Monday, April 13, 2015

Clinton short on Accomplishments!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
CLINTON HAS IMPRESSIVE RESUME,
BUT SHORT ON ACCOMPLISHMENTS!
by Steve Fair
     On Sunday, Hillary Clinton announced she is a candidate for the Democrat Party’s nomination for President.  It came as no surprise, since she has been hiring campaign staff and mapping strategy for quite some time.  “I’m running for president,” she said with a smile near the end of two minute video.  “Everyday Americans need a champion. And I want to be that champion,” Mrs. Clinton said. “So I’m hitting the road to earn your vote — because it’s your time. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey.”  Clinton is the presumptive nominee of the Democrat party and leads VP Joe Biden in early polls 65% to 12% among primary voters.  For those in the Republican Party who think that Clinton can’t win the presidency, consider the following: 53% of the voters in the 2012 election were women.  Women turn out and vote.  In the last eight presidential general elections, women have a higher turnout percentage than men.  Hillary is touting her gender this time around, unlike when she ran against Obama in 2008.  Women tend to vote more readily for women.  Clinton has a built-in definitive advantage simply because of her gender.  She also has the ability to raise massive amounts of money.  It’s reported she plans to have a 2.5 billion dollar campaign budget.  But while Hillary can win, she does have significant negatives.
     First, a recent CNN polls showed the public don’t view her as “honest and trustworthy,” after it was revealed that she has used a personal email address and home-based server to conduct U.S. State Department business.  Hillary’s excuse that she used one email account so that she could carry just one phone for ‘convenience,’ is inconsistent with what she said just two weeks ago.  She is quoted as saying she now ‘carries two phones.’  Hillary also claims she didn’t send any classified information over her personal account during the years she was SOS, but that can’t be verified because she will not allow an independent examiner look at the server that stores her email because it also has Bill Clinton’s on it.  Reportedly, Bill Clinton doesn’t use email at all, so that story is inconsistent.
     Second, the killing of four Americans at the U.S. Embassy compound in Benghazi in 2012 while Clinton was Secretary of State is viewed very negatively by the general public.  Clinton’s lack of a timely response to a request by the American ambassador for more security resulted in Congressional hearings where she was viewed as condescending and arrogant.  That might play well with her base, but the general public saw her as heartless and dismissive to legitimate questions from members of Congress.
     Third, Clinton’s political shelf life is close to expiration.  If elected, Hillary would be 69 when inaugurated.  That would be the same age Ronald Reagan was when he was first elected, but Hillary isn’t Reagan.  She doesn’t have his charisma or communication skills.  Reagan was in great physical shape for a man his age- Hillary has experienced numerous health issues. Younger voters are not going to be energized by Hillary and increasingly milleniums(voters between 18-26) are becoming a critical demographic to winning an election.  Hillary isn’t ‘new’ and that is an important characteristic for a successful political candidate.  She has been on the political scene for 25 years and that is an eternity in politics.
     Fourth, Hillary is dull.  She is boring.  Of all her negatives, this may be the one that will hurt her the most.  Her body movements are calculated and she shows little spontaneity.  Her speech pattern is monotone.  That is why Barack Obama was able to beat her in the 2008 primary.  Being more engaging and fun is vital in today’s social media driven campaigns. 
Clinton has an impressive resume, but her list of actual accomplishments is short.  Conversely, her list of scandals is long. Republicans have multiple candidates more qualified and trustworthy to be POTUS.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Get the Average Guy Engaged!!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
GET THE AVERAGE GUY ENGAGED!
by Steve Fair

     The November 2014 midterm elections had the lowest voter turnout in seventy two (72) years.  Nationwide, only 36.4% of eligible voters bothered to go to the polls.  That was down from 40.9% in the 2010 midterms.  In Oklahoma 29.9% of the eligible voters cast their ballot in November 2014.  That was down from 38.8% in 2010.  Some legislators have proposed legislation that would expand voting opportunities in Oklahoma, by adding extra days to vote and voting electronically, but that’s not the answer to Oklahoma’s low voter turnout problem.  Allow me to comment briefly;
     First, the primary reason Oklahoma’s turnout was low in the general election is because the Oklahoma Republican Party dominated the 2014 elections.  Over 70% of Republicans on the ballot in November won!  That is staggering.  Democrats did not even field candidates for three statewide races- State Auditor, Attorney General, and Treasurer.  That was historic!  In the statewide races that were contested, Republicans won easily.  Many legislative and county officer races across the Sooner state were decided in the primary, thereby negatively affecting turnout in the general election.  Until the Oklahoma Democrat Party regroups and begin to field competitive candidates, they will give little reason for Oklahoma Democrats to vote.  No legislation, expansion of voting hours, or easing of registration will fix the basic issue; there were no competitive races.    
