This video is a bit long, but well worth watching.
I did do one thing during my week off.
It revolved around The Precious.
I’ve written before about my new-found love of playing the piano. A friend from my church gave me her old piano, a 1984 Wurlitzer, last August. That piano opened a whole new world for me. I started taking lessons, and found that I have a surprising facility for music. More important, I discovered that I love making music.
The minute I sit down at the piano, the world drops away and it’s just me and the sounds I can draw out of those keys. I didn’t even know where middle C was when I began. But I’ve moved on rather quickly since then. I’m not sure why, but it’s like I’m learning a language that in some odd way I already know.
I don’t practice. I just play it. Learning a new piece of music is fascinating to me, like working a puzzle.
As grateful as I was to have the Wurlitzer — and I was very grateful indeed — I was dissatisfied with it almost from the first day. I don’t know the technical language to describe it, but there was no there, there in the tone. I could change the way I touched the keys and change what it did, but nothing I could do could pull real music out of it.
I don’t know how to explain it except to say that it was limited in what it would do and the limitations wouldn’t allow me to make the sounds I could hear. I heard music in my mind that I knew I could not ever get out of this piano.
I spent hours, trolling on-line web-sites, mooning like a lovestruck teenager over the pianos I saw there. I even went so far as to contact one of them and see if he’d take my Wurlitzer in trade. Shipping costs made that a bad deal for him, which I understood.
In fact, shipping costs made buying from him a bad deal for me, as well. It costs almost $1000 to ship a piano from the East coast to Oklahoma. That’s a lot of coin to stack on top of the cost of the piano itself.
During a lunch break at work a few weeks ago, I decided to check out a local piano dealer called Larsen Music. I wanted to check the prices on a new piano to get an idea of how much a used one should cost. I did not have any plans to buy a piano when I went into that store.
But the very nice salesmen told me I could play any piano that I wanted. That’s a little bit like a car salesman offering a test drive. There is nothing like the smooth specialness of a new car with that intoxicating new car smell. If they can get you in that baby, you’re halfway to sold by the car itself.
It was the same with these pianos. I tried three of them that were in my general price range. They all cost more than I planned to spend. A lot more. But each and every one of them put my Wurlitzer in the dirt. They were all wonderful, but as soon as I touched the keys on The Precious, it was swoon time. If buttered honey was a sound, it would be the sound of this piano. If the colors of a sunset were music, they would sound this way.
It had the voice that speaks the language of the kind of music I want to play.
However, it cost a lot of money.
And I don’t have a lot of money.
Fortunately, there was wiggle room in the price. It turns out that buying a piano really is a lot like buying a car. The piano, like the car, sells itself. Then, the process of working out the deal on the piano involves — like buying a car — a bit of bargaining.
I traded in the Wurlitzer and got quite a lot taken off the asking price in addition to that. The bottom line was that I could afford it. I went home with prices and photos for three pianos. But, the one I wanted was the Kawai. I called back the next day and asked for a couple of more discounts, then agreed to buy over the phone.
The reason? I found the piano I wanted at a price I could afford. I had also learned the answer to the question I had when I walked into the store: New pianos are a better deal than used ones, especially when you factor in the expense of shipping. I had been looking at thirty-year-old pianos that, with shipping, would have cost me about a thousand dollars less than I paid for this new one. That’s not a good deal.
My new piano has a 10-year warranty, a complimentary first tuning and Larsen’s offers a 100% trade-in if someday in the future I decide to buy a grand piano.
I paid for it when I bought it, but asked the store to keep it for me until session was over because I knew I wouldn’t have time to touch it, and that if it was sitting in my house and I couldn’t play it, I might stroke out. It rained here last week, which delayed delivery a day.
But last Wednesday, the delivery guys brought The Precious.
That may be part of why I didn’t get much done last week. All I know is that they weren’t out of the drive when I started playing it, and I didn’t stop until my hands got sore.
