Monday, November 28, 2011

When I was a kid, I appeared on



THE TENNESSEE ERNIE FORD SHOW



during a 1957 Christmas show. I found



the clip and here it is.



I'm the kid directly to the right of Tennessee Ernie.




Enjoy!




Steve



video

1 1 4 5 !



In order to win the Republican nomination for President, a candidate has to get 1145 delegates. With changes made to the primary system by the GOP, the earliest a candidate could gather enough delegates to be the nominee would be on March 20, 2012 after the Illinois primary. It will likely be much later because no candidate will get every single national delegate between now and March 20th.



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Oklahoma will hold a presidential preference primary on Super Tuesday March 6, 2012. Ten other states, including Texas will vote that date, with 556 delegates up for grabs- the most in any one single day. Oklahoma has forty three (43) delegates to the 2012 GOP National Convention in Tampa. Fifteen (15) are chosen at the district level- the remainder at large. The delegates are allocated based on the percentage of vote for each candidate. OKLAHOMA IS NO LONGER WINNER TAKE ALL. Several other states have also changed from ‘winner take all’ to proportionate allocation which will make the nominating process last longer than in years past. It is quite possible the GOP nominee will not be selected until June when California votes. If most of the current eight (8) candidates stay in the race and spilt the delegates, it is also possible this could be a ‘brokered’ convention.
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Conservative Oklahoma Democrats who want to have a voice in who the GOP presidential nominee will be should complete a change of registration form ASAP and mail it in. Oklahomans overwhelmingly voted Republican in the last presidential election- 2008-even though the voter registration favors Democrats. It's time those conservative Ds align with their convictions and re-register. Our country's future is at stake.

Weekly Opinion Editorial
PAY TOLL AHEAD!
by Steve Fair


Toll roads are at least 2700 years old, as tolls had to be paid by travelers using the Susa-Babylon highway in the seventh century BC., but motorists and truckers traveling through Oklahoma probably think our state motto is “Pay Toll Ahead.” Oklahoma ranks second in the U.S. in total number of miles of toll roads at 600. We were the first state west of the Mississippi to build a toll road (1953) and now operate ten (10) turnpikes - all under the authority of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.
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The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority consists of the Governor (ex-officio) and six members serving without pay for eight-year terms from various transportation districts. Governor Fallin appointed her six members in March. She only retained one of Governor Henry’s appointees, David Burrage from SE Oklahoma. Fallin can remove any member of the Authority, at any time, with or without cause. Authority members have full control over all turnpike operations.
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The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority was created by the Oklahoma Legislature on April 30, 1947 to provide for the construction of the Oklahoma City-to-Tulsa Turnpike (officially named the Turner Turnpike in 1947). The Turner was the only anticipated Turnpike project at the time of the legislation. The Turner cost a mere 38 million dollars to build and opened for traffic in May of 1953. When the Turner was built, Oklahomans were promised that when the road was paid for, the toll booths would come down. That same promise was made when the Will Rogers and the H.E. Bailey turnpikes were built, but the toll booths remain. Edmund Burke was right when he said, “Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises, for never intending to go beyond promise, it costs nothing.”
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The Turnpike Authority receives revenues from turnpike tolls and a percentage of the turnpike concession sales. The Authority has on several occasions issued Turnpike Revenue Bonds for the purpose of paying the costs of turnpike projects. Turnpike Revenue Bonds are payable solely from the tolls and other revenues of the Authority and do not constitute indebtedness of the State. Currently the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority's debt sits at $1.1 billion and it won't be paid off until 2028. The Authority pays about 5 percent interest on that debt, which means bondholders will profit close to 60-million dollars from Oklahoma turnpike tolls this year alone.
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Basically the OTA is a billion dollar private enterprise run by Oklahoma government. In their annual reports, the OTA calls itself ‘a component unit’ of the State of Oklahoma. Few states have a separate entity in the highway business. Why does Oklahoma have a Turnpike Authority?
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The initial reason the Authority was created was because the Democratically controlled Oklahoma legislature wouldn’t spend federal highway dollars where they were supposed to be spent. According to the Federal Highway Administration of the 31 states that divert Motor Fuel Tax money to non-transportation uses, Oklahoma ranks second, diverting almost 24% of its Motor Fuel Tax collections.