     Second, voter apathy is a record level.  Young and old people are just not participating in the political process for a variety of reasons.  They don’t see any real purpose in voting because there is never a significant change no matter who wins an election.  That lack of change reinforces their apathetic attitude and the cycle continues.  Conservatives campaign on conservative issues, but never follow-up after being elected.  Liberals do the same thing.  It’s the old ‘bait and switch’ trick.  We will never get young people engaged until they truly see that government impacts their lives.  They have to see elected officials are not leaders of society, but servants of society.  They must understand the government has no money other than what the taxpayer gives it.  Apathy is a hard cycle to break and no amount of prodding or education will work until the politics becomes personal.  Until a person becomes painfully aware that a decision by government has negatively impacted their life or pocketbook, they will likely just ignore government.  The reason the ‘average guy’ is never heard from by elected officials is because he is too busy working and raising his family.  He doesn’t have time to go to the Capitol to lobby his elected officials.  He doesn’t care who they are, could care less about getting his picture made with some politician or attending some high dollar fundraiser.  He just wants the government to leave him alone.  Those are the people who should be involved in politics- the average guys, not the political groupies, lobbyists, activists, and hacks who live and breath politics.  The average guys are the backbone of America.  If the average guys ever rise up in mass, watch out, because they are about results, not spin. 
     Third, an ‘unintended consequence’ of the low voter turnout in November will be a reduction in the number of signatures needed to get an initiative petition on the ballot.  Oklahoma’s state constitution says a state question can be placed on the ballot if signature totaling 15% of the total number who voted in the Governor’s race can be gathered.  The required number was reduced after November from 155,000 to 122,000.  That is still a high threshold, but its 21% less than it was.  It is time to consider an initiative petition calling for recall elections in Oklahoma.  Term limits for elected officials reveal a weakness in accountability to voters and a need for recall.  If a person knows they are not going to face voters ever again, they can pretty much do whatever they want.  Some termed out legislators have commented to that effect.  Lame ducks have no risk, because they are done facing voters.  If a termed out elected official thought they might face recall, it might keep them on the reservation throughout their term.  Recall is needed to maintain accountability.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

It's Protection, not Discrimination!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
IT’S PROTECTION, NOT DISCRIMINATION!
by Steve Fair
Last week Indiana Governor Mike Pence, a Republican, signed the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  The law would prohibit laws that ‘substantially burden’ a person’s freedom of religion unless the government can prove a compelling interest in imposing that burden.  The intent of the law is to protect religious freedom for individuals and entities.   There is already a federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  It was signed into law by President Clinton in 1993 after passing the House and Senate nearly unanimously.   Nineteen states, including Oklahoma, have RFR laws on the books.   The media has been ablaze with misreports of how Indiana’s bill will foster discrimination.   Gay groups have said the law was passed to discriminate specifically against them, even though no group is mentioned in the bill. 
     First, Indiana’s law is different than Oklahoma’s law.  Oklahoma’s current RFR law doesn’t protect businesses, just individuals in the free exercise of their religion.  There have been bills proposed this year in Oklahoma that would mirror Indiana’s law and they may or may not make it out of committee.  Indiana’s law is similar to those passed in South Carolina and Louisiana.   Indiana’s RFR law differs from the federal and most state RFR laws in three ways; (1) It explicitly protects the exercise of religion by entities as well as individuals.  Its enumeration of entities includes “a corporation”, without limiting this to closely-held companies.;(2) The bill’s protections may be invoked when a person’s exercise of religion is “likely” to be substantially burdened by government action, not just when it has been burdened; (3) The bill permits the assertion of free exercise rights as a claim or defense in judicial or administrative proceedings even if the government is not a party to the proceedings.   Because of the implications to corporations, eight CEOs of large businesses in Indiana sent a letter to Pence asking him to fix the bill.  Angie’s List has postponed a planned expansion in Indiana until there are ‘corrections’ in the law.
