Monday, September 30, 2013

Term Limts and Balance the Budget!

Weekly Opinion Editorial

by Steve Fair

     The federal government of the United States operates on an annual budget that runs from October 1st to September 30th.  Each year, Congress (both chambers) authorize/budget each department or government agency to spend a specific amount of money and then the President signs the budget. 

     The Budget Act of 1921 requires the President submit his ‘Budget Proposal’ to Congress by the first Monday in February.  President Obama has only met that deadline once – in 2010.  This year he was sixty five (65) days late. 

     With much and often heated debate, both chambers of Congress hack away at the president’s Budget Proposal to come up with its own version, known as the Budget Resolution. Like any other piece of legislation, the House and Senate versions of the Budget Resolution have to match.  Roughly one-third of the spending in the federal budget is “discretionary” spending, meaning it is optional. Just for your information, spending for Social Security and Medicare is referred to as “mandatory” spending. 

     In recent history Congress has not been able to agree on a budget by September 30th so they have been forced to pass a ‘continuing resolution’ to fund government until the budget is hammered out.  A ‘continuing resolution’ simply means that government will run as usual until the budget is completed. 

     No doubt you have read or heard about the 2014 budget and the funding/defunding of the Affordable Care Act- aka Obama Care.  House Republicans want to delay funding the controversial program and keep the existing government running.  Senate Democrats has taken the stance they will not compromise.  The Ds have said either pass the bloated, wasteful budget with Obama Care intact or they will shut the government down.  Three observations:

     First, the 2014 budget has a huge amount of wasteful spending in it and it is not limited to just the ACA.  The problem is government spending as a whole.  Lawmakers should be trying to identify waste in ALL the budget and eliminate it.  That is a more permanent solution than passing CRs.  In fact, the CR agreement the US House has proposed violates the Budget Control Act and funds the federal government at a higher rate than last year. 

     Second, registered Democrats and Independents should be as concerned about the government spending problem as Republicans.  Our current federal government spending trajectory is not sustainable.  America is broke.  When the economy collapses because America can’t pay her bills, it will impact everyone regardless of political affiliation.   

     Finally, what’s the harm in delaying implementation of the Affordable Care Act for a year?  It’s clear that a majority of Americans do not approve of the takeover of healthcare by the federal government and oppose it.  The most frequently asked question on the website for the ACA is; “How can I be exempted from the ACA?”   A majority of the states have refused to set up health care exchanges, so that proves the ACA is a not a popular program.  By delaying it allows government to work out some of the kinks in the law.   

     What is the long term solution to our budget woes?  Two amendments to the U.S. Constitution would help.  The first is a ‘balanced budget’ amendment.  Congress and the President must be forced to spend no more revenue that what is collected.  No family can spend more than they make and prosper long-term.  The federal government violates that simple common sense principle each and every year.  All U.S. States except Vermont have a balanced budget amendment.  If it’s good enough for the states, it’s good enough for the feds.  We can't expect our elected officials to show discipline in spending our money.  They have proven time and time again they don't understand simple economics.
     The second amendment is for term limits (12 years) for members of Congress (unless they are serving prison terms).  Our founding fathers never meant for elected officials to be career politicians, but the political ‘industry’ (lobbyists/consultants/policy hacks/big donors/elected officials) has become one of the most corrupt and incestuous businesses in the country.  Incumbents win over 95% of the time, so it's hard to get 'new blood' elected.  It's time to send the career politicians home to get a real job and to live in the real world. 

Monday, September 23, 2013


Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

In this year’s legislative session, the Oklahoma legislature passed and Governor Fallin signed into law, Senate Bill # 1062.  The bill replaced Oklahoma’s adversarial court-based worker’s comp system with an administrative system, similar to those in other states. 

Last week, Oklahoma Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon, (R- Lawton) expressed his excitement and gratitude to fellow conservative legislators after the National Council on Compensation Insurance, Inc. announced a projected double digit decrease in workers’ compensation costs.
The NCCI reported state businesses will see a projected average of -14.6 percent decrease in loss costs starting January 1. The NCCI credited the decrease to the workers compensation reforms in SB #1062.  That means there will be more money available to Oklahoma businesses for expanding their business, which translated means more jobs for Oklahomans.
“Oklahoma continues to be a leader by proving to the country that conservative pro-business policies lead to economic growth and prosperity,” Shannon said.  “By replacing an archaic adversarial system with a modern administrative system, we have opened the doors for employers and employees to settle claims in a fair and affordable manner. Businesses will see a reduction in costs and injured employees remain protected.”
Not all Oklahoma legislators believe workers comp reform is a good thing for Oklahoma.  On Tuesday, a lawsuit was filed with the Oklahoma Supreme Court asking the high court to determine the constitutionality of SB # 1062.  The suit was filed by Senator Harry ‘Turn’ Coates, (R-Seminole), State Representative. Emily Virgin, (D-Norman), and Rick Beams, president of the Professional Firefighters of Oklahoma.
“As a longtime      businessman, I recognize that it’s necessary to have workers compensation rates as low as possible,” ‘Turn’ Coates said. “In fact, I believe we need a workers compensation administrative system, just not the unconstitutional and unworkable system created by Senate Bill 1062.”  

