Last May 20th, 24 Oklahomans lost their lives when a tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma. Seven of those killed were school age children whose school building was completely destroyed in the devastation.
Yesterday, as politicians and media tend to do, a one year photo-op anniversary get together was held in Oklahoma in front of the construction site for the new Moore Medical Center. GOP Rep. Tom Cole and GOP Governor Mary Fallin spoke at the photo-op and even took time for a few questions from “journalists.”
MSNBC”s Thomas Roberts reminded viewers of another devastating tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma in 1999 and then asked Rep. Cole “what makes the citizens of Moore want to come back and rebuild?”
Cole: “People forget, tornadoes are not as bad as hurricanes”…..the GOP representative then explained that he has lived in Moore all his life and has never seen his home damaged by a tornado and that that “was true of the majority of people.” Watch the linked video to see how Cole actually downplays the destructive nature of the powerful tornadoes that killed 7 children just last year.
Even though only one third of Oklahoma schools have safety shelters, when Rep. Cole was asked about the fact that the school where 7 children lost their lives one year ago didn’t have a storm shelter, he responded….”I think every school will have one pretty soon.” Odd answer, in my opinion.
But what Cole said next was, literally, disturbing. “So, people do learn tough lessons.” “But at the end of the day, I think local people should control their own destiny, ought to make their own decisions.” “People feel like they are very much in control of their own lives, and honestly, they prefer it that way.”
“People do learn tough lessons.” !!! What lessons did the parents of those 7 dead children from last year’s tornado in Moore….learn? What “tough lessons” did those 7 families “learn” from their children being killed inside a public school building lacking a storm shelter….in an area of a state known for it’s history of devastating tornadoes?
Let me tell you what Oklahomans “learned.” They learned that they are on their own.
The pressing question to be answered is….why are Oklahomans on their own when it comes to protecting their school age children from being killed by a tornado while they are attending school?
The answer is ugly…..but familiar.
Although Oklahoma averages more than 50 tornadoes a year, and sometimes gets more than 100, about 60 percent of public schools have no shelters. Cash-strapped districts can’t afford to build them.
Local school districts can’t afford the cost of building expensive storm shelters for their campuses. Most schools in Oklahoma are maxed out in what they are allowed to borrow through local bond initiatives…..which leaves only state or federal entities to help protect Oklahoma’s school children.
But top officials said the schools shouldn’t expect state help for shelters.
“Just adding on a new tax burden on Oklahomans is not the answer,” said Republican State Superintendent Janet Barresi, Oklahoma’s highest ranking education official.
Republican leaders want to eliminate the franchise tax, a $1.25 levy on every $1,000 a corporation invests in Oklahoma, to help fund the shelter plan. The tax, which has existed since 1963, generates about $40 million annually, but was recently suspended. Since 2010, the Republican-controlled Legislature has cut the personal income tax and several taxes on businesses as part of an aggressive fiscal agenda.
This is where the scorched earth economic religion of today’s GOP tires hit the proverbial road of reality. Rather than invest in new infrastructure which would keep Oklahoma school children safe during tornado season, blood-red Republicans who control the state, instead, chose trickle down economic measures which benefit wealthy Oklahomans and business owners.
All this should sound surprisingly shocking and callous….but unfortunately, it is all too familiar. Still today, 21 GOP-run states have refused to expand Medicaid in their states. Numerous studies have demonstrated that for each red state that has denied the expansion to it’s poorer workers…..many state citizens will die prematurely, just like those 7 kids last year whose parents learned a “tough lesson.”
Take a close look at what is happening in GOP-controlled Oklahoma….because…. the current GOP would have ALL Americans “learn a tough lesson.” The same lesson that the parents of 7 schoolchildren learned one year ago.
That “lesson” is crystal clear for all to see. If Republicans gain national control….EVER AGAIN……every American except the wealthiest, will be forced to learn that lesson.
The lesson: “You’re on your own, and so are your children.”