I love this piano. It is (in case you’re interested) a new Kawai K3. I recommend Larsen’s Music to any Okie who’s looking for a piano of their own. They are good people to do business with. I think the salesman enjoyed my pleasure in the piano almost as much as he enjoyed the sale. He told me, “I saw your face when you played the Kawai. I knew that was the one.”
I stopped my lessons for the past couple of months because there was no time. I’m starting again this Thursday and I’ve got so many things I want my teacher to go over with me, I don’t know if we can fit it into an hour.
I’ll never be a great musician. But I am already a fulfilled and happy one. I am going to ask around my church and see if I can find enough interested musicians of any level of competence to put together some sort of funky Southside Papist band. That would be great fun.
The moral of this story is simple: If there’s something you want to do, do it. Don’t let wiser heads tell you that you’re too old or that it’s impractical or wasteful silliness. Above all, don’t listen when they tell you to grow up. “Grow up,” used that way, is just a synonym for “stop living.”
That advice isn’t wise. It’s an exhortation to waste life. The greatest wisdom about life is to know it and live it as the gift that it is.
I had 1001 things planned for my first week after session closed down.
I was going to storm the gates of heaven and get flaming arrows of direction in reply.
I was going to clean my house from top to bottom.
I was going to move the garden statue of Our Lady that’s been languishing in my “music room” (Don’t laugh. There is a piano in there.) outside and buy an arbor thingy and plant flowers and create a prayer garden in my back yard.
I was going to get up every single morning and work out like Bette Midler in Ruthless People with the same, awe-inspiring results.
I had 1001 things I was going to do.
What I did instead was collapse into a heap. We went out after sine die and had a wonderful dinner, just me and my family. Then, after almost no sleep, I got up Saturday and putzed around, too tired to make sense of myself. I began a Novena to Our Lady. I did do that. Prayer is the one thing on my list that I sorta did.
My husband and I went to vigil mass and back out to eat again. Then, we came home and I watched tv like a zombie.
It’s always like that after session shuts down. I don’t know what I was thinking when I made all these plans. The closing days of session are intense. And I mean INTENSE.
After it’s over, I’m still jazzed for days, and at the same time, I’m all rubbery and shot through and through. It takes a while to get my mind right and my body rested. Add to that the fact that this was my last sine die, and you’ve got a recipe for crash down time.
My youngest son and one of his friends moved my office home for me on Monday. I spent last week opening boxes and rather listlessly trying to figure out where to put everything. I need more bookshelves. And I am going to give a couple of the paintings away. I have no idea where I’m going to hang the rest of them or where everything will go. I still have a couple of boxes that are partially unpacked and two drawers that are full of things I haven’t found a place for. I also have a couple of boxes of books and posters/awards that are still at the capitol that I need to go get.
As for cleaning the house, nope.
Still needs doing.
Storming heaven? I prayed, but there were no messages wrapped around the shafts of flaming arrows coming my way. The only answer I got was when I rather lazily prayed and asked if it would be alright to skip Sunday mass yesterday (That’s how low my laziness had sunk me.) I definitely got the feeling that I should get up and go to church. So I did.
I dreamed about my constituents several times during the week. They were anxiety dreams, worrying about who is going to take care of them. That’s the hardest part, leaving my people to someone else’s care.
My friends gave me a lovely party yesterday. It was a complete surprise. I had thought they were going to do something when the session closed down, then, when it didn’t happen, I was ok with it. The date of the shut-down had been uncertain right up until the end. So I assumed it was too uncertain to plan anything.
I was totally surprised — astonished — when my husband drug me into a restaurant yesterday. I mean, I don’t do restaurants on the Sabbath. In fact, I thought he’d gone daft. He insisted I go with him back to where the restrooms were, which I thought was plenty strange. As long as I’ve known him, he’s gone to the restroom by himself. Then, he walked past the restrooms and into the kitchen. I wouldn’t follow at first, and he had to insist.
