Sunday, May 22, 2022

THE PRICE OF FUEL IMPACTS E V E R Y T H I N G!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


GREEN HAS BEEN PAINFUL!

by Steve Fair

     According to AAA, the average price for a gallon of gas in the United States rose to a new record last week- $4.48 per gallon.  That is up $.15 from the previous week and $1.43 higher than the same day last year.   In California, the average is $5.98 per gallon.  In Oklahoma, it is $4.04. 

     From January 2021 to January 2022, crude oil prices increased 45%, blowing past records set in 2008. Gasoline and diesel prices are the highest on record since the Energy Information Administration (EIA) started keeping track in 1993. Natural gas prices are up 46%. Average household electricity prices haven’t grown this fast since 2008.  Coal prices have ticked upward after years of policy-driven decline.  Most of this comes after a series of orders by President Joe Biden to combat climate change. 

     Immediately after taking office, Biden issued Executive Orders(EO) cancelling the Keystone XL oil pipeline project and temporally suspending oil and gas permits on federal lands and waters.  The administration had to resume issuing new leases after the EO was struck down in federal court, but the Biden administration has appealed.  Three observations: 

     First, rising fuel costs impact everything.  Prices of food, clothing, and every other consumer good is higher because of increases in freight.  America’s freight rates have increased +43% in the past two years, primarily driven by fuel increases.  Businesses must pass through those fuel costs to survive. That is a major reason consumers are seeing higher prices at their local grocers shelf.   

     Second, fundamental economics dictate the way out of high prices and high demand is increased supply.  President Biden’s idea to increase supply has been to persistently reject allowing U.S. energy companies to ‘drill baby drill.’   Instead the Biden administration has been in negotiation with Venezuela to import oil to the U.S. Back in 2012, President Obama and then Vice President Biden said that America could not drill its way to lower gasoline prices, but U.S. energy companies proved them wrong.

     Third, the path to becoming ‘green’ has been painful.  President Biden is clearly committed to America becoming a nation that is not dependent on fossil fuels.  Government subsidies(your money) to wind and solar power companies totaled $158 billion last year.  Without those tax dollars those industries would be unprofitable. Shutting down the Keystone and stop drilling on federal land have been goals of the left for years. 

     Pushing Americans to buy electric vehicles doesn’t really make us green, because most electric power is coal (a fossil fuel) generated.  It’s all about optics, not reality. Biden has blamed Putin’s invasion of Ukraine for the high prices at the pump.  The truth is Biden’s failed energy policy is the problem.

     Two things need to take place to help drive down inflation and high fuel prices.  First, drill baby drill.  America has enough oil and gas in the ground to supply our fuel needs.  With the stroke of a pen, President Biden could open up drilling and within months, the supply issue would be solved.  Second, the EPA needs to reduce the percentage of soybeans produced used to make biodiesel and the percentage of corn earmarked for ethanol.  Americans are putting their food into their fuel tanks, resulting in higher food costs on products using soybean oil and corn. 

     Continental Resources Chairman Harold Hamm said, “The Biden administration’s failed policies on energy are not working and it doesn’t appear they intend to do anything different than what the president has stated repeatedly.”  Hamm described Biden’s energy policy as ‘ridiculous,’ and said the administration has increased regulations on the energy sector. 

     Midterm elections are just four months away and Democrats can ill afford to have record inflation and historical prices of food and fuel.  According to Project 538, Republicans already have a +2.3-point advantage over Democrats with the American people.  That margin will widen further if Biden sticks to his failed energy policy and that will result in a bloodbath for Democrats in November.

    

Sunday, May 15, 2022

RESPECT FOR INSTITUTIONS MUST BE RESTORED FOR U.S. TO SURVIVE!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


THE DECLINE OF INSTITUTIONS!

by Steve Fair

 

     Last week, Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Justice Clarence Thomas was interviewed at a conservative conference in Dallas.  Thomas said the recent leak of a draft opinion regarding abortion may have irreparably damaged trust at the SCOTUS.  “What happened at the court was tremendously bad.  I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them.  I wonder when they’re gone or destabilized, what we’re going to have as a country,” Thomas said.  Thomas described the court as place, ‘where now you look over your shoulder.’

