Monday, April 30, 2018


Weekly Opinion/Editorial
by Steve Fair
   It is less than eight weeks before the June 26th primary election.  Between now and then, where two or three are gathered, there in the midst will be political candidates, extolling their honesty, integrity and experience.  They will be smiling, friendly and accessible.  Enjoy it because there are many you will not see again until they are up for re-election.  Accessibility and interest in you and yours often ends once a politico has your vote. 
     There are ten Republicans running for Governor in 2018.  Six of those candidates have been running for a year.  Those six will be participating in a forum in Duncan at the 14th annual Stephens County GOP Fish Fry on Saturday May 19th at the Fairgrounds.  This event has become the largest single gathering of Republicans in the state outside of a state GOP convention.  Because of the number of primary voters attending, every serious candidate for statewide office will be in attendance.  The SCGOP intentionally keeps the admission price low to insure affordability for anyone interested in attending. 
     While the GOP governor’s race has a crowded field, there are also GOP primary races for 4th district Congress, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, State Auditor, State School Superintendent, Labor Commissioner, Insurance Commissioner, and Corporation Commissioner.  There are a total of twenty two (22) candidates are on the ballot for those offices.  The Stephens County Fish Fry presents a unique opportunity to meet, visit and question those candidates one on one before the primary.  Everyone is invited, but registered Republicans should seize this opportunity to see some many candidates in one spot at the same time- and of course, they get to eat some fish.
     In my opinion, political candidates should be evaluated using the C.E.A.T. method.  C is for character.  It goes without saying that a candidate must be honest, a person of integrity and character.  It is amazing how many people run who have skeletons in their closets and those doesn’t always fall out until after their election.   E is for experience.  A candidate must be qualified to do the job they are running for.  If they don’t have the background, training, or education, then they shouldn’t be considered.  Elected officials should not be novices and learn on the job.  A is for accessibility.  They be responsive after they are elected.  They should return phone calls and follow up in a timely way.  There shouldn’t be a firewall of staffers, protecting them from their constituents. T is for temperament.  They should be able to keep their head when those around them are losing theirs.  They should be able to maintain their composure under pressure. They should take their work seriously, but not themselves seriously.  Of all the attributes, temperament may be the most important.  Can they stay in the background and let others take the credit?  Unselfishness is a rare trait in modern public servants, but if the voters made it a prerequisite for election, Oklahoma would be a better state.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Raid is an attack on our collective liberty!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
By Steve Fair
     The sixth amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees a citizen the assistance of counsel in all criminal prosecutions.  Implied in that guarantee is the confidentiality of attorney-client privilege.  A client should be assumed confidentiality when they are talking with their attorney and preparing a defense.  In other words, what you tell your lawyer should remain between you and your lawyer.  In fact, according to a Supreme Court ruling in 1998- Swidler & Berlin vs. United States, it is even in effect after the client dies.  Swidler & Berlin were Vince Foster’s lawyer and President Clinton wanted his lawyer’s handwritten notes, but the court said attorney-client privilege was still in force.
     Two weeks ago, the offices and hotel room of President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen were raided by the FBI in conjunction with the New York U.S. attorney’s office and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  Reportedly Cohen’s cellphones, tablets, and laptop were searched for incriminating evidence regarding a payment to Stormy Daniels, a porn star, who claims she and Trump had an affair. Cohen, who has a long history with the POTUS, has said he would go to the mat for Trump.  We may soon see when the FBI and the Special Counsel throw the white light on him. Trump has called Mueller’s investigation a ‘witch hunt,’ and defended Cohen as a fine man.
     Alan Dershowitz is a political liberal, was the youngest law professor in Harvard history, and no fan of President Trump.  “I am a liberal who voted against Trump, but who insists that his civil liberties must be respected for all of our sake.”  In an editorial in The Hill, Dershowitz said that if Hillary Clinton’s lawyer’s office had been raided, the ACLU, and privacy advocates would have been up in arms.  He says it is because they disagree with Trump’s policies.  That (remaining silent) is a serious mistake, because these violations establish precedents that lie around like loaded guns capable of being aimed at other targets,” Dershowitz wrote.
     Dershowitz is right- all citizens, liberals, conservatives, libertarians, Democrats, Republicans alike should be united in their outrage. Violating a constitutional right of one citizen weakens our system of government.  If the POTUS’s constitutional rights can be violated, it is certain it can be done to us. Where is the outrage from the legal community?   Why haven’t the barristers, the stewards of the law, been more vocal? 
     President Trump called the raid a disgrace.  “It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense.  It’s an attack on what we all stand for,” Trump said. Whether you agree with Trump’s policies or personality or not, every citizen should be concerned.  Even if you believe the POTUS did something illegal, Mueller’s raid of Trump’s lawyer violates the very core of who we are as a country- the right to privacy and attorney-client privilege.  If this is allowed to stand without consequences for those responsible, it will change America and not for the better.  

Monday, April 16, 2018

We get the government we deserve when we don't properly vet!

Weekly Opinion/Editorial
by Steve Fair

     Last week 794 candidates filed for state and federal offices at the state Capitol.  That is the highest number since 2006, when 594 filed.  Of the 101 state House members, only 15 were unopposed.  One half of the state Senate is up for re-election(24 seats) and just four were re-elected without opposition.  Of the 19 legislative seats that were unopposed, 14 were Democrats.
   Many of the new candidates were from the education field.  Since teachers were at the Capitol during the filing period, some threw down their $750 or $500(depending on the office) without premeditation and cast their hat into the political arena.  The Oklahoma Democrat Party Chair was excited about all the candidates, both at the legislative and statewide level.  Four years ago, three statewide offices went uncontested by Democrats.  This year, Democrats didn’t file for the State Treasurer and State Auditor positions.
     Several legislative Republican incumbents drew primary opponents after an organization called Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite! recruited challengers to lawmakers who voted for the recent tax increases.  Expect some upsets in the GOP primaries.  Those incumbents face the challenge of convincing fiscal conservative Rs they haven’t abandoned GOP principles when they voted for the largest tax increase in Oklahoma history.
     Ten Republican candidates filed for Governor, six were expected.  They join two Democrats and three Libertarians for a total of fifteen seeking the state’s chief executive position.  All but one are male. former State Senator Connie Johnson is running as a Democrat.  In total, thirty two Republicans filed for statewide elective office and only thirteen Democrats. 
     First, expect a runoff in the Republican gubernatorial race.  With ten candidates, it is an almost a mathematical certainty no one candidate will get 50% plus one vote in the June 26th primary.  If the four candidates who filed unexpectedly pull just 10% of the vote combined, they will have a major impact on the race. 
     Second, spontaneous candidates seldom win.  That doesn’t mean they never win, but success in politics requires planning and timely execution.  While the Ds may field candidates,  most of those who impulsively filed will not be elected.      
     Third, Republican voters need to start paying attention.  The primary is Tuesday June 26th- just seventy days/10 weeks away.  With 32 statewide candidates, expect your mailbox to start filling up with campaign propaganda.  Every candidate will tell you what you want to hear, but it is the responsibility of the voter to vet candidates.  Most of the statewides will be at upcoming events sponsored by your local GOP.  Make an effort to meet those candidates, ask them hard questions and determine if they have the ability and the temperament to do the job.
   Modern politics has evolved into slick marketing and voter/consumer behavior science.  That has resulted in candidates elected who can’t or won’t do what they claim they will.  After they are elected, they ignore you because they are obligated to the special interests that financed their campaign.  The only way to stop that cycle is to show up and ask questions.  Until a groundswell of citizens start paying attention all the time and not just 90 days every two years, Oklahomans will get the government they deserve.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

