Monday, October 15, 2018
Weekly Opinion Editorial
PUBLIC SERVICE HAS ITS BENEFITS!
by Steve Fair
Public service is when a person uses their talents and skills to service the general public. Generally those who are in public service(elected official or government worker) are thought to sacrifice income and status vs. what they could earn in the private sector to serve the public, but is that accurate? It would appear not.
According to a recent study by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Governor Mary Fallin will collect a $176,000 annual pension when she leaves office in January. That is $30,000 more than she made as governor. Former Attorney General and Democrat candidate for Governor Drew Edmondson currently makes $149,000 in pension- more than he made as AG. He can continue to draw that amount in addition to his salary if he is elected governor. Both will make substantially more in retirement than when they were in office. Not too many private sector jobs that have that kind of pension.
Both Fallin and Edmondson benefit from a bill ran in 1988 by the Democrat controlled legislature. It gave elected officials credit for their non-elected service, which dramatically increased their pension benefits. Former State Auditor Clifton Scott became the poster boy for inflated pension benefits. Scott was able to count 20 years of non-elected service like elected, and retire from an $83,000 salary to a $157,000 pension, even though he had not contributed near that much into the system. Because of situations like that, the various state pension plans in Oklahoma were underfunded and in trouble financially. Under the leadership of the Republican legislature and Rep. Randy McDaniel, candidate for State Treasurer in particular, reforms were made that have the funds getting back to solvency. But more reforms are needed.
First, Oklahoma needs to close the defined benefit pensions to all new state employees and go to a defined contribution system. The private sector phased out the defined benefit systems years ago. Few Fortune 500 companies have a defined benefit pension plan. The days of working for a company for 40 years, getting the gold watch and a pension are over. Companies have matching 401K plans that allow employees the flexibility and control over their own retirement funds. It allows them to move from company to company and take their retirement with them. Government, like it does in everything else, lags years behind the private sector in retirement plans.
The second reform that Oklahoma needs is to close the ‘double dipping’ loophole. Currently an Oklahoma state employee can retire from one agency, start collecting pension benefits and then go to work for another agency after just a month and build a retirement at that agency.
A workman is worthy of their hire and elected officials and state employees should have a good retirement system. But retirement benefits for public employees and elected officials should not be infinitely better than those they are supposedly serving and when that is the case, they shouldn’t call themselves public servants. They are the masters and taxpayers are the servants.
Monday, October 8, 2018
Weekly Opinion Editorial
DISSOLUTION COULD BE LOOMING!
by Steve Fair
On Saturday Judge Brett Kavanaugh became Associate Justice Kavanaugh after the U.S. Senate confirmed him in a 50-48 vote. Only one Democrat- Joe Manchin of West Virginia- voted yes. Manchin is up for re-election in a state that President Trump won by 42 percentage points over Clinton in 2016, so not voting for confirmation would likely have sealed his political fate. Two Republicans did not vote- Steve Daines, who was attending his daughter’s wedding in Montana, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who voted present. Murkowski had said she would vote no, but since the outcome was apparent, she voted present. A Supreme Court Justice is sworn in immediately and as Kavanaugh was being sworn in by former Justice Anthony Kennedy, protesters pounded on the Supreme Court’s doors.
Liberals know what is at stake- it remains unclear if conservatives do. With the seating of Kavanaugh, the SCOTUS is controlled by judges who subscribe to a ‘literalist’ interpretation of the Constitution for the first time in modern history. Not all are strict literalists, but they are a far cry from the ‘structuralist’ interpreters Hillary Clinton would have appointed. If Trump doesn’t accomplish anything more than seating these two Supreme Court Justices(Gorsuch and Kavanaugh) in his presidency, he has sealed a conservative legacy not even Ronald Reagan could accomplish.
Senator Chuck Schumer, (D-NY), the minority leader of the Senate, held a news conference after the vote and said the only thing that will change America is ‘through the ballot box.’ Schumer is right, but that doesn’t appear to be the shared sentiment of many liberals. Protests and harassment of conservative elected officials continue. Some conservatives say the libs should accept defeat, but no person with true convictions should ever ‘accept defeat,’ but they should accept reality. Politics is the art of the possible. Many, on both sides of the aisle, expect the impossible and will not accept the possible. They reject majority rule. They would rather have nothing than something. If you get involved in politics, you’re going win some and you’re going to lose some, but when you lose, you roll up your sleeves and work harder in the next election cycle. It’s fine to oppose policy you don’t agree with. It’s acceptable to ask elected officials to justify their vote. It’s not o.k. to threaten them with bodily harm or harass them in public.
The divisiveness of the Kavanaugh hearings and vote have some saying the United State is more divided than at any point in our nation’s history, but that is not true. Between 1861 and 1865, America fought a Civil War, where over 620,000 Americans died. America is not on the brink of civil war, but it appears dissolution could be on the horizon. At some point, the people paying the bills may elect to not be a part of a liberal America, where everything is free. They may grant the liberals their wish and secede from the union. That’s becoming more and more viable every day.
