Monday, January 30, 2017
Weekly Opinion Editorial
FIND THE WASTE!
by Steve Fair
In December, the Oklahoma State Board of Equalization, which is made up of the Governor, Lt. Governor, State Auditor, State Treasurer, Attorney General, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the Secretary of Agriculture met and certified the amount of money the Oklahoma legislature has to spend this year. Because revenue is down, the board certified $869 million less than last year. That is a -12.6% decrease from last year and comes on top of last year’s-20% shortfall. Much of Oklahoma government revenue is based on oil and gas gross production tax and while the price of oil goes down, so does production.
Next week, the Oklahoma legislature convenes and this will be a challenging session, coming on the heels of last year’s challenging session. Republicans who have been campaigning about making government smaller may be forced to do just that. Since Republicans took control of the state legislature in 2006, very little ‘streamlining/rightsizing’ of state government has been done. Now that tax revenue is off double digits, it is quite possible the campaign rhetoric is going to have to match what legislators actually do.
It is disappointing when some Rs focus on only one side of the ledger- the revenue side. Instead of identifying waste in state government, they float more and more ideas of how to get more money out of the hard working people in Oklahoma’s pockets. The Governor has said taxing cigarettes, tattoos and car washes is likely. Others said it is time to eliminate ‘tax credits.’ Tax credit is a deplorable term because it assumes the money is the governments before it is collected and by designating your money a ‘credit’ the government is giving you permission to keep your own money. Very Republican concept- not!
Preston Doerflinger, the Secretary of State Finance, an appointee of the Governor, says: “I think it’s important for everybody to realize you’re not cutting your way out of this situation. We have to have a serious conversation about revenue in this state.” Why can’t you cut your way out of it? Is Oklahoma government so lean and mean that no fat exists anywhere? What if the people overwhelmingly rejected the idea of paying more taxes and those deep cuts had to be made? Waste would have to found and eliminated. That is how it works in business? If there is a downturn in sales, a business doesn’t keep on spending? They adjust expenses, lay off workers and work on building the revenue stream. Families often have to make tough decisions when their income is reduced. Adjustments have to be made, but when government is short on money, they just tax the people more.
No doubt the legislature will do ‘across the board’ cuts this year as they always do and tell every state agency they need to feel the pain equally. The problem is that one size doesn’t fit all. Some agencies should feel the pain more than others. The legislature will take this ‘path of least resistance’ because they say there isn’t the money and time to locate where the real waste is. Here is a novel idea: why not fund the constitutional office charged with watching government- the State Auditor’s office- with incremental money to hire more auditors to turn over more rocks and find more waste? That common sense idea has been presented several times and is always voted down, primarily because Gary Jones, the current Auditor, has been critical of the legislature. The only state agency that should be getting more funding is the one that is looking out for the taxpayers.
Some Republicans just don’t get it. They honestly believe taxpayers are in favor of more taxes. They prance around with ideas to give raises to public school teachers, judges, state agency heads, and bureaucrats all while proclaiming they believe in ‘small government.’ They support taking more tax dollars out of our pockets so they can keep Oklahoma government up in the manner in which it has become accustomed. With Oklahoma being so dependent on the oil/gas industry, thousands of Oklahomans have been put out of a job and those who got other jobs aren’t making as much as they were before. How many state employees has Oklahoma government cut during that same period? Guaranteed, it was nothing like the private sector.Oklahoma government doesn’t have too little of the taxpayer’s money- they have too much. They mismanage the money they get. Call your state legislator today and tell them you are not in favor of any tax increase until they start working on the spending side of the ledger first.
Monday, January 23, 2017
Weekly Opinion Editorial
DON’T CIRCUMVENT THE SWAMP!
by Steve Fair
On Friday, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th POTUS. He immediately signed an executive order rolling back the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare. The order gives federal agencies permission to, “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay” the mandates in the Affordable Care Act. In other words, those who faced a tax for not complying with the requirement to have medical insurance may not face fines after all. Trump also issued an executive memo ordering a freeze on regulations for all government agencies.
The use of executive orders by presidents to circumvent Congress and rule by decree should trouble a self-governed people. An executive order is a directive from the President that has much of the same power as a federal law. They can also issue a president memoranda or a proclamation, which can also result in signification policy change or enforcement.