The lawsuit alleges the new workers comp commission violates the state constitution’s separation of powers; that the law discriminates against certain classes of workers; and that it excludes certain injuries and conditions from compensation.  It also invokes the state constitution’s ‘single subject’ provision.  The suit names Gov. Mary Fallin, who signed the bill and Attorney General Scott Pruitt as defendants.
Fallin said she was disappointed by the legal challenge. “For decades, Oklahoma has one of the most expensive and inefficient workers compensation systems in the country, a constant obstacle for business owners looking to expand operations or create jobs,” Fallin said. Oral arguments are set for October 16. 

This suit is just a continuation of recent challenges to conservative legislation.  Lawmakers just concluded an unnecessary special session to address lawsuit reform after the Oklahoma Supreme Court found that a measure passed in 2009 was unconstitutional because is supposedly violated the ‘single subject’ rule.  Judicial activism is alive and well in the Sooner state.
It’s time lawmakers placed a state question on the ballot to return the selection of all Oklahoma state civil, criminal and supreme court justices to a direct vote of the people.  Justices should have to run on a partisan ballot.  Party affiliation is your first vote and voters should know if they are voting for a liberal or a conservative.

Monday, September 16, 2013


Weekly Opinion Editorial

by Steve Fair

     When the 2,572 page Affordable Health Care Act was being considered by the U.S. House in 2010, then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi famously said, “We have to pass it to find out what’s in it.”  You may be surprised to find out what’s in it is rated “XXX.”
    Betsy McCaughey, the former Lt. Governor of New York, and the author of, “Beating ObamaCare,” says the next time you go to the doctor- whether it is a dermatologist, cardiologist or your primary care physician, be prepared to answer some very intrusive questions about your sex life.  According to McCaughey, one of the tenets of ObamaCare is getting physicians to gather information about their patient’s sex life.  If they refuse, they face financial penalties.  
     “This is nasty business,” says New York cardiologist Dr. Adam Budzikowski. He called the sex questions “insensitive, stupid and very intrusive.” Budzikouski couldn’t think of an occasion when a cardiologist would need such information — but he knows he’ll be pushed to ask for it.  

     Four comments:

     First, asking Americans to reveal such private information is unconstitutional! The U.S. Supreme Court has found that the Constitution implicitly grants a right to privacy against governmental intrusion. This right to privacy has been the justification for decisions involving a wide range of civil liberties cases heard by the high court through the years.  This breach of our personal liberty in ObamaCare should make every American- no matter their political Party affiliation- livid. 
     Second, physicians will have to violate their Hippocratic Oath to comply!  Part of the oath says, “What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself holding such things shameful to be spoken about.” Physicians should not have to choose between the government and their patients. 
     Third, we can’t trust the government to keep information confidential!  Look at the NSA mess and the number of times a government agency gives out someone’s social security number.  Bureaucrats can’t be trusted to show up for work on time, much less keep information to themselves.
     Fourth, Most Americans have no problem telling their physician very personal information because they trust their doctor.  This requirement, if implemented, will damage the doctor/patient relationship.  Many Americans will either lie or refuse to answer questions that in years past they would have answered candidly. 
     Thanks to the National Rifle Association, Section 2716 of the ObamaCare law does forbid the federal government from compelling doctors and hospitals to ask you if you own a firearm.  They wanted to know if you had a weapon, but the NRA effectively killed that idea. But rest assured, the liberals will not give up. 
     The late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandis was a long time advocate for personal privacy.  Brandis said, “Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."

Monday, September 9, 2013

Where were you when the world stopped turning?

