Excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:
Tahlequah Daily Press, Oct. 10
Attack on PBS an assault on Fourth Estate
It's a shame many who aspire to an upper-tier public office, or who already hold one, are determined to eliminate funding for National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System. Polls show mainstream Americans don't approve of the politically charged efforts to dismantle them.
Despite a general consensus that Mitt Romney bested President Barack Obama in last week's debate, pundits have had a field day with Romney's comment that he'd kick PBS to the curb as part of his budget-trimming plan. Oddly, other than "Obamacare,' PBS was the only specific target Romney mentioned. That cut wouldn't even constitute a blip on the budget radar — not when compared to the trillions of dollars funneled to the energy industry, the military, and countless other entities, departments, divisions and pet projects.
But politicians these days are ignoring public opinion, and concentrating on the whims of core partisans and financial supporters.
This would seem an unwise gambit, but with a polarized electorate increasingly willing to sacrifice principles for party plank, nonsensical behavior is paying off at the polls.
If politicians were listening to the public, they would be raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, since polls show a sizable majority favors that action. Obama supports it, too, but it's not scoring him any points. Many conservative voters who agree with him on that accord find plenty to criticize elsewhere.
A respect for public opinion would also give politicians pause before aiming the knife at Amtrak. Some folks refuse to acknowledge there are a few cases — like highways and the military — where an infusion of taxpayer funds can benefit us all. Prohibitively high fuel costs for driving, coupled with poorly managed airlines that give customers substandard service in exchange for higher ticket prices, have boosted Amtrak ridership to consecutive records for the past 11 months.
Even in Oklahoma, one of the most conservative states, support for funding PBS is strong. A recent online poll conducted by the Daily Press drew 182 responses. Although we received calls from two people who said they'd been asked by friends to log on and vote for killing PBS, we assume supporters were making calls as well.
Fifty-one people said government funding for public broadcasting should be eliminated. Another 25 said it should be trimmed, but not eliminated. Sixty-nine people said government funding should be increased according to inflation, and perhaps surprisingly, 30 people supported substantial funding increases for public broadcasting. Seven were undecided.
The poll suggests over 68 percent of our readers don't want funding for public broadcasting totally eliminated. Obama most assuredly doesn't enjoy the support of 68 percent of our readers, so we infer Romney isn't listening to some of his own supporters.
As we've said before, NPR has been able to maintain an even keel for the very reason it is often under attack: because it relies partly on "government" support, rather than being solely beholden to a private corporation and its investors, who have their own agenda - namely, making profits. Some who claim NPR and PBS offer "liberal" programming may either be ignorant or spectacular fibbers, but it's more likely they lean so far to the right that any programming not in lockstep with their own belief system is viewed as biased.
There are also ultra-liberals who dislike NPR because it always allows their conservative nemeses air time. Public broadcasting's strenuous efforts to allow equal time to diverse opinions has no merit for such rigid people.
An attack on public broadcasting can be viewed as an assault on the Fourth Estate. Without real journalism — not to be confused with the drivel from posers on the Internet and certain one-sided TV and radio pundits — the public cannot stay abreast of what's happening in the world around them. This would be good news for any politicians bent on serving themselves rather than voters.
Those who oppose the legitimate and objective media, either public or private, also oppose open government, and democracy itself. A media entity that answers mainly to "the public" has no reason to interest itself in anything but the truth. And that's what scares some people.
The Oklahoman, Oct. 9, 2012:
Planned Parenthood not entitled to perpetually guaranteed government contract
The Oklahoma State Department of Health is ending a contract with Planned Parenthood to provide food vouchers to low-income pregnant women and young children as part of the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. Planned Parenthood blames politics for the change; the department says it was a simple business decision.
We find the department's explanation plausible. Put simply, other providers may be a better fit to serve women with children than Planned Parenthood. While Planned Parenthood is more than an abortion provider, there's no denying that it's mostly associated with terminating or preventing pregnancies rather than helping women with the nutritional needs of their unborn and born children. The group is known for reproductive services, not for feeding the poor.
Planned Parenthood's public image is such that if you saw a pregnant woman entering its doors, you'd assume she wouldn't be pregnant for much longer — and not because she delivered her baby.
Planned Parenthood clinics in Oklahoma don't do abortions, but they do provide referrals for abortions. Figures vary, but outside groups reviewing annual reports have estimated that up to a third of patients at Planned Parenthood clinics get an abortion; anywhere from a third to half of clinic income may be generated by abortions. An analysis by Stop Planned Parenthood (as the name demonstrates, a harsh critic) estimated Planned Parenthood provided 10.5 abortions for every prenatal service in 2010.
Planned Parenthood claims only a small fraction of its services are abortion-related. Even if critics overstate their case, most people suspect Planned Parenthood's own figures are designed to downplay its status as abortion provider.
Either way, the group's image as an abortion-above-all entity is ingrained in public perception. Such "political" views have a practical effect that limits the organization's usefulness in distributing WIC funds and justifies the Health Department's nonpolitical business decision. In a nutshell, Planned Parenthood is probably far down the list of venues women visit when seeking nutritional care for babies they intend to bring into this world.
WIC's nutritional-support funds could be more effectively distributed by other providers serving more of the target population of women with children.
Beyond the practical goal of better serving the women and children benefiting from government nutrition programs, the Health Department's decision to end Planned Parenthood's contract achieves a secondary objective that agency officials would not consider but is of public interest. Many Oklahomans oppose abortion on moral grounds. Those citizens don't want their tax dollars used, directly or indirectly, to fund something they consider to be the killing of a child.
To the degree WIC contracts free up other Planned Parenthood money, many Oklahomans will suspect their taxes are being used to indirectly subsidize an abortion industry they oppose.
If the Health Department can find other providers better suited to handling WIC money and serving low-income women and children without the perception problems that come from working with Planned Parenthood, then that's a win for the needy families served through WIC and for public perception of government.
As a private institution, Planned Parenthood remains free to promote its viewpoints and provide whatever services its leadership feels are appropriate — including abortion. But the organization isn't entitled to a perpetually guaranteed government contract.
October 4, 2012
Caloric intake for students needs review
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's new lunch guidelines need review.
The guidelines say schools can serve only: 650 calories per day to elementary students, 700 calories per day to middle school students and 850 calories per day to high school students.
The guidelines are roughly one-third of recommended caloric intakes for children.
That may not be enough for many students — particularly in our area. The guidelines presume a child is receiving the correct number of calories the remainder of the day.
That is just not happening at many homes in our area.
More than 70 percent of students in Muskogee schools are receiving free or reduced-price lunches. The recommendations are also based on average intakes. Some students — particularly athletes — need more calories.
The guidelines were put in place to help curb an increasingly evident problem — our children are growing more obese by the day.
Wouldn't it be better if public schools put more emphasis on exercise and increase the amount of calories per day per student?
At the very least these guidelines need to be reviewed after every semester to ensure the guidelines are leading to more healthy students and not just leaving more students hungry