Monday, September 28, 2015
Weekly Opinion Editorial
GOVERNMENT CAN’T SAVE MARRIAGE!
by Steve Fair
In 1998, OU and OSU economists produced a report on a number of factors that needed improvement if Oklahoma were to become more prosperous. Passage of right-to-work, lower workers comp rates, and tort reform topped the economic factors, but chief among the social issues was lowering the rates of divorce, out-of-wedlock births and child abuse. Oklahoma has a high rate of divorce; 13.5% of Oklahomans have been divorced. This is the highest rate in the 5 state region. In comparison, only 10.8% of Texans have been divorced.
Former Governor Frank Keating persuaded the legislature to establish a government/private sector partnership entitled the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative to work at lowing the state’s high divorce rate. More than 80% of the funding for the marriage initiative was to come from the state's pool of federal welfare funds- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Keating’s stated goal was to reduce the rate of divorce in Oklahoma by one third over the next decade. Keating believed that counseling, training, and mentoring young families would not only help that family directly, but ultimately also save the state money.
It is a well-known fact that unstable families and divorce cost taxpayers. According to a 2008 Institute for American Values study, increasing family stability by even 1 percent can result in $43 million of savings for Oklahoma state government.
The OMI long ago abandoned the goal of reducing the divorce rate by a third in a decade. Since the OMI was established Oklahoma’s divorce rate has increased from 11.6% to 13.5%. Oklahoma’s increase in the rate of divorce has mirrored the country. Most conservative states have higher rates of divorce than liberal states because most Red states are more religious and young people are taught to marry and not just live together. "In Oklahoma our divorce rate is high, that's the truth," said Marriage Initiative Director Kendy Cox, "here in Oklahoma we believe in the institution of marriage. We chose to get married; we just don't know how to navigate our marriages."
Since its inception, the OMI has trained over 4,000 volunteers, touching over 400,000 Oklahomans with its training and education. It continues to have strong support in the state legislature. Former Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon authored a bill that used some of the discretionary federal welfare monies to pay for public-service announcements promoting the benefits of marriage. Those PSAs started running earlier this year. Moving forward, one of the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative’s new endeavors is to help couples who are already in crisis, rather than solely focusing on prevention. “We have been so focused on prevention throughout the years, that we have not thought enough about the specific needs of couples in crisis,” Cox said. It is clear the OMI has not been able to reduce the divorce rate, so can government save marriages? Is it the government’s job to save marriages?
The short answer is no on both counts! Government didn’t institute marriage- God did. Marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman. According to Andreas Kostenberger, that means a couple must understand and commit themselves to five things in their marriage: (1) The permanence of marriage, (2) the sacredness of marriage, (3) the intimacy of marriage, (4) the mutuality of marriage, and (5) the exclusiveness of marriage. “A covenant marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman, instituted by and publically entered into before God,” Kostenberger says.
Economically it makes sense for government to try and keep families intact and stable, but no seminar or counseling session will produce the needed result of an exchanged life. That can only come from a regenerated heart.
The federal government has been at war against biblical marriage for years. From tax penalties for married couples to the recent recognition of same-sex marriage, it is abundantly clear the feds could care less about traditional marriage. Government, at any level, can’t save marriages with secular solutions for a divine institution.
Monday, September 21, 2015
Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
State Representative Randy McDaniel, (R-Edmond), is Chairman of the House Business, Labor and Retirement Laws Committee. He is proposing a plan that he says would help reduce the statewide teacher shortage. McDaniel wants to increase the amount a teacher who retires from the public school system can earn from an Oklahoma school district to $18,000- up $3,000 from current law. In Texas, retired teachers have to wait a year before they can be rehired by a public school, but there is no limit on what they can earn after that year. In Arkansas, a retiree can work at school and earn up to $27,120 annually.
McDaniel’s proposal would require school districts who hire retirees to pay more to the Teachers Retirement System for that hire. The teacher shortage is real and McDaniel’s proposal to increase the amount a retired educator can earn and not affect their retirement is a good step. “Like every state except Pennsylvania, Oklahoma faces a significant teacher shortage,” McDaniel says. “Demographics are impacting the situation causing record numbers of the most experienced teachers to retire. We want to provide an additional incentive for valued teachers to stay in the classroom, but the plan must also be affordable.” Let’s examine what is fueling the teacher shortage nationally.
First, baby boomer aged teachers are hitting retirement age. It is simple demographics. Teachers born between 1946 and 1964 are entering retirement years. The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future found that half of today’s teachers—1.72 million—could retire during the next 10 years. The retiring baby boomer generation represents a challenge to any profession, and education is no exception.