Several landmark moments in American history came about directly from the use of executive orders, most famously Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, using the Constitution’s suspension clause as justification for his actions. Roosevelt issued a whopping 3,728 executive orders during his twelve years in office, including one that resulted in the interment of 120,000 Japanese during WWII., 67% of which were Americans Carter issued as many executive orders in four years as George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama did in eight years, averaging 80 per year. Many executive orders were not controversial and were issued to get a regulation or practice implemented immediately, but some were far reaching and were issued to bypass Congress.
The basis for executive orders is Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution states, "The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America." But clearly the founders did not intend the POTUS to circumvent Congress and make law unilaterally. Three months after he was sworn in as POTUS, President Washington sent instruction to his cabinet and officers in the government asking for a report, “to impress me with a full, precise and distinct general idea of the affairs of the United States.” Washington’s decree was in order because every CEO has the power to order his subordinates to give him a report and accounting of what is happening in their area of responsibility. Fast forward to modern times and Presidents Clinton and Obama, in particular, have used executive orders when they failed to achieve their objectives in Congress. Former Clinton advisor Paul Begala said about executive orders: “Stroke of the pen. Law of the Land. Kinda cool.” President Obama famously said he had a phone and a pen and that he would circumvent Congress if he had to- and he did- when he instructed federal agencies to not enforce federal immigration law.
Most conservatives view the ACA as an intrusion into people’s lives and a major mistake in policy. It has cost American jobs and hurt small business. Most agree it needs at best some major tweaking and at worst, to be repealed. Those same conservatives despised the arrogance of President Obama when he signed executive orders instructing agencies to ignore the law. But they applauded President Trump when he did virtually the same thing on Friday.
President Trump is a Washington outsider and has zero political experience. That is exactly what America needs, because career politicos have gotten us to where we are now, however the POTUS is not the great sovereign ruler of the country, no matter what his political ideology may be. America’s system of government clearly places the most power in the legislative branch, no matter how inept or incompetent, Congress may be. When a president, no matter his political Party affiliation, decides they can ignore Congress and that laws passed by Congress are not to be enforced, he is abusing his power and in effect bypassing the people.It is the job of Congress to pass laws. The POTUS is not to decree laws or to decree what laws are to be enforced. If Trump really wants to ‘drain the swamp,’ he should begin by following the Constitution to the letter and not circumvent “the swamp.” The real draining of the swamp must be done by the people. Trump can help by working within the framework of the Constitution and forcing the swamp people to do their job.
Monday, January 16, 2017
Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
President Obama has been busy with his phone and pen since November 8th. He expelled 35 Russians and signed an executive order placing sanctions against Russian for cyber attacks on the United States. He also informed Congress that he would resettle 19 detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Obama had vowed he would close the facility when he was elected and while he hasn’t been able to do that, but he has reduced the number of prisoners from a high of 700 during George W’s term to just 40 today. President elect Trump has vowed to keep Guantanamo open and perhaps add more prisoners. “I want to make sure that if we have radical Islamic terrorists, we have a very safe place to keep them,” Trump said.
In December, Obama also commuted the sentences of 153 prisoners and pardoned 78, many serving sentences for non-violent drug related offences. Over the last eight years, Obama has used clemency powers to shorten the sentences of over 1,000 offenders, which is more than all previous presidents combined. President Obama has focused on trying to reform drug sentencing for non-violent offenders and has gotten some support in Congress on both sides of the aisle, but legislation died last year in committee.
Also the POTUS set aside land in Utah and Nevada as national monuments, much of which leaders in those states said could be used for energy exploration. In Utah, it was over 1.3 million acres and in Nevada over 300,000 acres. The Utah Attorney General, Sean Reyes has vowed to sue the feds over the EO affecting his state.
Obama also placed U.S. owned waters in the Arctic Ocean and Atlanta off limits for future oil and gas exploration. He banned future mining claims in Yellowstone. He has appointed hundreds of people to boards, and created the Council on Community Solutions, which is charged with strengthening partnerships with communities and the federal government. “This administration has been dedicated to leaving the federal government better and more effective than we found it,” the POTUS said last month when he created the new council.
No doubt a significant number of the above will be overturned when Donald Trump takes office, but the fact that President Obama felt compelled to sign a flurry of Executive Orders on his way out the White House door reveals a great deal.
