Monday, April 27, 2020
Weekly Opinion Editorial
THE WHO SHOULD BREAK UP!
by Steve Fair
President Trump has directed a 60 day halt to payments by the United States to the World Health Organization (WHO), pending review of how it handled warnings about COVID-19 and China. The president maintains COVID-19 could have been contained at its source and spared lives had the WHO done a better job investigating reports coming out of China. During a conference call with the G-7 leaders, President Trump reiterated his complaints about the WHO, but after the call several of the G-7 leaders issued statements in support of WHO. The president did say the U.S. will continue to engage with the WHO to pursue meaningful reforms. Three thoughts:
First, who/what is the World Health Organization? It is an agency of the United Nations, charged with responsible for international public health. It was established in April 1948 and take credit for the eradication of smallpox and the near eradication of polio The WHO has 6 regional offices, employs 7,000 people in 149 countries, and has a $4.2 billion dollar annual budget, voluntarily funded by member countries. The U.S. contributes 15% of the total funding. China contributes about half that. Another of their funding sources is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which provides about 10% of the WHO’s annual funding. Another major source of funding is Rotary International. The WHO has not been without controversy. According to the Associated Press, the organization spends about $200 million annually on travel expenses, which is more than it spends to tackle mental health, HIV, Tuberculosis, and Malaria combined. A past Director/General of WHO once stayed in a $1,000 per night hotel room while visiting West Africa.
Second, President Trump is right to withhold funding. Holding the WHO accountable for their basic mission is not unreasonable. The president said the world depends on the WHO to work with member countries to make sure accurate information about health threats are shared in a timely manner. Clearly, China did not provide accurate or timely information and the WHO should have sounded the alarm earlier, but they seemed unwilling to dispute China’s account of COVID-19. That caused the virus to remain unchecked for weeks, which resulted in more deaths.
Third, health care has become very political. No place is it seen more than at the WHO’s response to COVID-19, but it’s also seen every time you visit your doctor. Instead of your physician making decisions on what your health needs are, lawmakers and insurance companies have mandated what can and can’t be done. Instead of the WHO sounding the alarm to save lives, they folded to political pressure from China.The WHO is nothing more than a ‘middleman’ that works with health organizations in member countries and then dissimilates information. Perhaps there should be a health organization that works with those members, but the WHO has become an bloated bureaucracy that is overstaffed and fails to perform their most basic function and should break up like the band the WHO(who broke up in 1983). President Trump is right to suspend funding, but unless reforms are made, that suspension should be permanent.
Monday, April 20, 2020
Weekly Opinion Editorial
QUIT PLAYING POLITICS
by Steve Fair
In the midst of the COVID-19 virus outbreak, politics continues. The Oklahoma legislature and Governor Stitt are fighting over the 2020 state budget. Last week, the legislature sent three budget bills to the governor’s desk. Stitt refused to sign one of the bills because it did not include funding for the Digital Transformation Revolving Fund(DTRF), one of his priorities. The governor said the funding is $930,000, legislators, $250,000. Stitt accused legislative leadership of playing ‘political games.’ On Wednesday, that legislative leadership sued the governor and the Board of Equalization after the governor canceled a meeting of the board. The petition asks the state Supreme Court to rule on Stitt’s authority to unilaterally cancel a Board of Equalization meeting. Until the board votes to declare a ‘revenue shortfall,’ the legislature cannot legally tap the state’s rainy day fund, whose funding is sorely needed to plug budget holes. Three thoughts:
First, what is the actual funding for the DTRF? Is it 250k or 930k or another number? Who is telling the truth? Either number is small in the grand scheme of the total 8 billion dollar budget, but it would be nice to know the correct number. The DTRF was created by the legislature in 2019 to implement digital transformation initiatives. Thus far they have implemented Oklahoma Mobile ID and Driver’s License, which allows citizens to apply for a digital ID or license. The fund is overseen by the governor’s cabinet appointees.
Second, both parties are playing politics, not just the legislature. When the governor made the decision to cancel the Board of Equalization meeting, he was ‘playing politics.’ The Board of Equalization is a seven member board chaired by the governor. It is composed of six Oklahoma state elected officials: the governor, lieutenant governor, state auditor, state treasurer, attorney general, state school superintendent, and the appointed by the governor, the secretary of agriculture. The board is responsible for providing an estimate of all revenue available to the state legislature for appropriation. They certify that number before the legislature convenes in February. When revenue shortfalls occur, they normally meet and declare a revenue shortfall, which allows the legislature to tap the Rainy Day fund. There is no doubt that eventually will happen, but Stitt is ‘playing politics’ when he doesn’t call the meeting in a timely way.
Third, the power of the office of governor since Stitt was elected has expanded. That did not happen in a vacuum. It occurred with the cooperation of the legislature. They passed legislation allowing the governor to hire/fire state agency heads. Legislative leadership proclaimed how important it was to give the governor more power. Constitutionally, Oklahoma’s governorship is one of the weakest in the U.S, but with the legislature’s help that has changed. The legislature’s contention Stitt is pulling a power grab is ironic since they were complicit in the grab.
The governor should call the BOE meeting, so a vote can be taken regarding a revenue shortfall. The legislature should restore reasonable funding for the governor’s pet project. Both parties should get on with the people’s business and quit wasting time and tax dollars playing politics.