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Fortunately legislative funding of roads and bridges in Oklahoma is changing. Since Republicans took over the state legislature in 2004, a total of approximately $1.8 billion has been allocated for upgrading roads and bridges in Oklahoma. We still have a long way to go to catch up, but we are finally on the right road.
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The real reason Oklahoma’s Turnpike Authority is still in existence is simple- MONEY! When you toss your toll into the basket, it doesn’t go into Oklahoma state government treasury, it goes to the OTA. Common sense would dictate the bulk of the toll fee would be spent on upkeep and maintenance of the road you are traveling on, but that’s not the case. According to the OTA’s annual report, only about 30% of your toll goes to maintain the road- the bulk goes to the holders of the revenue bonds. That means when you toss your coins into the basket, some investor is getting the majority of the money. You can’t blame the investors who are just trying to make a buck. You have to blame Oklahoma government for allowing this to go on for almost sixty years.

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The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority should be dissolved and placed under ODOT. It has outlived its usefulness. The toll booths should come down as promised and Oklahoma government should get out of the private enterprise/toll collecting business.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bar Stool Economics

Author Unknown


Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100 and if they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something
like this:
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.)
So, that's what they decided to do.



*****
The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20." So drinks for the ten now cost just $80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free...but what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?'. They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.



*****
So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay. And so:
The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).
Each of the six was better off than before...and the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.



*****
"I only got a dollar out of the $20,"declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man," but he got $10!" "Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man who was now paying nothing, along with the first four. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!"
"That's true!!"
shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got
only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!" "Wait a minute,"
yelled the first five men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!" The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.



*****
The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!



*****
And that, ladies and gentlemen, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.



*****
For those who understand, no explanation is needed..
For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My thoughts on the 2012 GOP Presidential Field

SOOTHSAYING 2012

by Steve Fair


I have resisted making a prediction of who will win the 2012 GOP presidential nomination until now. I predict that Romney will be the nominee and that Cain will be his running mate. Beyond that, here is my take on each of the candidates.

**********
Herman Cain: While his 9/9/9 plan sounds good, some say it will increase tax on the poor and reduce the tax on the rich. The reality is spreading out the burden would be an improvement over what we currently have. Cain is weak on foreign policy and while he has improved some recently, he is still lacking. While the sexual harassment charges are being blown out of proportion by the media, when you sing gospel music at your appearances, you can expect more scrutiny on moral issues. Don’t forget Herman was on the board of the Fed. That’s not talked about much, but it will hurt him in the primary. Still my candidate and will be in OKC on December 5th .
*****
Newt Gingrich: The most able debater in the crowd. In fact- a real master-bator(I couldn’t resist). Newt can analyze a situation better than anyone, but has trouble governing. Anyone who describes himself as ‘the smartest person in the room,’ lacks the humility and character to be President. Read Dr. Coburn’s book, “Breach of Trust,’ if you want a perspective on Newt. If just the families of Gingrichs former wives vote against him, he’s doomed. Newt is a complete egocentric pragmatist who would be a disaster as President.
*****
Ron Paul: Libertarian and proud of it, Paul’s position on Israel is his major flaw. His isolationist policies would be a disaster for the U.S. His proposed legalizing of drugs would also be a challenge in the general. He is right about the Fed, the budget and health care. Paul’s ‘cult’ has seemed to finally recognize the ‘in your face’ tactics they used in 2008 don’t win friends and influence people and more importantly hurt you at polls. They have softened their approach and that is the reason he is doing better in the polls. He has also done very well in the debates by staying on message.
*****
Rick Perry: How can he still be in the race? He seemed to think if he laughs at himself, everybody will forget his debate gaffs. If this guy becomes President, he will give all the illegals amnesty and free college education. He is great on some issues, but he is a disaster on several key ones. He can raise money like no one in the field which will keep him around longer than he should be. We need a President who can think on his feet and Perry is not it.
*****
Rick Santorum: Of all the candidates, he is probably the best qualified and the most consistent with his message. His problem is he comes across as a whiner at every debate. And Santorum needs to stop trying to take credit for every positive piece of legislation that was passed during the time he was in Congress. With a nickname like Rooster, how can he not be taken seriously? He would be a great VP pick.
*****
Mitt Romney: Most consistent- ly BORING! Romney stays on message, but he doesn’t excite the troops. Obama would blister him in a debate, even if Mitt had the facts on his side. RomneyCare is an issue as is his flip flop on abortion. He has the best campaign mechanism in place for the early primary states, but it remains to be seen if he can translate that into votes. His business background is impressive, but how hard is it when you start at the top. Romney was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.
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Jon Huntsman: How can anyone who worked for Obama be a serious candidate for the GOP nomination? This former ambassador to China sounds more liberal at each debate and clearly is just staying in because his family fortune can let him. He was a decent Governor and while early on he may have been in consideration for VP, now that is out of the question.
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Michele Bachmann: Idealistic and energetic, but she lacks executive experience. Sound familiar- like in Obama? Bachmann got off to a quick start and has sputtered as of late. In the debates she REPEATS the same lines, hoping to get the applause and cheers she got the first time she delivered them. Just voting no is not really governing. She is not Sarah Palin and it shows.
Weekly Opinion Editorial


