Sunday, February 10, 2019

Trump's plan may work!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
DEMOCRATS ADVOCATE SOCIALISM!
by Steve Fair
     At the State of the Union address, President Trump declared, "Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”  CNN’s instant poll said 76% of Americans approved of that statement. "Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country," the president said. "America was founded on liberty and independence - not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free."  Senator Bernie Sanders, (I-VT), an avowed socialist, frowned at the president’s remarks, but most Democrat members did stand after Trump’s statement.          
      Socialism is an economic system where the ways of making a living (factories, offices, etc.) are owned by society as a whole, instead of private owners.  Socialists believe that production and distribution of goods should be controlled by the government rather than private enterprise.  There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them.   To be fair, Bernie Sanders and other socialists in Congress have never called for government takeover of private business.  Their socialist model is more like Europe’s, where social safety nets (health care, housing, food stamps) are paid for by higher tax rates.  The U.S. has moved closer to the European model in recent years,
     Socialism rewards mediocrity while capitalism rewards those who are productive. Capitalism is freedom, socialism is economic slavery.  Capitalism promotes a free market- socialism works to control the market.  President Reagan said, "Millions of individuals making their own decisions in the marketplace will always allocate resources better than any centralized government planning process."     
     Few schools teach the difference between the economic systems, so many young people gravitate to socialism since it seems fairer to everyone.  Recent polls show more than 40% of those under 30 years of age flavorfully view socialism. But they should be careful what they wish for.  Sir Winston Churchill said, "The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."  America has moved closer and closer to the European model in recent years, but ultimately every socialist system fails.  A classic example is Venezuela, a purely socialist country, in both governmental and economic crisis.   
     John Galbraith, a liberal economist and an advocate of socialism, said in 1970 that Democrats should use the term socialism because it described what was needed in America.  But after receiving negative feedback, the Ds dropped in tag in subsequent years.  With the recent election of two members of Congress who are openly socialist, perhaps that is changing.       
     Based on what President Trump said in the State of the Union, it is clear he plans to hang the socialist label on the Democrats in 2020.  Democrats deserve the tag since their political philosophy has moved to more government intervention and more taxes.  Trump’s strategy is sound, since the vast majority of Americans do not agree with socialism.
 

Monday, February 4, 2019

AUDIT-AUDIT-AUDIT-AUDIT!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
TURNAROUND OR PROCESSION?
by Steve Fair

     On Monday, the Oklahoma legislature convened and Governor Kevin Stitt delivered his first ‘State of the State’ address to a joint session of the legislature.  Stitt began his speech with these words:My vision for Oklahoma is very clear and simple: to make Oklahoma a Top 10 state.”  He outlined three steps to move the Sooner state from the bottom third to the top ten: (1) Bring Oklahomans together from throughout the state to serve in critical leadership roles.  (2) Set measurable goals for state employees, agency heads and his staff to be a part of one team working to accomplish one vision, (3) Hold Oklahoma elected officials accountable for delivering results.
     In the speech, Stitt proposed a $1,200 per year teacher pay raise, which comes on top of the $6,100 the legislature passed last year.  If approved by the legislature and signed into law, Oklahoma public school teachers will be the highest paid in the six-state region. “We will invest in the classroom.  But we must first continue our investment in the teacher, because it’s not programs, curriculum, or resources that students will remember. The magic happens between the student and the teacher in the classroom,” the newly elected governor said.  Stitt believes a quality public school system will grow Oklahoma’s economy.  Let’s hope so.  The butchers, bakers and candlestick makers would like to share in the wealth.  They are paid much less than the regional average.
      The governor said every decision in his administration will have the goal of promoting a healthy economy in the Sooner state.  “The government does not create wealth, only the private sector can,” Stitt said.    
     Last year, the Republican controlled state legislature passed record tax increases to plug revenue shortfalls.  The oil and gas industry rebounded and the shortfalls wasn’t as short as thought.  In December, the Oklahoma State Board of Equalization estimated the legislature will have a minimum of $612 million more to spend this year vs. last year.  That is due to the increased oil and gas exploration in the state, an industry that is very cyclical and unpredictable.  There is no guarantee those funds will be there in 2020.  The legislature needs to be prudent and not spend every dime of revenue that comes in.  A downturn is certain and to be ill prepared will result in the same circumstance as last year. 
     Two things blatantly missing from Stitt’s speech were performance audits and the elimination of state payer funded lobbyists.  Over the course of the last year, his stump speech has always included performance audits of state agencies.  He should press the legislature to fund the Auditors office to conduct the audits.
     The governor’s speech was much like his campaign- long on energy but short on specifics.  In order to make a lasting impact, he needs to move from campaigning to governing.  He needs to audit every entity that gets one dime of state tax dollars.  Root out waste, fraud and abuse first, then fund accordingly.  Spending money isn’t a turnaround- it’s the same old procession and that won’t make Oklahoma a top ten state. 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