     Thomas, 73, was appointed to the SCOTUS by former President George H.W. Bush in 1991.  He was just the second African-American to be nominated to the SCOTUS(Thurgood Marshall was the first).  Legal experts describe Thomas’ jurisprudence as an originalist.  He stresses the original meaning of the U.S. Constitution and statutes.  Thomas is widely held to be the most conservative member of the SCOTUS. Three observations:

     First, respect for established institutions is in decline.  In a Gallup poll from 2021, only 37% of Americans have a great deal of confidence in church and religion.  That’s half of what it was thirty years ago.  Only 12% of Americans have a high opinion of Congress, compared to 30% twenty years ago.   Only 35% of Americans have a high opinion of the SCOTUS, compared with 55% twenty years ago.  Gallup polled Americans on many other institutions and that information is available on-line, but virtually every traditional institution(health care, organized labor, criminal justice, media) was  viewed as unfavorable and down significantly vs. two decades ago.  The younger generation doesn’t view traditional institutions with the same affection as their parents. 

     Second, the institution of the family has changed in America.  From 1970-2012, the share of households consisting of married couples with kids was cut in half.  In 1960, only 9% of households were single parent.  In 2020, nearly 19 million children, amounting to 25% of all children under 18 in the U.S. were living in single parent homes.   In Canada that number is 15%, China, 3%, Russia 18%.   The U.S. has the highest percentage of children in single parent homes. While Gallup doesn’t include the institution of the family in their survey, clearly the respect for that institution has declined.

     Third, respect, confidence and appreciation for institutions must be restored for America to survive. Believing an institution has no merit, function or purpose will doom it.  When those believers are in the institution, it’s worse.  Thomas implied during his remarks the leak likely came from a law clerk from one of the newer members of the court.  He said that would never have happened in years past. Thomas described his relationship with late Justice Ruth Ginsberg as ‘an easy colleague for me.’  He said she was a nice person to deal with and while they seldom agreed, they both respected the institution.  Thomas said the leak was a kind of infidelity that you can explain it, but you can’t undo it.

     Respect is earned.  Many traditional institutions deserve the loss of respect because of misbehavior and failure to perform.  But when those in the institution disrespect it, it is the height of sanctimony. President Abraham Lincoln said, “If once you forfeit the confidence of your fellow-citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem.”

     

Sunday, May 8, 2022

The intolerance of the tolerant is magnanimous!

Weekly Opinion Editorial 


PREMATURE CELEBRATION

by Steve Fair

 

    On Monday May 2nd, Politico, a Virginia political journalism organization founded in 2007, obtained and released a 98-page draft document that indicated the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is poised to strike down the landmark Roe vs. Wade(1973) and Planned Parenthood vs Casey(1992) decisions. 

     On Tuesday morning, SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the draft opinion was authentic, but stressed the opinion was ‘not a final decision by the court.’   Roberts vowed the leak would not undermine the integrity of the court’s operations and vowed to have the U.S. Marshal service investigate the leak.         

     The draft opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito. Alito, 72, was appointed to the SCOTUS by President George W. Bush and has served on the high court since 2006.   Alito is considered one of the more conservative members of the SCOTUS. 

     Alito wrote, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.”  He said nowhere in the U.S Constitution does language exist that supports the right to abortion and the issue should legislated by the states.  While Alito wrote the draft, it can safely be assumed the draft represents the view of the majority of the conservative justices.  Three observations:

     First, liberals leaked the draft.  Pro-abortion advocates clearly have the most to lose.  Firing up their crowd was the objective and it has been effective.  Since the leak, the SCOTUS building has been surrounded by pro-abortion demonstrators.  President Biden has condemned the draft, calling it a radical decision.  Liberal talking heads claim if killing babies in the womb is outlawed, it will be the end of life as they know it.  The intolerance of the tolerant is magnanimous.

     The most likely source of the leak is a law clerk for one for the court’s liberal justices who wants to make Alito’s majority opinion public in the hope that public backlash could change one of the conservatives on the court to change their vote.  Liberals are floating the idea the leak came from the conservative side to put pressure on the conservative judges to lock in their vote.  The total number of people who had access to the draft is about 50.  The liberal justices most likely to leak are Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer.  Whatever the source, a leak like this is unprecedented.  If the leak can be traced back to a justice, they should be impeached.  Expect a thorough investigation into the source of the leak, investigators to reach no definitive conclusion and thus no punishment for the leaker.

