Monday, February 27, 2017

The World is ruled by those who SHOW UP!

Weekly Opinion Editorial

by Steve Fair

     On Thursday March 2nd, the Stephens County Republican Party will hold precinct meetings and a county GOP convention for the purpose of electing local county GOP leaders.  The meetings will be at the Red River Technology Center, starting at 6pm.  All registered Republicans in the county are encouraged to attend.  Why should registered Republicans attend their precinct meeting and the county convention?
     First, if you are a Republican, it’s your Party.  People who get involved in Party politics are always more knowledgeable on the issues and have a better understanding of the political process than those that aren’t involved.  They have more influence with elected officials and they impact public policy more than the average voter, not because they are more intelligent, but because they are more engaged.  If you don’t like the direction of the GOP, then get more involved- and stay involved.  Showing up for one meeting and never going back will likely not change anything.  The world is run by those who show up and the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.  If the Party is not in agreement with your values and convictions, you need to be showing up at the meetings and voicing your opinion. 
     Second, all politics is local.  Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil, a Democrat, famously said that and it’s true.  The most effective, efficient government is that which is closest to the people.  The long term solution to changing America is to change from the bottom up and that requires lasting political infrastructure. That means local people showing up at monthly meetings and helping raise money by frying fish and dipping chili.  It means local volunteers getting involved in local campaigns.  It might surprise you to know that local county GOP organizations in Oklahoma don’t get one penny from the state GOP or national GOP to run their operations.  They raise their own money.  The GOP headquarters you see in the county is paid for by the local Party raising the money.  The local GOP is headed by volunteer leaders, who receive not one cent of enumeration- in fact it costs them to serve.   Many people get excited about what is happening at the state and national level, but have no clue who their school board or city council members are.  They watch Fox News or MSNBC religiously, but never attend a local town hall meeting or a GOP Party meeting or event.  They bemoan the fact they have no influence in the political process.  A simple question: If everyone took the same amount of equity in the local GOP organization as you do, would the local county have a headquarters each election cycle?  If the local organization was dependent upon your financial commitment, would there be money to educate voters on issues by publishing issue oriented material?  Ben Franklin said, “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain - and most fools do.” The fact is, everyone has a right to complain- even if they didn’t vote- but taking action requires commitment. 
     Third, getting involved in politics is the duty of people in a self-governed system of government. America’s political leaders are a reflection of those engaged in the political process.  If you don’t like what is happening, you need to become engaged.  Being involved is not optional- it is mandatory.  Involvement can take many courses and commitment levels, but if everyone just let someone else do it, our self-governing system will fail.  Some would say that is what has happened after the recent national elections, but the fact is President Trump is the first ‘outsider’ elected to the presidency in over a century.  His supporters are those who got engaged- many for the first time in their lives.  Their involvement changed things.      
 Fourth, you should be involved for your children and grandchildren.  If we do nothing, we risk leaving America in worse shape than we found it.  The national debt is out of control.  Our productivity rate is the lowest in a century-less than 50% of the nation’s population is working.  We abort 700,000 children in America each year.  Our individual liberties and freedoms are being eroded as the state and federal government regulates and restricts more and more of our lives.   The next generation could grow up in an America that looks more like socialist Europe than capitalist America.  You might say you are just one person and can’t make that big of impact, but Margaret Mead, a well known liberal anthropologist in the 1960s famously said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
     For more information on the March 2nd precinct meetings and county GOP convention, contact Republican Party Chairperson Hope Sutterfield at   

