Monday, April 28, 2014
Weekly Opinion Editorial
RELEVANCE IS SLIPPERY SLOPE!
by Steve Fair
Recently the Nevada GOP removed opposition to abortion and gay marriage from their state platform. Supporters of removing the planks said it would allow Republican candidates to focus on economic issues in elections. They cited a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll that said 50% of Americans believe gay people should be able to marry. They believe if the GOP continues to oppose abortion on demand and gay marriage the Grand Ole Party will become ‘irrelevant’ in the political process. Four observations:
First, practicing situational ethics will never give us good government. Situation ethics is a theory that is concerned with the outcome or consequences of an action; the end, as opposed to an action being intrinsically wrong. In the case of situation ethics, the end can justify the means. There are no absolutes. Your actions are guided only by your conscience. Changing the GOP platform or the position on an issue to gain votes is the exact same strategy that has gotten America to where we are today. Few political leaders in America, on both sides of the isle, consistently stand for principle. They are like a weather vane twisting in the wind, polling the masses to insure they remain relevant.
Second, no matter what antinomian anarchists believe, there is absolute truth. It can be found in the word of God. God has clearly stated that marriage is between one man and one woman and that life begins at conception. They can argue God’s viewpoint is unfair, illogical, mean-spirited and outdated, but their argument is with the sovereign creator of the universe and ultimately He will prevail. The only way to remain relevant is to stay on God’s side.
Third, removing these planks will hurt the GOP in future elections. The vast majority of rank and file Republicans support life in the womb and traditional marriage. In fact, those issues are the most important to many evangelicals who are registered Republican. If those planks are removed, a huge block of voters will be alienated/disenfranchised and will make the GOP irrelevant. Evangelicals may not vote for a liberal in an election, but they do stay home and not vote at all like they did in 2008 and 2012.
Fourth, being relevant is overrated and shortsighted. Trying to be relevant is a slippery slope. The GOP could learn from the example of America churches; Forty years ago, American churches began ‘relevance’ campaigns because church attendance was down. Church leaders added contemporary entertaining music in worship services and deemphasized the sermon in order to appeal and be relevant to a younger demographic. In most churches today, attending a worship service is more like attending a concert. Did the ‘relevance’ strategy work and increase attendance? According to a recent poll by the Evangelical Covenant Church less than 20% of Americans now regularly attend church. Compare that to 50% just 50 years ago. What those shortsighted church leaders failed to understand was in their zeal to become relevant, they became irrelevant. They mistakenly believed the source of their power was their skills of persuasion and musical talent. It is God who changes the hearts of men. When pulpits across America abandoned the truth of the gospel for ‘relevance’ they lost the blessing of God.If the Republican Party abandons truth for relevance, the GOP will cease to be relevant. Every Christian, particularly those who are registered Republican, should be concerned with this latest trend in the Republican Party. These hostile takeovers of the GOP by those who believe in moral relevance should serve as a wake-up call to the unengaged Christian citizen. It’s past time for them to step up and get involved in their government.
Monday, April 21, 2014
Weekly Opinion Editorial
ALEC REPORT REVEALING!
by Steve Fair
Last week, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) released their 2014 report on state economies. The report, entitled Rich States/Poor States, uses fifteen(15) policy areas that have proven, over time, to be the best determinants of economic success in ranking the economies of the fifty states. Each of these factors is influenced directly by state lawmakers through the legislative process. The report is authored by Art Laffer (of Laffer curve fame), Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal, and Jonathan Moore, an economist with ALEC. The report, also known as the Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index, has gained a great deal of creditability in recent years and in its sixth year of publication.
So how did the Sooner state do in the report? In the category of Economic Performance we ranked 12th in the U.S.; in Economic Outlook, we ranked 19th? Why the difference? Currently the Sooner state’s economy is doing well, largely because the energy sector is doing well, but according to the report, that monolithic approach is short sighted. Oklahoma needs to be more diversify in our economy. The report goes on to point out Oklahoma state government has too many employees. There are 566 state employees per 10,000 population in Oklahoma; only 16 other states have more bureaucrats per capita. Oklahoma’s property tax burden and inheritance tax is low, which is a positive, but our state income tax is still high for the region. Oklahoma ranked high in workers comp premiums, even though the legislature passed historical reform last session that should fix that. The ranking for tort didn’t reflect the changes the Oklahoma legislature made in special session to limit reform tort in the state. So what can we learn from the ALEC report?