Weekly Opinion Editorial

by Steve Fair

     There are events that happen in our lives where you remember where you were when they happened.  I distinctly remember where I was on November 22, 1963 when President Kennedy was shot and killed.  I was in the fifth grade at Geronimo Elementary school in Mr. Hawthorne’s class.  I remember him crying and being upset that my teacher was so upset.  It was a dark day in America.
     I remember where I was on April 19, 1995 when the OKC bombing occurred.  I was in Evansville, IL on business and watched the news accounts on a television in a restaurant during lunch.  I recall seeing people I knew running down the street past a building in OKC where I used to work.  That hit very close to home.   
     I remember where I was on September 11, 2001.  Driving to OKC, I remember listening to the radio as the announcer described how a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.  At first, it was thought to be just an accident.  I remember watching on TV as a second plane flew into the second tower and then watched as the two towers came crashing down killing almost 3,000 people.  The realization then hit this was intentional. 
     On September 11, 2001, more Americans were killed than were at Pearl Harbor.  It was a dark day in America.   On Wednesday, we will mark twelve years since that fateful day.  What have we learned as a nation since 9-11-01?
     First, we learned that America has enemies.  Some liberal minded people mistakenly believe if you play nice with evil people, they will reciprocate with kindness.  That is just not the case with the Islamist terrorists America is at war with.  They hate our way of life and our country.  If you will study American history, you will find we have been at war with Muslim terrorists since before we became a nation.   Some countries in the world would love to see America wiped off the face of the map.  Those who fail to recognize that are living in a fantasy world.
     Second, we learned this war is not a conventional war. Our enemy is difficult to identify.  They don’t live in a particular country or geographical area.  They are nomadic and the tools they use are deceit and dishonesty.  They have no respect for human life and are willing to strap on a bomb and blow themselves up for the cause.  This isn’t your grandfather’s war- it’s being fought using a strange mixture of technology and guerrilla warfare.
     Third, we learned America lacks the commitment to winning the war.   We have alternately been aggressive and passive in our war on terror.  When liberals are in control of government, they mistakenly believe we can negotiate with terrorists.  Even when Republicans are in control, the resolve and will to winning the war often wanes.  There has not been a long term consistent commitment to winning the war.  The terrorists recognize this inconsistency and exploit it.    They hunker down when we are aggressive and wait for a more opportune time to attack. 
     Augustine wrote, “The purpose of all war is peace. “  Because of the nature of man, we know that war will always be with us.  Plato said, “Only the dead have seen the end of war,” but as we remember 9-11, let us pray that America will have the political resolve to fight the war to win it.  Anything less is defeat.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Omnia Vincit

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

On Monday Americans celebrated Labor Day.  For most it is just a chance to join family for a three day weekend.  Few know the origin and history of Labor Day.  Supposedly Matthew Maguire, a machinist and a union leader, from New York City proposed that a Parade of workers from various trades be conducted to exhibit to the public "the strength a of the trade and labor organizations.”  That tradition continues in many cities across the U.S. where organized labor unions are strong.  Labor Day became an official national holiday in 1894 when President Grover Cleveland signed it into law a mere six days after the infamous Pullman strike. 

Did you know that Oklahoma’s state motto is, “Labor Omnia Vinci.,” That is Latin for Labor Conquers All Things.  Labor Omnia Vincit was incorporated into the design of the Grand Seal of the Territory of Oklahoma during the second session of the Territorial Legislative Assembly held in Guthrie, January 1893.  State mottoes often reflect the character and beliefs of the citizens of the state and they can also give us insight into the history of a state.  While Oklahoma has little organized labor presence in the state today, but that wasn’t always the case.  Records show cowboys striking for higher wages in the panhandle in 1883.  Railroad, miners and agriculture union workers were among some of first settlers in the state.  The elected officials in the state for the first twenty years of statehood were supported and backed by organized labor.  That is how Labor Omnia Vinci became our state motto. 

In fact, in 1906, Governor Charles Haskell presented Samuel Gompers, the head of the AFL, with the pens used to sign the Oklahoma Constitution, "in commemoration of the first Constitution that has ever been written in the United States in which the labor interests have taken a part, the same protecting the interests of the common people more fully than any other Constitution in the United States."

But organized labor hurt Oklahoma.  Instead of attracting businesses to a centrally located state with a mild climate and hard workers, the state became a place to avoid.  Because of high labor costs, high taxes, and high workers compensation premiums, businesses stayed out of Oklahoma.  Many existing businesses left the state.    The result was a per capita income at or near the worst in the country for the first hundred years of statehood.

But Oklahoma is doing better.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, per capita income in Oklahoma is #32 in the U.S. - up from #42 just eight years ago.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Oklahoma is #11 in unemployment with an unemployment rate of 5.3%.  That compares to an unemployment rate of 7.4% nationally.  Why is the Sooner state doing better than the rest of the U.S.?  There is a simple reason:  Oklahoma has made significant policy changes.  When state voters overwhelmingly passed Right-to-Work in 2001, it removed an impediment to attracting and growing business in the state.  Two years ago, the legislature passed lawsuit reform, another obstacle to business.  When that law was struck down by the Supreme Court, it created the need for this week’s special session of the legislature.  Oklahoma has reduced state income taxes from 7.25% to 5.25% in just six years.  Oklahoma has begun to rebuild its crumbling infrastructure, spending more on roads and bridges than ever before.  And all this has happened in just the past ten years AFTER Republicans gained control of the state legislature.

Republicans understand the need for jobs and that keeping our most precious resources- our kids and grandkids- in the state is dependent on jobs.  Those kids must be able to find a job when they get out of school.  Labor conquers all is a great motto but without a job it’s just sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.