The Weekly Wonk: Trigger warning, scissors to the safety net, and the biggest threat in a generation

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

OK Policy is now accepting applications for a policy analyst and research interns through December 29. On the OK Policy Blog, Executive Director David Blatt warned that the state Legislature has set itself up for another ill-timed income tax cut. In his Journal Record columns, Blatt argued that federal action could take a pair of scissors to the social safety net, and that the possibility of turning federal entitlement programs into block grants is the biggest threat to low-income families in a generation.

In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis wrote that without new revenue, we can expect more of the same problems. Intern Chelsea Fielder described her experience as the daughter of Oklahoma corrections officers

OK Policy in the News

KTUL covered former OK Policy staffer and Oklahoma Assets Network coordinator DeVon Douglass’s transition to Chief Resilience Officer with the City of Tulsa. In his blog GlassHospital, OU-Tulsa President John Schuman featured OK Policy’s recent video on food insecurity. The Tahlequah Daily Press cited OK Policy data in a discussion of a bill filed by state Representative Colin Walke (D-OKC) to restore the refundability of the state EITC

The Woodward News used OK Policy data in an article on the effects of budget cuts on local social services organizations. The Tahlequah Daily Press highlighted Blatt’s participation on a panel for Leadership Oklahoma. NewsOK announced that OK Policy Board member Joe Siano is retiring as Superintendent of Norman Public Schools at the end of the current school year. 

Weekly What’s That

Federal poverty level

The federal poverty level (FPL) is a measure of income issued annually by the Department of Health and Human Services that is used to determine eligibility for various public programs and benefits, including Medicaid, health insurance premium tax credits, the free- and reduced- school lunch program, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and many others. Read more.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“Block grant proposals are a threat to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Oklahomans, especially low-income children, seniors, and individuals with disabilities. They would end America’s basic guarantee of access to health care and food for all families and replace it with an inadequate fund vulnerable to the whims of politicians.”

– OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt, writing about House Speaker Paul Ryan’s proposals to radically transform Medicaid and SNAP benefits into fixed pools of money for states instead of entitlements for families (Source).

Editorial of the Week

Wayne Greene, Tulsa World

The unsubtle message, he said was that teachers need to stop griping about state cuts to education and be happy.

Again, you hear the voice of the angry mother: You’ll take what you get, and you’ll like it.

Those lectures never really worked for any mom anywhere, and it’s hard to imagine how even an endless stream of rewards statements are going to convince Oklahoma teachers that they’re being adequately compensated.

Because they aren’t.

Numbers of the Day

  • 57 – Number of tickets out of 73 issued for sitting or standing on medians in Oklahoma City that were written to homeless people
  • $180.4 billion – Oklahoma’s total gross domestic product in 2015
  • 255 – Number of probation and parole officers in Oklahoma in 2016, down from 345 in 2008
  • 3,796 per 100,000 – Rate of incarceration for black Oklahomans in 2010, compared to 767 per 100,000 for white Oklahomans
  • 30% – Percentage of people fatally shot by police in Oklahoma in 2016 who were confirmed to be exhibiting signs of mental illness
  • 77% – Percent of patient care assistants employed by the state government that leave within their first year of employment

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • How Are States Using Welfare Funding? Often, Not to Help People Work [Governing]
  • Cigarette Smoking In The U.S. Continues To Fall [NPR]
  • As a sheriff, I know that jail is not always the answer [Washington Post]
  • Where Are All the Social Workers Going? [Governing]
  • How repealing Obamacare would punish the working class [Wonkblog / Washington Post]
  • Is Juvenile Justice Beyond Repair? [The Atlantic]


Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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