Sunday, May 22, 2022

THE PRICE OF FUEL IMPACTS E V E R Y T H I N G!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


GREEN HAS BEEN PAINFUL!

by Steve Fair

     According to AAA, the average price for a gallon of gas in the United States rose to a new record last week- $4.48 per gallon.  That is up $.15 from the previous week and $1.43 higher than the same day last year.   In California, the average is $5.98 per gallon.  In Oklahoma, it is $4.04. 

     From January 2021 to January 2022, crude oil prices increased 45%, blowing past records set in 2008. Gasoline and diesel prices are the highest on record since the Energy Information Administration (EIA) started keeping track in 1993. Natural gas prices are up 46%. Average household electricity prices haven’t grown this fast since 2008.  Coal prices have ticked upward after years of policy-driven decline.  Most of this comes after a series of orders by President Joe Biden to combat climate change. 

     Immediately after taking office, Biden issued Executive Orders(EO) cancelling the Keystone XL oil pipeline project and temporally suspending oil and gas permits on federal lands and waters.  The administration had to resume issuing new leases after the EO was struck down in federal court, but the Biden administration has appealed.  Three observations: 

     First, rising fuel costs impact everything.  Prices of food, clothing, and every other consumer good is higher because of increases in freight.  America’s freight rates have increased +43% in the past two years, primarily driven by fuel increases.  Businesses must pass through those fuel costs to survive. That is a major reason consumers are seeing higher prices at their local grocers shelf.   

     Second, fundamental economics dictate the way out of high prices and high demand is increased supply.  President Biden’s idea to increase supply has been to persistently reject allowing U.S. energy companies to ‘drill baby drill.’   Instead the Biden administration has been in negotiation with Venezuela to import oil to the U.S. Back in 2012, President Obama and then Vice President Biden said that America could not drill its way to lower gasoline prices, but U.S. energy companies proved them wrong.

     Third, the path to becoming ‘green’ has been painful.  President Biden is clearly committed to America becoming a nation that is not dependent on fossil fuels.  Government subsidies(your money) to wind and solar power companies totaled $158 billion last year.  Without those tax dollars those industries would be unprofitable. Shutting down the Keystone and stop drilling on federal land have been goals of the left for years. 

     Pushing Americans to buy electric vehicles doesn’t really make us green, because most electric power is coal (a fossil fuel) generated.  It’s all about optics, not reality. Biden has blamed Putin’s invasion of Ukraine for the high prices at the pump.  The truth is Biden’s failed energy policy is the problem.

     Two things need to take place to help drive down inflation and high fuel prices.  First, drill baby drill.  America has enough oil and gas in the ground to supply our fuel needs.  With the stroke of a pen, President Biden could open up drilling and within months, the supply issue would be solved.  Second, the EPA needs to reduce the percentage of soybeans produced used to make biodiesel and the percentage of corn earmarked for ethanol.  Americans are putting their food into their fuel tanks, resulting in higher food costs on products using soybean oil and corn. 

     Continental Resources Chairman Harold Hamm said, “The Biden administration’s failed policies on energy are not working and it doesn’t appear they intend to do anything different than what the president has stated repeatedly.”  Hamm described Biden’s energy policy as ‘ridiculous,’ and said the administration has increased regulations on the energy sector. 

     Midterm elections are just four months away and Democrats can ill afford to have record inflation and historical prices of food and fuel.  According to Project 538, Republicans already have a +2.3-point advantage over Democrats with the American people.  That margin will widen further if Biden sticks to his failed energy policy and that will result in a bloodbath for Democrats in November.

    

Sunday, May 15, 2022

RESPECT FOR INSTITUTIONS MUST BE RESTORED FOR U.S. TO SURVIVE!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


THE DECLINE OF INSTITUTIONS!

by Steve Fair

 

     Last week, Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Justice Clarence Thomas was interviewed at a conservative conference in Dallas.  Thomas said the recent leak of a draft opinion regarding abortion may have irreparably damaged trust at the SCOTUS.  “What happened at the court was tremendously bad.  I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them.  I wonder when they’re gone or destabilized, what we’re going to have as a country,” Thomas said.  Thomas described the court as place, ‘where now you look over your shoulder.’