By this time, I was convinced he had lost it. We went through the kitchen and into another room and I walked into a party.
They completely surprised me. I was thrilled. And touched.
So that’s my week off. I need to pray more. In fact, I’m going to start a 54 day Novena, consecrating the rest of my life. I did the St Louis de Montfort thing of consecrating my life to Jesus through Mary a while back. This is just a sort of renewal of that.
I realized yesterday that I already know what I should do. I also realized that God has given me everything I need to do it. I was wanting direction when I already have the road map. As for my constituents, I am going to pray for them and their future as part of the 54 day Novena. I have to let go of taking care of them, and that, as I said, is the hardest part.
So, this letter to my friends, telling you what I did on my little vacation is my first post after my week off. To be honest, I’d like to take another week. I’m just now getting my head above water a bit.
But writing this disjointed post is a good palate cleanser. Telling you all about it wipes a bit of the dust off my mind.
It’s time to get this deal on the road. I think I’ll begin by doing a bit of that working out I more or less skipped last week. You see, I don’t have to get into my car and drive to work. My office is just on the other side of the living room. And my recumbent bike/elliptical/Total Gym (yes, I’ve have all that; not that it’s done me any good) is in the spare bedroom down the hall.
Wish me luck, boys and girls. I’m re-inventing myself.
It’s a done deal.
I’ve finished my last day of my last legislative session.
I had a lovely evening after we adjourned with the people I love. When I came home, it felt so good. I just looked around and thought how much I love being here.
Then, when I went to bed, I couldn’t sleep. I got up, got dressed, got in my car and drove around. I even drove back to the capitol building and did a loop around it.
In the course of that drive, I went over the personal things about this job. I said good-bye, one by one, to the few things I will miss. I said good riddance to the many other things I am glad to be rid of. I said a lot of thank-yous to Jesus.
After all that, I came back home, went back to bed and slept the sleep of peace.
Today, I’m going to take my mother out for the ice cream and the drive that she’s been missing (and complaining about missing) for the past few weeks. I’m also going to go get paint samples to paint a room in my house.
I plan to take a week away from blogging to rededicate my life and to seek God’s guidance for what’s ahead. I also need rest and healing time. I plan to be back here and at it on June 2.
Several readers have expressed concern that I will stop blogging. That is not going to happen. I know that this blog and writing are a big part of my future. If the way things have worked in the past are a predictor of the future, I’ll come back from this prayer time ready to roll.
In the meantime, thank you for all the wonderful things you’ve said to me the past few days. It’s been a gift, walking this path with you.
Here are a few iPhone snap shots from my last day:
Legislator’s eye view of the House floor in session.
Looking across the chamber from my desk.
Saying good-bye to the staff.
My seat mate, office mate, best bud, Representative Anastasia Pittman.
Last vote. I don’t remember what the bill was. I do remember that this was a vote on the emergency clause of the bill.
View from the podium just before we made the Sine Die motion. The top glassed in gallery is the press booth.
Unless we manage to tie ourselves in knots, this is the last day of session.
I will still be the representative for House District 89 until November 16 of this year. People will be able to call me “Representative” all the rest of my days. Unless I sign up as a lobbyist (don’t hold your breath) I have privileges of the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representative so long as I live.
We’re a small club, and parts of that clubbiness never go away.
But, barring breakdowns and special sessions, today is the last day that I will drive to the capitol, park my car and walk into the building to go to the House floor to vote on the people’s business. Today is the last day that I will walk on that floor as an active voting member of the House with the privilege and the weight of speaking for tens of thousands of people resting on my shoulders.
At some point today, I will push the button to make my last vote.
I may have already made my last speech. Probably so. But then again, I may find something today that I want to debate. I don’t plan these things, so I don’t know for sure.
There is an energy on the House floor when it is in session that is hard to describe. You walk through those doors and there’s a hum of people working, talking. It has an urgency, even when they’re joking around, that you don’t find anywhere else. Their nerved up emotions hit you almost like a charge of electricity.
