Monday, January 15, 2018

SQ #640 is UNDER ATTACK!!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
EFFECTIVE OR WORTHLESS?
by Steve Fair

     Republicans have traditionally been for smaller government, lower taxes and personal responsibility.  The GOP platform states the role of government is to protect individuals' rights and that individuals and society are better off when the government is less involved in citizen’s lives.  The Democrat platform states that government’s role is to regulate private enterprise (banking, manufacturing, healthcare, etc) and to help the downtrodden.  Simply put, Democrats believe government is the solution to most problems, Republicans believe government is the problem.   
     A 2012 Gallup poll showed that voters' views on the size of government align with the party they identify with. Eighty-two (82) percent of Republicans polled felt that the government was doing too much; while sixty-seven (67) percent of Democrats felt that the government should be doing more.  In recent years, the difference between the two Parties has become difficult to ascertain, particularly at the state level.  
     Oklahoma House Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Harold Wright, (R-Weatherford) has announced he will present a House Joint Resolution (#1032) in the upcoming session that if passed by Oklahoma voters would lower the number of legislative votes needed to raise taxes from 75% to 60%.  I am proposing legislation that would put to a vote a change in the revenue-raising requirement in the constitution that would lower the requirement to 60 percent, the same as a school bond issue. Many agree that this would be a fair compromise and still make it difficult to raise revenue. There will be opposition to this measure, but I hope you will support the change in order to make your state government more effective,” Wright said.   Everyone is for more effective, but it appears Wright’s proposal only makes it more effective for the legislature to raise taxes.  
     Currently, 76 House and 36 Senate members have to agree a new tax is needed- a high threshold but is that a bad thing?  SQ #640 makes it difficult to pass a tax increase, but not impossible.  Lowering it to 61 House and 29 Senate members will certainly mean more taxes.  Before SQ #640 was approved in March 1992 by a 56%-44% margin, taxes went up every legislative session.  If Wright’s proposal is passed, Oklahoma takes a giant step backward and will go back to trying to tax itself into prosperity, which didn’t work in our state’s first century and won’t work now.
     Maybe Rep. Wright doesn’t remember those years before SQ #640.  Perhaps he has embraced the concept government is the solution and not the problem, but whatever his motivation, his proposal is not consistent with Republican principles or the GOP platform.  The Republican leadership in Oklahoma needs to spend more time searching for waste in state government and less time trying to get more of the taxpayer’s money.  The opposite of effective is worthless- that is what Wright’s proposal is.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Did Oprah announce for 2020?

Weekly Opinion Editorial
GENIUS OR DUNCE?
by Steve Fair

     Webster defines someone who is a genius as one that has exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability. The antonym for genius is dunce.  Dunce is defined as a person slow at learning; a stupid person.  Last week on Twitter, President Trump declared himself, ‘a very stable genius.’ 
     “Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames,” he said. “I went from VERY successful businessman, to top TV Star to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius . . . and a very stable genius at that, the President said. 
     What prompted the POTUS to become a self-promoter of his intellect was the questioning by the media and Congressional Democrats of Trump’s state of mind.    According to statnews.com, six congressional Democrats have asked a shrink from Yale School of Medicine to consult with them about forming an expert panel to access Trump’s mental health.   “It’s one thing from my non-professional, non-clinical standpoint [to] believe that someone does not have the capacity to do the job, it’s another thing to talk to experts and [those] who can deal with mental psychosis on a daily basis, so I wanted to hear from them,” Rep. Jackie Speier, (D-CA), told BuzzFeed News.  Back in August Speier tweeted,             “POTUS is showing signs of erratic behavior and mental instability that place the country in grave danger. Time to invoke the 25th Amendment.”  So is President Trump a genius or a dunce? 
      First, politically Trump is a genius.  No one with as little political experience has ever won the presidency.  But he didn’t win it alone.  He likes to take all the credit, but elections are won ‘on the ground.’  A huge reason Trump won was because Reince Priebus and the Republican National Committee had ‘boots on the ground’(people) in the battleground states.  Trump would not have won without that.  His genius was delivering a message that appealed to voters in both Parties, but the RNC ground forces got those voters to the polls.
     Second, Trump is a shrewd businessman.   Whether that translates to genius is up for interpretation, but clearly he has been successful in business.  He has created 34,000 jobs in his business career and Forbes reports the culture at the Trump Company to be one that is ‘open and collaborative.’  Employee turnover is low and morale is high.  That may not be genius, but it doesn’t make him a dunce either.
     Third, this hoopla isn’t about Trump’s mental state.  It is about his policies.  Liberals will grasp at whatever straw they can to get him out of the Oval Office.  The POTUS knows that and when he tweets out that he is a genius, don’t overreact.  He is not a dunce.  He is trivializing their attacks on his mental health.  Liberals realize the days of having a career politician win the presidency may be over and that is why they are openly recruiting Oprah to run in 2020.
 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Who will take their place?