     Thomas, 73, was appointed to the SCOTUS by former President George H.W. Bush in 1991.  He was just the second African-American to be nominated to the SCOTUS(Thurgood Marshall was the first).  Legal experts describe Thomas’ jurisprudence as an originalist.  He stresses the original meaning of the U.S. Constitution and statutes.  Thomas is widely held to be the most conservative member of the SCOTUS. Three observations:

     First, respect for established institutions is in decline.  In a Gallup poll from 2021, only 37% of Americans have a great deal of confidence in church and religion.  That’s half of what it was thirty years ago.  Only 12% of Americans have a high opinion of Congress, compared to 30% twenty years ago.   Only 35% of Americans have a high opinion of the SCOTUS, compared with 55% twenty years ago.  Gallup polled Americans on many other institutions and that information is available on-line, but virtually every traditional institution(health care, organized labor, criminal justice, media) was  viewed as unfavorable and down significantly vs. two decades ago.  The younger generation doesn’t view traditional institutions with the same affection as their parents. 

     Second, the institution of the family has changed in America.  From 1970-2012, the share of households consisting of married couples with kids was cut in half.  In 1960, only 9% of households were single parent.  In 2020, nearly 19 million children, amounting to 25% of all children under 18 in the U.S. were living in single parent homes.   In Canada that number is 15%, China, 3%, Russia 18%.   The U.S. has the highest percentage of children in single parent homes. While Gallup doesn’t include the institution of the family in their survey, clearly the respect for that institution has declined.

     Third, respect, confidence and appreciation for institutions must be restored for America to survive. Believing an institution has no merit, function or purpose will doom it.  When those believers are in the institution, it’s worse.  Thomas implied during his remarks the leak likely came from a law clerk from one of the newer members of the court.  He said that would never have happened in years past. Thomas described his relationship with late Justice Ruth Ginsberg as ‘an easy colleague for me.’  He said she was a nice person to deal with and while they seldom agreed, they both respected the institution.  Thomas said the leak was a kind of infidelity that you can explain it, but you can’t undo it.

     Respect is earned.  Many traditional institutions deserve the loss of respect because of misbehavior and failure to perform.  But when those in the institution disrespect it, it is the height of sanctimony. President Abraham Lincoln said, “If once you forfeit the confidence of your fellow-citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem.”

     

Sunday, May 8, 2022

The intolerance of the tolerant is magnanimous!

Weekly Opinion Editorial 


PREMATURE CELEBRATION

by Steve Fair

 

    On Monday May 2nd, Politico, a Virginia political journalism organization founded in 2007, obtained and released a 98-page draft document that indicated the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is poised to strike down the landmark Roe vs. Wade(1973) and Planned Parenthood vs Casey(1992) decisions. 

     On Tuesday morning, SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the draft opinion was authentic, but stressed the opinion was ‘not a final decision by the court.’   Roberts vowed the leak would not undermine the integrity of the court’s operations and vowed to have the U.S. Marshal service investigate the leak.         

     The draft opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito. Alito, 72, was appointed to the SCOTUS by President George W. Bush and has served on the high court since 2006.   Alito is considered one of the more conservative members of the SCOTUS. 

     Alito wrote, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.”  He said nowhere in the U.S Constitution does language exist that supports the right to abortion and the issue should legislated by the states.  While Alito wrote the draft, it can safely be assumed the draft represents the view of the majority of the conservative justices.  Three observations:

     First, liberals leaked the draft.  Pro-abortion advocates clearly have the most to lose.  Firing up their crowd was the objective and it has been effective.  Since the leak, the SCOTUS building has been surrounded by pro-abortion demonstrators.  President Biden has condemned the draft, calling it a radical decision.  Liberal talking heads claim if killing babies in the womb is outlawed, it will be the end of life as they know it.  The intolerance of the tolerant is magnanimous.

