Oklahoma Gives Massive Breaks to Oil Companies while Schools Lack Storm Shelters

oilwell“OOOOk-lahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain,
And the wavin’ wheat can sure smell sweet, When the wind comes right behind the rain…”

Unless you’re a fan of Broadway and cheesy old Hollywood films, you may not be familiar with this song. You’re also probably trying to figure out where I’m going with this by using a reference to the 1955 Rodger’s and Hammerstein film “Oklahoma.

Oklahoma is notorious for tornadoes, and really big ones. As the first settlers in the state showed up, I’m pretty sure they encountered a twister or two right away. Then again on May 20th, 2013, and in 2003, and in 1999 and many times before – the people of that state have experienced this destructive force. This isn’t a new thing. This isn’t a freak, late-season hurricane that struck an area that doesn’t usually get them. It’s not a rare earthquake in a state that’s never felt them. It’s a tornado, something that happens all the time in “Tornado Alley.”

So why aren’t there storm shelters in every school? Certainly Oklahoma, which boasts the 5th largest oil production in the United States, could afford to do it. They’ve claimed that they couldn’t afford the cost and that they’ve applied for grant money from FEMA to do it, but when the state gives over $200 million in breaks to the oil companies, there’s no excuse why they couldn’t supply every school and government building with a shelter that could survive the worst of twisters. It’s not that they can’t, it’s that lobbyist money has bought and paid for legislators who will advance the profits of the 1% over the lives of the residents of Oklahoma and their children.

Forcing these companies off corporate welfare isn’t going to cause them to pack up and leave. You can’t pick up an oil field and move it to a state with a lower tax rate. So what if it causes the price I pay at the pump to go up a few cents because the multi-billion dollar drilling businesses have to play by the same rules as the small business owners? Local communities should be able to provide something as common sense as a storm shelter, and the fact that this hasn’t been done is not only mindboggling, but absolutely tragic.

So let me make this absolutely clear — Oklahoma could afford to retrofit older schools with a tornado shelter. They certainly give enough money in tax credits and subsidies to the oil industry that could be used to build these shelters. It just seems that they prefer to place tax breaks for those who don’t need them over the safety of their children, and that’s not only shockingly sad, but pretty damn pathetic as well.

My thoughts are with everybody affected by this. Please consider the American Red Cross for any donations you can afford to make.


Facebook comments

  • LiberalArtsEqualsPoverty

    Chesapeake gives 1 million for disaster relief for Moore alone. get over it liberals. stop being jealous you majored in liberal arts and not petroleum engineering

  • dohan

    Shelters for government buildings?? Are you kidding me?!! Those are the ones we want blown away so we can get rid of all these ridiculous politicians – AND hopefully, the editor, Manny Schewitz will be in one of them.

  • That is very true!!

  • katyrose

    good grief. give it a rest, for crying out loud. let these people & their community be & leave the politics out of it long enough for them to at least mourn and bury their loved ones before you use them as part of your agenda.

    • Would this be the same “playing politics” as Tom Coburn (R-OK) is currently doing? The one where he’s going “I’m not going to vote for federal aid for this devastated community unless I can get spending cuts”. Little Tommy-boy can play politics, but god help anyone who dares suggest that “hey, should we build some storm shelters now that this has happened twice in 15 years?”

    • This is not an “agenda” item, it is a human safety item. Your ignorant response to this article shows your lack of concern for our children. We are capable enough as a group of people to both do cleanup and political action. The political action in this case is to eliminate tax breaks/loopholes and raises rates on the taxpayers of Oklahoma to pay for retrofitting schools with tornado-safe rooms (basements) and to provide for such rooms in future schools. I say use this money for other public buildings as well.

    • tom

      No. Don’t “give it a rest”. As a born life long resident of Ok, do not give it a rest. Keep the politics in it. It is because of a gross lack in good politics that this was allowed to happen. They (Ok gov) didn’t learn from may 3rd of ’99, they took no precautions or preventive measures, and now, 14 years later, 1 tornado has leveled the same path causing a much greater death toll than a 3 day outbreak of 171 tornadoes. It’s time this state woke up to the dangers it faces and started making changes.

    • homasapiens

      The agenda of saving lives? Go stick your head back in the sand if you want to– I won’t.