PLAN FOR THE FUTURE REQUIRES BALANCE!
by Steve Fair




Obamacare gives states an option: Either establish insurance exchanges by January 1, 2014, or the Secretary of Health and Human Services will establish one for them. An “exchange” is essentially a bureaucracy where federally-mandated health insurance may be bought and sold. Thus far only seventeen (17) states had set up an exchange and Oklahoma is not one of them.


*****
According to policy experts, state insurance exchanges are not being set up fast enough to meet the 2014 deadline. The delay could mean that Oklahoma and other state legislatures are at risk of handing over a central component of the mandated federal health care effort to the federal Department of Health and Human Services, making the federal government even more powerful than it already is.


*****
During this year’s legislative session, the Oklahoma House passed a proposal to use a $54 million federal grant to set up an exchange system, but that proposal was derailed after an outcry from conservatives. They believed that accepting the grant money was an endorsement of ObamaCare. Proponents of the proposal said the grant money would not be earmarked for future use by Oklahoma, but redirected to other states.


*****
In response, the Oklahoma legislature created, ‘The Joint Committee on Federal Health Care Law.’ The ten member committee’s purpose was study how the federal health care law would affect Oklahoma. They met five times from September to November and concluded they were ‘unsure’ about what Oklahoma should do concerning a health care exchange.


*****
The two co-Chairs, Rep. Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, met with Oklahoma U.S. Senator Tom Coburn last week and discussed the issue. Coburn, an OGBYN physician, told them to copy Utah’s exchange program. The Utah program was set up before ObamaCare was passed and it is still unclear if it will meet the guidelines of the federal mandate.


*****
According to Mulready, Coburn told them they had to show action and not defiance in regard to the exchange otherwise HHS Secretary Sebelius will be in Oklahoma ‘telling you exactly what to do and when and where.’ Coburn also said he was "not optimistic whatsoever" about the chances of state challenges to the law that are now pending with the Supreme Court.


*****
In a Wall Street Journal editorial last week, Jonathan H. Adler and Michael F. Cannon pointed out a major glitch in ObamaCare involving the exchanges that will likely come up no matter the outcome of the top court ruling. They wrote, “ObamaCare authorizes premium assistance in state-run exchanges (Section 1311) but not federal ones (Section 1321). In other words, states that refuse to create an exchange can block much of ObamaCare's spending and practically force Congress to reopen the law for revisions.” Adler and Cannon also allege the Obama administration is trying to fix the glitch through the IRS without going through Congress, which they conclude is illegal. You can read the entire editorial at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203687504577006322431330662.html


*****
More than any modern government program since Social Security, ObamaCare has divided the country into pragmatics and idealists. People who are pragmatic are said to be more practical and willing to compromise. Some conservatives call pragmatics unprincipled. That is not necessarily true. Often pragmatics are the voice of reason in a sea of confusion. As Coburn correctly points out, it appears we have ObamaCare whether we like it or not. It now becomes necessary for the Oklahoma legislature to prepare for implementation.