It's a HEART issue, not a HEAD issue!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO LIVE!
by Steve Fair

     On the anniversary of the Roe v Wade Supreme decision, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Reproductive Health Act (RHA).  The legislation permits abortions to be performed up to the 24th week of pregnancy.  It also creates lenient exceptions essentially sanctioning elective abortion up to the moment of birth.  “Today we are taking a giant step forward in the hard-fought battle to ensure a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own personal health, including the ability to access an abortion. With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body,” Cuomo said. 
     Not only will RHA preserve access to abortions for residents of New York, but it will remove abortion from the state’s criminal code. This would protect doctors or medical professionals who perform abortions from criminal prosecution. The law also now allows medical professionals who are not doctors to perform abortions in New York. “The old law had criminal penalties. It was written that the doctor or professional could be held criminally liable,” Cuomo said.  Cuomo supports placing this on the ballot to amend the New York state constitution.
     Critics were quick to condemn the new law.  Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan said: “Our Governor and legislative leaders hail this new abortion law as progress. This is not progress. Progress will be achieved when our laws and our culture once again value and respect each unrepeatable gift of human life, from the first moment of creation to natural death. Would that not make us truly the most enlightened and progressive state in the nation?” Cuomo is Catholic.  Three observations:
     First, abortion is murder.  It is the taking of a human life.  Life has a beginning and that is at the moment of conception.  Abortion doesn’t terminate a pregnancy- it murders a baby.  Many disagree, but their argument is against their Creator, not man. 
     Second, abortion violates the U.S. Constitution.  Every person in this country is guaranteed the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  When a baby is aborted, their constitutional rights are permanently violated.    
     Third, bad legislation is not the issue- a depraved nature is.  Attempting to regulate abortion- less or more- doesn’t deal with the fundamental issue- the depravity of man.  Man is born with an inherit sin nature and until God regenerates their dead heart, they will call bad good and good bad.  Arguing with a pro-choice person who doesn’t believe in the sovereignty of God is futile.  Making it against to law to kill won’t prevent killing, just like putting up speed limit signs will not stop speeding.  That doesn’t mean believers should abandon the cause, but it does mean they should recognize the fundamental problem is one of the heart, not the head.  May God have mercy on a state or country that ceases to respect the fundamental right to life. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

JUST RIP THE BANDAGE OFF!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
CREDIT OR BLAME?
by Steve Fair
   As the government shutdown enters the second month, it appears no end is in sight.  President Trump offered concessions to the Democrats for the ‘dreamers,’ the young illegal immigrants brought to the country as children, in exchange for funding of a border wall.  Thus far, no Congressional Democrat- House or Senate- has expressed support for Trump’s proposal.  The POTUS has vowed to continue the shutdown until funding is agreed to.  Democrat Congressional leaders have refused to negotiate with the president and vowed to not give in.
     First, Democrats have agreed in the past to most of Trump’s proposals.  Fox News delights in showing clips of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, (D-CA) and Charles Senator Schumer, (D-NY) publicly advocating for border barriers before Trump was president.  To a degree, that paints them into a corner.
     Second, President Trump has taken ownership of the shutdown. Unlike the Democrat congressional leadership, Trump admits his part in the shutdown.   According to the Washington Post, that is translating into the loss of support from Trump’s political base, but there is little evidence his supporters are abandoning him.  One of Trump’s primary campaign promises was the building of a border wall and to his credit he is trying to deliver on that promise.  The Democrats are committed to making sure he doesn’t succeed.  Like him or not, the POTUS doesn’t back down from a fight and is not the typical politician.  That has to be unsettling for career politicos.
     Third, Trump’s proposal on Saturday is eerily similar to one he criticized during the primary campaign.  During the GOP debates, Senator Marco Rubio, (R-Florida) was a frequent target of the other candidates for his views on illegal immigration, which included a ‘pathway to citizenship.’  Rubio’s ideas were attacked and Trump was the primary critic.  Just goes to show you that the theoretical often differs from reality.  Governing is more difficult than campaigning. 
     Fourth, a shutdown may be an opportunity to prune the federal government.  The POTUS has amazing leverage when it comes to putting the civil service workforce back to work.  If Trump wants to really shake things up, he could hold out for only partial reopening of the government.  Clearly, the federal government is bloated and a workforce reduction in one stroke of a pen would be painful, but it may be the only way to deal with it.  Just rip the bandage off!  The national debt is out of the control.  Pruning government would be a good thing and while ‘across the board’ is not the ideal way to do it, it is a way.
     The Democrat congressional leadership and their rank and file have shown remarkable solidarity through the shutdown.  They hope voters in 2020 will blame President Trump for the shutdown, and give them credit for opposing the wall.  That is risky because polls show most U.S. citizens are very concerned about border security.  The POTUS may get more credit than blame.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Governor will need the legislature to turn around state!

