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Saturday, October 20th, 2018Last Update: Tuesday, July 31st, 2018 11:05:57 AM

Step up Oklahoma is Awful Delightfully, Refreshingly Awful and Mr Madison says that is OK.

By: Andrew K. Boyle

Honest men should be embarrassed by their systems government; we conservatives tend to forget this great nugget of wisdom. Since Reagan, the GOP has been strangely supportive of their particular fetish of government, and comically enraged at all the others. You know the drill, a semi-political conversation over drinks will always end with one of you complaining about bureaucrats, or red tape, or regulations, government unions, corruption, cronyism…. ad infinitum until the evening must be written off as a loss. This is the reason young people are not, officially, conservative.

Hold on to that bit about being embarrassed by government, we’ll come back to that in a moment.

Being a resident of another state, and writing for this paper provides a quarterly challenge. News from a former home never falls completely off of your radar, but it is moved into the periphery of one’s news mind. When required to comment on local news, a quick scan of trusted sources quickly brings current events back into focus. As time has passed, this remains intellectually easy, but increasingly disingenuous. It becomes hard to have deep convictions about events that have little effect on your day to day life. I have found, over time, wonderful freedom and a good bit of Republican virtue in the evolution of personal caring.

Readers of this paper are most likely accused on a regular basis of lacking in the care department – the most hackneyed Republican burden, assuredly. We tend not to rush out and declare popular sentiments:

“WHAT HARVEY WEINSTEIN DID WAS WRONG!!!!”

“WHAT DONALD TRUMP SAID ABOUT WOMEN WAS WRONG!!!”

“HATE SPEACH IS SO HATEFUL…THAT I HATE IT!!!!”

We just don’t play-up and demonstrate our outrage on matters all sane persons already agree upon – hence the moniker of cold heartlessness. We do, however, demonstrate our outrage against complicated matters of governance that the public is passionately “don’t care” about. Again, party of combovers and tucked in shirts we are.

In a farcical world, I would happily live alongside Republican-curmudgeons, enjoying marginally effective government and a decent amount of personal freedom. Unfortunately, in our world, the GOP is a zombie husk of a party who has already surrendered to more animated forces, hence I won’t be coming to the Christmas party and will struggle to support your legislation.

Please don’t hang yourself, dear reader – there is tremendous opportunity and freedom to be had from this dark hopelessness. Republicans may be a zombie-husk, but the virtues which used to animate it is alive and well.

The big news from Oklahoma is this business about “Step Up Oklahoma,” or put pejoratively, “Pay Up Oklahoma.” The plan, designed by a group of business persons (hopefully a secret cabal of shady persons) proposed a tax measure to bring in $800 million in the hopes of providing a $5,000 yearly pay raise for Oklahoma teachers who currently rank 94th out of 50 states in matters of pay. The plan also claims to fix other, less specific element of “broken government.”

Nightmare of a plan.

But while Republican virtue causes us to rail against the dangerously named “Step Up Oklahoma,” that bit about being embarrassed by our form of government should guide our response. Absent the predictable responses from gubernatorial candidates, is any measure of admitting that governance in Oklahoma is quite embarrassing. The State does pay teachers by a scale that was used to set the salary of Calvin Coolidge’s elementary teacher (roughly.) To the casual observer the state struggles comically to repair the roads, quite literally a shovel-ready job. If you read only the headlines, the state has been out of money for years. Oklahoma government is a mess.

Most states find themselves in the current or near term position of having to raise a ton of capital to continue operating. We conservatives have known this for some time. Step Up Oklahoma is an idea to raise a ton of money to support a long overdue pay raise for teachers.

While the plan is abhorrent, it does allow the GOP to do something other than oppose. It is a great opportunity to push for school choice. Pay teachers more (inevitable) in exchange for introducing competition (hitherto an impossible pipe-dream). It is also a chance to push the idea that government is embarrassingly bad, and should be generally restrained as to not embarrass the state too greatly.

Most importantly, Step Up Oklahoma is federalism in the most pure, “50 laboratories of democracy” way. It is one state addressing a problem within its own borders, without pickpocketing the other 49 states. Recent tax reforms have exposed this practice by limiting local tax deductions on federal returns. Loudly and proudly the GOP should embrace the virtue of dealing with teacher pay with Oklahoma, interested parties only.

The plan may be terrible, but it’s shockingly Republican virtue must be celebrated. The world is fast changing, and while the federal monster is as terrifying as ever, politics is paradoxically becoming more local in this Nationalist moment in history. Step Up Oklahoma is your, very flawed version, of what Republicans have long held up as gospel – local governance.

As an outsider to the red-dirt state, I have unemotional general thoughts about what stinks of terrible progressive politics. But I cannot escape the sense of relief hidden in that discomfort. Its very freeing for something that happens in politics to be off my radar. It has been decades since I have felt the freedom to not care greatly about a tax increase someplace else. Our society needs more of this.

There is great freedom in being generally embarrassed by one’s government, and yet having a willingness to contribute to the battlefield of ideas. You could come away with a stinker of a tax raise that makes the state much worse, but right now you can bring Republican ideas to a fight that, for once, that is being played within the boundaries you have set. State problems, state solutions – constitutional federalism.

A five year resident of Oklahoma and a graduate of Azusa Pacific University, Andrew K. Boyle currently writes from a gulch hidden in the mountains of Colorado. You can follow him on twitter @andrewkboyle

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