Monday, December 25, 2017
Weekly Opinion Editorial
TRUMP’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN 2017!
by Steve Fair
2017 is coming to an end and politically it has been an interesting year to say the least. Since January 20th when President Trump was sworn into office, it has been a never ending series of hype and insults via Twitter. Arguably the first POTUS to be a true outsider, President Trump immediately begin to push his agenda, running into opposition from not only Congressional Democrats, but Republicans as well. But make no mistake, President Trump had some major accomplishments in 2017. Here are just three:
First, the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court was a clear victory for conservatives. Gorsuch replaced the late Antonin Scalia and has been a very able replacement. Senator Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA), said, “ We’ve got another Scalia. There is no sign of moderation from conservative orthodoxy. He votes right down the line. Everything-everything,” she said. “I’m surprised that it’s so comprehensive.”
Senator Mike Lee, (R-UT), said, “He's fantastic. He’s awesome. I'm a huge fan It’s going as I expected and my expectations were high, and I’ve not been disappointed in the least." "I think he is performing as a principled constitutionalist, which is exactly what we hoped for and expected," Senator Ted Cruz, (R-TX) said.
Second, the Republican tax-cut bill passage was an amazing accomplishment. It is the biggest tax legislation to be approved by Congress in thirty years. It cuts corporate income tax from 35% to 21%, which will stimulate job growth. It cuts taxes for most Americans in the middle class, but that’s not all.
It also eliminated the ObamaCare mandate that individuals buy insurance, which in and of itself was quite an accomplishment. It also opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration, something that even Ronald Reagan couldn’t get accomplished. Rest assured, this tax bill was a big deal.
Third, the POTUS pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement, signed an executive order granting a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and started the process to repeal the Clean Power Plan, which is nothing more than an attack on fossil fuels- particularly coal. The president appointed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head up the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt has stated the Clean Power Plan lacks the legislative authority to be enforced and has vowed to stop the war of coal.
By removing the regulations off the back of business, the U.S. economy has been stimulated. The stock market had its best growth year since 2013. Unemployment is at its lowest level in seventeen years and consumer confidence is also at a seventeen year high.
Critics of Trump will point to his failures, but few presidents in modern history have accomplished what he has in their first year of office. While President Trump’s unorthodox style of leadership often has politicos scratching their heads, he obviously has the confidence of job creators and investors- something that President Obama seriously lacked. If people vote with their pocketbooks, then Trump is likely headed to a second term.
Monday, December 18, 2017
Weekly Opinion Editorial
TAX CUTS CAN’T COME AT EXPENSE
OF NEXT GENERATION!
by Steve Fair
The federal tax proposal that Congress will likely pass and President Trump will sign has been the subject of debate, caricature and misinformation. Democrats said it benefits the rich because it will reduce the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% and repeals the financial penalties for not purchasing health insurance. Republicans say it will benefit the middle class and stimulate the economy(supply side economics) and ultimately be revenue neutral. It is estimated the bill will cut taxes $1.5 trillion dollars.
Critics of the plan say it will add to the national debt. Janet Yellen, the outgoing Federal Reserve Chair, told Congress last week that the national debt should keep Americans up at night. Yellen is no conservative and has always been more concerned with unemployment than with inflation, but she is right about the national debt issue. The national debt is quickly approaching $21 trillion dollars, half of it owed to foreign governments. That fact is not lost on Oklahoma’s junior U.S. Senator James Lankford. In late November Lankford asked about the effects of the tax cuts on the national debt: "What if the growth estimates don't hit point 0.4%? What happens? What should happen in the tax code to make adjustments? Every economist is guessing. We should build in the ‘what if.’ What if this doesn't work? What changes might be needed in the tax code in the days ahead to be able to adjust in what scenario? So, if the revenues aren't coming in, should the rates change?” Lankford asked. Since then and after some adjustments to the bill, Lankford has said he would support the bill.
Appearing on Face the Nation Sunday, Lankford was asked how he could support the tax bill because it would add to the national debt, Lankford said, “Actually, all the independent analysis doesn't note that. The joint committee on tax does note that, but the tax foundation doesn't. There's a lot of others. We have 130 different sets of economists that are out there and part of the challenge is always looking at which one is right. All of them are putting a forecast out there. All of them have different numbers. We have some as high as a 5% growth. We have some as low as 0.8% growth. All of them show economic growth. The guess is how much economic growth is in the bill itself. The target of any time you do tax reform is to try to reduce taxes on individuals and on businesses so they have more money to spend. They can spend that money, that encourages the economy to grow. We know it will grow. Now the guess is how much.”