Weekly Opinion Editorial

Turning Around Oklahoma!
by Steve Fair

     On Monday, J Kevin Stitt was sworn in as governor of Oklahoma.  Stitt, 46, is the first Native American to serve as a governor in the United States (he is an enrolled member of the Cherokee tribe).  He started Gateway Mortgage in Tulsa in 2000 and now it has 1,200 employees in 41 states.  This was Stitt’s first run for public office.  He bested six viable candidates to win the GOP nomination and then beat the Democrat nominee by twelve percentage points.  His election is very much like President Trump’s- unpredicted, unexpected and by a true political outsider. 

     At his inauguration address, Governor Stitt, the son of a Baptist preacher, emphasized his business background.  He said he would hold state agencies accountable, make them more efficient, and taxpayer friendly.  Stitt’s tag line during his campaign was: “Oklahoma’s turnaround starts right here-right now.”  In an inauguration speech that sounded more like a campaign speech, Stitt said he wanted to make Oklahoma a top ten state in all the categories that mattered.  Currently the state ranks in the bottom third of most major economic indicators.  Three observations:

     First, Oklahoma needs a turnaround.  The Sooner state ranks low in per capita income when compared to other states and has for decades.  The infrastructure (roads and bridges) need work.  Oklahoma government needs modernization.  There is little accountability of state government to taxpayers.  The Sooner state has languished in the bottom third for too long.

     Second, Stitt can’t turn the state around by himself.   The fact is the office of governor in Oklahoma has defined authority under the State Constitution.  That authority has been expanded in recent years with the cooperation of the legislature, but the office is still not as powerful as other states.  Stitt will need the legislature and the support of all Oklahomans to accomplish a turn around. 

      Three, Stitt’s approach to governing will be different.  The new governor, with a private sector bent, has appointed a chief operating officer as a liaison between himself and state agency heads.    He has said he will order comprehensive audits on every organization/agency that gets state tax dollars and supports needs based budgeting.  That is a radically different approach to governing than in the past.

    In his speech, the new governor said: “We need to change how Oklahoma’s 400 agencies and commissions are comprised. Our current system gives agencies too much independence from the voter – they have the ability to ignore executive orders, skirt around laws passed by the legislature, hide pockets of money, and protect their own interests by hiring lobbyists.” Stitt will need the legislature’s cooperation to reform state agencies.  Time will tell whether he will have it.
     Every turnaround or movement has a beginning.  It remains to be seen if Oklahoma’s started on Monday.

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Genius of the Electoral College!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
The Electoral College is Under Attack- Again!
by Steve Fair
      