     The most likely source of the leak is a law clerk for one for the court’s liberal justices who wants to make Alito’s majority opinion public in the hope that public backlash could change one of the conservatives on the court to change their vote.  Liberals are floating the idea the leak came from the conservative side to put pressure on the conservative judges to lock in their vote.  The total number of people who had access to the draft is about 50.  The liberal justices most likely to leak are Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer.  Whatever the source, a leak like this is unprecedented.  If the leak can be traced back to a justice, they should be impeached.  Expect a thorough investigation into the source of the leak, investigators to reach no definitive conclusion and thus no punishment for the leaker.

     Second, if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, it came too late for 63 million babies.  That is the estimated number of children who have been killed in the womb since the 1973 decision.  The U.S. aborted more than 1 million annually between 1975 and 2012.  Abortion on demand helps foster a culture that devalues life.  Mother Teresa said, “The greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child.  If we accept a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?”

    Third, the leak strategy could work.  Chief Justice Roberts said the draft is not the final decision, which could indicate further deliberations on the case could be in the works. Justice Brent Kavanaugh is said to be the least conservative of the conservatives on the court and the pro-abortion crowd will do everything in their power to get him to flip his vote.  Conservatives should hold off on celebrating until the actual decision is released (expected in June).  Conservatives have been stabbed in the back by so called conservative judges before. 

       With high fuel and food prices and the stock market in decline, Democrats needed an issue that will get their vote out.  Nothing fires up liberals and gets them to the polls like killing unborn babies in the womb.   

Sunday, May 1, 2022

OKLAHOMA JUDICIARY SYSTEM NEEDS MAJOR REFORM!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

BUSY SUPREME COURT!

by Steve Fair

     Last week, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed SB#1100, authored by Senator Michael Bergstrom, (R-Adair), and Representative Shelia Dills, (R-Tulsa).  SB#1000 requires the biological sex designation on a birth certificate be either male or female and prohibits a nonbinary or any symbol representing a nonbinary designation, including the letter “X.”   The bill passed the House by a vote of 75-16 and the Senate by a vote of 38-7.  Oklahoma is the first state to pass legislation dealing with birth certificate gender designation.    

     ″We want clarity and truth on official state documents.  Information should be based on established medical fact and not an ever-changing social dialogue,” Dills said.   Bergstrom added: “We must stand up and put a stop to this nonsense regarding biological sex. It’s not a complicated issue — biologically, you’re either a male or female. There should be no other option to choose from on a birth certificate.” Critics of the SB#1100 claim it is an attack on their personal identity and creates barriers for housing and employment. 

     SB#1503, authored by Senator Daniels and Representative Todd Russ, (R-Cordell), creates the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act.  It provides a physician may not knowingly perform or induce an abortion unless they have determined whether the unborn child has a detectable fetal heartbeat.SB#1503 was approved by the state House by a vote of 68-12 and the Senate by a vote of 33-11.  SB#1503 will now go to the Governor’s office for his signature. Three observations:

     First, the need to pass laws on both of these issues would have been unthinkable just fifty years ago.  American culture has moved further and further away from common sense and more to the bizarre.  Accepting wrong as right and doing what is right in your own eyes is the order of the day.  Civility is out the window.  The tolerant are intolerant.  Respect for a differing opinion is considered weakness.  The times, they are crazy.

     Second, expect the birth certificate bill (SB#1100) to be ruled unconstitutional.  The U.S. State Department lost a federal suit to have only two gender designations on passports.  The State Department recently issued a passport with the gender designation of X.    