Monday, February 20, 2017

Oklahoma needs a better long term budget plan!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
     Last week, Lt. Governor Todd Lamb resigned from Governor Mary Fallin’s cabinet, where he served as the Small Business Advocate.  Lamb will still be Oklahoma’s Lt. Governor.  The cabinet position and the Lt. Governor’s job are separate.  Lamb said he couldn’t support Fallin’s plan to increase taxes on services that are currently not subject to state taxes.  Fallin plans to start taxing plumbing, barbers and attorneys and 160 more services. 
     Lamb said: “Governor Fallin deserves to have someone in her cabinet who can be a strong advocate for her agenda, and that is something I am unwilling to do.  While I respect the determination with which Governor Fallin met her obligation to present a balanced budget to the legislature, I cannot support her proposed tax increases.  This proposal will adversely harm Oklahoma’s small businesses and families, especially those in our service industry.  While Governor Fallin and I have disagreed on issues from time-to-time, our differences on this important topic are so significant they preclude me from continuing to serve on her cabinet.”
     Fallin responded by issuing the following statement:  “I was disappointed and surprised to learn from a press release that Lt. Gov. Lamb had decided to quit serving as a member of my Cabinet.   I have always valued Todd’s independent voice. I valued it when we first came into office when we dealt with a similar financial crisis and I value his independent voice today. I’ve never been afraid to have dissenting voices at the table. I think the people of Oklahoma benefit from that. There will always be a seat at the table for his independent voice.  Leading a state is never easy, especially when there are so many challenges and we are faced with a prolonged economic downturn. But through ideas, hard work, long hours and making tough decisions, we can find solutions to those challenges our state faces. We have to.  As governor, I have provided a reality check of doing the same thing over and over with the structural deficits of our budget and expecting a different outcome. If we want to educate our children, a teacher pay raise and ensure the health and public safety of our citizens as well as improve our roads and bridges, we must fix the structure of our budget so we don’t keep having budget shortfalls and uncertainty.”  Word is that Fallin’s Chief of Staff met with Lamb’s Chief of Staff before the press release and told him Lamb was resigning from the cabinet, so evidently there is a communication breakdown in the Guv’s office.  Three thoughts:
     First, Lamb’s action took courage, a trait rare for politicos.  He could have simply skipped the meetings, or sat quietly while Fallin pushed for more taxes. Resigning the cabinet position took guts.  Lamb is the preemptive favorite to be the state’s next governor and no doubt he believes staying quiet about Fallin’s tax plan wasn’t going to help his cause among primary voters in two years.  2017 is going to be a historically difficult budget year in state government and going along to get along would have been the safe play.  Lamb proved he doesn’t always play it safe- he takes risk.  The only leaders who ever make meaningful change are risk takers. They lead when everyone else follows.    
     Second, legislators have been talking a great deal about the revenue side of the ledger and not enough about the expenses.   It appears little effort has been made to actually ‘find the waste’ in Oklahoma state government.  Instead of trying to find ways to get more taxpayer money, there should be a full blown blitz to find where cuts can be made.  Churchill famously said: “We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”  Oklahoma needs bold leadership, not the same old tax and spend strategy.
     Third, the legislature should craft a long term funding mechanism that takes the peaks and valleys out of the revenue stream.  Oklahoma state government has been operating hand to chin too long.  Texas deposits 75% of their oil and gas tax revenue in their Rainy Day fund and only appropriates 25%. Oklahoma government spends every dime of oil and gas production tax every year. 
    By quitting the cabinet, Lamb proved he is willing to be against increased taxation.  Now he just needs to outline his plan to balance the budget.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Politicos pay attention to those who are paying attention!

