My name is Bob Waldrop, and I am the founder of the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City. Each month we deliver food to low income households that don’t have transportation. In the past year we’ve made about 4500 such deliveries.
Federal, state, and local programs that help low income people are being slashed. LIHEAP, the primary program that helps with utility bills was cut fifty percent. The state’s personal income tax exemption, sales tax credit, and the earned income credit all of which benefit low income people, are programmed for abolition. Everyone is preaching austerity, except, it appears, at OGE headquarters.
You can’t ratchet up the pressure on poor people without reaping negative social consequences. Financial crisis is a well-known driver of family dissolution and parental abandonment, violence against women and children, alcoholism and drug abuse, juvenile delinquency, crime, and gang involvement. I see these consequences at work all the time in the lives of real people. All of these consequences have costs – to individuals, to families, and to society. Problems with utility service often initiate a cascading series of consequences that can lead to homelessness and worse.
If you think there is enough money in the non-profit sector to help all the low income people that need assistance with their utility bills, you are wrong. The churches and charities of Oklahoma are stretched to the limit – we do not have enough money to bridge this gap. If this rent seeking rate increase is approved, the ones who will be hurt the worst will be the children & the elderly.
Therefore, I appeal to you, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to reject this rate increase. I appeal to OGE to withdraw your proposal – your corporation has plenty of money. You’re making 13% on your equity, which is good money in this economy. We should count the costs of the social and moral consequences of the social cruelties that will inevitably result from this rate increase. You say it won’t be much, but low income Oklahomans have no extra money. All of their money is already spoken for. If you ask for more, they will have to give someone else less. Who should that be?
This is not about socialism or capitalism, it is about whether we believe what God says in the Bible about our moral duties to the poor.
The legal shield of liability granted to OGE by virtue of its incorporation means nothing before God, who holds everyone, rich and poor alike, responsible as individuals for their actions. Those who ask for this rate increase, those who approve it, and those who profit from it will share in the personal responsibility before God and the people for the negative moral and social consequences of this rent-seeking. The Bible clearly teaches without any ambiguity whatsoever that the rich who oppress the poor are condemned by God. Jesus said, For inasmuch as you do this unto one of these, the least of our sisters and brothers, you have done it to Me. God said it, I believe it, and as they say, that settles it.