Weekly Opinion Editorial

TRIBUTE TO THREE GOP VOLUNTEERS!
by Steve Fair

     In November 2006, Republicans statewide picked up three seats in the Oklahoma legislature.  Two of those seats were in Stephens County.  Dennis Johnson was elected to the State House in an open seat and Anthony Sykes was elected to the Senate, beating an incumbent.  2006 wasn’t a good year to be a Republican.  Brad Henry defeated Ernest Istook in the Governor’s race.  Democrats won all the other statewide races with the exception of Corporation Commission.  To say that Stephens County rowed against the tide in 2006 would be an understatement.  With a very visible downtown headquarters and an army of grassroots volunteers, the Stephens County GOP did something that just twenty years before would have seemed impossible- winning races.  In the last couple of weeks, we lost three of those volunteers: 
     First Emmet Hamilton passed away in Nashville December 10th, where he had lived for the last couple of years.  Emmet, 87, was Dennis Johnson’s father-in-law, but was a tireless volunteer who worked not just on Dennis’ campaign, but others as well.  I remember Hamilton building a three corner frame for Anthony Sykes to mount on his jeep for his 2x4 signs and frames for Sykes’ mini billboards.  Emmet and his wife Marie helped stuff envelopes, knocked doors and seldom missed a monthly GOP meeting until their health declined.
     Second, Gil Jackson died on Christmas Eve.  Jackson, 87, had moved to Kansas City four years ago to be closer to family.  Gil served four years as Stephens County Republican Party Chairman from 2000-2004.  He was a recipient of the Dr. Gerald Beasley Jr. memorial award, which is awarded annually to the most outstanding grassroots volunteer in the SCGOP.  Jackson was a fireball, who was involved in virtually every local campaign for twenty years.  Gil knew how to lose, because for years Republicans lost races, but he never wavered in his enthusiasm or labor.  Just a year ago, Jackson re-engaged with local Republicans in Missouri and was schooling them on the SCGOP best practices. 
     Third, Kenneth Shaw died December 27that the age of 89.  Kenneth’s wife Josephine and his granddaughter Carissa Darling (now Cassin) were regulars at monthly GOP meetings.  Kenneth came to meetings occasionally, but in 2006, he really got engaged.  Having a construction background, Kenneth helped build sign frames for mini-billboards and built partitions at the headquarters.  Shaw was a quiet man, but there was just something about him that made you know there was a depth of character.   
    These three men shared more than just being engaged in a successful campaign cycle.  They were all part of the ‘Greatest Generation.’  All three served in the military.  All three were Christians.  All three knew liberty wasn’t something that didn’t just happen. 
     Emmet, Gil and Kenneth and lots of others were key to the SCGOP’s success in 2006.  Volunteers like those can’t be replaced, but each generation must be concerned about the next.  Where are the Baby Boomers, the Gen Xers and the Millennials? Isn’t it time you became involved in your government?  The Stephens County Republican Party meets at 7pm the second Thursday(1/11) of each month at the Red River Tech Center.   Start 2018 off right and get engaged. Email leon@wpmonline.com for information.

Monday, December 25, 2017

In spite of Twitter, Trump has had an amazing year!