First, Obama wants Trump to overturn his Executive Orders. This wasn’t about policy- it was about politics. He was positioning for the Democrat Party in the future. If Trump overturns Obama’s EOs, then the talking points become what Trump opposes, not what he is doing. Obama knows the liberal base needs energizing after the November defeat and the way to do it is to paint Trump and all Republicans as uncaring, anti-environment racists. It is a risky strategy, but it is clearly the only hope the Ds have if they expect to do well in the mid terms in 2018.
Second, Obama’s vow to make the transition smooth was a lie. Normally Washington DC goes into a ‘holding pattern’ in a presidential election year. Few major policy issues are taken up in an election year because Congress knows a new Congress and POTUS are being elected. Protocol dictates wait until the new elected leadership is swore in before taking up the people’s business. Obama breached that protocol big time. Every POTUS have a few last minute pardons, but never in our nation’s history has a president unilaterally taken such action as Obama has- and clearly without consulting his successor. Obama has done everything possible to make Trump’s first few months in office difficult and that is intentional.
Third, we haven’t heard the last of Obama. Most former POTUS give their successors space and stay out of the public eye, but in his ‘farewell’ speech he said he plans to remain engaged in policy after he leaves office. Certainly that is his right and with Trump vowing to dismantle the Affordable Care Act- the ‘crown jewel’ of his eight
years in office, perhaps it is understandable, but this would be unprecedented in modern times. Former presidents normally don’t criticize the sitting POTUS, but expect that to change.In his farewell speech, President Obama said: “If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clip board, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.” I have agreed with little this POTUS has done or said in the past eight years, but he is absolutely right about how change is accomplished- by hard work and persistence. As George Allen said, “The world is run by those that show up.” Are you showing up?
Monday, January 9, 2017
Weekly Opinion Editorial
Broad or Segmented Marketing
by Steve Fair
Most business leaders who mass market a good or service to the public at large avoid controversy like the plaque. They understand the goal of a business is to maximize profits and not the change the world. They never talk politics or religion and do everything possible to not offend any potential customer.
There are generally two ways to go to market: (1) appeal to a broad customer base, who are not necessarily loyal or (2) appeal to a more segmented customer base, which is intensely loyal. Most marketers choose the broad approach.
Consumer product companies fear a boycott will not just damage their bottom line, but will permanently damage their brand. In the early 1990s, Nike was having their shoes produced in third world countries using child labor. When word got it, it hurt the company’s bottom line, but it also changed the way Nike went to market. They not only changed where they made their product, but became activists to change their image. Proctor and Gamble has spent millions to combat the rumor their man in the moon logo is a nod to the church of Satan. The rumor has been around for twenty years and P&G leaders have went on daytime talk shows to deny the accusations and to urge consumers to not boycott their huge line-up of products in the soap aisle.
Some companies take a stand on an issue and it doesn’t appear to hurt their bottom line, even when they are boycotted. Chick-fil-A is thriving despite CEO Dan Cathey’s very public opposition of gay marriage. Oklahoma’s Hobby Lobby is still profitable despite the Green families’ refusal to provide certain forms of birth control to their employees and taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court. In both of those cases, the leaders of those companies understood the risks involved in their taking a stand, but did it anyway out of religious conviction.
Meryl Streep took a stand on Sunday night at the Golden Globes. The four time Academy Award winner said during her speech accepting the lifetime achievement award that Hollywood, foreigners and the press belong to the most vilified segments in American society. Streep attacked President-elect Donald Trump and denounced him as a bully who disrespected and humiliated others. Streep went over her allotted time, but they didn’t pull the plug because she was delivering the message for the vast majority of the Hollywood elite. If Streep’s remarks were meant to re-position her brand from a mass to a niche(small/loyal) market, she may have been successful. Three observations:
First, Streep has a right to her opinion. Just because someone is a public figure doesn’t mean they give up that right. Streep has a constitutionally protected right to offend a significant amount of the movie going public-at least half of America’s voters- if she wants.. Those offended people pay the overpriced ticket prices and concessions to watch her movies and to keep her up in the manner in which she has become accustomed. Unlike Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby, Streep’s stand doesn’t appear to be based on a deep rooted conviction, but rather on her disappointment with who won the election. Taking a public stand has consequences and it remains to be seen if Streep will reap reward or retribution as a result of her remarks.