*****
Those critical of the idealistic conservatives who derailed the exchange plan this past legislative session should remember the words of George Bernard Shaw: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” They were not willing to fold the hand before all the cards were dealt. Pragmatics are willing to concede defeat before the game starts. We need a balance of both pragmatics and idealists in leadership. Without the idealistic, we never move forward. Without the pragmatic, gridlock rules.


*****
Since the Health Care committee failed to come up with a plan, it appears Oklahoma legislators are putting all their chips on the U.S. Supreme court ruling and have no contingency plan if ObamaCare is ruled legal. You should always have a back-up plan. Mark Twain said, “Plan for the future because that's where you are going to spend the rest of your life.” Having a contingency plan is not compromise- that is simply accepting reality.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Weekly Opinion Editorial

NUTHIN’ BUT HONEY?
by Steve Fair

Last week, the members of the Oklahoma Task Force on State Tax Credits and Economic Incentives meet and discussed recommendations on how to rein in ineffective and impractical tax credits. When the business tax credits were set up, they were supposed to help existing Oklahoma businesses grow and expand. Recent revelations have shown instead they cost the state millions in lost tax revenue and benefited a few individuals by reducing their tax liability. The task force listed ten recommendations including authorizing the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector to annually audit the programs.

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“We are not against business. We don’t oppose growth,” said state Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, who chairs the task force. “We believe that government policy can help create jobs. We don’t think all credits or incentives are bad. What I think most of us believe after all we have heard here is that far too many tax credits and other incentives enacted in the past were created for the wrong reasons and in the wrong way.”
*****
Dank described the transferable tax credit situation in a colorful way: “The simple truth is that a few of these tax credits are like the huckster who took a bucket of manure, covered the top with an inch of honey and sold the whole thing as a full bucket of honey. It wasn’t until the sucker got home with it that he found out what he had actually bought,” The problem is that Oklahoma taxpayers were the suckers in this situation.

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According to Capitolbeatok.com, State Treasurer Ken Miller, a Republican and a member of the Task Force, agreed there should be less tax credits, but took issue with the auditing recommendation. He said he was “not yet opposed to enhancing the auditor’s authority, but also not yet convinced or persuaded to grow government.” He said he was concerned whether or not proposals to increase the auditor’s role could be done with existing resources, or if more spending would be needed. Miller was reported as saying he believed the legislature should provide the ‘oversight’ on the programs. You can read the entire article at http://capitolbeatok.com/_webapp_4074992/Treasurer_Ken_Miller_takes_critical_view_of_some_reform_ideas_before_tax_credit_task_force
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Three observations on the transferable tax credit saga:
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First, it’s clear some of these tax credits benefited wealthy individuals in Oklahoma and created fewer jobs than what was promised. Who knows if the lawmakers who wrote the legislation were aware they were selling a bucket of manure with a thin honey layer? If they did, shame on them. Who knows if the legislators who voted for the credits knew the bucket was mostly manure? If they did, shame on them. But going forward, every tax credit program that reduces the amount of taxes due to the state should be subject to audit by the State Auditor and a complete report provided to the public.

*****
Second, Miller is right about Oklahoma government being too big. In fact, Oklahoma government’s annual ‘expenditures’ have grown every year the past decade- from 9.6 billion to 16.6 billion. The ‘appropriated’ budget monies-money the legislature allocates- has gone down in recent years, but the overall size of Oklahoma government has continued to grow since 2001. That growth trend needs to be stopped, but one of the ways to stop government from growing is not to scrimp on oversight.

