas, winter coats, utilities, a transmission repair, and food. Have the common sense to never need an urgent (and expensive) medical procedure, because you don’t have private insurance and we’ve cut your Medicaid. Resist the urge to decrease work hours to care for an ailing parent. Absolutely don’t have a mental illness or permanent disability; we can’t afford that with the hundreds of millions we give in tax incentives to business interests – even when they have a dubious record of “giving back” to our economy. It’s about choices, you see. And we — Oklahoma legislators and voters — have not picked our families’ well-being first.
I am not originally from Oklahoma, but when I came here between the OKC Bombing and the 1999 tornadoes, I thought these were the most generous people I had ever met. Even in a state with pervasive and generational poverty, people tended to one another. Our elected officials were answerable to those who showed up and spoke up. I have seen people with very limited income give to neighbors when their homes were blown away; I have seen churches step in to help homeless families. Why is this “Oklahoma Standard” not held to the people we allow to take office? Is it because we did not vote in our best interest or because we just didn’t vote at all?
I’ve got my $90 in hand. I’m giving it to a family I know who needs it. This doesn’t make me charitable. It just meets the obligation I am held to by my fellow Oklahomans: That Christian value of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31). So thanks for that tax savings, elected officials. I will use it to do the job you won’t.
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