I’m so accustomed to this that I don’t feel it anymore. I remember it from when I was new.
On busy days, the rotunda outside the House is so full of lobbyists that it’s difficult to get out of the House to the rest of the building. It’s like weaving through a crowd at Wal Mart on Black Friday. If you’re a House member, lobbyists will interrupt your progress repeatedly to say “Hello Representative,” or some such. People who want to talk to you about this bill or that will stop you as you walk out.
Sitting on the House floor is a bit like being a fish in the proverbial barrel. We’re at the bottom of a huge room, with galleries surrounding us on all four sides. The press is in their own gallery at the top of all the others where they can look down onto us and peer into our laps. They can see what we’re reading and what we’re doing.
That’s why I sit at the back of the room. With my seniority, I can sit where I want. I chose the last seat, the one right next to the door, because the press has to turn their cameras downward in a deliberate fashion to get me. I don’t like being on camera for hours at a time.
I’m extremely tired today. It’s been a long week. I am also unsettled and sad about a vote that I had to cast last night. I wanted to end my time in the House on an up note with the people I work with. Instead, this divisive vote has created acrimony and angst. I am, as so often happens, the odd one out. Now, after sleeping on it, I’m thinking that I should have gone in-your-face with them and helped kill this evil bill. That is the hell of this job in a few sentences.
I’m going to write about the issues surrounding that particular vote in much greater detail later because it goes to the core responsibilities of representative government. It is a case study in how government which is dominated and run by special interests — in this case corporatist interests — fails its citizens, even in the most obvious areas of public safety. It is also a case study in how weak legislators who won’t fight their own party for what’s right end up failing the people and endangering their constituents’ lives.
Now that I think about it, this is a good way to end my 18-year legislative career. It is a highly appropriate way.
I have rules about what I do in office. Two of the most important are: I don’t kill people, and if I can do something that will save lives, I will do it. The cost to me doesn’t count in this equation.
Those little rules of mine got me into what people here in Oklahoma call “a Wewoka switch” last night. They forced me to vote for a horrifically evil piece of legislation that came about because of the dominance of money interests in our state government, money interests who will kill kids to squeeze the last dime out of government for themselves.
In the process, I ended up at odds with people I care about on this last day of my time on that floor as a voting member. And now, I’m thinking I was wrong, that my vote will be used to empower the corporatism that is bankrupting our state and impoverishing its people and leaving our children’s lives forfeit.
How could anything be more appropriate than that? If there is a better way to describe the hell of this job, I don’t know of it.
It’s been my meat and bread for years. Why shouldn’t it be my last legislative supper as well?
I am feeling nostalgic as I write this. But I do not have one shred of desire to come back to that House floor next year and do it again. There is not one atom in my body, not one thought in my head, not one lingering bit of longing to be on the hot seat and make any more of these gut wrenching, wrong and wronger/who-do-we-hurt/rob-from-the-poor-to-give-to-the-rich decisions.
There’s a hum when you walk onto the House floor. The charge of emotions hits you like electricity. Nothing I’ve ever encountered anywhere else comes close to the experience of legislating.
I am feeling nostalgic. This is a big passage for me. A huge change in my life. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I end up crying at some point, simply from the weight of emotions and weakness that comes from being so tired.
I am not looking forward to walking out of those doors for the last time as a legislator. That will be a wrench.
But I am looking forward to the life beyond those doors. I need to pray this through, but the broad strokes of what I’m going to do are already in front of me.
I am so ready for this change.
We were in legislative session when the sirens went off.
For the first time that day, the room fell silent. It was the kind of bottom-dropping-out, free-fall silence that occurs when people face their omnipresent dread.
Tornadoes are an omnipresent dread in Oklahoma. Their unpredictability, coupled with their potential for absolute deadliness are the source of our nightmares.
