I don’t normally have scatological thoughts when writing blog posts, but I have been drafting one titled “Who Will Empty Your Bedpan?” reacting to silliness posted on The 1889 Institute’s website. Then I woke up this morning to the news that the failure of Plan A yesterday in the legislature’s special session leaves us with Plan B—namely another round of cuts to state agency budgets and the real possibility of elderly Oklahomans being denied Medicaid services like nursing home care.
As I will elaborate upon in that future post, “Who will empty your bedpan?” was a rhetorical question I used in my economics classes when trying to emphasize the importance of thinking about “real” economic output more than just looking at the nominal or dollar totals and to demonstrate why education is a necessary government service. I called it my “Bedpan Theory” which essentially states that you can have a bunch of money at the end of your life, but you’re going to be pretty miserable if those emptying your bedpan are untrained, uneducated and resentful of their poor circumstances in life. Translated, though I doubt the Limited Thinkers at Oklahoma’s Stink Tanks will ever understand, we all benefit from living in a community where our fellow residents are educated and prosperous so we all, not just parents, should invest generously in the education of our community’s children.
We have the Brown Boys, Dan and David, (along with many others including the Daily Oklahoman) to thank for this Plan B dump on our state. I have written before about House Bill 1017, Oklahoma’s landmark education reform legislation and the lasting legacy of Governor Henry Bellmon a man of vision and courage, in Once Upon A Time and House Bill 1017 25th Anniversary . As I pointed out in an Epilogue to the latter, after an attempt to repeal the legislation through State Question 639 failed in 1991, its backers filed State Question 640 which passed in 1992 and put in place the requirement that it takes a super majority of three-fourths for the legislature to increase taxes. A vocal leader of the efforts to pass both state questions was Dan Brown, then head of the Oklahoma Taxpayers Union. The following year David Brown, who served until just last year as chairman of its board, is credited with leading the effort to establish the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs that has dutifully kept the anti-tax, anti-government, anti-common sense rhetoric front and center in our state ever since.
House Bill 1017, and the general economic prosperity in our nation until the Great Recession of 2008, fostered improvements in Oklahoma public education including statewide expansion of early childhood education for four year olds. But that progress was fully constipated when the “tax cuts increase revenues” silliness advocated by David Brown’s stink tank bore its own brown fruit leaving our state government with an obvious structural deficit into the foreseeable future. Now, even though a clear majority of our legislators have come to understand that it takes real and current (not imaginary “supply side”) revenue to provide essential government services, Dan Brown’s super majority sphincter prevents the passage of any new revenue measures.
I don’t know if the Brown Boys are related by blood, but they are certainly related in their legacy of dumping barriers to progress on Oklahomans. In the near future when you see a bedpan that needs emptying just think Brown; that won’t get it emptied but it will help you remember why it isn’t.
As always lunch is on me for the first to ID the photo location.