“Watching Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation this week has left me with a feeling of frustration, wonderment and even anger at the lack of compassion shown by our elected officials. Instead of offering our children a warm heart, Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation offered a cold shoulder. Instead of working to lift families up, our officials knocked them down. Instead of protecting our children, our delegation voted to make them more vulnerable.

“I know in the next year these same officials will come back to town asking for our votes. But they will not get mine. This heartlessness, this disdain, this mistake is unforgivable.” — my Sept. 30, 2007, Edmond Sun column.

A little more than two years ago I wrote these words after Oklahoma’s five U.S. representatives and two U.S. senators all voted against a measure that would have provided health insurance for 4 million children at a cost that was less than what we already were spending on the Iraq War, on subsidies to millionaire farmers, and on tax cuts for billionaires. I figured if our elected officials were choosing Iraqis, millionaires and billionaires over the needs of America’s children, they would never get my vote.

This fall I plan to keep my pledge.

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn — one of the infamous Oklahoma seven who opposed the bill to provide health insurance to children — is up for re-election and will not receive my vote (although right now it is unclear whether there will even be an opponent to vote for). This is, in part, due to his stance against providing health insurance to children. But even more disturbing than his desire to deny health insurance to Oklahoma’s children is his plan to raise taxes on middle-class Oklahoma families.

Coburn is a co-sponsor of S. 296, which would eliminate individual and corporate income tax, the estate tax and the payroll tax. In their place would be a 30 percent sales tax on the price of all new purchases (except education).

For one thing this plan — Sen. Coburn’s plan — is bad for Oklahoma families because it would do away with all the family-friendly provisions currently in the tax code, including the Child Tax Credit, the Additional Child Tax Credit, the Childcare Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the $3,650/child deduction. These provisions save the average Oklahoma family thousands of dollars each year. Yet under Coburn’s plan all of these provisions, and all of the tax savings, go away.

Instead, under Coburn’s plan Oklahoma families would now have to pay a 30 percent sales tax every time we take our children to the doctor. We would have to pay a 30 percent sales tax every time we purchase a prescription medication. We would have to pay a 30 percent sales tax every time we buy food and clothing. We would have to pay a 30 percent sales tax every time we buy a new house (a $200,000 house would generate a $60,000 in federal sales tax under Coburn’s plan). And Coburn’s plan would have us pay a 30 percent sales tax each month on our water and utility bills.

As an economist I can tell you that Coburn’s tax plan actually would raise taxes on 70 percent of Oklahoma households, and even more Oklahoma families with children. Not surprisingly, it is the wealthiest 30 percent — the group to which Coburn belongs — that would see any tax savings from this proposal. In other words, Coburn is trying to raise taxes on Oklahoma families in order to cut his own.

As a father of two young children, I find this reprehensible. I know that my children look to me to protect them, to feed them, to clothe them, to shelter them, to care for them and to love them. I know as an economist that Coburn’s tax plan would be devastating for them. He turned his back on Oklahoma’s children once by trying to deny them health insurance. Now, with his tax plan to eliminate the Child Tax Credit and other family-friendly provisions, he is doing it again. And once again I say that this “heartlessness, this disdain, this mistake is unforgivable.”

MICKEY HEPNER is an associate professor of economics at the University of Central Oklahoma. Hepner serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors for The Oklahoma Academy.

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