Weekly Opinion Editorial

TRUMP’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN 2017!
by Steve Fair
     2017 is coming to an end and politically it has been an interesting year to say the least.  Since January 20th when President Trump was sworn into office, it has been a never ending series of hype and insults via Twitter.  Arguably the first POTUS to be a true outsider, President Trump immediately begin to push his agenda, running into opposition from not only Congressional Democrats, but Republicans as well.  But make no mistake, President Trump had some major accomplishments in 2017.  Here are just three:
     First, the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court was a clear victory for conservatives.  Gorsuch replaced the late Antonin Scalia and has been a very able replacement.  Senator Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA), said, “ We’ve got another Scalia.  There is no sign of moderation from conservative orthodoxy.  He votes right down the line.  Everything-everything,” she said.  “I’m surprised that it’s so comprehensive.”  
     Senator Mike Lee, (R-UT), said, “He's fantastic. He’s awesome. I'm a huge fan  It’s going as I expected and my expectations were high, and I’ve not been disappointed in the least."  "I think he is performing as a principled constitutionalist, which is exactly what we hoped for and expected," Senator Ted Cruz, (R-TX) said.
     Second, the Republican tax-cut bill passage was an amazing accomplishment.  It is the biggest tax legislation to be approved by Congress in thirty years.  It cuts corporate income tax from 35% to 21%, which will stimulate job growth.  It cuts taxes for most Americans in the middle class, but that’s not all. 
     It also eliminated the ObamaCare mandate that individuals buy insurance, which in and of itself was quite an accomplishment.  It also opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration, something that even Ronald Reagan couldn’t get accomplished.  Rest assured, this tax bill was a big deal.
     Third, the POTUS pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement, signed an executive order granting a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and started the process to repeal the Clean Power Plan, which is nothing more than an attack on fossil fuels- particularly coal.  The president appointed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head up the Environmental Protection Agency.  Pruitt has stated the Clean Power Plan lacks the legislative authority to be enforced and has vowed to stop the war of coal. 
     By removing the regulations off the back of business, the U.S. economy has been stimulated.  The stock market had its best growth year since 2013.  Unemployment is at its lowest level in seventeen years and consumer confidence is also at a seventeen year high.    
     Critics of Trump will point to his failures, but few presidents in modern history have accomplished what he has in their first year of office.  While President Trump’s unorthodox style of leadership often has politicos scratching their heads, he obviously has the confidence of job creators and investors- something that President Obama seriously lacked. If people vote with their pocketbooks, then Trump is likely headed to a second term.

Monday, December 18, 2017

National Debt can't be ignored!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
TAX CUTS CAN’T COME AT EXPENSE
OF NEXT GENERATION!
by Steve Fair

     The federal tax proposal that Congress will likely pass and President Trump will sign has been the subject of debate, caricature and misinformation.  Democrats said it benefits the rich because it will reduce the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% and repeals the financial penalties for not purchasing health insurance.   Republicans say it will benefit the middle class and stimulate the economy(supply side economics) and ultimately be revenue neutral.  It is estimated the bill will cut taxes $1.5 trillion dollars.
     Critics of the plan say it will add to the national debt.  Janet Yellen, the outgoing Federal Reserve Chair, told Congress last week that the national debt should keep Americans up at night. Yellen is no conservative and has always been more concerned with unemployment than with inflation, but she is right about the national debt issue.  The national debt is quickly approaching $21 trillion dollars, half of it owed to foreign governments.  That fact is not lost on Oklahoma’s junior U.S. Senator James Lankford.  In late November Lankford asked about the effects of the tax cuts on the national debt: "What if the growth estimates don't hit point 0.4%? What happens? What should happen in the tax code to make adjustments? Every economist is guessing.  We should build in the ‘what if.’  What if this doesn't work? What changes might be needed in the tax code in the days ahead to be able to adjust in what scenario? So, if the revenues aren't coming in, should the rates change?” Lankford asked.  Since then and after some adjustments to the bill, Lankford has said he would support the bill.
     Appearing on Face the Nation Sunday, Lankford was asked how he could support the tax bill because it would add to the national debt, Lankford said, “Actually, all the independent analysis doesn't note that. The joint committee on tax does note that, but the tax foundation doesn't. There's a lot of others. We have 130 different sets of economists that are out there and part of the challenge is always looking at which one is right. All of them are putting a forecast out there. All of them have different numbers. We have some as high as a 5% growth. We have some as low as 0.8% growth. All of them show economic growth. The guess is how much economic growth is in the bill itself. The target of any time you do tax reform is to try to reduce taxes on individuals and on businesses so they have more money to spend. They can spend that money, that encourages the economy to grow. We know it will grow. Now the guess is how much.”  
     Lankford is right to be concerned about the national debt.  Giving Congressional Republicans and President Trump a legislative victory before Christmas is not nearly as important as being fiscally responsible.  Everyone wants tax cuts, but not at the expense of our kids and grandkids.    
    Want to know how the tax bill will impact your tax bill?  Go to http://taxplancalculator.com.  It is a site hosted by John Stossel’s producer
 

Monday, December 11, 2017

LET THE AUDITOR DO THEIR JOB!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
UNCHAIN THE WATCHDOG!
by Steve Fair

