Patrick B. McGuigan
Last week, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican from Muskogee, presented a blueprint for lowering federal spending entitled “Back in Black.”
Veteran Oklahoma political analyst Mike McCarville said the plan, which documented ways to save as much as $9 trillion in the coming years, demonstrated anew “why he’s among America’s most fascinating public figures.”
As part of work on that broad study, Coburn prepared an analysis entitled “Oklahoma Waste Report,” to bring the point right to the home front.
Among criticisms he made in the state-oriented report, Sen. Coburn focused on a program at Langston University which receives federal funds aimed at procedures in the building of goat fences. That project was in a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Coburn’s critique drew criticism this week (July 26) from Democratic state Rep. Mike Shelton of Oklahoma City, a longtime advocate of Langston.
In a press release sent to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations, Shelton said,
“To the best of my knowledge, Senator Coburn has never even set foot on the Langston campus and his criticism shows that he is not familiar with Langston’s stellar reputation. …
“The school is doing tremendous work all over the globe that positively impacts not only citizens in Oklahoma, but also those across the country and across the world. Before he makes these blanket statements condemning a well-respected school and its program, I want to personally invite Senator Coburn to come to Langston University and see this work first-hand.”
A different assessment of Coburn’s work came from Jonathan Small, fiscal policy director at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.
Encouraging others to read Coburn’s report on waste in Oklahoma, Small told CapitolBeatOK, “Reducing spending to suitable levels is going to require everyone that benefits from federal spending to experience adjustments. So though it ‘hurts,’ we have to appreciate Senator Coburn pointing out where Oklahoma is contributing to the problem. Every federal lawmaker should be doing the same about their home state.
“If we are honest with ourselves, it is ludicrous to argue these are necessary expenditures of the federal government, and justify the taking of an individual’s property in the form of federal income taxes.”
Small added, “I have been to Langston, but neither I nor anyone else needs to visit Langston to realize the federal government should not be funding efforts to improve fencing for goats. As the report finds, there are better uses of scarce funding, including research regarding goat health at Langston.”
Small concluded, “The criticism of Coburn’s scrutiny of wasteful spending on things such as federal funds to improve goat fences is no surprise, especially considering the source, and just a common diversion tactic of embarrassed tax users. The fundamental question that must be asked at all levels of government is ‘What are the core purposes/functions of government?’
“And that question must be asked always remembering that any dollar government spends, is only made possible by taking someone’s property.”