Second, people can and should vote with their dollars. A boycott of Streep’s movies is being organized. Brayden King of Kellogg’s Management & Organizations department did a study on boycotts and found that most boycotts are ineffective because organizers fail to get enough dedicated participants to boycott long enough to make a significant impact. Streep is counting on the public having a short memory. If she suffered a loss of income or damage to her reputation by taking a controversial stand, her candor would likely be tempered. If those who bankrolled her movies looked at Streep as toxic and unprofitable, she might rethink her political commentary.
Third, Hollywood is fantasy-land. Most people in the entertainment industry are liberal thinkers. They live privileged lives and are out of touch with the average person. When they talk about what is wrong in America, they are filtering it through the prism of swimming pools, movie stars, Champaign and caviar.
The fundamental reason Donald Trump won in traditional Democrat states was because America is unemployed and underemployed. It’s about jobs! Trump’s insulting bombastic style turns off most everybody, but the average American is willing to overlook it if he can make America great again. As a rule of thumb, watch what Trump does- not what he says.
Monday, January 2, 2017
Weekly Opinion Editorial
INCONSISTENCY OF OUTRAGE!
by Steve Fair
In seventeen days, Donald Trump is scheduled to be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. If you would have made that prediction in January 2016, most would have thought you were out of your mind. Trump defied the conventional wisdom to win the primary and then won the general election by changing the electoral map for the first time in over thirty years. To say Trump’s win was a surprise, would be an understatement. Since November 8th, Trump has been busy filling his cabinet positions and it would be fair to say his picks have been pretty much the exact opposite of those President Obama appointed. That probably means a lot of the governmental intrusion the Obama administration imposed will be walked back by Trump. One big decision Of Obamas that Trump will likely reverse if the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats in retaliation for hacking attacks on the Democrat National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
On December 29th, President Obama told the Russians to get out of the country by January 1st. Both the timing of the expulsion and its urgency were interpreted in Russia as last-minute petty revenge from the departing Obama team, on behalf of Obama’s former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Sean Spicer, the incoming White House communications director, suggested Sunday that President Obama’s imposing Russian sanctions related to email hacking was politically motivated, considering China recently did far worse without punishment. Obama defended the action. “There is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections that we need to take action," the POTUS said. Four observations:
First, America has been interfering in other countries’ elections for over a century. Administrations- Democrat and Republican- have been picking winners and losers throughout the globe for decades. The most recent example was the Obama administration doing everything possible to defeat the Brexit election in the UK. Perhaps the UK should send our diplomats home as punishment.
Second, the Clintons have a lot of nerve to talk about foreign influence. They have received millions of dollars in donations to the Clinton foundation from foreign governments, much of it while Hillary Clinton was the sitting Secretary of State. Pay-to-Play has been alleged and Congress has vowed to investigate if access to Clinton when she was SOS was predicated on donating to the Clinton Foundation.
Third, in 2015 China hacked 4 million government workers personal information. They also hacked health insurance providers Anthem and Premera Blue Cross. The Obama administration did nothing- no sanctions, no expulsion of diplomats, nothing, not even a statement on the hack. Some believe it had something to do with Bill Clinton getting $750,000 for two speeches paid for by a business controlled by the Chinese government while Hillary was Secretary of State. Where was President Obama’s outrage on hacking then?
Fourth, the information the Russians hacked and released to the American people hasn’t been discounted as false. That’s important. Neither the Clintons nor the DNC have denied the accuracy of the WiKi Leaks emails. If the Russians had not found it, would we have knowns the DNC was tilting the pinball machine in the primary to help Clinton? Would we have known that President Obama knew that Clinton was using a private server? Would we have known that Hillary wants completely open borders? Would we have known that Hillary had ‘private’ and ‘public’ positions on issues that differed? Where was the mainstream press? Why didn’t they do their job and find out these inconsistencies? Why didn’t they do real reporting instead of sensationalizing every move that Trump made? The answer is they were in the tank for Hillary. Fact is the Russians did America a favor by finding the information and exposing the Clintons for the political hacks they are.
The righteous indignation President Obama displayed by kicking out the Russians is inconsistent. He has been a joke in how he has conducted his foreign policy. Just last week, the Obama administration stabbed Israel in the back and this week it was Russia. America has little respect in the world because of this inconsistency.
Obama recently arrogantly said that he would have beaten Trump if he would have been on the ballot in November. It’s a moot point because of the 22nd amendment(limits POTUS to eight years), but it is what is most likely a certainty is that much of what Obama has done in the past eight years will be undone in the next four years.