        Third, motives are not always pure.  An Oklahoma Democrat legislator publicly declared Republicans are using these issues (gender identity/abortion) to ‘grandstand’ for their upcoming 2022 campaign.  In certain case, that may be true.  Just like Mr. Democrat using these same issues to ‘grandstand’ to his base. Mr. Pot- meet Kettle.  Motive is what moves people to induce a certain action.  It is impossible another person’s motive, but in politics, it is universally self-serving.

     In the coming days, the state Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of these two bills- and others.  The court is composed of nine (9) justices, who are nominated by a state commission and then appointed by the governor for life.  Justices face voters every six years on a retention ballot. Since Oklahoma went to a retention ballot, no judge has been removed from office.   

     Expect inconsistent, unpredictable, varying, incoherent rulings that don’t square with Oklahoma values for the high court.  Oklahoma needs radical judicial reform, because the judicial retention system does not work.  The result is a judiciary not being accountable to the people.   

Sunday, April 24, 2022

TAXPAYERS SHOULDN'T BE EXPECTED TO BAIL OUT THOSE WHO WILLINGLY ASSUMED STUDENT LOAN DEBT!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES!

by Steve Fair


       Student loans in America amount to more than $1.7 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve.  That is the second largest amount of debt for U.S. households, behind mortgages.  46 million people have student loan debt (13% of the total population). 8 million are in default on their student loan.  The average student loan debt is $32,731.  40% of people with student loans didn’t finish college. 61% of those in default owe less than $10,000. 

     President Biden has said he favors forgiving $10,000 of student debt, but Congress hasn’t warmed to the idea and he has been relucent to do it by Executive Order (EO).  Senator Elizabeth Warren, (D-Massachusetts) said Sunday on Face the Nation, she is pushing Biden to forgive $50,000 of student debt.  She claims Biden has the authority to do it by EO and he needs to do it before the midterms.    

     In the late 1990s, then U.S. Senator Joe Biden played a role in helping establish and expand the current student loan system, which makes taxpayers co-signers on every student loan.  Biden was one of the architects of bankruptcy reforms making it hard for those with student loan debt to discharge their student loan debt by declaring bankruptcy.  President Biden likely regrets that.  Three observations:   

     First, the government and higher education created the student loan debt crisis.  The default crisis is a direct result of the fed’s reckless student lending policy.  There is certainly a role for government in fixing it, since they created it, but that role is not to cancel loan debt.  Colleges and institutions of higher learning ‘sold classes’ to students who had no business going to college.  Colleges were more interested in increasing revenue than educating students. 

     Second, forgiveness of student loan debt will increase inflation.  The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget(economists) estimate cancelation of 10k of student loan debt per person will increase inflation by .5 percentage rates over the next year.  Senator Warren (not an economist) disagrees.  “As President Biden himself says, the way we deal with inflation is not by making people poorer.  The way we deal with inflation is we attach high prices head on, such as price gouging.  We straighten out the supply chain, so goods can come in to people.  Canceling student loan debt is something that would be good for people all across this country and more importantly, good for our economy overall.”  Warren said.   The government has neither the manpower or the brainpower to police price gouging, let alone fix the supply chain?  Government bail outs and giveaways are why we have inflation. 

     Third, borrowers should be responsible for their student loans.  While the government’s irresponsible lending practices and college’s zeal to sell classes to people played a role, the borrower made the decision to incur the debt.  It is not the taxpayer’s responsibility to ‘bail them out.’   Government should reduce administrative fees and seizures on borrowers who are in default.  Those fees often result in more than the principal.  They need to make sure low-income borrowers never face a situation where they can’t make the monthly payment.  They should guarantee those who owe less than $20,000 who are making payments on time never go backward because of fees.  The feds should penalize colleges where class selling is a practice and limit their ability to be eligible for student loans.  Ultimately, the person who signed the note, and not the taxpayers, should be responsible for the debt.  Actions have consequences.

     President Biden has extended a repayment moratorium on repayment, interest and collections for federal student loans to August 31st. This is the fourth extension since Biden took office.  Expect some sort of student loan debt forgiveness before the midterms.  With $4 gasoline and record food prices, Democrats must do something to excite their base.  If Biden cancels student loan debt, it will reinforce the idea Americans should rely on the government to fix their problems when they willingly assumed the risk. 

Sunday, April 17, 2022

VOTERS SHOULD LEARN TO VET CANDIDATES & NOT GET CAUGHT IN THE VORTEX!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

A POLITICAL TORNADO!

by Steve Fair

     Last week, a host of candidates filed for office in Oklahoma.  The Sooner state is one of only two that have both U.S. Senate races on the ballot (California is the other) in 2022.  A total of 26 candidates filed for the two seats.  13 Republicans filed for the seat currently held by U.S. Senator Inhofe.  U.S. Senator James Lankford, up for re-election, faces 2 opponents in the GOP primary.  The 2nd Congressional district seat, currently held by Congressman Mark Wayne Mullin, who is running for the Inhofe senate seat, has 14 Republicans vying to replace him. 

     Governor Kevin Stitt faces 3 primary opponents.  Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell has no Republican opponent.  State Auditor Cindy Byrd faces a Republican primary opponent and State Labor Commissioner Leslie Osburn has 2 GOP opponents.  3 statewide ‘open’ seats (no incumbent) drew multiple Republican candidates.  There are 3 GOP candidates for State Treasurer, 3 for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and 4 for Corporation Commissioner.  The Attorney General race has 2 Republicans facing off in the primary.  The current AG was appointed by Governor Stitt, so technically it is an ‘open’ seat as well.  Only 1 statewide elected official did not draw an opponent, Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready. 

     In the judicial and District Attorney races, 116 of the 148 non-partisan judges were unopposed.  22 of the state’s 27 DAs didn’t draw opponents.  9 of the 24 state senators up for election were unopposed.  32 of the 101 state representatives didn’t draw opponents.   A candidate’s hope is to file unopposed, thereby avoiding a campaign. Three observations:

     First, Oklahoma Republicans will need to buy bigger mailboxes and stop watching TV.  GOP voter’s mailboxes are about to be full.  With the Republican primary just 70 days away (Tuesday June 28th), candidates will be bombarding voters with multiple mail pieces.  Slick, well produced television ads will dominate the airways.  Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms will be flooded with political content. 

     Candidates will tout their superior qualifications, intelligence, judgment and their opponent’s shortcomings and deficiencies.  The truth in labeling Act doesn’t apply to politics, so not everything that will be mailed will be truthful.  Campaigns bank on ‘low information’ voters(people who only pay attention every two years).  That avoid the hard issues and instead appeal to voters on an emotional level, because it is a proven tactic. 

     Second, voters need to learn to properly vet candidates.  Don’t begin questioning a candidate with an editorial statement of your position on the issue.  You are not the candidate.  The goal is to find out what the candidate’s stance is on the issue. They are the one casting the vote.  Listen carefully to the candidate’s respond and insist the question is answered clearly and concisely.  When viewing campaign ads and material, recognize candidates always paint themselves in a positive light and their opponent in a negative light.  Ask people who are more engaged than you in the political process about candidates.  Pray and ask God to give you insight and discernment about who to cast your vote for.  Don’t base your voting decision on a yard sign, a mail piece, a TV ad, or an eloquent speech.  Your vote is a sacred right- cast it wisely.  All candidates/politicians are not alike.  Be an informed voter.

     Third, respect all who run for office.  It takes courage and resolve to file for office.  In a self-governed system of government, having good people put themselves up for scrutiny by running for elective office is no small thing.  You can disagree with their ideas without being disrespectful, insulting, or mean-spirited. 

     In 70 days, most of the statewide races will be decided.  Democrats have a slim chance of winning a statewide race in Oklahoma, so whoever wins the GOP primary will likely cruise to victory in November.  Get ready for a political tornado the next 2 months.  Don’t get caught in the vortex!

