Welcome to Monet, Oklahoma

Perryman, DavidBy David Perryman, Oklahoma House of Representatives, District 56

Claude Monet painted in the 19th and 20th century and was among the leaders of the French Impressionist movement. Monet’s open air approach and the fact that he dwelt more on color and light than linear perspective resulted in a style of art that most believe is best viewed from a distance.
Not only does distance make the subject of the art appear more “whole,”, the distance separates the viewer from the more abstract components of the painting that are often described as rough swatches or loose splashes of color that appears somewhat disjointed on close inspection.
Appreciating a Monet from across the room is somewhat similar to checking one’s cattle from a mile high flyover. The cattle may or may not be there, but the view is sure nice.

Some folks regularly treat Oklahoma like a Monet. They allow urban legends and lofty statistics to tell them how good or how bad things really are in Oklahoma.

For instance, there is a temptation to feel good about the state when increases in per capita income are announced. Some of those “Monet” numbers tell us that during the 28 years from 1979 and 2007 the average income in Oklahoma rose 33.9%, just 3% behind the national income growth of all Americans during that same period.

However, the up close numbers show us that during that period and the next five years, the income of the top 1% of Oklahomans grew by 143.2% while the income of Oklahoma’s other 99% grew by only 8%. That means that of all income growth from 1979 to 2012, 67.9% of it went to the top 1% while all of the other 99% shared only 32.1% of the income growth during that period.

Today, on average, it takes $3.28 to purchase what we could purchase for $1.00 in 1979.

To put it in simpler terms, back in 1977, during my hamburger flipping days, a Sonic Burger cost 65 cents (and a dime extra for the cheese). Fries were 40 cents and a quarter bought a Coke on ice. Everything together was a bargain at $1.40. Today, that same combo costs $6.11, for an increase of 436%.

In 1977, a person earning the minimum wage of $2.30 per hour, had to work 36 minutes to purchase that Sonic Combo. Today, a minimum wage employee must work 51 minutes or 41% longer for that meal.

Monet, Oklahoma is really beautiful from a mile in the air, but caring enough to understand the real economic difficulties faced by working families who often don’t know where their next meal is coming from, are unable to afford medical care and don’t know if they will be able to keep their children warm tonight, requires routinely getting up close and personal.

There is no time like the present holiday season for us to make going outside our comfort zone a part of our lives.

Your comments are welcome at 1-800-522-8502 or at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov