Monday, March 26, 2018

State House passes largest tax increase in state history!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

    On Monday night, the Republican led state House of Representatives passed HB #3705 by a vote of 94-6.  The bill appropriates $2.9 billion to common education (K-12) the next fiscal year.  This is the earliest the Oklahoma legislature has passed an education budget in several years.
     Debating into the evening, the House also voted 79-19 to approve HB #1010, which if passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor, will raise gross production tax to five percent, add a dollar tax on a pack of smokes, add three cents on gasoline and six cents of diesel and tack a five dollar fee on hotel/motel stays. 
     The revenue raised will be used to raise teacher pay by an average of $6,000 a year ($5,435 a year for a starting teacher/$9,268 for one who has taught 25 years), and give school support staff a $1,500 annual raise and state employees a $1,800 a year raise.  During debate, State Representative Kevin Calvey, (R-OKC) argued that #1010 was virtually the same bill Oklahoma voters rejected in November 2016 on a statewide ballot and it was a cinch the 45,000 signatures needed will be gathered to put it on the November 2018 ballot for repeal consideration.  With Continental Resources Chairman Harold Hamm in the House gallery, Calvey went on to contend that raising the Gross Production Tax from 2% to 5% will cost oil/gas jobs in the state. 
     The Oklahoma Education Association established an April 1 deadline for lawmakers to pass a $10,000 teacher pay raise or state teachers would walk out of classrooms.  It remains to be seen if the passage of these bills will stave off the threatened strike by educators, since it falls short of what their demands were.
     The disappointing thing is once again the education lobby won because self-described fiscal conservatives in control of the legislature caved.  Education didn’t have to agree to consolidate administrative services, school districts, or submit to comprehensive audits of school districts.  They just threatened to walk-out and lawmakers caved.  No Oklahoman disputes teachers in Oklahoma deserve a raise, but so do the butchers, bakers and candlestick makers.  Unfortunately, those people can’t afford to stage a walk-out because they can’t afford to take the day off.  They have to work to pay their taxes.
        Republicans traditionally have been known for smaller government and fought for citizens to keep more of their hard earned money, but here on planet Htrae, Republicans perform exactly the opposite of what you expect.  On this cube-shaped planet we now live on, you can expect elected officials to contradict logic and adhere to the Bizarro Code.  Voting doesn’t match their campaigning.  Press releases and public speeches contradict their actions.  It is no wonder the average citizen thinks politics and politicians are crooked, dirty and unethical- after all, we’re on Htrae. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Trump is unorthodox, but effective!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
     Last week, President Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.  There had been rumors the POTUS and Tillerson had their differences.  Tillerson, who was raised in Wichita Falls and once headed Exxon Mobil, had supposedly called Trump a ‘moron’ eight months ago after a tense meeting at the Pentagon, but that was likely not the reason for the firing.  Tillerson and Trump had clashed over foreign policy for months.  Tillerson is a globalist and  often contradicted Trump, which confused foreign governments as to whether the SOS was actually speaking for the United States.  Tillerson was selected to be the nation’s top diplomat after Trump and he clicked after an interview at Trump Tower.  Tillerson, in his role at Exxon, had interacted with a number of heads of state and was confirmed by the Senate 56-43, the closest vote for SOS in the nation’s history.
     Immediately after announcing Tillerson’s firing, President Trump said he will nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to head State.  Pompeo, 54, is a former three-term Kansas Congressman, and a West Point graduate.  Before he got into politics, Pompeo ran an aircraft parts company in Wichita, Kansas.  Pompeo is closely identified with the Tea Party.  He and the president have a close personal relationship.  Pompeo personally delivers the Daily Briefing to Trump in the Oval Office.
     Some believe Trump fired Tillerson because he wanted a more hawkish team to deal with North Korea and Iran.  Clearly Pompeo fits that description.  Appearing on Face the Nation just two days after being nominated to head State, Pompeo said President Trump would get a better deal with North Korea, which already has nuclear weapons than Obama did with Iran, which had yet to acquire nuclear weapons.  “The previous administration was negotiating from a position of weakness. This administration will be negotiating from a position of enormous strength,” Pompeo said.  Pompeo is supposedly taking the lead role in the historic North Korea negotiations, but he will also have to deal with the Obama’s treaty with Iran, which Trump says he will renegotiate.  Couple those challenges with budget cuts and unconfirmed ambassadors and the next State department head faces no picnic.
    Trump was roundly criticized by politicos on both sides of the aisle on how he handled the firing of Tillerson and clearly he could have handled it better, but he appears he jettisoned Tillerson because of ideological differences.  That is not uncommon in any administration.  “It’s no secret the President is not a patient man. Now, he’s really out of patience and will be doing things his way,” an unnamed Republican Congressman said. “The President tried it their way and didn’t like what he was seeing. Now, he’s going to try it his way.” Just like Sinatra, Trump is doing it his way. The mainstream media, liberals, and many conservatives will not concede that Trump’s tactics, while unorthodox, appear to be working.

Monday, March 12, 2018

America has been losing the global trade war!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     A tariff is a tax, duty or fee imposed by a government on imported goods.  Tariffs are used by governments to do two things- generate revenue and to protect their domestic industries from foreign competition.  There are generally two types of tariffs.  Ad valorem tariffs are calculated as a fixed percentage of the value of the imported good.  When the price rises or falls, the tariff does as well.  The second type of tariff is a fixed or specific tariff.  It doesn’t vary with price.  Many tariffs are both fixed and variable. 
     Last week, President Trump announced a 25% tariff on all imported steel and a 10% tariff on imported aluminum.  “Today, I am defending America’s national security by placing tariffs on foreign imports of steel and aluminum,” the POTUS said.  Trump exempted Mexico and Canada from the tariff and said other countries can apply for exemption.  Trump’s action resulted in his chief economic advisor Gary Cohn’s resignation.  Cohn disagreed with imposing the tariffs because he believes they will result in higher prices for the American consumer and foreign governments will retaliate with tariffs on American exports. 
     Trump’s primary target is Chinese steel exports.  The Chinese production of steel is more than the U.S., Russia, Japan and Europe combined.  They have flooded the world market and due to cheap labor, they have a definitive advantage over the rest of the world.  By exempting Canada (the #1 steel exporter to the U.S.) and Mexico(#4), Trump has tempered the price increases U.S. manufacturers will incur.
     There was no shortage of Republican elected officials criticizing Trump’s decision.  Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said the move was misguided.  Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) said he hopes the tariffs will not result in ‘unintended consequences.’ Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) said he would introduce legislation to nullify the tariffs.  Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced a bill last year that would give Congress oversight on any trade agreement.   But it’s not likely Trump will sign a bill that restricts his authority to impose tariffs and it would be near impossible for a Republican lead Congress to override the veto.
     First, those who think Trump’s action will create a trade war are clueless.  America has been in a global trade war for the last fifty (50) years and losing.  During the last half century, elected officials, including a bunch of Republicans, have promoted policies encouraging free trade, but ignored fair trade.  As a result, manufacturing left America to other countries for cheap labor and those countries imported those cheap products back to the U.S.  
     Second, America is the largest consumer market in the world.  Countries that want to do business in the U.S. will not want to antagonize the situation, so retaliation is not likely to happen.  What is likely to happen is America having more leverage at the trade table and may result in a more level playing field.
     Time will tell if Trump’s tariffs will result in a tantrum or treaty from America’s trade partners.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Trump will not seek to repeal 22nd amendment!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
Pure Democracy is Mob Rule!
by Steve Fair
    The Washington Gridiron dinner is an event that features roasts by the media and by politicos.  Every President since Grover Cleveland has participated.  President Trump broke with tradition and chose not to participate last year and was roundly criticized by the media.  This year he showed up and the media blasted him.  In Sunday’s New York Times the editorial board said Trump’s praise for Chinese President Xi Jinping promoted ‘authoritarianism.’  At the satirical dinner Trump said about XI : “He’s now president for life- President for life.  No, he’s great.  Maybe we’ll give that a shot someday.”  The Times said, “There’s something in the man that impels him reflexively to celebrate the authoritarian model.  Mr. Trump was surely joking about becoming president for life himself.  But there can be little doubt now that he truly sees no danger in Mr. Xi’s great decision to extend his own rule until death. “The board was also critical of Trump’s relationship with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Erdogan and the Philippines Rodigo Duterte, who they described as brutal and autocratic rulers.  They conclude Trump is ‘uncomfortable with democracy,” and wants to serve more than eight years.
     First, Trump’s remarks about China’s Xi shouldn’t be taken serious.  They were made in jest.  The Times is just looking for something to criticize.  Trump gives the media enough ammo on policy and rhetoric without their sensationalizing a remark made at a roast. 
    Second, The United States is a democratic republic, not a pure democracy.  If the editorial board of the second largest newspaper in the country doesn’t know that, then we are in trouble.  Sadly, many citizens don’t know the difference and fail to see the genius in the Electoral College.  In the editorial the Times takes a shot at the Electoral College.  Sadly most Democrats and some misguided Republicans advocate abolishing it and electing the POTUS by popular vote.  If that had been the case in 2016, Hillary Clinton would be president.  Trump lost the popular vote by three million votes, but won the Electoral College vote.
      Three, after FDR died in 1945, Congress passed the 22nd amendment a couple of years later.  It was ratified by the states on February 27, 1951.  It limits the president to two terms in office, a total of eight years.  Americans recognized having a president serve more than eight years could be detrimental to the country and pushed for limiting the terms of the POTUS.  For Trump to serve more than eight years, the 22nd amendment would have to be repealed.  It won’t happen.
    Using fear and misinformation to push a socialist agenda, the New York Times clearly hate the American system of government.  Pure democracy is nothing more than mob rule.  That would present a far bigger threat to America’s future than eight years of Donald Trump.