Monday, October 1, 2018
Weekly Opinion Editorial
D’s HAVE A MAJORITY IN THE SENATE!
by Steve Fair
The SCOTUS confirmation hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh has now surpassed Judge Robert Bork and Justice Clarence Thomas’ hearings in absurdity. With an estimated 20 million Americans watching or listening, Kavanaugh’s accuser Christine Blasey Ford tearfully testifying he had sexually assaulted her in high school and Kavanaugh tearfully denying it. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary committee demanded the FBI investigate Ford’s accusation before the committee vote, but that was denied and they voted along Party lines to send Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate, but not without drama. Senate Jeff Flake, (R-AZ) said he would only vote to move the nomination along if the Republican leadership would agree to a one week delay to allow the FBI to investigate and report back. That was agreed to and at this point, the earliest the Kavanaugh nomination vote on the Senate floor will happen is mid-October.
First, Republicans don’t stick together like the Democrats and don’t lead the same way when they are in the majority. They are too accommodating to the minority. It’s fine to allow for a minority voice, but the Senate GOP leadership bends over backwards for the minority. That was not the case when the Democrats were in charge. They largely ignored the Republicans. The GOP is more accommodating because they need the more moderate members of the GOP caucus to stick with them in order to get anything done. When GOP Senator’s Flake, Collins, and Murkowski waffle on supporting a Republican POTUS’s Supreme Court nominee, Democrats have a practical working majority in the Senate without winning elections.
Second, this isn’t about Kavanaugh’s fitness to serve on the SCOTUS. It’s about judicial interpretation. Democrats know if the Constitution is interpreted literally, it presents a challenge to many liberal rulings past courts have made. That’s why they are fighting with every ounce of strength to keep Kavanaugh off the court. Kavanaugh is an ‘originalist’ in his interpretation of the Constitution(in the vein of Thomas and Scalia). That means the good judge approaches the law literally and strictly, with little or no allowance for connotation. The Democrats prefer judges that are ‘structuralist,’ meaning they approach interpretation of the law with an abstract view, expanding the meaning beyond its original meaning to encompass situations not anticipated by the law’s authors or enactors at the time it was originally written.
Third, the FBI has issues? This agency has an agenda, but Senate Republicans are going to have them conduct a fair and impartial investigation into a 37 year old incident? Expect the agency to find something, even if they have to make it up.Groucho Marx said: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them….well I have others.” That describes the Senate Democrats; selective outrage when it benefits their cause, while ignoring creditable evidence against their own. These hearings have been a joke and hopefully the American people will see through the Democrat tactics and keep the GOP in the majority November 6th.
Monday, September 24, 2018
WEEKLY OPINION EDITORIAL
REFORM, NOT REVOLUTION!
by Steve Fair
On Saturday, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, (D-MA) came to OKC. Warren, a 1966 graduate of NW Classen High School, came back to her high school alma mater to keynote the Oklahoma chapter of the American Federation of Teachers(AFT). Addressing several hundred educators in the cafeteria, Warren said: “You’ve got to pay for teachers, you’ve got to pay for builders, you’ve got to pay for books. And, money is about values. Are we going to decide that’s it’s just going to be all about billionaires and tax breaks for big corporations? Or are we going to say that everybody pays a fair share?” National AFT President Randi Weingarten commended the teachers for the walkout in April. "Protest is important, but it is step one. What we want, what our kids deserve is a revolution," Weingarten said. Three observations;
First, Oklahoma government funds common education. The money is just not getting to the classroom. According to an Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs study, total revenues for Oklahoma public schools are at an all-time record high. Since 2006, school revenues have risen by more than $2.5 billion, or 41 percent, and now stand at over $8.8 billion- and it is before the latest round of revenue increases. The problem is the money is not getting to the classroom where it makes a difference. If school administration in Oklahoma had grown as the same rate as student population over the past 20 plus years, and that money put into the classroom, Oklahoma teachers would be making $6,000 more annually.
Second, the average Oklahoman pays more than their ‘fair share’ of taxes. Senator Warren suggests tapping billionaires to fund education, but there are not enough billionaires in the Sooner state to fund common education. The numbers just will not work. Hard working Oklahoma taxpayers, who can’t take off work and storm the Capitol demanding a pay raise, will pay the increased taxes.
Third, it is time for reform, not a revolution in education. Oklahoma kids deserve a change, but education leadership must commit to reducing administrative costs, pushing for merit based pay, and embracing technology before that reform happens. Involvement in government/politics is a good thing, but it must be rooted in knowledge, not just zeal.
Seventy four licensed teachers ran for the Oklahoma legislature this year, many on the Republican ticket. Many of the educators who ran on the GOP ticket- and won- are clearly not fiscal conservatives. Their stated goal is to increase funding for common education by raising taxes.In the preamble of the Oklahoma Republican Party platform, it states that revenues collected at all levels of government should be used only for well defined, legitimate government functions, and should be carried out efficiently so that tax rates may be kept as low as possible. The platform also calls for audits of common education and merit pay. How many of the licensed teachers running on the GOP ticket have read the platform?