     The Oklahoma State Department of Health is responsible for protecting the health of all Oklahomans and providing other essential service.  It serves as the primary public health protection agency in the state.  It has a budget of $380 million annually and has over 2,000 staff.  It is headed by the Secretary of Health, an appointee of the Governor.    The State Board of Health is the governing body of the Health Department. The Board is composed of nine members appointed by the Governor with the approval of the Senate.  Each Board member serves a nine-year term. Eight of the nine members represent specific county regions of the state and one member is appointed to represent the state at large.  Dr. Terry Cline led the agency from 2009 until his recent resignation when it was discovered the department had a $30 million dollar shortfall. 
     First, the Department of Health is first and foremost responsible for this irresponsibility.  If someone is determined to be dishonest, it’s not easy to catch them, but the department had an Office of Accountability Systems that coordinated audits, an internal auditor, and a nine member board, yet none caught the overspending.  It appears the agency was using federal funds in areas they weren’t supposed to, which may require the state to have to reimburse the feds for the misuse.  This cover-up had to be known by more than just a few mid-level staffers and hopefully those people will be exposed.    
      Second, the Office of Management & Enterprise Service, which handles the state’s finances, should have caught it.  OMES has direct oversight of the Health Department.  They employ budget analysts who monitor how agencies are transferring money and if monies are being spent as they are designated to be spent.  This had been going on for years under the oversight of OMES. 
    Third, the Auditor’s office would likely have caught the shortage years ago if a comprehensive audit on the agency had been requested.  The State Auditor & Inspector doesn’t have the authority to do a comprehensive, performance audit on state agencies without being asked by either the Governor or the Speaker and the Senate pro Temp. That needs to change.       
           To avoid this happening again, citizens need to give the Auditor’s office power to audit.  In the past seven years, because of politics, the legislature and the Governor have circumvented the constitutionally created office of State Auditor & Inspector by creating auditing commissions that report directly to them.  They have cut the Auditor’s budget by 35% in both appropriations and manpower.  The result has been the Health Department fiasco and who knows how many other agencies are doing the same thing. We have the state watchdog chained.
 

Monday, December 4, 2017

POLITICS IS THE REASON WE ARE WHERE WE ARE!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
DYSFUNCTIONAL
STATE GOVERNMENT!
by Steve Fair
     How did Oklahoma state government get so dysfunctional?  Just 4 years ago, Oklahoma was riding high.  The price of oil was $100 a barrel and state government was flush with money.  Now with the price less than half that, state government is struggling to pay the bills.  After one special session failed, to give the Governor the funding she wanted, it appears she may call a second to address the budget shortfall.  Here are some of the theories as to how we got to this point:
     State Question #640:  Some lawmakers and private citizens believe that SQ #640 places too high of a threshold to raise taxes.  It requires any revenue raising bill to pass the legislature with a ¾ majority.  It doesn’t prevent the raising of taxes or fees- it just makes it harder to achieve.  Some lawmakers have vowed to work to repeal it (would require a vote of the people), but  SQ #640 has been a saving grace for Oklahomans through the years.  Before #640, the Democrat controlled legislature raised taxes every year as government continued to grow.  #640 is definitely not the reason we have a dysfunctional state government.
     Legislative Term Limits: Critics of term limits say citizens have always have term limits because elected officials could always be voted out at the ballot box. The fact is 95% of incumbents win.  Opponents of terms limits also maintain we lost the ‘institutional knowledge’ long serving lawmakers had and the bureaucrats would gain power under term limits.  There is some truth to both those theories, but term limits is not the reason we have a dysfunctional state government.
          Price of Oil:  Oklahoma state government is so dependent on gross production tax that when the price of oil declines, so does funding.  There has been ongoing discussion for years to change that, but not the political will to execute it.  But the price of oil is not the reason we have a dysfunctional state government.
     Politics: For years, grassroots Republicans thought that electing a GOP legislature would result in smaller more efficient government, but that hasn’t been the case.  Because of politics, performance audits conducted by the State Auditor have been limited.  There has not been an audit of Higher Education in years and the acceptance of State Agency heads they had ‘cut to the bone’ is not questioned.  Personalities and politics rule the day.  Performance and pursuance are kicked like a can down the road. 
     Politics is the reason we have a dysfunctional state government.  Simply stated, Republicans are electing the wrong people to represent us at 23rd and Lincoln.  Many lawmakers don’t understand the issues when they get there and are then educated by special interests.  When you couple that with the fact the GOP infrastructure is crumbling and grassroots activists at the local level are discouraged and disgusted by the people they worked to elect and you get the current situation.   How do you fix it?    You don’t fix it by quitting- you double down and work twice as hard to get the government you want