I don’t personally know a single native-born Oklahoman who does not have tornado nightmares. Fear of these things is drilled into us from birth.
That the room fell silent when the sirens went off was predictable, especially in the Oklahoma House. We know that no matter where one of these things comes down, it will hit people that we are responsible for.
The silence was especially loud, coming as it did in the middle of an exceptionally noisy day. I learned as a child that horses run and pitch when a storm is coming. Any mother can tell you that children are unmanageable when weather is brewing. If yesterday means anything, the same thing must apply to middle-aged adults.
The Speaker gaveled us down repeatedly. He admonished us again and again to take our seats and maintain order so that the legislators who were explaining bills could be heard. Nothing he did affected the behavior on the floor at all.
Until the sirens went off.
That silenced us. One of us was on the mike, introducing a bill. After a moment’s plunging silence, he said, “Get under your desks.”
That broke the quiet as we all laughed.
Not too long after that, we had to evacuate the House Chamber and go to the Capitol basement. Several Indian dancers had been performing in the rotunda when the storm hit. They trooped down and waited with us, amidst comments about rain dances that were too effective.
I watched the tornado form on the screen of the tiny tv in the capital snack bar with everyone else. It dropped at a town called Newcastle. These storms follow tracks, almost as if they actually were on rails. I knew that if this thing stayed together that South Oklahoma City (where I live) and Moore were in for it.
There are tornadoes. And then there are tornadoes.The ones that kill and destroy on a large scale stay down, move slowly and get bigger as they go. That’s what I watched this tornado do. I’m not a meteorologist, but I’ve watched a lot of these things and I knew that this one was a killer.
There was absolutely nothing to do. The phones went dead. I sat down in a corner and waited. I knew people were being killed. I had no idea if my house or the houses of my friends were going up. The reports that were coming in over the tv were too confusing to tell. I did know that people I knew, had known all my life, were in grave danger.
I stayed in the basement until it passed. Then, I loaded up and left. It was raining, hailing. I ended up taking shelter at a Sonic drive-in for about 30 minutes. The traffic lights were out and the interstates had been closed, which resulted in traffic gridlock. I snaked around through back ways to get South. It took me an hour and a half to do what would normally be a 15-minute drive. A friend of mine who lived on the far side of the damage told me it took him almost seven hours to get home.
I was out of touch with the larger world for about 12 hours. No power. No water. But nobody hurt, either.
My district didn’t get hit. My family is all ok, although some of them are without power and water. I have several friends who lost their homes, but they all got out of the way before it hit.
After the May 3 tornado in 1999 went through the same general area, we had a lot of orphaned pets — cats and dogs — who showed up. It was impossible to find their owners, so people adopted them and took care of them. I’ve already decided that our home will be open if a battered-up pet wants to come there.
I want to thank everyone who has texted or posted, asking me if I’m alright. Yes, I am.
I started not to write about this. It’s one of those stories that I don’t like one bit.
Evidently a very young Jacqueline Bouvier met Father Joseph Leonard when she was in Dublin in 1950. This was three years before she married Senator and future President John F Kennedy.
She and the priest became friends and she corresponded with him at key points in her life — when she suffered a miscarriage in 1956 and later after the assassination of President Kennedy in early 1964. The letters were based on friendship, but they were also part of a pastoral relationship in which she discussed her faith.
Jacqueline Kennedy would not be the first public person who confided in a priest because she believed the priest wouldn’t gossip about her. Sadly, she’s also not the first person to be disappointed in this belief.
Now, these personal letters are on the auction block and their contents are being published everywhere.
Does no one but me see that this is wrong?
Father Joseph Leonard and Jacqueline Bouvier, 1950. Photo Source: Boston Globe
Why did Father Leonard keep these letters? I wrote earlier today that I will never talk about the private things that my constituents have shared with me through the years. I didn’t say, but it is true that I am also going to destroy any records of these conversations as soon as I leave office, such as phone calls or follow-ups related to them. Those are all I have, since I do not write down the personal things people tell me, and I do not keep their letters in which they confide deep things from their lives.