Second, many teachers simply abandon the profession. According to James Rowley, an education professor at the University of Dayton, nearly one half of educators leave teaching within their first five years. And contrary to popular belief, it isn’t about money. A 2012 study conducted by The Heritage Foundation found that workers who switched from private employment to teaching most often took an hourly pay increase, whereas most of those who left teaching for the private sector took pay decreases. The Manhattan Institute looked at the hourly pay of public-school teachers in the top 66 metropolitan areas in the country and found that teachers made on average $34.06 per hour. Journalists earned 24 percent less, Architects, 11 percent less, Psychologists, 9 percent less, Chemists, 5 percent less, so money isn’t the issue. Teaching is hawked as a ‘rewarding’ profession, but times have changed. A 2013 poll found that teacher satisfaction has declined by 23% in just 5 years. Only 39% of teachers polled were very satisfied with their job. 51% of teachers reported being stressed several days a week in their job. Rowley says new teachers should have mentors and that will help retain teachers. “Teaching is a very complex profession. It’s full of all kinds of subtleties and nuances. It’s something you learn on the job,” Rowley says. “If we’re going to be learning on the job, we know it’s important to have someone guide and direct us.”
Third, federal government mandates have made teaching more about tests and less about education. That contributes to those leaving teaching either to another profession or retirement. And it’s not going to get better. NPR(yes I know they are liberal) reported that California has seen a 74% decline in teacher program enrollments in their state universities in just the past decade. NPR also found the decreased enrollment wasn’t about money. Students shunning teaching said it was about Common Core, high stakes testing, and evaluation of teachers by test scores. Students considering education as a profession wanted to teach, not fill out paperwork.
Fourth, the breakdown of the American family has made teaching difficult. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 40% of babies born in the US are now born to unmarried women. According to the Pew Research Center, 46% of US kids under 18 are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage. Compare that to 73% in 1960 and 61% in 1980. Today’s teachers are expected to deal with issues that arise when students are affected by divorce and their parent going to prison. The world is more complicated for today’s kids and teachers are often the ones they turn to in times of crisis.
Teachers impact our lives. As the husband of a retired teacher, I can attest that Andy Rooney was right when he said, “Most of us end up with no more than five or six people who remember us, but teachers have thousands of people who remember them for the rest of their lives.”
Monday, September 14, 2015
Weekly Opinion Editorial
THE CONSTITUTION TURNS 228!
by Steve Fair
Thursday is Constitution Day or Citizenship Day. It recognizes the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and those who have become U.S. citizens either by birth or by naturalization.
The U.S. Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787 by thirty nine men. Signers include George Washington, James Madison, Ben Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton. Franklin, 81, was so feeble that he required help to sign the document. Tears streamed down his face as he put pen to paper. Future Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams did not sign the document because they were both out of the country. Of the fifty-five authorized delegates to the Constitutional Convention, thirty-nine actually signed the Constitution. Edmund Randolph and George Mason of Virginia and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts refused to sign due in part due to the lack of a bill of rights. Patrick Henry didn’t attend the convention because in his words: ‘he smelled a rat.’ 34 of the delegates were lawyers, 8 had signed the Declaration of Independence and half were Revolutionary War veterans.
James Madison was the only delegate to attend every meeting. He took detailed notes of the various discussions and debates that took place during the convention. The journal that he kept during the Constitutional Convention was kept secret until after he died. It (along with other papers) was purchased by the government in 1837 at a price of $30,000 (that would be $654,000 today). The journal was published in 1840.
The actual writing of the Constitution was done by Jacob Shallus, a Pennsylvania General Assembly clerk. He was paid the handsome sum of $30 ($789 today). The text of the Constitution was printed by John Dunlap and David Claypoole in Philadelphia and sent to the various state constitutional conventions for debate and discussion. The Constitution was ratified by specially elected state conventions beginning in December 1787. The order in which the thirteen states accepted the new constitution was Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island.
Since 1952, the U.S. Constitution has been on display in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. Currently, all four pages are displayed behind protective glass framed with titanium. To preserve the parchment’s quality, the case contains argon gas and is kept at 67 degrees with a relative humidity of 40 percent.
The U.S. Constitution has 4,400 words. It is the oldest and shortest written Constitution of any major government in the world." It has 27 amendments, but has only been amended 17 times since the first 10—which make up the Bill of Rights. When the Constitution was signed, the United States’ population was 4 million. It is now more than 321 million. Philadelphia was the nation’s largest city, with 40,000 inhabitants. This week the Constitution will celebrate 228 years. Few documents have guided a people or government for that length of time. What is the genius of the Constitution and why has it endured so long?