Lankford is right to be concerned about the national debt. Giving Congressional Republicans and President Trump a legislative victory before Christmas is not nearly as important as being fiscally responsible. Everyone wants tax cuts, but not at the expense of our kids and grandkids.Want to know how the tax bill will impact your tax bill? Go to http://taxplancalculator.com. It is a site hosted by John Stossel’s producer
Monday, December 11, 2017
Weekly Opinion Editorial
UNCHAIN THE WATCHDOG!
by Steve Fair
The Oklahoma State Department of Health is responsible for protecting the health of all Oklahomans and providing other essential service. It serves as the primary public health protection agency in the state. It has a budget of $380 million annually and has over 2,000 staff. It is headed by the Secretary of Health, an appointee of the Governor. The State Board of Health is the governing body of the Health Department. The Board is composed of nine members appointed by the Governor with the approval of the Senate. Each Board member serves a nine-year term. Eight of the nine members represent specific county regions of the state and one member is appointed to represent the state at large. Dr. Terry Cline led the agency from 2009 until his recent resignation when it was discovered the department had a $30 million dollar shortfall.
First, the Department of Health is first and foremost responsible for this irresponsibility. If someone is determined to be dishonest, it’s not easy to catch them, but the department had an Office of Accountability Systems that coordinated audits, an internal auditor, and a nine member board, yet none caught the overspending. It appears the agency was using federal funds in areas they weren’t supposed to, which may require the state to have to reimburse the feds for the misuse. This cover-up had to be known by more than just a few mid-level staffers and hopefully those people will be exposed.
Second, the Office of Management & Enterprise Service, which handles the state’s finances, should have caught it. OMES has direct oversight of the Health Department. They employ budget analysts who monitor how agencies are transferring money and if monies are being spent as they are designated to be spent. This had been going on for years under the oversight of OMES.
Third, the Auditor’s office would likely have caught the shortage years ago if a comprehensive audit on the agency had been requested. The State Auditor & Inspector doesn’t have the authority to do a comprehensive, performance audit on state agencies without being asked by either the Governor or the Speaker and the Senate pro Temp. That needs to change.To avoid this happening again, citizens need to give the Auditor’s office power to audit. In the past seven years, because of politics, the legislature and the Governor have circumvented the constitutionally created office of State Auditor & Inspector by creating auditing commissions that report directly to them. They have cut the Auditor’s budget by 35% in both appropriations and manpower. The result has been the Health Department fiasco and who knows how many other agencies are doing the same thing. We have the state watchdog chained.
Monday, December 4, 2017
Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
How did Oklahoma state government get so dysfunctional? Just 4 years ago, Oklahoma was riding high. The price of oil was $100 a barrel and state government was flush with money. Now with the price less than half that, state government is struggling to pay the bills. After one special session failed, to give the Governor the funding she wanted, it appears she may call a second to address the budget shortfall. Here are some of the theories as to how we got to this point:
State Question #640: Some lawmakers and private citizens believe that SQ #640 places too high of a threshold to raise taxes. It requires any revenue raising bill to pass the legislature with a ¾ majority. It doesn’t prevent the raising of taxes or fees- it just makes it harder to achieve. Some lawmakers have vowed to work to repeal it (would require a vote of the people), but SQ #640 has been a saving grace for Oklahomans through the years. Before #640, the Democrat controlled legislature raised taxes every year as government continued to grow. #640 is definitely not the reason we have a dysfunctional state government.
Legislative Term Limits: Critics of term limits say citizens have always have term limits because elected officials could always be voted out at the ballot box. The fact is 95% of incumbents win. Opponents of terms limits also maintain we lost the ‘institutional knowledge’ long serving lawmakers had and the bureaucrats would gain power under term limits. There is some truth to both those theories, but term limits is not the reason we have a dysfunctional state government.
Price of Oil: Oklahoma state government is so dependent on gross production tax that when the price of oil declines, so does funding. There has been ongoing discussion for years to change that, but not the political will to execute it. But the price of oil is not the reason we have a dysfunctional state government.
Politics: For years, grassroots Republicans thought that electing a GOP legislature would result in smaller more efficient government, but that hasn’t been the case. Because of politics, performance audits conducted by the State Auditor have been limited. There has not been an audit of Higher Education in years and the acceptance of State Agency heads they had ‘cut to the bone’ is not questioned. Personalities and politics rule the day. Performance and pursuance are kicked like a can down the road.Politics is the reason we have a dysfunctional state government. Simply stated, Republicans are electing the wrong people to represent us at 23rd and Lincoln. Many lawmakers don’t understand the issues when they get there and are then educated by special interests. When you couple that with the fact the GOP infrastructure is crumbling and grassroots activists at the local level are discouraged and disgusted by the people they worked to elect and you get the current situation. How do you fix it? You don’t fix it by quitting- you double down and work twice as hard to get the government you want