People Pay Taxes!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     Governments, at all levels, derive revenue through taxation.  Usually that revenue is obtained by taxing three economic bases: income, consumption, and wealth.  Income and wealth tax is progressive. Consumption tax is accessed on everyone equally, normally at the point of purchase.  Government then takes that revenue and funds services for the citizens- infrastructure, education, law enforcement, and so on. 
     Because only people pay taxes, government uses both direct and indirect methods to tax their citizenry.  If a business incurs an increase in their costs of doing business, they can’t absorb the new cost and remain viable, so they pass those increases onto their customers in the form of a price increase.  For example, when the price of peanuts goes up, the price of a jar peanut butter goes up.  When the price of diesel goes up, the price of a jar peanut butter goes up.  When the price of oil goes up, the PET jar the peanut butter is in goes up and so does the price to the consumer.  When the government taxes corporate profit, the price of a jar of peanut butter goes up.  Get the picture?  Every cost component is passed onto the customer- to people.  No business pays taxes.  They can’t and remain in business.  It is a fundamental economic principle.  Every tax ultimately winds up being paid by the consumer.
     Taxation can reach a point of diminishing returns.  In other words, it can become excessive.  If a tax places too much burden on the citizens, instead of producing more revenue to government, it will do exactly the opposite.  Government always bases their estimates of what a tax will produce in revenue on how businesses and citizens have behaved before the tax was imposed.  Very often, that doesn’t happen.  They adjust and avoid the tax, revenue doesn’t materialize and in the process the overall economy suffers.
      Last week, the Republican controlled Oklahoma state legislature voted to increase your taxes again.   Both chambers voted to collect sales tax from online retailers like Amazon.  Twenty million of the revenue is earmarked for education.  They also voted to expand casino gambling in the state, by passing the so-called ‘ball and dice,’ bill, which will allow Las Vegas style gaming and betting in the state.  The legislature has failed to understand the simple principle that gambling produces nothing.  The expansion of gambling will ultimately cost state government in increased social programs, law enforcement, and corrections cost. 
      A 2013 study by the Institute for American Values found that as casinos have become so prevalent, so has problem gambling.  The study also found that proponents of casino gambling often say that casinos provide entertainment for many Americans who enjoy occasional gambling, but a large proportion of casino revenue comes from problem and pathological gamblers. Evidence points to the conclusion that casinos disproportionately rely on problem and pathological gamblers for their revenue base.  The problem gamblers very often cost taxpayers.  Expansion of gambling in Oklahoma is a short-sighted solution to a long term problem.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Education Lobby Plays on Emotions of Oklahomans!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
     This week, thousands of Oklahoma teachers walked out of their classrooms and gathered at the state Capitol to lobby the state legislature for more education funding.  Last week, the legislature passed and the Governor signed a bill that was the largest tax increase in Oklahoma history.  The increased revenue will give a $6,000 average annual pay raise for Oklahoma teachers, and smaller amounts for teacher aides and state workers.  The Oklahoma Education Association have demanded the legislature figure out how to give the teachers a $10,000 raise or they will continue the walk-out. Five observations:
      First, no one disputes that Oklahoma teachers are underpaid.  As the husband of a 40 year educator, I can assure you my wife deserved more money than she made all those years, but so did her jelly salesman husband.  All Oklahomans are underpaid, not just teachers.  Oklahomans are making $5-7,000 per year less than a Texan doing the same job.  That’s the case for teachers, auto mechanics, cashiers, lawyers, doctors, etc.  
      Second, citizens who don’t support more taxes are not anti-education or anti-teacher.  It’s unfair to caricature or condemn someone simply because they don’t trust the education establishment.  For years, they have been told if ‘x’ was done, education would be set in Oklahoma.  Liquor by the drink, pari-mutuel betting, Indian Gaming compact, and a lottery were all sold to Oklahoma voters as answers to education funding. They all failed to meet revenue expectations, so who can blame the skeptic?  They have no reason to believe this tax increase will solve the problem of education funding in Oklahoma.
     Third, Oklahoma common education must start talking about more than money.  Oklahoma has too many school districts (514).  Consolidation is a dirty word to education, but its past time for it to be done.  An honest evaluation of the Oklahoma education model and a plan of action to improve efficiency must be done.  Mark Twain said, “Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.”  In Oklahoma we have unlearned how to be efficient in educating our children.
     Fourth, this is an emotionally charged issue.  When you start talking about teachers and education, emotion rules the day.  It involves our children and grandchildren.  Everyone, even those who oppose tax increases, want what is best for the children.  The education lobby very effectively uses emotion to appeal to students and parents to support the cause, and that draws in some people who normally wouldn’t support huge tax increases.  So long as they are aware of their actions, they are free to support more taxes for education, but it is the right of every citizen to support or not support an issue.
     Fifth, we live in a democratic republic where the people are self-governed.  All of those state legislators, both those who supported the tax increases and those who opposed, will ultimately face voters at the ballot box.  It remains to be seem if they were ‘listening to their district,’ when they voted for the largest tax increase in Oklahoma history.