  • Ric

    This may be a bit early to discuss (the lack of storm shelters) – but it isn’t nearly as bad as griping because people chose to live in New Orleans or along the Jersey shore.

    • deckbose

      It’s not geography that’s at issue here. It’s preparedness.

      • lindylou

        True, after hurricane Andrew did its job on Florida, new building codes where instituted. But of course, there is probably nothing to prevent damage from a “catastrophic” storm of any kind, but, like gun control, some of the effects can be lessened by at least some foresight.

  • AnyOldName

    Stop. Stop with the “give it a rest” mantra. Every single time there’s a tragedy in the U.S. and someone wants to do something to correct the situation that led to it, someone pipes up with the “give it a rest” B.S. And then of course the immediate, pressing concern passes, people (other than the victims) go back to their daily lives and an opportunity to make things better is lost. And the do-nothings win another round.

    Americans today have the attention span of fruit flies when it comes to disasters. The only ones who benefit by waiting are those who prefer the status quo, either explicitly or implicitly. So If you really don’t care about the dead children, go ahead and call for a mourning period. Just don’t be surprised if afterwards the attention of the American public is diverted by the next tragedy or scandal or whatever hits the headlines, and nothing is done to make the children of Oklahoma safer.

    • katherine norton malek

      Newtown & Boston are already “old news” – and we’ll never see universal background checks. And anyone hollering about why there are not enough tornado shelters in ‘tornado alley’ OK because the State says it cannot afford it, even with ALL those wealthy oil companies. As long as big oil companies, the NRA and mega-millionaires own DC, don’t expect any changes that benefit Americans, even little Americans. Not going to happen. I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist. Current govmnt is too busy trying to repeal health care (37 times voted now), banning abortions everywhere, making sure women do NOT have access to birth control. In short, they’re too busy bringing us backwards to go forward. Oh yeah – here come the trolls.

      • JamesKelso

        The great thing about this post. The trolls can’t refute it. Priceless.

      • Dave Weaver

        The Troll Report:

        “Newtown & Boston are already “old news” – and we’ll never see universal background checks.”

        I sure hope not. There is no such thing (universal background checks) – because I have not even seen the CRIMINALS lining up for the background checks that are ALREADY required.

        “… because the State says it cannot afford it, even with ALL those wealthy oil companies.”

        And just where do you think the “oil companies” get their money? From tax breaks? No, every penny comes out of your pocket – so just increase the tax on “oil companies” – YOU can afford it.

        “Current govmnt is too busy trying to repeal health care (37 times voted now), banning abortions everywhere, making sure women do NOT have access to birth control.”

        Obamacareless has not (and never will) live up to the “promise”. Increases in premiums, (much) higher than “expected” costs, millions STILL without coverage, major unions asking for and getting waivers…

        “Banning abortions”? How about saying it a different way? “Banning the murder of millions of innocent human beings” or does Gosnell’s “floor trimmings” make you happy?

        Access to birth control? Two things… have you walked into any convenience store? drug store?, Walmart?, grocery store? and bothered to look? There are racks and racks of contraceptive products – safe, effective, and cheap. If you really think about it, keeping your friggin legs closed also works.

      • OohRah Mama

        You do realize its’ the for-profit, non “medical experts” insurance companies making the decisions who gets treatment and who does not? And that Obamacare doesn’t increase ANY premiums, lower ANY coverage, or exclude ANYONE from getting care? That is solely the decision, and the fault, of CEOs and board members who hugely profit from denying basic human need for health care? It’s the insurance companies, NOT the Health Care Act, that raises the premiums and drops people who pay for coverage, all to keep profits climbing? Be honest enough to acknowledge those facts, please. Or don’t bother being surprised or offended when you’re called out for diverting away from the truth. And are you actually serious – “keeping you legs closed”? Are you sentient enough to smell the bravo sierra you’re shovelin’? What a troll. It’s garbage like that that makes a mockery of my Marine sons’ service. Shame on you, are you in junior high?

      • Dave Weaver

        Ahh the infamous “it’s the insurance company’s fault”

        No – it is all of ours – for allowing the status quo to cloud our minds.

        Employer provided health insurance (e.g., a third party payer system) is the problem. The only thing worse is a government (single party, third party payer) system.