Not one word my constituents told me will ever surface.
I do not understand priests who gossip about their parishioners, especially when they talk about the gut wrenching things that people share with them. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy’s letters were clearly written not just to a friend, but to a friend who was a priest, because he was a priest. No one but the priest should ever have seen or heard about them. They certainly should not be on the auction block to make money.
From Catholic News Service:
DUBLIN (CNS) — Newly released letters between former U.S. first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and a Dublin-based priest reveal Kennedy’s struggles to keep her faith after her husband’s assassination.
The letters exchanged by Kennedy and Vincentian Father Joseph Leonard, who died in 1964, are set to be auctioned in Dublin in June. Excerpts were published in The Irish Times newspaper.
I am leaving the Oklahoma legislature. Last week was a week of formal goodbyes.
I gave a farewell speech to the House, which you can watch, if you’d like. Go here to see the video. The House Democrats held their annual Sine Die Party, and roasted me and other departing legislators. The Democratic Legislative Assistants prepared a delicious luncheon (Covered dish. All their best cooking. It was to die for.) with a cake with all our names and said another round of good-byes. I even got a small — and lovely — good-bye editorial in the Oklahoman.
We are still in the busiest time of the legislative process. We haven’t shut down. Not at all. That means I’m going to be tres busy until we actually do sine die. (Sine die is the motion we make to adjourn the legislative session.) But I am grateful beyond words to my colleagues for giving me these many avenues of good-bye.
Each of these things is a rite of passage for what has to be a huge transition in my life. Leaving the legislature is a little bit like a soldier, coming home from a war. You are leaving a combative, total environment which engages you on every level and returning to a world that now seems out of kilter by comparison.
Wherever people are for a period of time, that becomes their normal. Normal for me has long ago become the totally unreal world of elected politics.
At the same time, I am way past glad to be leaving. God gave me something like marching orders for the rest of my life a few years ago when I was sitting in the cathedral at Fatima. I’ve dithered since then, occupied and preoccupied by the legislative wars and the many needs of my constituents. If you don’t think that these things are a 24/7 occupation that devours of all your thoughts and passions, then, you my friend, have never been a legislator.
Those of us who legislate or who have legislated know that there are very few jobs that swallow you whole like legislating does. It is difficult to disengage enough to maintain your friendships and family and retain something of your personality.
As for fulfilling the call that God gave me, I found it well nigh impossible. I need more than corners of time in my days to write the things He wants me to write. I’m not going to discuss in detail what I think this is all about. I have a lot of praying to do first.
I do know that I am not going to abandon the political process. I am also not going to stop writing about the intersection of public life and Christianity on this blog. I will, if anything, be a lot more free to talk about these issues now that I’m not bound to protect the privacy of so many people.
That is not to say that I will be talking about closed door conversations with my colleagues or divulging the almost endless private things that my constituents have shared with me through 18 years of elected office.
I have represented, cared for and cared about thousands of people for a very long time. In the course of that, many of them have opened their souls to me. I have never and I will never talk about the people who trusted me to be their voice in government and who honored me by opening their lives and hearts to me in conversations that were in fact and in truth non-sacramental confessions.
All these things I take with me to my grave.
What I will talk about is the intersection of public policy and publicly stated comments, actions, etc. I’ve operated for a long time using the standard that if something is published and circulated publicly, I can talk about it. That won’t change. It will, rather, be enhanced by the fact that I know what’s behind these things. I will be a lot less guarded in my opinions in the future when I do not have the responsibility for many thousands of people on my shoulders.
Christians in America have a mountain in front of us. After more than two hundred years of having things our way, we are faced with a society in which we are beleaguered. We live in post Christian America. Our task is to re-convert our nation to Christ. Right now, we are not up to that task. We are, in fact, confused, divided and overawed by our opposition.