First, Oklahoma still has work to do in reducing taxes. There have been several proposals to significantly reduce the state income tax, but each year the plans fail to address the spending side of the ledger. The ALEC report highlighted Kansas calling the tax reform spearheaded by Governor Sam Brownback an ‘uprising.’ Brownback and the State House in the Sunshine state reduced the personal income tax and tax on small businesses substantially in just one year. “This is all about making Kansas a more competitive place to do business,” Brownback said. Kansas addressed both sides of the problem. They cut taxes and cut spending in one legislative session. While we still are ahead of Kansas in economic performance, they rank higher than Oklahoma in economic outlook.
Second, Oklahoma’s economy is still largely dependent on energy. Oil and gas are vitally important to the Sooner state, but historically that has been an issue when the energy sector slows down. Oklahoma is a state centrally located, with great human resources and a relatively mild climate. Oklahoma should be the distribution center capitol of the U.S. We are at the crossroads of America with two major interstates intersecting in our state. Every major retailer and wholesaler should have a D.C. in Oklahoma. We should be very attractive to consumer product goods companies for manufacturing facilities? Are state leaders and economic development groups pitching companies like M & M Mars? Mars just built a $270 million dollar plant south of Topeka, Kansas. The 500,000 square foot plant, the first new plant for the company in 35 years, will employ over 200 people. Nestle, the largest consumer products goods company in America, has opened six new facilities across America in the past five years, including a large pet food manufacturing plant in Missouri. Did anyone present Oklahoma to either of those two consumer foods giants? The consumer goods industry is very stable and while it may not be sexy, they provide good paying jobs.
Third, the unfunded pension problem is not going away. Citing a couple of examples of cities in California who declared bankruptcy because of their pension issues, the authors conclude, “ We can expect trends like this to continue if state and local governments refuse to address the public pension problems they are facing.” Oklahoma has over $11 billion dollars in unfunded pension liability. Some progress has been made on the issue, but the reforms necessary to fix this looming issue are being skirted. State legislators can’t just ‘kick the can’ down the road any longer. They have to deal with pension reform and to really fix it will take some iron rail up the shirt tail.
In the preface of the report there are ten(10) Golden Rules of Taxation listed. Every citizen should read them. Consistent with Laffer’s supply side economics theory, the first tenet is, ‘When you tax something more you get less of it, and when you tax something less you get more of it.’ To read the entire report, go to http://alec.org/docs/RSPS-6th-Edition.pdf.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Weekly Opinion Editorial
By Steve Fair
At 5pm Friday, the filing period for the 2014 election closed. 578 candidates filed at the State Capitol. In addition to the two U.S. Senate races, five congressional races and ten statewide races, all district judges and associate district judges were up for re-election. All 27 District Attorneys across Oklahoma are also up for re-election. So are all 101 members of the State House and 24 members of the State Senate. Hundreds more filed for county offices across Oklahoma. Each county in the state has four offices up for election- two county commissioners, the county assessor and the county treasurer.
For the first time since 2002, a statewide elected official failed to draw an opponent. Three Republican statewide elected officials- Gary Jones, State Auditor & Inspector, Scott Pruitt, Attorney General, and Ken Miller, State Treasurer were returned to office without facing an opponent. That is unprecedented. One U.S. Congressman, Rep. Jim Bridenstein, (R-Tulsa), a Republican, did not draw an opponent.
A seat on the Corporation Commission and the Insurance Commissioner races will be determined in the Republican primary June 24th since no Democrat filed. This is going to be an interesting election cycle in the state. Three observations concerning the upcoming elections in Oklahoma;
First, it is apparent the Democrat Party in Oklahoma is struggling to find viable willing candidates to seek office. When freshman legislators are returned to office without opposition that says something about the opposing Party. Normally, a freshman will always face opposition in their first re-election bid. Either the Democrats have no recruiting mechanism or they have given up the fight and conceded they can’t win in Oklahoma. During the long days of yesterday, Republican leaders would recruit, equip, and train candidates to at least challenge the Party in power. Many of those Republican candidates knew going in they were nothing more than a sacrificial lamb, but their willingness to put their name on the ballot blazed a trail for the GOP in Oklahoma.
Second, it really says a great deal about the job the three statewides are doing if no one in Oklahoma believes they can beat you. To file unopposed is a conformation of your job performance. You are more than meeting expectations. Congratulations!
Third, perhaps the Democrat strategy is to keep their powder dry until 2018. In 2010, Oklahoma voters approved 8 year term limits for statewide elected officials. Virtually all the statewides will term out in 2018, so perhaps the Ds are telling viable candidates to wait until the seats are open. Who knows, but one thing is certain- 2014 will be a big Republican year in Oklahoma, in part because the Ds conceded it.