     Second, and most importantly, this law is about protection, not discrimination.  America was founded on the principle of allowing people to practice their religion without fear of retaliation.  Today, people who live their faith are under attack in America.  Businesses like Hobby Lobby and Chick fil A are both loved and hated because they have taken stands for their values.  In modern America,if you believe the Bible, and vow to be for what God is for and against what He is against, you are sure to run into people who will ‘discriminate’ against you.  The real discrimination happening in America is against those who hold tradition values.   
     Third, consider the word discrimination.  In 1828, Webster defined discrimination as: The act of distinguishing; the act of making or observing a difference; distinction; as the discrimination between right and wrong. Today’s dictionary defines discrimination as: treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: Quite a difference.  Much of that change in the definition came out of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s when discriminating became associated with racism.  Words do mean something and their usage and meanings can change, but the word discrimination wasn’t always a bad word with a negative meaning. Consider the following;
We all discriminate.   
     For example, if you know that one glass is laced with poison and another is pure spring water, you will like discriminate against the first glass and drink the second.  Every time, you walk the aisle of a grocery store, you discriminate when you make a purchase- you choose one brand over another.  That’s a form of discrimination.  So you see, we make discriminating choices all the time and not just in shopping. 
      For people of faith, they believe they must base their decisions on the principles found in God’s Word.  They want to for those things He is for and against those things He is against.  It’s not discrimination- it’s dedication to their values.  Since our founding, America’s founding document, the Constitution, allowed for every person to practice their faith as they wanted.  Government stayed out of it.  Indiana’s law simply protects that fundamental constitutional right and allows individuals and companies owned by people of faith to practice their faith without fear of retaliation.  Many of the critics crying intolerance and discrimination are often the most intolerant and discriminating against those who don’t agree with them.  This law is about protection- not discrimination.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Get Government out of the Collection Business!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
Get Government out of the Collection Business!
by Steve Fair
     HB # 1749, authored by Rep. Tom Newell, (R-Seminole), has passed the State House and is eligible to be voted on in the full Senate this week.  If passed and signed into law, HB 1749 would prevent Oklahoma state government and school districts from collecting union dues for public unions or associations.  The bill passed the state House 59-39.  It passed the General Government senate committee 4-3 after Senator Nathan Dahm, (R-Tulsa) struck the title on the bill, meaning it would have to be voted on by the full Senate at least twice before approval. 
     Not surprising, the Oklahoma Education Association said they were ‘deeply disappointed’ the bill got out of the Senate committee.  “This bill is, without a doubt, an attempt to silence the members of the Oklahoma Education Association," said OEA President Linda Hampton.  "In supporting this bill, legislators are saying they are sick of teachers telling them about the needs of Oklahoma's public schools and their students.  We have real education issues to focus on in this state, and despite HB 1749, we will keep working to do what's best for Oklahoma's students. I hope our legislators will do the same."
     The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank, released this statement: Currently, taxpayer dollars are automatically deducted from many state employee paychecks and funneled to government unions that pass on a portion of the funds to political groups that support liberal causes like gun control, abortion, and government-run health care. State government should not prop up political interest groups.”  Three thoughts:
     First, unions are a microcosm of society.  Most people in America aren’t really tuned into politics and  most union members are not tuned into the politics of their union.  They join the union because when they got the job, they were convinced by a union steward of the benefits of being in the union.  That usually included some pension, insurance, or personal benefit.  There is a great deal of peer pressure to join the union.  The vast majority of union members don’t realize that a substantial percentage of their union dues go to support liberal political causes.  Based on recent voting trends, it is apparent most Oklahomans, including union members, are politically conservative.  Their unions are out of touch with their values. 
     Second, most of the union PACs have a long history of supporting liberals and liberal causes.  In 2013, a then VP of the OEA said second amendment supporters were ‘going to go to hell.’  The teacher unions (NEA, OEA) have a long history of supporting abortion on demand, gay marriage, and bans on assault weapons.  Most union membership doesn’t realize what their union PAC is supporting, but if HB 1749 becomes law, a union member will have to write a check ‘directly’ to the union.  I guarantee they would become more aware of how their money was being spent.  The OEA knows that and they don’t want their conservative membership to voice their opinion.  HB 1749 threatens the OEA and the other public union’s gravy train.  If passed into law, unions would no doubt lose conservative members and that means less money to support liberal causes and candidates.    
