The Oklahoma Game

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Here is the Oklahoma game: Oil and gas companies and other large corporations in Oklahoma have successfully lobbied the politicians they have financially supported to get into office to give them massive tax breaks that each year amount to hundreds of millions of dollars of lost revenue for the state. They also influence these same politicians to cut income taxes for the wealthiest Oklahomans. Over time this lost revenue is measured in billions of dollars.

These same oil and gas companies and other large corporations give back a tiny fraction of what they should be paying in taxes in the form of donations to charitable organizations for social services, the arts, and education. Many of the social service organizations to which they contribute exist to try to fill the many gaps and holes in our social fabric that are worsened by the lost revenue from taxes the oil and gas companies and other large corporations should be paying. If one of the charitable organizations to which they give money does something that they don’t like, pressure will be applied and funding for that organization may even cease.

The oil and gas companies and other large corporations make sure they get a lot of really good publicity for their wonderful charitable giving. They serve as presidents of charitable organizations and play other leading roles on their boards and in their fundraising efforts. They and their corporations are constantly recognized at galas, special events, and performances. Their personal names and corporation names are displayed prominently on our arts and education events and venues, and they are lauded as being model personal and corporate citizens in our state.

All of this giving is of course tax deductible, and they use the giving as a way to provide positive PR for their corporations. In essence, they are getting relatively inexpensive tax deductible commercials at a miniscule rate compared to the taxes they are no longer paying because of their hold on our economic, political, and cultural processes.

As the oil and gas companies and other large corporations continue to be lauded for all they do for our city and state, Oklahoma experiences massive budget shortfalls, nation leading cuts in public education, the highest female incarceration rate in the country, poor access to healthcare, above average child poverty rates, and oil and gas industry induced earthquakes with individual citizens left with the bill for the damage.

In addition to the ongoing positive tax deductible PR campaign pursued by these corporations, they operate in an environment of little regulation owing to the fact that they provide financial support for politicians in the Oklahoma Corporation Commission – the very commission tasked with the responsibility of regulating their corporate practices. This is the Oklahoma game, and the vast majority of people in Oklahoma are not winning it. The oil and gas corporations are left saying “Is this a great state or what?” Other Oklahomans… Not so much.

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About Mark Y. A. Davies

Mark Davies is The Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics and Director of the World House Institute for Social and Ecological Responsibility at Oklahoma City University. From 2009 to 2015, Mark was dean of the Petree College of Arts and Sciences and Wimberly Professor of Social Ethics at Oklahoma City University. Previously, Mark was dean of the Wimberly School of Religion at Oklahoma City University and Founding Director of the Vivian Wimberly Center for Ethics and Servant Leadership. Prior to becoming dean of the Wimberly School of Religion in 2002, he was associate dean of the Petree College of Arts and Sciences at Oklahoma City University and chair of the department of philosophy. Mark has published in the areas of Boston personalism, process philosophy and ethics, and ecological ethics. Dr. Davies serves on the United Methodist University Senate, which is “an elected body of professionals in higher education created by the General Conference to determine which schools, colleges, universities, and theological schools meet the criteria for listing as institutions affiliated with The United Methodist Church.” He and his wife Kristin live in Edmond, OK in the United States, and they have two daughters. The views expressed by the author in this blog do not necessarily represent the views of Oklahoma City University.
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One Response to The Oklahoma Game

  1. Robin Meyers says:

    This is EXACTLY right! One of the greatest illusions about Oklahoma corporations is that “they do so much for our city/state.” The commercials that blanket the state portray business entities that really have almost nothing to do with making money, and everything to do with making sure that this is a great place to live–leaving us breathless to wonder, “What would we do without them?” Indeed, these commercial messages leave the impression that corporations are messianic. People don’t save us, corporations do. It is no wonder that in our national politics, the complete union of the corporate and the political has occurred? Thank God we still have a largely independent judiciary. Is it any wonder that the Supreme Court is the ultimate prize for the Christian Right and Trump Inc.?

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