Fourth, Republicans shouldn’t let this give us the big head. It has taken over 100 years for Republicans to gain control of Oklahoma government, but we must be aware of what John Dalburg-Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” With power comes responsibility. May God give Republicans the grace and humility to lead rightly.
Filing for office is the easy part of the political process. Now the fun starts. Between now and June 24, Republican candidates will be knocking your door, sending you cards and letters, and calling you to attempt to get your vote. Campaigns cost money- they will be asking you for money. Campaigns need volunteers- they will be asking you to help them. Because two statewide offices will be decided in the Republican primary, citizens registered Republican will be solicited more than the Democrats.Every citizen should be involved in the political process. Whether it is by volunteering in a campaign, donating money or just voting, every citizen should be engaged. Don’t be a lazy voter who bases their voting decision on likability or a thirty second sound bite. While it’s desirable elected officials are likable and approachable to their constituents, how they vote and the decisions they make after they are elected is much more important than their likability. Good citizens should always base their vote and support on substance. Question the candidates and make a point to know where they stand on the issues. Let the games begin!
Monday, April 7, 2014
Weekly Opinion Editorial
MONEY & POLITICS!
by Steve Fair
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that federal campaign laws that limit the total amount of money donors can give to political parties, committees and candidates for federal office (U.S. House, Senate, and President) was unconstitutional. The ruling will not increase the current $2,600 limit on how much a donor can give to a federal candidate in each primary and general election or the $32,400 limit that can go to a national party committee. Those limits are still in place. The ruling will instead remove the limit on how many candidates/committees to which a donor can contribute
"The government has a strong interest, no less critical to our democratic system, in combating corruption and its appearance," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. "We have, however, held that this interest must be limited to a specific kind of corruption — quid pro quo corruption — in order to ensure that the government's efforts do not have the effect of restricting the First Amendment right of citizens to choose who shall govern them."
Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the minority, said the decision "understates the importance of protecting the political integrity of our governmental institutions. Today's decision eviscerates our nation's campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve."
The suit- McCutcheon vs. FEC was supported by the RNC and the ruling was applauded by Chairman Reince Priebus. "Today's Court decision in McCutcheon v FEC is an important first step toward restoring the voice of candidates and party committees and a vindication for all those who support robust, transparent political discourse," Priebus said.
Critics like Ruth Marcus, an op/ed writer for The Washington Post said, “The risk posed by the ruling is not as much its immediate impact but the implications of its reasoning in demolishing an already rickety campaign finance structure.”
Three observations concerning the ruling:
First, the Supreme Court got it right. The first amendment trumps federal campaign laws. Americans have a constitutional right to participate in the political process at whatever level they want- whether it be volunteering for a candidate or contributing money to their campaign. It’s called free speech and every American should applaud the ruling. It protects our liberty and freedom.
Second, it is indisputable that money rules in the political process. The 2012 presidential campaigns of Obama and Romney spent a combined $2 billion dollars. Just twenty years ago, Bill Clinton ran his successful 1992 campaign on $92.9 million. It’s not just running for president that costs so much. According to the FEC, on average a U.S. House race now cost $1.7 million to win, a U.S. Senate seat $10.5 million. Candidates at all levels now must raise large sums of money to ‘get their message’ to voters. State legislative and county candidates must solicit donors for money in order to be competitive in the political arena. This ruling will likely increase the amount of money in the political process. Which brings me to point three..
Third, big donors and political consultants are not to blame for money in politics. A common misconception is if big donors and political operatives were taken out of the process, big money in politics would dry up. That is simply not true. The reason we have so much money in politics is because we have an unengaged & ignorant electorate.’ The average voter is not paying attention. If voters paid attention to what is going in their government all the time and not just the 90 days before an election, the ‘messaging’ (TV/slick mail pieces) by candidates wouldn’t be nearly as effective. Currently most people vote based on a candidate’s ‘likeability’ and not on substance. Ignorant voters believe candidate propaganda and whichever candidate in a race that is the most effective at ‘marketing their message’ wins. A candidate’s track record, character, values, or stance on the issues has become secondary to image.
So how is the amount of money in the American political process reduced? First, citizens need to pay attention- all the time. Question your elected officials, research candidates for office and issues. Don’t just swallow a candidate’s ‘messaging’ propaganda without researching the facts. Stay engaged in your government- at all levels—24/7/365. Second, hold elected officials and our government accountable. Trust, but verify. Once elected, watch what they do and not what they say.
America is a country founded on the principle of self governance. If we have poor government, it’s our fault. If we have too much money in politics, it’s our fault. It’s time Americans took responsibility for the mess we call our government and quit blaming the system.