Weekly Opinion Editorial

By Steve Fair
     In Las Vegas, at the annual meeting of the National Grocers Association, former Speaker of the House John Boehner said helping run his parent’s bar prepared him for politics; “You have to learn to disagree without being disagreeable and you have to be nice to every jackass that comes through the door,” Boehner said to laughs.  Bounced from the U.S. House Speaker’s chair eighteen months ago, by what he called ‘right wing knuckleheads,’ Boehner said that neither he nor President Obama could find common ground because of the political extremist factions in both parties.   He predicted Speaker Ryan will have an easier time holding the House GOP caucus together because President Trump did so well in the ‘knuckleheads’ districts.  “They are going to have a hard time going against the POTUS and that will force them to support some legislation they have been railing against because I can assure you Trump is not as conservative as some believe,” Boehner said
     When during Q&A, a questioner railed on Trump’s choice of Betsy Devos as Secretary of Education instead of asking her question, Boehner interrupted and said, “I know Betsy Devos and have worked with her.  She is an excellent choice.”    When asked by another grocer if he supported term limits for Congress, he said no.  “We have term limits every two years-they are called elections.  When you have term limits, the staff and bureaucrats run government and not the elected officials.  If someone doesn’t like the way I represent them, they have the ability to support someone else and kick me out,”  Boehner said.  In theory, the Speaker is right, but it doesn’t work in practice. 94% of incumbents are reelected.  Money and power flows to the incumbent, making sending incumbents home very difficult.  Term limits have worked in Oklahoma and they would work at the federal level.     
     When asked about the top three issues he believes will be the most important Congress and President Trump will address, Boehner said the mounting national debt, the Affordable Care Act, and tax relief.  “We can’t keep spending more than we take in- we have to get spending under control.  Expect the replacement for the ACA to be later rather than sooner, but I do think Congress and the President will get tax relief passed,” Boehner said.  His answers were short, concise and to the point.  He seemed relaxed and unencumbered.
     When asked about former President Obama, he said their relationship was workable and cordial but not warm.   “Obama loves to lecture, instead of discuss.  I have never labored under the delusion I was the smartest man in the room, but that is who he believes he is.  When I was ousted as Speaker, he called me and said: ‘Boehner, I’m going to miss you,’ and I said, ‘Yes, you are.’  In spite of our deep ideological differences, we were trying to find common ground, but it was next to impossible because of the political extremists in both Parties,” Boehner concluded.
     “Watch what politicians do and not what they say,” he admonished when asked about Trump’s rants on social media.  “Trump is a populist- he isn’t a Party guy and this is the first time in a long time that we have ever had a POTUS who has no respect for or history with politics.  It should be interesting, because he understands how to make a deal and the fact is, politics involves making deals,” Boehner said.  
     “Will he drain the swamp?” a grocery retailer from Michigan asked Boehner.  “I don’t really know what ‘drain the swamp’ means.  I mean I know what some people think it means, but in Trump’s case I think that is just something he says to energize his base,” the former Speaker responded. 
      I have heard Boehner speak a number of times, but never as ‘unplugged’ as he was at the NGA’s annual meeting.  His candor was refreshing, his insight logical.  Instead of playing to his audience, he spoke his mind.  During the Q&A, Paula Deen (yep that one) came to a mic in the aisle and said she wasn’t political, but she loved Boehner’s wife.  He graciously accepted the compliment for his spouse, then said accurately said; ‘everyone’s political.’
     The final question for the former Speaker was from a grocer in his home state of Ohio who asked him; ‘How do we make a difference?’  “Stay engaged, not just in a civic club or charitable organization, but in a political Party.  Pay attention to what is going on around you.  I can assure you elected officials pay attention to those who pay attention,” Boehner said. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Oklahoma voters need to have recall in their accountability toolbox!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     The Oklahoma legislature opened the 2017 session this week.  A record number of bills were filed and will start working their way through committees.  Two districts will be without representation- Districts 28 and 75.  Both districts had their representative resign, one to take a political job and another under pressure after a special House committee recommended his expulsion.   The special election for #28 will be May 9th, so the winner will be sworn in and participate in the last three weeks of the legislative session.  No dates have been set for #75, but it’s a certainty the general election will be after session.  Dan Kirby, the Tulsa legislator who resigned under pressure, faced possible expulsion from the state House, over alleged sexual harassment charges.  Should a legislative body have the power to kick out a duly elected member elected by the people?  Many conservatives say yes and called for Kirby’s expulsion, and while clearly he is unfit for office, isn’t it the job of the people in his district to ‘drain the swamp’ and replace him, not the legislature? 
     I have long advocated that Oklahoma voters should have a ‘recall election’ option.  Term limits demands recall.  When we have ‘lame duck’ elected officials who will never face the voters again, they can do a great deal of damage in their last term.  Most often those termed out elected officials are influential and are in leadership positions.  Their last term can be either their most effective or their most destructive.  Termed out State wide elected officials and State Senators have four years after their last election to do their damage.  Voters should be able to gather names on a recall petition and make the wayward or morally bankrupt elected official face the voters again.  Now Oklahomans just have to wait them out.
     Currently 29 states have some recall provision on the books and 19 states allow for the recall of state legislators and statewide elected officials.  Only eight of those states require those seeking a recall election to show cause.   Two governors have been recalled in US history- the most recent being California Governor Gray Davis in 2003.  Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin narrowly won a recall election in 2012. 
The Founding Fathers debated the inclusion of a federal recall provision in the Constitution, but ultimately decided against it. Instead, members of Congress can be removed by expulsion, a formal vote in which two-thirds of the Senate or House of Representatives agrees to exclude the member. Only 20 Congressmen in our nation’s history have been expelled and 17 of those occurred during the Civil War over accusations of "disloyalty to the Union"
      So how would recall work?  It would be much the same as the current initiative petition process in Oklahoma or the calling for a grand jury.  There are generally four steps: (1) Apply for permission to circulate the recall petition.  This usually means the Attorney General insures the petition is legal and establishes a period of time that signatures can be gathered.  (2) Gather the required number of signatures in the prescribed timeframe, (3) Signatures are verified (only registered voters are counted), and (4) Hold the Recall election.   The most common percentage of voters required to initiate a recall is 25% of the total from the last general election.
     Some states hold what is known as a ‘simultaneous’ recall.  In order to save time and money, they ask two questions of the voters in a recall election: 1) Do you believe the official should be recalled; and 2) Who do you want to replace that official with?  If the majority of voters answer "yes" to the recall question, then the person who receives the most votes on the second question is the winner. In other states, the approval of the recall petition triggers a special recall election in which the recalled official runs against a single opponent. If more than one person wants to run, then a primary must be held.
     Recall should not be used lightly and it should never be fueled by anger over personality.  Recalls should be based on real issues and used when an elected official is clearly out of step with their constituency. 
     If Oklahoma had recall, I believe two things would happen: (1) Elected officials would pay more attention to the views of their constituents in their lame duck term- and maybe all the time, and (2)Fewer elected officials would venture off the reservation if there was the fear of a recall election. 
     Now all we need is some brave legislator to propose recall, but don’t hold your breath- few elected officials are for recall.  Likely, the only way it will happen is when voters of Oklahoma gather sufficient signatures to amend the Constitution.