First, it recognizes that individual rights and liberty do not originate with man, but with a divine Creator. The founders understood that if a man centered government could grant rights, those rights could just as easily be taken away.
Second, the document separates the powers of government by establishing three branches of government with carefully defined powers. John Adams, the father of the Constitution said, "The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many... may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny." The founders worried about absolute power corrupting absolutely.
Third, the real genius of the Constitution is it can be changed. Self government allows for the people to demand the document be amended. John Marshall said, “The people made the Constitution, and the people can unmake it. It is the creature of their will, and lives only by their will.”
The Constitution has served us well and every American should love our founding document. Unfortunately most Americans have never read it. In his farewell address to Congress, former U.S. Congressman Ron Paul said: “Our Constitution, which was intended to limit government power and abuse, has failed. The Founders warned that a free society depends on a virtuous and moral people. The current crisis reflects that their concerns were justified.” The document hasn’t failed. In a self-governing society, when the founding document is not followed we have only ourselves to blame. Americans have taken no interest in their government. The Constitution should and must be followed to the letter- it is the ONLY source of authority that government has and that authority comes from the people.
Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
Yesterday, we celebrated Labor Day. Founded by the organized labor movement (unions) it recognizes the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well- being of the U.S. In 1894, Congress passed a law making the first Monday of September a legal holiday and creating a Labor Day holiday. Labor unions seem to be a thing of the past in the U.S. Only eleven percent of wage and salary workers belong to them. This is just half the percentage of union members there were in 1983.
Traditionally a ‘jobs report’ is released on or near Labor Day by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This year’s report shows there are 149 million Americans out of work. Unemployment in August was at 5.1%, a seven year low, but according to U.S. News and World Report, that number is deceptive. “The number of unemployed people dropped, but many of these Americans were those who were actively searching for work but have now dropped out of the job-hunting process,” U.S. News reported. When someone stops actively searching for a job, they are no longer counted as unemployed. In other words, there are fewer unemployed Americans, but it could just be because many people have given up hope and stopped looking for a job. Congressman Bernie Sanders, who is a candidate for the Democrat Presidential nomination believes that. Sanders said, “There is another set of government statistics and that real unemployment if you include those people who have given up looking for work and the millions of others who are working part-time 20, 25 hours a week when they want to work full-time, when you put all of that together, real unemployment is 10.5 percent.”
Wall Street reacted negatively to the jobs report. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 273 points on the news that the economy created just 173,000 jobs last month when it was anticipated there would be 218,000 created. Wall Street believes the jobs report will trigger an interest rate increase by the Fed next month which would slow the economy down.
An interesting development revealed by the report is that Millennials (18-34 year old) are now over one third of the American workforce, beating out Generation X (35-50 year old) by a slim margin.
The Obama administration will point to the unemployment rate and crow that it is down to the lowest level since the President took office, but as mentioned above the reason may be people giving up hope. Consider these statistics:
A record 46.3 million Americans are receiving food stamps. That is nearly 50% more recipients than when the President took office. The rate of home ownership has slipped to its lowest point in more than 20 years. Only 64% of Americans own their own homes. That is the lowest percentage since 1994 and down 3.5% since President Obama took office. The national debt has nearly doubled under this president. It is over $18 trillion dollars. That is an increase of $7.4 trillion since 2009, when the president took office. Just the ‘increase’ is $65,443 per household! Rest assured, the president didn’t do this by himself. He had help from Congress, whose unwillingness to make some tough decisions have put America on the path to bankruptcy.
Last week during a stop in Duncan, U.S. Senator James Lankford said, “Washington DC(Congress) is a mirror of our society. If we don’t like what we see, we need to change it. The key to changing America is for us to have strong families. I would encourage you to mentor a young family and to encourage young families. They are the future of America.” Lankford is absolutely right. When an avowed socialist (Sanders) can fill stadiums with his message of wealth redistribution, it is apparent that today’s America is much different than what it was just twenty years ago. Can we ever go back? While the good ole days weren’t always good, they did give some hope for hard workers to better themselves. The only way we improve our current situation is for Americans need to take equity in this self-governing experiment called a democratic republic. Citizens need to pay attention to what is going on in their government and get involved. How do you do that? Show up at city council meetings, go to school board meetings, attend your county GOP meetings, research the issues, visit with your elected representatives. In short, simply show up! The world is ruled by those who show up!