Sunday, April 12, 2020
Weekly Opinion Editorial
Campaign Cycle Favors Incumbents!
by Steve Fair
Campaign filing is complete and there are a bunch of people running for elective office in Oklahoma in 2020. At the top of the ticket, Oklahoma’s senior U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe is up for re-election this cycle and he drew ten opponents-three Republicans, four Democrats, two Independents and one Libertarian. In the state senate, 8 of the 24 senators up for reelection drew no opponent. In the state house, 39 of the 101 state representatives filed unopposed. That is 38% of the legislators won’t face an opponent. It’s healthy for incumbents to face opposition because it forces them to explain their votes to their constituents. When they don’t draw an opponent, they assume their constituents think they are doing a bang up job- which may or may not be true. More often than not, incumbents didn’t draw an opponent because people aren’t paying attention to politics.
With COVID-19 and people quarantined, campaigning is going to be a lot different, especially for the primary races. The primary is Tuesday June 30th. The last day to register to vote to participate in the primary is June 5th. The deadline to request an absentee ballot in June 24th. Early voting for the primary will be Thursday June 25th, Friday June 26th and Saturday June 27th at your county courthouse. Go to https://www.ok.gov/elections/OVP.html to request an absentee ballot. Three thoughts:
First, this election cycle favors the incumbent. With candidates not being able to campaign face to face, name recognition becomes a huge advantage. Candidates challenging incumbents should have considered that before running. Incumbents win 95% of the time in normal circumstances. That will go up under current conditions. Anyone has a right to seek any office they want, but if your chances of winning are slim, perhaps you should withdraw before the ballots are printed. Many people run against an incumbent because they have ‘a bone to pick’ with the elected official. That is never the right motive and rarely do those looking for revenge win an election.
Second, voters should carefully scrutinize, analyze, examine, and inspect candidate’s campaign material. Incumbents provide voters the advantage of a track record and their voting record and decision making is fair game. Challengers have the advantage of telling you what they will do(or won’t do) without a track record. Recognize campaign material for what it is- propaganda for the candidate. In every campaign, candidates are trying to do two things- define themselves and define their opponent.
Third, the best elected officials are those who have the following attributes. (1) They are capable and fit for office. They are not a novice. Just because someone wants a position doesn’t mean they are qualified for that position. (2) They possess the right temperament for office. They can take criticism and don’t avoid questions from constituents. (3) They are accessible. They don’t avoid their constituents. Sadly, many elected officials only come out when they are up for re-election. (4) They are faithful. They have a track record of being trustworthy.
The primary election is just 2 ½ months away. Expect the campaign material to start hitting your mail box in the next couple of weeks. Make sure you connect with candidates by phone, email, or social media. Ask them hard questions and cast your ballot for someone who you can turn your back on.
Sunday, April 5, 2020
Weekly Opinion Editorial
APPLY FOR ABSENTEE BALLOT!
by Steve Fair
COVID-19 has dominated the news and our lives for the last two weeks. 350,000 Americans have tested positive for the virus and 10,000 have died. In Oklahoma, 1,300 have tested positive with 50 deaths. Congress passed and President Trump signed a 2 trillion(that is a million millions)relief bill that includes a one-time cash payment of $1,200 for individuals earning less than $75,000. Families will get $500 per child, so that means a family of four earning less than $150,000 can expect $3,400. The CDC and the White House recommend we continue to practice social distancing, work from home and if you have to go out wear a cloth mask to slow the spread of the virus. It appears the month of April will have Americans staying home until the virus peaks. But politics doesn’t stop even for a pandemic. Joe Biden is running ads criticizing President Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 situation. Three thoughts on the COVID-19 situation and a recommendation:
First, Trump didn’t create the virus. In spite of what the Chinese claims about the US military bringing the virus to their country, the virus appears to be similar in molecular structure of the SARS virus and was transferred from a bat to a Chinese man after he consumed the bat. A health crisis of this magnitude couldn’t have been anticipated. America’s preparation for a health care crisis was woefully inadequate. Testing, personal protective equipment, and infrastructure for a low probability, high risk event like COVID-19 wasn’t in place. That wasn’t Trump’s fault. Those areas have been underfunded and ignored for years, by leadership in both Parties. COVID-19 will probably change that, at least for the short term.
Second, Biden, Trump and other politicos should put the partisanship aside for now. In the midst of a health care crisis, it’s inappropriate to use it for political gain. That goes for both sides of the aisle. Biden’s ads are poorly timed and will probably not be well received by most voters. This is not a time for political positioning, but one when thoughtful sober dialogue should be exercised.
Third, America will come roaring back when COVID-19 is gone. The United States and Americans are a resilient country and people. The comeback may not be immediate. Experts say it may take 2-3 years for the economy to get to where it was, but most of the world will be well behind the U.S. Manufacturing that has fled America for other countries will likely come back. America should never have gotten as dependent on other countries for goods and service. Selling out fellow Americans to save a couple of bucks may be a thing of the past.
Candidates for office in Oklahoma file for office this week- April 8-10. State and federal candidates file in OKC, but candidates in county races file in their respective county. The primary election is Tuesday June 30th. With only God knowing what the future holds, Oklahoma voters should consider applying for an absentee balloting. Go to https://www.ok.gov/elections/Voter_Info/Absentee_Voting/index.html and follow the prompts to apply. You must apply by June 24th. Older voters should seriously consider applying. Stay safe!