Monday, September 18, 2017

Trump at the United Nations!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     President Trump is at the United Nations this week in New York City.  On Monday as he addressed the General Assembly he noted the UN “has not reached its full potential because of bureaucracy and mismanagement.  We seek a United Nations that works to regain the trust of the people around the world,” the president said.  "I encourage all member states to look at ways to take bold stands at the United Nations with an eye toward changing business as usual," Trump said.  The president also said that no one member should be shouldering a disproportionate share of the burden- militarily or financially.  Of the 193 members, the United States taxpayer is the largest provider of financial contributions to the United Nations:  twenty two percent of the total UN budget and twenty eight percent of the peacekeeping budget.  Japan contributes the second highest with 9.68%, followed by China (7.921%), Germany (6.389%), France (4.859%) and UK (4.463%) round out the top five. Russia contributes about 3%- same as Canada. 
     The fact is the United Nations has been a very ineffective body since its inception in 1945.  It is only as powerful as her members want it to be, because it doesn’t have any real enforcement power.  It operates on the idea of consent, not force.  If a member government doesn’t want to allow UN peacekeepers to do inspections, they simply tell them to take a hike.  The ultimate goal of the UN is to blur the lines of sovereign nations and establish a global governing body.  Charles de Gaulle, former president of France, famously called the UN, “the thingamabob,” saying it should work to facilitate defense treaties between countries and not create a global security alliance. 
     Trump’s primary reason for going to the UN is to rally support among member nations for dealing with North Korea.  North Korea keeps testing missiles and nukes despite tougher UN sanctions.   He is hopeful the UN will vote to enact sanctions on oil exports from North Korea.  By doing that it would pinch Kim Jon-un’s revenue stream. But no matter what the UN does or doesn’t do will likely not impact what Trump will do in regard to North Korea.
    President Trump has been very critical of the Obama negotiated Iran nuclear deal since he was candidate Trump.  He has said that he doesn’t believe Iran is complying with the spirit of the deal and favors more sanctions on Iran or renegotiation.
     As world leaders gather together this week at the UN, they will see a reduced presence of high level US officials at the meetings.  Normally there are over one thousand diplomats attending the week’s meetings.  Trump has reduced that number by several hundred. Politico reports that Trump said he wants to leave a ‘toe print, not a foot print’ at the UN meetings. That sends the message the president doesn’t believe the UN has America’s best interests at heart.  He’s right!  Trump once said the UN was, “a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.”  The sad part is the American taxpayer are paying the club dues.     

Monday, September 11, 2017

Get on board or lose your seat! Trump is making deals!

Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     In 2018, 33 of the 100 U.S. Senate seats are up for election.  Twenty three Democrats, two Independents, and eight Republicans currently hold those thirty three seats.  Seven of the eight Republican seats are ‘safe’ seats, meaning they are in decidedly Republican states.  Ten of the Democrat seats are in states that President Trump won in 2016, so many political insiders expect Republicans to gain seats in the Senate in 2018. 

     All 435 members of the U.S. House are up for re-election every two years.  Republicans currently have 241 seats in the House, Democrats 194.   FairVote, a non-partisan election reform advocacy group, says that 368 of the 435 districts (84%) are truly safe for incumbents.  They project only 24 House districts are true ‘toss-ups,’ (only 5% of the total 435 seats).    “Of the Republicans' 245 seats, we project 205 are virtually certain to be retained, just 13 short of an absolute majority. Democrats start with only 163 near certain winner,” FairVote says.  FairVote has an amazingly accurate track record on election projections.  In 2014, they correctly predicted 361 races in the U.S. House.  But not everybody agrees Republicans will keep the House in 2018.

     Gallup’s Jeffrey Jones says the job approval rating of the president is a major factor in mid-terms. "Since 1946, when presidents are above 50% approval, their party loses an average of 14 seats in the US House in the midterm elections, compared with an average loss of 36 seats when presidents are below that mark,"  Jones says.  President Trump’s latest job approval rating was in the mid-30s according to Gallup.

     Historically, the Party of the president in office loses seats in the mid-term elections.  In the last twenty midterms, the Party that controls the White House lost an average of thirty three seats.  But the political environment has changed.  A true political outsider was swept into the highest office in the land by non-political people.  Those people don’t watch fake news, read political commentaries, or attend activist meetings.  They go to work, raise their family- and vote!  Trump’s message resonated with them.  If those same people show up in the mid-terms, and vote to send the president Trump the help he needs to get things moving in Congress, then Republicans will likely gain seats.
     Since January, Republicans have controlled the federal government, yet Congress has accomplished little.  Sadly, some Members of Congress are content to get nothing done than something.  Moderate and conservative Rs refuse to come to a consensus and neither dare compromise.  Both loudly proclaim to their base they held the line and got nothing done.  They should read “The Art of the Deal.” This president is a deal maker and will partner with whomever it takes to get the deal done, as evidenced by the funding bill for FEMA.  He worked with Democrats, because some Republicans refused to help.  Some conservative and moderate Rs better wake up.  They risk losing a seat at the table when deals are being made.  Gridlock and doing nothing is not Trump’s style.