        In a third party payer system – behavior and risk are not taken into account. There is no responsibility on the part of the insured to mitigate the risk or change behavior to minimize the cost of either the insurance or the treatment.

        Insurance (or any product for that matter) is something you buy to suit your needs.

        Why can’t I buy a high deductible, catastrophic plan from an insurer? Because the government says I can’t. I must include in any plan I buy all of the “free” stuff mandated in the obamanation (spelling intentional) of a law called the ACA irregardless of whether I need it or not.

        Are you free to choose your insurance, from any plan, from any provider, regardless of the state you live in? No – the state regulates insurers and plans.

        Could you receive the same tax benefits that your (I presume you are employed) employer receives when you purchase your own insurance? No – only employers receive tax benefits for providing health insurance to employees – who made those rules?

        The only way this problem can be fixed is to remove all of the third party payers – and have ALL insurance paid by the insured.

        Current contract law, established between the company (insurance provider) and the individual would prevent an insurance company from dropping insurance (should the individual decide to purchase it that way).

        And yes, I was serious about “keeping your legs closed”. The preceding sentences were about how readily available, inexpensive, and effective contraception is in this country. The other mechanism (“keeping your friggin legs closed”) is what is also called “self control”.

  • janicevalverde

    You just have to look at who their Senators are to understand why this is true.

  • Thanks for calling attention to this. For 30 years, the Republicans – at every level of government – have been systematically diverting revenue away from critical investment in this country’s infrastructure, education, scientific + medical research, renewable energy development. Instead, they have funneled trillions into tax cuts for corporations and the richest people in America (i.e., the sources of their campaign contributions), slashed social “safety net” programs for children, the poor, the near-poor and the elderly… and they still managed to run up most of the current $17B national debt.

    The federal government is about to cut more than $4B from SNAP (food stamp) programs for the country’s poorest kids; but it continues to give $8B in tax breaks and subsidies to the most profitable industry in the history of the human race: oil.

    So, we shouldn’t be surprised when Oklahoma gives hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the oil industry – while their children go to schools without shelters… in a place long known as “Tornado Alley”. But we should wake up and smell the future burning. And regain control of governments which were designed to be “of the people, by the people, for the people”. It hasn’t been that way for a long, long time.

  • tom

    Dont get me wrong. I kinda like my state here in Ok. We’ve got some very beautiful natural landscape, the people here (for the most part) are usually pretty nice, even if they are fairly under-educated. And the cost of living here is cheap. Sometimes too cheap. But the politics here since D governor Bread Henry left have sucked. we have some the worst infrastructure. They’re always building something but never anything practical. And most every thing gov. Henry diu d has been reversed. Sadly, it’s a blood red state. And the two most important things in Oklahoma: OU football and oil. Yes, tornadoes are common here this time of year and one would figure that with such a common occurrence of a natural disaster, this state would be more prepared. The West has buildings made to withstand earthquakes, and the east is prepared for hurricanes. But Ok? Noooo. Heaven forbid public buildings, especially schools, would have a built in storm shelter. That’s just ludicrous. We gotta get that oil. But hell, even if every home and building here came with a storm shelter, they’d never get used cause everybody would still be outside trying to spot the damn thing. I’m one of them. “Grab a lawn chair and a beer. Tornada’s a’commn!”
    Oh, and if those dammed nutjobs from westboro show their face here, well, let’s just say in true Okie fashion, we don’t take to kindly to them sort of folks ’round here.

  • This just makes me sick, poor babies. Hunker down in a hall while a F-5 tornado bears down on you. The whole nation should not be quite until every school in Tornado Alley has a storm shelter.

  • Susan C.

    I lived in OKC for 2 year and the problems up there go far beyond there not being shelters in schools. They have a very low spending rate per pupil in their public schools. Okc district is horrible.
    Every school should have a shelter The hospital that was hit didn’t have one either.

  • You state that “So what if it causes the price I pay at the pump to go up a few cents because the multi-billion dollar drilling businesses have to play by the same rules as the small business owners?”

