With a flourish, the retired Sen. Tom Coburn aka Dr. No reappeared on the state’s public stage in late March to express his outrage that the Oklahoma Legislature might have the gall to actually fund a teacher pay raise — the first in 10 years — by overcoming the absurd 75 percent threshold required.
I critiqued his critique and then watched the Legislature actually put its money where its mouth is. For almost two years, I’ve been reviewing and critiquing the pitiable arguments put forth by fellows at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, which on the one hand proclaimed support for raising teacher compensation but on the other provided no real source of funding to pay for it (see here). Some legislators kept the OCPA faith to the bitter end.
Now that the miracle on Northeast 23rd Street is a reality, the OCPA fellows are on to other matters. Meanwhile, Dr. No’s think-alikes have formed Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite! in an attempt to repeal the new funding approved by the Legislature.
Where’s the plan?
After the Legislature approved the tax increases, OTU announced they would soon file their petition for repeal AND would demonstrate where several hundred-million dollars could be found to pay for the teacher pay raise. Their Facebook page has a post:
Nowhere have I found Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite! to have a “plan” showing where the money will come from. I have heard their statements about requiring performance audits of all state agencies (or something like that) and their vague assertion that requiring school districts to expend a certain percentage on instruction — but no specifics.
Also, we can expect Dr. No to make periodic appearances spouting the same “truths,” i.e., that he loves teachers, but there’s plenty of money for education in Oklahoma if we just cut out all the waste. This from an Oklahoman whose career has been in the private practice of medicine and the Congress where national health care policy is written.
How has health care fared under Dr. No’s watch?
When I contemplate Dr. No leading the charge to undo what a courageous Legislature has done to advance public education in Oklahoma, I think it is fair to ask how our health care system in Oklahoma has fared during his tenure. My previous thoughts about Oklahoma’s health care system (detailed here, here, here and here) are succinctly summarized by this quote from my friend Carlton James:
Note the following facts:
The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not have universal health care.
As a percentage of gross domestic product, the U.S. spends about 13 percent on health care; the next nine countries average less than 9 percent.
Annually, the U.S. spends $4,600 per person on health care, while he next nine countries average $2,200. Life expectancy in the U.S. is the lowest of the G-7 industrialized nations.
Universal health care is not an issue in the other industrialized countries.
These stark facts came to mind upon seeing the recent Oklahoman article about life expectancy falling for Oklahoma women. An important measure of successful health care is life expectancy, a statistic that is measured with accuracy. This shocking article, questioning the belief most of us geezers hold that, as it has been for us, life will be better for the next generation, shows that despite amazing advances in medical technology, science and talented providers, the health care system is failing us in Oklahoma.
That article was followed by Paul Samuelson’s Op Ed in the Tulsa World, wherein he concludes — as have others — that we simply pay health care providers way too much, including doctors like Dr. No was/is. Samuelson cites the studies that have convinced him that we should move our health care system toward universal Medicare pricing. I can add to his proof, borrowing from the OCPA playbook (they endlessly cite Catoosa’s costly stadium press box to prove Oklahoma’s schools are adequately funded), by citing a recent story on National Public Radio about a $100 urine test for which a woman was billed $17,800 and actually paid $5,000.
‘First take the log out of your own eye’
So, Dr. No, who has every right as the citizen he is, holds forth now as an expert on how to finance public education in Oklahoma by giving teachers raises without raising taxes. I think he should re-read Matthew 7:1-5,
7 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s[a] eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor,[b] ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s[c] eye.
Or, as Luke 4:23 more simply puts it, “Physician, heal thyself.”