That’s what I’m going to write about. Because somebody needs to do it. And because I am uniquely qualified for the job.
My favorite Representative Hamilton photo. From Rose Day 2014.
I tried to remember to thank everyone in this speech, but I somehow forgot to mention — even though I wrote their names down and they were right in front of me — two of the most important people. Louise Scoles, who fought for my election and was my sponsor when I entered the Catholic Church. And George Violette, my brother by another mother, who is family in every way except blood. I love both of you.
The “Tony” I introduce in the video is Tony Lauinger, president of Oklahomans for Life and Vice President of National Right to Life. He is my friend. I know that he will remain my friend after I leave office.
If you want to watch the speech, go here.
The REAL Welfare Queens: The Overbearing, Election-Buying, Congress-Owning, Almighty Money Changers of the Temple of Greed
Note: I first published this post almost two years ago. We’re coming to the end of the legislative session here in Oklahoma, plus I have quite a few personal and family issues to deal with. I’m going to re-blog a few posts from the past this week, along with a few others that will be short, but more timely. I hope you enjoy them.
Let’s talk for a moment about people who feel “entitled” to government hand-outs.
I don’t mean those sad souls who come to the legislature in their wheelchairs begging pathetically not to be put out of their group homes. I also don’t mean the sprightly retirees who want to be able to buy food and pay their utilities, both in the same month.
No. I mean the overbearing, election-buying, Congress-owning, almighty money changers who hire the lobbyists, pay for the campaigns and control the think tanks and Chambers of Commerce. I mean those folks who send their lobbyists (who make more money in a year than most of the people reading this will make in a lifetime) to elected officials with already drafted legislation that they want the legislator to “author.”
This special interest legislation has been crafted by well-paid “public policy experts” to give the moneyed class unfair advantage over their business competitors, control of vast parts of the government treasury and tax cuts that will protect their ever-increasing wealth on a generational basis.
That’s who I mean: The REAL welfare queens; the ultimate parasites who are draining the life blood out of the American economy so they can add it to their hoard.
These are the people who make money out of the wars in which our children fight and die. They are the ones who benefit when American jobs and American industry are shipped overseas. They buy almost every election. They control the majority of the elected officials in both parties. Our government functions for them. It has become government of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation.
No one tracks the amount of money that goes to corporate welfare. It’s like pouring water into sand. We pass laws with a strategic sentence here or there, or in some cases whole bills, that are designed to benefit the people who paid for the expensive political campaigns that got these office holders where they are in the first place. The money we just spent on crony capitalism vanishes into the pockets of our pals and no one but the recipients knows how much it was or where it ultimately went.
Consider that while we have an admitted national debt in excess of $1 trillion, the Cato Institute says that we are shelling out an annual $100 billion on corporate welfare this year. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal hikes the estimate to $200 billion. That’s a $100 billion dollar mystery. For all we know, it might be many times more. In fact, considering how most of this money is hidden inside other pieces of legislation, and that no one keeps track of it, it almost certainly is many times higher.
The figures we have, outrageous as they seem, are just a nip out of the bottle of what actual corporate welfare costs. But their very nebulousness indicates quite clearly how little we really know about what we’re spending as a people to keep the real welfare queens of this nation fat, fatter and fatter still.
Has this money we’re spending on corporate welfare benefited you and me? If it has, where are our jobs? Where is our industrial base? Why is America increasingly becoming a country that can not manufacture its own goods? What are we the people getting for this $100 billion dollar or $200 billion dollar or whatever it is check we keep signing over?
This is why, when I hear some pious pundit go on about people who feel “entitled” and then proceed to point their finger at the elderly, disabled and the vulnerable, I feel a wave of cynicism building off shore and then pouring over me.
I remember the lobby days for the disabled at the Oklahoma State Capitol when we are inundated by people in wheelchairs, many of whom who are so disabled they cannot hold their heads up straight or carry on a conversation or eat without drooling. I’ve seen their faces, looking up at me, begging me to do something to keep them from losing the funding that lets them live their lives with at least a little bit of dignity.