Monday, September 4, 2017

There should be a statute of limitations on removal of exemptions!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     In a 5-4 decision, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that Oklahoma House Bill 2433 authored by Rep. Leslie Osborn, (R-Tuttle), and Senator Kim David, (R-Porter) is constitutional.  That means that Oklahomans will see an increase of 1.25 percent sales tax on motor vehicle purchases.  Currently Oklahomans pay 3.25 percent excise tax on motor vehicle purchases, so the total take for the government on car sales will now be 4.5 percent. 
     The  Oklahoma Automobile Dealers Association filed the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the bill stating it violated the ‘last minute’ provision in the state constitution and it did not get 75 percent approval from lawmakers. Five of the Justices on the court disagreed, saying HB 2433 didn’t create a new tax or fee, but removed an ‘exemption.’   Those Justices were Gurich, Kauger, Winchester, Reif, and Wyrick.  The Justices who voted against were Combs, Watt, Edmondson, and Colbert.
     The original enactment of this exemption from the sales tax coincided with the first levy of the motor vehicle tax in 1935.  In other words, Oklahomans have enjoyed an exemption from paying sales tax on motor vehicles for 82 years, but not anymore. 
    Hour Bill 2433 passed the Senate (all Republicans) 25 to18 and passed the House 52(all Republicans) to 47(26 Democrats, 21 Republicans) in the last week of session.  Enough lawmakers switched their votes on the emergency clause to allow the law to become effective as soon as the governor signed it. That is why the Supreme Court had allowed it to be implemented before the heard the lawsuit on its constitutionality.  Three thoughts:
     First, we need a statute of limitations on removal of exemptions.  If a good or service has not been taxed for eighty years, then it should be considered a new tax or fee. No one in the legislature was alive when this exemption was passed in 1935.  This was clearly a loophole the legislature was looking for to fill this year’s budget hole.  When 90% of the population in the state wasn’t alive when the exemption was initially granted, it is ridiculous to not see this as a new tax. You can package it anyway you want, but this was an end run on SQ #640.
     Second, the Oklahoma Supreme Court continues their inconsistent rulings. Clearly this was a revenue raising bill passed the last week of session, a clear violation of the law.  It is past time for judicial reform in Oklahoma.  Eliminating the retention ballot and requiring judges to run as candidates, like district and associate judges is one solution.  Term limits is another.
     Third, there appears to be a movement to attempt repeal of SQ #640.  Some lawmakers believe it binds them and makes it difficult to do their job.  SQ #640 doesn’t stop the legislature from passing revenue bills- it just makes it harder.  Oklahomans aren’t going to repeal a bill that restricts the legislature from raising taxes.  Good luck with that initiative petition.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Oklahoma needs RISK-takers, not RECKLESS idealogues!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
     The Oklahoma legislature is headed to a special session.  It’s not clear when, but it will not likely happen until Governor Fallin and Republican legislative leaders have the details hammered out on how to plug the $215 million dollar budget hole created when the Supreme Court ruled the cigarette fee was actually a tax and therefore unconstitutional.  It was reported that a budget deal had been worked out, but that was quickly denied by legislative leadership and the governor.  From all indications it appears they are working exclusively on the ‘revenue’ side of the ledger.  Bureaucrats have been effective in selling their message that Oklahoma government has been ‘cut to the bone.’ Three observations:
     First, if Oklahoma government is lean and mean and has little waste, has that been verified?  Too many lawmakers have simply accepted it as fact.  There should be a comprehensive audit of state government.  Every entity that gets one dime of state tax dollars should be audited.   No stone should be left unturned and the constitutional office charged with auditing- Oklahoma State Auditor & Inspector- should be given incremental funding to get it done, not some appointed ‘special auditor,’ handpicked by the governor or legislative leadership.  If that is not done, then it is clear the legislature is not serious about ‘rightsizing’ government.
     Second, a fundamental economic principle that has escaped many lawmakers is that corporations and businesses do not pay taxes, people pay taxes.  Whenever a politico talks about raising taxes on oil/gas companies, ending tax credits for various other industries or charging sales taxes for goods and services, they are in effect raising individual taxes.  Businesses aren’t sponges.  They don’t ‘absorb’ taxes.  They pass taxes along to consumers in the form of price increases. When the price of peanuts(or the tax on peanuts) goes up, the price of peanut butter goes up.  Most citizens understand the concept, but it appears many elected officials don’t get it.
     Third, Oklahoma needs bold, innovative, risk-taking leadership to move the state forward.  We don’t need elected officials that will simply grow government and do what has been done.  We need leaders who will fundamentally change Oklahoma government.  We need risk taking, inspiring leaders-people willing to do what’s right instead of what is easy.    
     President Ronald Reagan said, “This country was founded and built by people with great dreams and the courage to take great risks.”  General George Patton said, “Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.” Oklahoma needs leaders who will take calculated risks and not just work on one side of the ledger in a down budget year.
     Every person running for the legislature and the statewide offices in 2018 will claim to be a risk taker, but most who claim to be risk-takers are reckless ideologues, who would have little chance of being an effective change agent if they were elected.  An effective risk taking leader is competent, has character, courage, and charisma.