Sunday, April 10, 2022

U.S. PUTTING THEIR FOOD INTO THEIR FUEL TANKS!

Weekly Opinion Editorial 


DON’T EAT THE SEED!

by Steve Fair

     Wheat is typically milled/ground into flour that is then used to make bread, pasta, crackers, and many other products.  Wheat is one of the oldest and most important of the cereal crops.  It is the second largest grain planted worldwide, based on acreage and production volume.   China, India, and Russia are the countries who produce the most wheat.  Combined those three nations produce 41% of the world’s total wheat.  America and Canada round out the top five, Ukraine is #6.  Ukraine is the 5th largest exporter of wheat in the world, but have halted exports of wheat to insure a domestic food supply for their own people. The United States produces 2.2 billion bushels of wheat per year and consumes a little over half that amount. 

   Wheat got started in the U.S. when a Ukrainian Mennonite named Bernard Warkentin came to the United States in 1872 at the age of 25 to study the U.S. agriculture, economic and political climate.  He married a girl from Illinois and they settled in Halstead, Kansas, where he built a grist mill for grinding wheat.  Warkentin encouraged his fellow Ukrainian Mennonites to bring Turkey Red hard winter wheat seed with them to Kansas.  By 1874, the Kansas countryside was sown with Turkey Red and soon after Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Oklahoma, West Texas and the Dakotas were growing the hardy, high yield Turkey Red.  Warkentin owned mills and elevators in Kansas and Blackwell, Oklahoma.  So how is that relative to politics?  Three observations:

     First, Americans are paying more for food than they were last year.  It’s not just products made with wheat.  According to the Consumer Price Index, published by the USDA, food prices (at home & restaurant) are up +7.9% vs. last year.  Grocery store food purchases are up +8.6%.   There are four basic reasons for the increases: (1) decrease in food processing production due to supply chain, labor, and transportation issues.  Food processors are struggling to keep up with demand and struggling even more to keep up with increases to produce.  If they are not able to ‘pass through’ increases, they don’t survive. (2) transportation issues for imported foods, like seafood(65% of seafood is imported), (3) eating more at home.  Overall food consumption is up and many households are stockpiling food, (4) bad weather which has affected crops.

     Second, America is putting too much of their food supply in their fuel tanks.  From corn in Ethanol to soybean oil in diesel, the use of vegetable oils in fuel impact food prices.  Last week, the Edible Oils coalition met with representatives of the White House Office of Management and Budget(OMB), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Environment Protection Agency(EPA), and the USDA to raise concerns about soybean oil pricing.  The price has tripled in the past year.  Soybean oil is used to make a cornucopia of food products, including mayonnaise and pourable dressings.  The coalition pointed out the biodiesel mandate threatens the supply and dramatically impacts the price of soybean oil- and other edible oils.  They asked the administration to relax the biofuel mandate to stabilize pricing and insure supply of edible oils. 

     Third, even with higher food prices, Americans still have it better than the rest of the world. The average household in the U.S. spends $7,500 annually on food(restaurants, grocery stores).  Food constitutes 10% of the average U.S. household monthly budget.  In Uganda, two thirds of household income is spent on food.  60% of the population in Russia spend 40% of their income on food.  

     A very real threat to the food supply in America is the potential loss of food processors.  Most processors are family owned, small to middle sized businesses, who produce the bulk of U.S. food. They can’t survive without passing through increases to the consumer.  They can’t stay in business losing money. When a processor disappears, prices increase due to loss of production capacity. 

     At the Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum is a ‘seed chest.’  It is the one Warkentin carried the precious Turkey Red seed in from the Ukraine to Kansas 151 years ago.   Warkentin guarded the chest because he valued food, but he didn’t eat the seed on the journey over.  America’s biofuel mandates are America eating the seed.