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.
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