Then, I remember the corporate lobbyists in their expensive suits. I’ve seen them sitting in legislator’s offices, telling — not asking, but telling — committee chairmen, who were supposedly elected by the people, which bills to kill.
I think about the bill after bill after bill that we vote on that rips the people off in first one way and then the other, all on behalf of some moneyed interest. It goes on like that all day where I work. Bill, after bill, after bill; until you get bored and numb with the repetitiveness of them, all written by special interests, pushed by special interests and passed into law for special interests. These bills are designed to give a competitive advantage over smaller businesses, limit consumer redress, allow favorable contract terms against individual citizens or create government transfer of tax-payer money to corporate coffers.
These laws have nothing to do with the free enterprise system. They are the opposite of free enterprise. They allow big business to rip off everybody, including the small business owner whose dues go to the Chambers of Commerce that the big business controls.
I’ve been living with this … this corruption … for years. I see it every day. I hear it all day. I vote no. I debate against it. But my small voice and my one vote can not change the tide of corporatism that is drowning our Republic.
That’s why I’m talking about it here. Because all our votes together might do something. But that can never happen so long as we continue buying into the nonsense and lies that corporate talking heads keep feeding us. If we want to survive as a free people, we’ve got to start doing some of our own thinking.
Representative Paul Ray of Utah has announced that he will introduce a measure to bring back execution by firing squad in the state.
Oklahoma’s botched execution of a few weeks ago has led to a rather ugly debate about the death penally in several quarters. This debate has ranged from calls for an end to the death penalty on one side of the argument to discussion of alternate means execution other than lethal injection on the other side.
Evidently, Utah has rescinded their earlier death penalty statute and must enact a new one to conduct executions by firing squad. We don’t have that problem in Oklahoma. Our law allows for the use of firing squads right now.
Frankly, I’m not sure what to make of all this. Not that I don’t understand the debate. I do. I am just somewhat befuddled by the recent attacks on lethal injection as a means of execution by those who are opposed to the death penalty.
Oklahoma has been the focus of this debate, both because of actions to delay executions that targeted the companies that manufacture these drugs, and because of the botched execution which may have been partly due to an inability to get enough of the correct drugs. I think the attorneys who raised this challenge may have been somewhat short-sighted, at least if their goal was to end the death penalty in Oklahoma.
The state has other means of execution available to it besides lethal injection. I have no doubt whatsoever that the legislative will is to use these means, if necessary.
I wrote at the beginning of this fiasco, when attorneys for death row inmates managed to get a temporary stay of execution by challenging an Oklahoma law that allowed anonymity for the companies that manufacture the drugs used in executions, that these attorneys should be careful what they wished for. I thought then and think now that this approach failed to consider what might be the ultimate consequences.
I know the people who make the laws of this state. I can tell you that there is no sympathy among them — including from me, despite the fact that I oppose the death penalty — for the next person awaiting execution in Oklahoma. This particular inmate raped and murdered an 11 month old baby. I’ve already discussed the heinous crime which the inmate who suffered the botched execution committed.
Not only is there no sympathy for these men, but very few of the lawmakers have any qualms about the death penalty itself. I have been an outlier on this issue throughout my legislative career. When you combine my opposition to the death penalty with my opposition to abortion/embryonic stem cell research/egg harvesting/euthanasia, etc, I have been unique.
The point is that the legislative will is to enact whatever law is necessary — or in this case, to use the laws already on the books — to execute a man who raped and murdered an 11 month old baby. The Oklahoma legislature would pass any law necessary to do this, and they would be willing to be suspend rules or be called into special session to get it done. That is the degree of the legislative will in both political parties on this issue.
I repeat what I wrote earlier about the attorneys who are playing these games: Be careful what you wish for. Because, unless you are really lucky, you will surely get it.