     Second, if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, it came too late for 63 million babies.  That is the estimated number of children who have been killed in the womb since the 1973 decision.  The U.S. aborted more than 1 million annually between 1975 and 2012.  Abortion on demand helps foster a culture that devalues life.  Mother Teresa said, “The greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child.  If we accept a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?”

    Third, the leak strategy could work.  Chief Justice Roberts said the draft is not the final decision, which could indicate further deliberations on the case could be in the works. Justice Brent Kavanaugh is said to be the least conservative of the conservatives on the court and the pro-abortion crowd will do everything in their power to get him to flip his vote.  Conservatives should hold off on celebrating until the actual decision is released (expected in June).  Conservatives have been stabbed in the back by so called conservative judges before. 

       With high fuel and food prices and the stock market in decline, Democrats needed an issue that will get their vote out.  Nothing fires up liberals and gets them to the polls like killing unborn babies in the womb.   

Sunday, May 1, 2022

OKLAHOMA JUDICIARY SYSTEM NEEDS MAJOR REFORM!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

BUSY SUPREME COURT!

by Steve Fair

     Last week, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed SB#1100, authored by Senator Michael Bergstrom, (R-Adair), and Representative Shelia Dills, (R-Tulsa).  SB#1000 requires the biological sex designation on a birth certificate be either male or female and prohibits a nonbinary or any symbol representing a nonbinary designation, including the letter “X.”   The bill passed the House by a vote of 75-16 and the Senate by a vote of 38-7.  Oklahoma is the first state to pass legislation dealing with birth certificate gender designation.    

     ″We want clarity and truth on official state documents.  Information should be based on established medical fact and not an ever-changing social dialogue,” Dills said.   Bergstrom added: “We must stand up and put a stop to this nonsense regarding biological sex. It’s not a complicated issue — biologically, you’re either a male or female. There should be no other option to choose from on a birth certificate.” Critics of the SB#1100 claim it is an attack on their personal identity and creates barriers for housing and employment. 

     SB#1503, authored by Senator Daniels and Representative Todd Russ, (R-Cordell), creates the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act.  It provides a physician may not knowingly perform or induce an abortion unless they have determined whether the unborn child has a detectable fetal heartbeat.SB#1503 was approved by the state House by a vote of 68-12 and the Senate by a vote of 33-11.  SB#1503 will now go to the Governor’s office for his signature. Three observations:

     First, the need to pass laws on both of these issues would have been unthinkable just fifty years ago.  American culture has moved further and further away from common sense and more to the bizarre.  Accepting wrong as right and doing what is right in your own eyes is the order of the day.  Civility is out the window.  The tolerant are intolerant.  Respect for a differing opinion is considered weakness.  The times, they are crazy.

     Second, expect the birth certificate bill (SB#1100) to be ruled unconstitutional.  The U.S. State Department lost a federal suit to have only two gender designations on passports.  The State Department recently issued a passport with the gender designation of X.    

        Third, motives are not always pure.  An Oklahoma Democrat legislator publicly declared Republicans are using these issues (gender identity/abortion) to ‘grandstand’ for their upcoming 2022 campaign.  In certain case, that may be true.  Just like Mr. Democrat using these same issues to ‘grandstand’ to his base. Mr. Pot- meet Kettle.  Motive is what moves people to induce a certain action.  It is impossible another person’s motive, but in politics, it is universally self-serving.

     In the coming days, the state Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of these two bills- and others.  The court is composed of nine (9) justices, who are nominated by a state commission and then appointed by the governor for life.  Justices face voters every six years on a retention ballot. Since Oklahoma went to a retention ballot, no judge has been removed from office.   

     Expect inconsistent, unpredictable, varying, incoherent rulings that don’t square with Oklahoma values for the high court.  Oklahoma needs radical judicial reform, because the judicial retention system does not work.  The result is a judiciary not being accountable to the people.   

Sunday, April 24, 2022

TAXPAYERS SHOULDN'T BE EXPECTED TO BAIL OUT THOSE WHO WILLINGLY ASSUMED STUDENT LOAN DEBT!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES!

by Steve Fair


       Student loans in America amount to more than $1.7 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve.  That is the second largest amount of debt for U.S. households, behind mortgages.  46 million people have student loan debt (13% of the total population). 8 million are in default on their student loan.  The average student loan debt is $32,731.  40% of people with student loans didn’t finish college. 61% of those in default owe less than $10,000. 

