Kurt Hochenauer should have a disclaimer at the end of every one of his columns in the Gazette: “Any quoted facts and figures mentioned in this article a) bear little resemblance to reality in Oklahoma and b) willfully omit any sort of proper perspective.”
The U.S. Census Bureau’s national poverty level by income is a highly unreliable number, particularly as it pertains to Oklahoma. Almost half of the U.S. population can be found in nine states, and of those nine states how many do you suppose have a higher median income than Oklahoma? How about all nine, and five of those exceed the national average.
Then there’s the disproportionate income weight of the “sister” states in New England, like Maryland, Connecticut and Massachusetts, which make up seven of the top 11 highest median incomes by state while having relatively low populations by comparison to the big nine. And that’s all without mentioning the comparative cost of living between Oklahoma and those states.
In other words, Oklahoma’s poverty level is a lot different than what the U.S. Census Bureau’s national poverty level tells us. In fact, the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities estimates the poverty line for a family of four in Oklahoma at $19,961. I’d say that’s a fairly big difference that Hochenauer either didn’t bother to research or decided to leave out for less than intellectually honest reasons.
That also presents a problem for Robert Maril’s assertion that “Oklahoma has unusually high poverty rates when compared to the rest of the nation.” Even if we were to accept that the U.S. Census Bureau’s national poverty level is an acceptable measure, what comparison would strike you as more significant? Oklahoma, with 3.6 million people, a median income of about $43,000 and 15.3 percent of the population below the poverty line, or California, with 37 million people, a median income of about $61,000 and 13.3 percent of the population below the poverty line? Or New York, with 19 million people, a median income of about $56,000 and 14.4 percent of the population below the poverty line? Not nearly as doom and gloom in Oklahoma as Maril and Hochenauer might have you believe.
Instead of specifically solving issues of poverty, which Hochenauer claims “winds up collectively costing state residents in taxes for social and health programs,” why aren’t we asking why these issues are subsidized by taxes in the first place? If you stop subsidizing with taxes, the “impoverished” have more disposable income to attempt to solve their own problems and the “better off” have more disposable income with which to be charitable (and Oklahomans are, at a bare minimum, charitable). Charity has this peculiar habit of helping people in need quickly and directly.
The state programs in Oklahoma are as much of a failure as the federal war on poverty has been; maybe we need to relieve them of their duties and let the people work together to solve their own problems for a change.
“Scott A. Eden