     Third, Oklahoma taxpayers are paying the bill for this government provided collection service.  This should incense every Oklahoma taxpayer.  It costs a state government agencies and school districts money to collect union dues and send the money to the unions.  Every dime of that administrative cost is paid for by Oklahoma taxpayers.  The unions don’t reimburse the government the cost to collect the dues.  The current system has Oklahoma taxpayers subsidizing the unions.
      In the early days of colonial America, the government collected the tithes of church members and sent the money to the church.  When independence was achieved, that was a service promptly discontinued.  Rep. Newell, a pastor, pointed that fact out during debate on HB 1749.  Government shouldn’t be in the collection business for any religious group, association, union or cause- liberal or conservative.  This is a good bill patterned after the Wisconsin bill championed by Governor Scott Walker.  Contact your state legislator today and ask them to support HB 1749.

Monday, March 16, 2015

SOUNDING BRASS OR A TINKLING CYMBAL!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     HJR 1025 authored by Speaker Jeff Hickman, (R-Fairview) passed the State House last week.  If it is approved by the State Senate, the measure will be placed on the ballot in November 2016.  HJR 1025 would prohibit former legislators from going to work for any state agency until July 1 of the year immediately following their leaving office.  The current statute prohibits an Oklahoma state lawmaker from taking a job with the state until two years have elapsed from their leaving office.  A couple of observations concerning Speaker Hickman’s proposal;
     First, Hickman’s bill does plug the current ‘loophole’ several former legislators have crawled through.  At least three former Republican legislators went to work for state agencies before the two year period had expired because their salary was not being funded with ‘legislature appropriated’ dollars.  The Attorney General issued an opinion the law wasn’t technically being broken, because their salary wasn’t coming from money given to the agency by the legislature, but that dog won’t hunt.  While they may ‘technically’ be within the bounds of the law, it is clear the spirit of the law was to provide a two year ‘cooling off’ period for former legislators.  Hickman’s proposal would close that loophole.  No matter how the job was funded- appropriated money or otherwise- a former state legislator would have to wait basically a year and a month to go to work for the state.
     Second, Hickman’s proposal reduces the amount of time a former legislator has to wait before they go to work for the state.  As mentioned above, the current prohibition period is two years.  Hickman’s proposal would slice that almost in half.  Is that an improvement?  Does the prohibition need to be two years?  Are state government agencies so desperate for labor they need the cooling off period to be shortened?  Fact is, many former legislators wind up lobbying their former colleagues, either as a private lobbyist or a taxpayer funded lobbyist (don’t get me started on the absurdity of a taxpayer funded lobbyist) before two years. 
     Third, why is it that so many former legislators wind up working for the state or lobbying?  Can they just not get a job in the private sector?  Have they become so engrained into the good-ole-boy political system they believe the only way they can provide for their families is to stay engaged at some level in politics?   In Oklahoma, we have former elected officials are college presidents, state agency heads, and cabinet members.  Others are now county elected officials.  Precious few go back into the private sector.  The plow doesn’t fit their hand anymore.  The irony is many of these former legislators who go to work for the state after they leave office railed on the size of government during their campaigns and proclaimed they were ‘citizen legislators’ when they were running for office.  Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.   
     We so need citizen legislators and elected officials.  In 450 BC, Cincinnatus was a Roman citizen and a humble farmer.  He was elected to the Roman Senate, served his term and then went back to farming.   In 458 BC, Rome was in a war with Sabines and a group of Roman Senators were sent to Cincinnatus to ask him to serve as Emperor/Commander-in-Chief.  He consented, led the army into a successful battle, ended the war and returned to his farm- all in the period of fifteen days.  In 439 BC, he was once again summoned to duty, this time to squelch a coup.  He did his duty and returned to the plow.  Cincinnatus became a legend in Rome, simply he understood that politics was merely a means to an end- not the end.  He wasn’t a career politician.  George Washington is often compared to Cincinnatus because after leading the colony army, Washington also refused the opportunity to become the superior ruler/king of the United States, also retiring to a farm.  
Speaker Hickman’s proposal closes the ‘appropriated money’ loophole that is being abused by former legislators.  Quite frankly that is more important than the length of the cooling off period.  Contact your state senator and encourage them to support HJR 1025.