    This is bad logic (perpetuated by the oil industry). Oil is an international commodity which price is set by market forces. What tax the oil company has to pay doesn’t affect the price at the pump – it affects their profit margin. Judging by the amount of money they haul in, IMHO they can well afford it –

  • radsenior

    Oklahoma, North Texas, Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico suffered during the 30’s dust bowl era, and looked to the federal government for help. Weather issues have plagued this region for centuries, and one would think the learning process had not been effected. Looking back and learning from our mistakes, we must now make a concerted effort to correct our past errors and set in motion repair and rebuilding for the good of the people, rather than the good of rich corporations and millionaires. TEA-Republicans like Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma want off-sets in the budget before funding relief services. The federal government has enough stroke to fund and insure recovery, and localities look to the government for help. In disasters like the Oklahoma tornadoes, Americans bind together to help and heal those directly effected. If your Senator or Representative fail to hold up his/her responsibility to the people and abridge their responsibility to and for the people, vote them out of office. The “concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people and the concentration of power in stricter, less compassionate hands,” still holds true today more than ever! The 2014 Mid-term is a-coming! As is 2016, and 2018!

    • sarohn

      Do you feel the same way about Hurricane Shelters in East Coast schools, and Flood Shelters in New Orleans? Every state has some type of weather contingency to plan for. But we always blame Republicans when people aren’t prepared. Why not blame the weather?

      • radsenior

        America’s infrastructure has suffered for the past 30 years. For 30 years, the Republicans – at every level of government – have been systematically diverting revenue away from critical investment in this country’s infrastructure, education, scientific + medical research, renewable energy development. Instead, they have funneled trillions into tax cuts for corporations and the richest people in America (i.e., the sources of their campaign contributions), slashed social “safety net” programs for children, the poor, the near-poor and the elderly… and they still managed to run up most of the current $17B national debt.

        Newtown & Boston are already “old news” – and we’ll never see universal background checks.

        Between 1939 and 2010, the debt ceiling was raised 89 times. How many of those increases were subjected to the “60-vote threshold”? Zero. Even earlier this year, a debt-ceiling increase was approved with 52 votes, not 60.

      • OohRah Mama

        We blame the politicians for not doing their jobs, and rightly so. It’s not the weather’s fault for being the weather. It is the politicians’ fault for diverting funds away from the public good to give to a few bloated corporations who work against the public good to satiate their own greed. The sad fact that 99% of those politicians happen to be Republican is why they’ll always get – and deserve – the blame.

      • James M

        How can you blame the weather for government not planning properly? If the area where you build a public building that houses children every day has lots of tornado’s, wouldn’t you think common sense would dictate that you build a disaster shelter for them? And if it doesn’t have one maybe they would put one in? That’s not the weather’s fault. That is the fault of the greedy politicians who care only about themselves and not the lives of tax paying citizens and their children.

  • sarohn

    I realize I’m the “fringe element” here, but I totally blame the torndao for this.

    • OohRah Mama

      You blame the tornado for politicians ignoring their citizens’ well-being while profiting from lobbyists? You’re right, you are the fringe element. Good Gawd. *facepalm*

  • OK – cheap bread & circuses in the land of underachievement
    Hoodwinked and swindled by tax dodging captains of industry,
    Land and water fracked beyond repair by capitalist wildcatters,
    Government incapacitated by conservative notions,
    Rejected seniors deprived of needed services,
    Neglected children bullied at school and molested by media,
    Homeless and hungry begging in the shadows of the not for profit mega churches,
    Babble quoting lobby-slators justifying persecuting minorities,
    Browns rejected at the borders,
    Yellows restricted to ghetto-ed quarters,
    Reds run off their inherited mineral-rich land,
    Blacks beaten down and their prospects rapped up,
    Queers bashed by thugs inspired by politicians and pastors of hate,
    Muslims next in line for the full wrath of the religious righteous,
    Over fed dust bowlers waddle through thriving palaces of bad math
    and invest in state lotteries while test scores are 30th in the world,
    Packing heat, armed and dangerous,
    too many mentally unfit to make deadly force decisions,
    ……..Guess we can give up settling differences with a game of Scrabble.
    I know, blame the teachers….yes that’s it….throw the bums out !

  • gb

    I agree with you manny and may I add that there are people in the state government with blood on their hands. May it dog them to a violent, watery grave. This travesty should be pursued relentlessly. Keep up the good work.

  • Really?

    Really? Blaming oil and gas for no storm shelters? What, per say, would the chances be that if the $200 M in taxes breaks were collected that any portion of those funds would go to storm shelters in schools? Answer: zero.