     President Biden has said he favors forgiving $10,000 of student debt, but Congress hasn’t warmed to the idea and he has been relucent to do it by Executive Order (EO).  Senator Elizabeth Warren, (D-Massachusetts) said Sunday on Face the Nation, she is pushing Biden to forgive $50,000 of student debt.  She claims Biden has the authority to do it by EO and he needs to do it before the midterms.    

     In the late 1990s, then U.S. Senator Joe Biden played a role in helping establish and expand the current student loan system, which makes taxpayers co-signers on every student loan.  Biden was one of the architects of bankruptcy reforms making it hard for those with student loan debt to discharge their student loan debt by declaring bankruptcy.  President Biden likely regrets that.  Three observations:   

     First, the government and higher education created the student loan debt crisis.  The default crisis is a direct result of the fed’s reckless student lending policy.  There is certainly a role for government in fixing it, since they created it, but that role is not to cancel loan debt.  Colleges and institutions of higher learning ‘sold classes’ to students who had no business going to college.  Colleges were more interested in increasing revenue than educating students. 

     Second, forgiveness of student loan debt will increase inflation.  The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget(economists) estimate cancelation of 10k of student loan debt per person will increase inflation by .5 percentage rates over the next year.  Senator Warren (not an economist) disagrees.  “As President Biden himself says, the way we deal with inflation is not by making people poorer.  The way we deal with inflation is we attach high prices head on, such as price gouging.  We straighten out the supply chain, so goods can come in to people.  Canceling student loan debt is something that would be good for people all across this country and more importantly, good for our economy overall.”  Warren said.   The government has neither the manpower or the brainpower to police price gouging, let alone fix the supply chain?  Government bail outs and giveaways are why we have inflation. 

     Third, borrowers should be responsible for their student loans.  While the government’s irresponsible lending practices and college’s zeal to sell classes to people played a role, the borrower made the decision to incur the debt.  It is not the taxpayer’s responsibility to ‘bail them out.’   Government should reduce administrative fees and seizures on borrowers who are in default.  Those fees often result in more than the principal.  They need to make sure low-income borrowers never face a situation where they can’t make the monthly payment.  They should guarantee those who owe less than $20,000 who are making payments on time never go backward because of fees.  The feds should penalize colleges where class selling is a practice and limit their ability to be eligible for student loans.  Ultimately, the person who signed the note, and not the taxpayers, should be responsible for the debt.  Actions have consequences.

     President Biden has extended a repayment moratorium on repayment, interest and collections for federal student loans to August 31st. This is the fourth extension since Biden took office.  Expect some sort of student loan debt forgiveness before the midterms.  With $4 gasoline and record food prices, Democrats must do something to excite their base.  If Biden cancels student loan debt, it will reinforce the idea Americans should rely on the government to fix their problems when they willingly assumed the risk. 

Sunday, April 17, 2022

VOTERS SHOULD LEARN TO VET CANDIDATES & NOT GET CAUGHT IN THE VORTEX!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

A POLITICAL TORNADO!

by Steve Fair

     Last week, a host of candidates filed for office in Oklahoma.  The Sooner state is one of only two that have both U.S. Senate races on the ballot (California is the other) in 2022.  A total of 26 candidates filed for the two seats.  13 Republicans filed for the seat currently held by U.S. Senator Inhofe.  U.S. Senator James Lankford, up for re-election, faces 2 opponents in the GOP primary.  The 2nd Congressional district seat, currently held by Congressman Mark Wayne Mullin, who is running for the Inhofe senate seat, has 14 Republicans vying to replace him. 

     Governor Kevin Stitt faces 3 primary opponents.  Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell has no Republican opponent.  State Auditor Cindy Byrd faces a Republican primary opponent and State Labor Commissioner Leslie Osburn has 2 GOP opponents.  3 statewide ‘open’ seats (no incumbent) drew multiple Republican candidates.  There are 3 GOP candidates for State Treasurer, 3 for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and 4 for Corporation Commissioner.  The Attorney General race has 2 Republicans facing off in the primary.  The current AG was appointed by Governor Stitt, so technically it is an ‘open’ seat as well.  Only 1 statewide elected official did not draw an opponent, Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready. 