     Last week, Congressman Steve Cohen, (D, Tennessee), a vocal critic of President Trump, introduced a bill to eliminate the Electoral College.  “In two presidential elections since 2000, including the most recent one in which Hillary Clinton won 2.8 million more votes than her opponent, the winner of the popular vote did not win the election because of the distorting effect of the outdated Electoral College,” Cohen said in a statement. “Americans expect and deserve the winner of the popular vote to win office. More than a century ago, we amended our Constitution to provide for the direct election of U.S. Senators. It is past time to directly elect our President and Vice President.”      
     At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, the Electoral College came about as a compromise between large and small states. The large states wanted presidential voting to be based on population, as in the House of Representatives, while the small states wanted each state to have the same number of votes, as in the Senate (and the Constitutional Convention itself, for that matter). So they split the difference by giving each state a number of electors equal to its combined total of seats in both houses of Congress and establishing the Electoral College. 
     Critics of the Electoral College point out that five times in our nation’s history (twice since 2000), the winner of the popular vote did not win the electoral vote.  What they neglect to point out is that fifteen times the winner did not get a majority of the vote.  President Clinton did not receive 50% of the vote in either of his presidential elections.  Most of those who want to eliminate the EC are liberal, since both of the presidents elected in modern times and lost the popular vote were Republicans- George W Bush and Donald Trump. Funny there isn’t the same outcry for a clear majority for election.  Two thoughts to consider regarding the Electoral College:
     First, America is a representative republic, not a democracy.  The Electoral College is consistent with that representative republic model. Our founders rejected a pure democracy because as James Madison said, “democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives, as they have been violent in their deaths.” A democracy is mob rule.    
     Second, we are the United STATES of America.  Vertically Americans are one people living under a rule of common law, but horizontally we live in sovereign states.  If the Electoral College were eliminated, the rights of sovereign states would disappear with it.  The college was established to protect state rights and to insure each state had a voice in electing the POTUS.  Under the Electoral College, every state is relevant.  If it were eliminated, candidates would ignore smaller states in favor of the larger metro areas.
     Cohen’s bill has little chance of success this year.  To pass, it would require a two thirds majority in Congress and ratification by three fourths of the states, and that won’t happen, but conservatives should be diligent.  The Electoral College and state’s rights continue to be under attack and liberals won’t rest until both are eliminated.  


 

Friday, December 28, 2018

DEMOCRATS NOT NEGOTIATING IS GOING HOME!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
GOING BIG IS REALLY SMALL!
by Steve Fair

     President Trump threatened- via Twitter- on Friday to close the southern border if Congress doesn’t fund a border wall.  He also threatened to cut off aid to Central America if they don’t stop the forming of caravans in their countries.   His incoming Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said the POTUS is serious and would close the border if the Democrats don’t give him funding for the wall.  This came after congressional Democrats ‘walked away from the table,’ according to Mulvaney.  'The Democrats have simply shutdown the discussions. They did not even counter us,” he said.  Apparently Trump had backed off his $5 billion dollar request to a smaller number, but the Democrats believe by holding their position, Trump will cave to their removing the request from the overall budget.   Three observations:

     First, border security should not be a partisan issue.  Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree that knowing who is entering the country is important and that keeping criminals out of the U.S. is good policy.  Illegal immigration is what it is- illegal.  The United States has a very defined method of entering the country.  Those who choose to ignore it are breaking our laws- pure and simple.  When Democrats claim people entering our country illegally have a right to do so, they ignore the rule of law and we cease to be a country. 

     Second, permanent immigration reform must be addressed.  Many of those who come to America illegally do so because the current legal process is cumbersome and takes years to complete.  Because of our Laissez-faire attitude toward illegal immigration, they simply break the law because the law is not enforced.  Both Parties agree the process needs fixing, but they can’t come to a common sense solution because of partisanship.  Without true immigration reform, the wall will be just a deterrent to illegal immigration- it will not stop it.

     Third, this standoff is about the 2020 elections.  Democrats believe they can take back the White House and both chambers in two years if they energize their base.  Rep. Eric Swalwell, D, California, said, “young voters in the country are telling the Democrat Party to “go big.” ‘Going Big’ means to get angry at someone, to catch an attitude and get in someone’s face.  Young progressive voters want the newly elected Ds to do something about guns, immigration and climate change.  Meanwhile, President Trump needs to deliver on one of his chief campaign promises- to build a big beautiful wall on the southern border.  If he doesn’t deliver, he will likely not be reelected.  If the Democrats don’t deliver on their promises, they will likely suffer defeat at the ballot box.  Both have to ‘go big,’ or disappoint their political base that is critical for electoral success in 2020.

     ‘Going Big,’ will get a lot of attention and media coverage and play well with a political base, but it will not solve the nation’s problems. Civil discourse, focusing on fixing the obvious problems, bipartisanship and finding common ground will.  Not negotiating is not ‘going big’- it’s going home.