One of the fundamental roles of state government is to make sure Oklahoma tax dollars are not misappropriated or misused. The elected official charged with that responsibility is the State Auditor. Expanding the role and responsibility of the Auditor’s office just makes sense. Miller is correct in saying the state legislature is our first safeguard against bad policy. Lawmakers should never let a bucket of manure with a layer of honey get passed and signed into law. Every bucket of proposed legislation needs to be examined to determine if the ingredients are as advertised. If that had been done, this tax credit program would have never have seen the light of day.
*****
Third, authorizing the State Auditor to insure tax credit programs are doing what they are supposed to be doing is just common sense. Granted, it will require an investment. It will require additional staff in the Auditors office and a bigger budget, but growing government? Hogwash! Auditing government programs is just good judgment and a wise investment.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Weekly Opinion Editorial

WE NEED CRAZY JOE!
by Steve Fair

Historically, public schools in America were funded largely by local property taxes. Local revenues, however, have not kept up with the needs of the schools and have actually decreased in many states. To compensate for this change, state government entered the picture and backfilled these losses and now state funding represents the majority of funding for most local school districts. In Oklahoma, state government collects money earmarked for education from school land, earnings, REA tax, motor vehicle taxes, gross production tax, gambling, and a few other sources. The legislature then divvies up the money by using a ‘funding formula.’ The formula takes into account the number of students, transportation costs, etc.

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Despite all the media attention to federal programs like No Child Left Behind, the federal government does not contribute a large amount to running America's schools. And the federal money that is given to schools often comes with strings attached.

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On average, Oklahoma’s K-12 schools receive about eight percent of their funding from the federal government, fifty percent from the state budget and the rest from local taxes. Bear in mind that Oklahoma school districts have varying funding percentages due to the local tax factor.

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Education funding is the single largest expenditure in the Oklahoma state budget- over 3.4 billion. One Oklahoma state representative believes that total is actually 2 billion higher. Oklahoma State Rep. David Brumbaugh, (R-Broken Arrow) is conducting an interim study on where Oklahoma secondary education dollars are being spent and says, “Oklahomans spend $5.4 billion on education, or $8,411 per student a year according to the Friedman Foundation, which doesn’t include the dedicated revenues that are going to schools that don’t go through the appropriations process,” said Brumbaugh. “That alone indicates we need greater transparency and accountability on actual costs. Furthermore, funding for things like debt service, CareerTech, bursars, pensions, or depreciation on buildings and assets are not currently included in those figures; I believe that data should be made easily accessible to the public. Overall, costs continue to go up, yet in many school districts less than half of expenditures are getting to the classroom.”

*****
Brumbaugh’s demand for accountability and transparency from education is a good first step. Rep. Corey Holland, (R-Marlow) has pledged to shine the light on where/how higher education is spending our tax dollars. The key will be for other state legislators to get on board and demand accountability from education on where tax dollars are being spent.

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Education dollars not getting to the classroom is not just an Oklahoma problem, it’s a national one. In a 2010 study conducted by the National Center for Policy Analysis, Michael Barba wrote, “Public education now costs federal, state and local governments upward of $500 billion annually. This total is up from $354 billion 15 years ago and currently represents the largest state and local government expenditure. While spending increased nearly 50 percent, enrollment increased by just over 10 percent, reading and science scores held steady and on-time graduation hovered at 70 percent. Instead of cutting dollars spent in the classroom, state legislators across America should require clear accounting for how education tax dollars are spent, cap non-instructional spending and limit the growth of spending outside the classroom.”

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In Texas, rising administration costs in public education is also being questioned. Texas State Representative Erwin Cain, (R-Sulpher Springs) says in the Lone Star state for every five teachers employed in Texas public schools in the 1970s, there were just two non-teachers. Since 2004, non-teachers have been hired at nearly three times the rate of in-classroom teachers in Texas and out of classroom employees now equal those in the classroom. Cain believes this is a disturbing trend.

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If Texas has too much education administration costs, what about Oklahoma? The Sooner state has more total school districts than Texas. Each one of those districts has buildings, buses, and administration. 52 cents of every dollar allocated for K-12 education in Oklahoma goes for non-classroom related activity. This is not a new development, but has been ongoing for years in Oklahoma, yet no lawmaker wants to jeopardize their political career by addressing the dreaded ‘C” word-consolidation- so each year the education political football is kicked to the next legislature.

*****
To fix the problem will require legislative leadership with the same attitude of Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman) from the movie “Lean on Me.” They will have to forget their career, their retirement, their legacy and their security and do what is right. Like ‘Crazy Joe,” they will have to make tough decisions that will upset the establishment. But I believe like Joe they will be rewarded with a legacy that they made decisions that made a profound positive impact on this state.