     In the judicial and District Attorney races, 116 of the 148 non-partisan judges were unopposed.  22 of the state’s 27 DAs didn’t draw opponents.  9 of the 24 state senators up for election were unopposed.  32 of the 101 state representatives didn’t draw opponents.   A candidate’s hope is to file unopposed, thereby avoiding a campaign. Three observations:

     First, Oklahoma Republicans will need to buy bigger mailboxes and stop watching TV.  GOP voter’s mailboxes are about to be full.  With the Republican primary just 70 days away (Tuesday June 28th), candidates will be bombarding voters with multiple mail pieces.  Slick, well produced television ads will dominate the airways.  Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms will be flooded with political content. 

     Candidates will tout their superior qualifications, intelligence, judgment and their opponent’s shortcomings and deficiencies.  The truth in labeling Act doesn’t apply to politics, so not everything that will be mailed will be truthful.  Campaigns bank on ‘low information’ voters(people who only pay attention every two years).  That avoid the hard issues and instead appeal to voters on an emotional level, because it is a proven tactic. 

     Second, voters need to learn to properly vet candidates.  Don’t begin questioning a candidate with an editorial statement of your position on the issue.  You are not the candidate.  The goal is to find out what the candidate’s stance is on the issue. They are the one casting the vote.  Listen carefully to the candidate’s respond and insist the question is answered clearly and concisely.  When viewing campaign ads and material, recognize candidates always paint themselves in a positive light and their opponent in a negative light.  Ask people who are more engaged than you in the political process about candidates.  Pray and ask God to give you insight and discernment about who to cast your vote for.  Don’t base your voting decision on a yard sign, a mail piece, a TV ad, or an eloquent speech.  Your vote is a sacred right- cast it wisely.  All candidates/politicians are not alike.  Be an informed voter.

     Third, respect all who run for office.  It takes courage and resolve to file for office.  In a self-governed system of government, having good people put themselves up for scrutiny by running for elective office is no small thing.  You can disagree with their ideas without being disrespectful, insulting, or mean-spirited. 

     In 70 days, most of the statewide races will be decided.  Democrats have a slim chance of winning a statewide race in Oklahoma, so whoever wins the GOP primary will likely cruise to victory in November.  Get ready for a political tornado the next 2 months.  Don’t get caught in the vortex!

Sunday, April 10, 2022

U.S. PUTTING THEIR FOOD INTO THEIR FUEL TANKS!

Weekly Opinion Editorial 


DON’T EAT THE SEED!

by Steve Fair

     Wheat is typically milled/ground into flour that is then used to make bread, pasta, crackers, and many other products.  Wheat is one of the oldest and most important of the cereal crops.  It is the second largest grain planted worldwide, based on acreage and production volume.   China, India, and Russia are the countries who produce the most wheat.  Combined those three nations produce 41% of the world’s total wheat.  America and Canada round out the top five, Ukraine is #6.  Ukraine is the 5th largest exporter of wheat in the world, but have halted exports of wheat to insure a domestic food supply for their own people. The United States produces 2.2 billion bushels of wheat per year and consumes a little over half that amount. 

   Wheat got started in the U.S. when a Ukrainian Mennonite named Bernard Warkentin came to the United States in 1872 at the age of 25 to study the U.S. agriculture, economic and political climate.  He married a girl from Illinois and they settled in Halstead, Kansas, where he built a grist mill for grinding wheat.  Warkentin encouraged his fellow Ukrainian Mennonites to bring Turkey Red hard winter wheat seed with them to Kansas.  By 1874, the Kansas countryside was sown with Turkey Red and soon after Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Oklahoma, West Texas and the Dakotas were growing the hardy, high yield Turkey Red.  Warkentin owned mills and elevators in Kansas and Blackwell, Oklahoma.  So how is that relative to politics?  Three observations:

     First, Americans are paying more for food than they were last year.  It’s not just products made with wheat.  According to the Consumer Price Index, published by the USDA, food prices (at home & restaurant) are up +7.9% vs. last year.  Grocery store food purchases are up +8.6%.   There are four basic reasons for the increases: (1) decrease in food processing production due to supply chain, labor, and transportation issues.  Food processors are struggling to keep up with demand and struggling even more to keep up with increases to produce.  If they are not able to ‘pass through’ increases, they don’t survive. (2) transportation issues for imported foods, like seafood(65% of seafood is imported), (3) eating more at home.  Overall food consumption is up and many households are stockpiling food, (4) bad weather which has affected crops.