    What about the tax breaks given to windmills and solar panels?

    • JamesKelso

      Are you saying oil and gas companies shouldn’t pay their fair share of taxes?

      • Dave Weaver

        James, who says ANY corporate entity pays a single penny in the form of taxes?

        Every penny they earn is by selling the products they produce. A tax to this (any tax) is just a cost of doing business (increasing the price of the product or service). The CONSUMER pays for all taxes.

        So – just raise the tax on the oil companies… get rid of “tax breaks” for corporations, YOU can afford it. Come on… get a little skin in the game.

      • James M

        No he’s saying that it’s not the gas and oil companies fault. And I agree because It’s the fault of government. No matter how much gas and oil companies pay in taxes it still wouldn’t be used for what it should be. These corporations may influence politics but it’s only because politicians let them. If people would actually stop sticking their head in the sand and vote these assholes out of office maybe something would change.

    • OohRah Mama

      Actually, the chances would be quite good. And again, I’m not blaming the oil & gas industry for doing anything other than being colossally greedy, tax-avoiding, funds-diverting, dirty lobbyist scumbags whose profits are so mind-numbingly bloated that they DO NOT NEED tax subsidies. Newer technology needing help, yes – I and any other reasonable, functional adult can see the common sense of that. Get on board, dear. The view is clearer than you realize.

  • Deb

    If the oil company had any sense of decency they would volunteer to forego the subsidy in favour of building the shelters, it would be a drop in the ocean to them.

    • Realist

      The energy companies producing oil and natural gas do not receive subsidies. Wind and solar do receive subsidies because they are uneconomic otherwise. Instead of picking one industry, why not just go after all corporations? And what about the $7 million local oil and natural gas producers just donated for relief efforts??

      If you want to retrofit old buildings for storm shelters, then please write a proposal and request the funds to do so through the proper channels. Then taxes and royalties paid by local corporations can be ALLOCATED for that cause.

      • JamesKelso

        You are mistaken in your belief that oil and gas companies do not receive subsidies. A new IMF report estimated that fossil fuels are subsidized, to the tune of $1.9-trillion (U.S.) globally. You are right we should go after all multi-national corporations that are not paying taxes.

      • OohRah Mama

        Kindly check your information & source again, Realist. Over the years, oil alone has received literally HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS of dollars in subsidies, Shell Oil posted a profit in 2011 alone of over 20 billion. How can anyone in their correct mind believe entities that rake in such obscene profits – and continuously skate being held accountable for the damage they do – possibly need billions of taxpayer dollars in help? And the politicians whom they own scream about and cut a few million to feed babies, seniors and veterans. The gall is astounding.

      • Realist

        You realize that many of the profits are distributed not just to executives but also to the employees and reinvested in exploration projects, right? The employees spend their money in local businesses.

    • Dan Enlow

      Big oil has no decency

  • The Real Blame

    “They’ve claimed that they couldn’t afford the cost and that they’ve applied for grant money from FEMA to do it”

    Blame Obama.

  • MsGood Stuff

    While i’m sure noone wanted those children to be killed during that f5 tornado the truth of the matter is nothing will change. When i lived in Wisconsin you where to to go to the schools in case of a tornado it was suppose to be safer but if the school has no underground basement or shelter it’s really no safer than any other above ground structure during an f5. While the illogical consept behind not having storem shelters is that they usually hit at night i’m sure the parents of those dead kids would give everything they have to make sure it doesn’t happen to some1 elses kids. There is to much money in politics to have a government for and by the people and until we hold our elected officals responsible for putting gas and football over the lives of our children nothing will change. My prayers go out to the parents and loved ones of all the people that were hurt, killed or injured during the desaster in OK. May God help you to heal.

  • JamesKelso

    One of my comments went to moderation and then disappeared. Why? Did you not like my link to a page that showed 16 Corporations that stopped paying taxes. If I can’t share why should I follow your page?

  • Marie

    I’m wondering why no one has mentioned the MILLIONS of dollars the evil oil companies donated to Monday’s tornado victims.

    • OohRah Mama

      A drop in the bucket compared to what those companies have taken from the citizens via politicians they’ve bought. I won’t give ’em a “good citizen” medal. They owe us too damn much $$.