Paul Jacob

Do you want to make politics illegal? Should our opponents be blocked from democratic participation? Must those who agitate for ideas that we disagree with be silenced?

Surely, most Americans are blurting out, "No! Of course not!"

Yet, that's the growing trend in today's politics: the totalitarian impulse. Quietly, behind the scenes, it's rearing its ugly head again, this time in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Education Association is not demanding its political opponents be thrown into gulags. The state's largest education labor union would do nothing that extreme. Don't be silly. The OEA just wants to silence citizens petitioning to place an initiative on the ballot.

This isn't rampant, chest-beating totalitarianism. There is nuance. Only a smidgen of despotism.

At issue is a measure called Stop Over Spending, which is similar to Colorado's Taxpayer Bill of Rights. A group of citizens filed the initiative and formed a campaign committee called Oklahomans in Action. The goal of the measure is simply to put the people in charge of state government spending.

The Stop Over Spending (SOS) initiative places a cap on how much politicians can increase government spending. From year to year, the increases cannot be greater than inflation plus population growth. No cuts in spending are mandated, but the increases are capped. That is, unless the people of Oklahoma vote to let their state government spend more money, which they can do. The SOS Amendment thus puts government on a citizen-controlled diet.

State Senator Randy Brogdon of Owasso calls the measure "a true friend of taxpayers, a fuel for the economy and the enemy of the bureaucrats and big spenders." He points out that state government spending is growing four times faster this year than the income of the average Oklahoma household.

But the education workers union and other government employee unions furiously oppose the measure. They don't want the people to place any limit whatsoever on what government spends. It may have something to do with wanting the government to have plenty of dough so as to better butter their bread. (Excuse the mixed metaphor.)

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.