     Second, America is putting too much of their food supply in their fuel tanks.  From corn in Ethanol to soybean oil in diesel, the use of vegetable oils in fuel impact food prices.  Last week, the Edible Oils coalition met with representatives of the White House Office of Management and Budget(OMB), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Environment Protection Agency(EPA), and the USDA to raise concerns about soybean oil pricing.  The price has tripled in the past year.  Soybean oil is used to make a cornucopia of food products, including mayonnaise and pourable dressings.  The coalition pointed out the biodiesel mandate threatens the supply and dramatically impacts the price of soybean oil- and other edible oils.  They asked the administration to relax the biofuel mandate to stabilize pricing and insure supply of edible oils. 

     Third, even with higher food prices, Americans still have it better than the rest of the world. The average household in the U.S. spends $7,500 annually on food(restaurants, grocery stores).  Food constitutes 10% of the average U.S. household monthly budget.  In Uganda, two thirds of household income is spent on food.  60% of the population in Russia spend 40% of their income on food.  

     A very real threat to the food supply in America is the potential loss of food processors.  Most processors are family owned, small to middle sized businesses, who produce the bulk of U.S. food. They can’t survive without passing through increases to the consumer.  They can’t stay in business losing money. When a processor disappears, prices increase due to loss of production capacity. 

     At the Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum is a ‘seed chest.’  It is the one Warkentin carried the precious Turkey Red seed in from the Ukraine to Kansas 151 years ago.   Warkentin guarded the chest because he valued food, but he didn’t eat the seed on the journey over.  America’s biofuel mandates are America eating the seed.


Sunday, April 3, 2022

Biden proposes a $2.5 trillon dollar tax increase that consumers will ultimately pay!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

ECON 101

By Steve Fair

 

     Economics is defined as the social science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.  There are two basic schools of thought in economics.  Free market/laissez-faire economics and Keynesian economics.  Adam Smith (1723-1790), a Scottish economist and philosopher, is often called the ‘father of modern economics.’  Smith introduced the concept of the ‘invisible hand,’ in regard to economics.  It was part of a laissez-faire/hands off governmental approach that holds an economy will find equilibrium without government or other interventions forcing it into unnatural patterns.  In other words, supply and demand rule the economy.  Smith believed it was the height of impertinence and presumption for government to tell people to restrain their spending when they(government) were spendthrifts. Smith argued a free-market economic system along with free trade would product true national wealth, benefiting all social classes, not just a privileged few. 

     Keynesian economics was named after British economist John Maynard Keynes(1883-1946).  Keynes is known as the father of modern macroeconomics.  Keynes believed government intervention by monetary policy was necessary to help stabilize a country’s economy.  Elected officials in both Parties embrace Keynes’ philosophy in varying degrees.

     Both economic schools of thought agree under ideal conditions, a country's economy should have the household sector as net savers and the corporate sector as net borrowers, with the government budget nearly balanced and net exports near zero.  When these relationships become imbalanced, recession can develop within the country.  

     Some governments highly control their economy.  In the most extreme, they are command economies where the government controls all the means of production, pricing of goods and services and worker’s wages.  Major industries are nationalized.  China, North Korea and Russia are all examples of command economies. In a free market economy, the law of supply and demand, rather than a central planner, regulates production and labor.  Companies sell goods and services at the highest price customers are willing to pay while workers earn the highest wage an employer is willing to pay for their services. The United States, Switzerland, and Great Britain are examples of free market economies. In reality, all economies blend some combination of market and command economies. 

     Inflation occurs when prices rise due to increases in production costs, such as raw materials and wages. A surge in demand for products and services can also cause inflation as consumers are willing to pay more for a product.  Inflation is an indirect tax on people.  Some inflation is acceptable, but when it climbs above 2% per year, it can disrupt an economy and potentially move it into a recession.  A recession is when there is a general decline in economic activity.  People stop spending and producers stop producing until stability returns to the market.  Prolonged inflation can and often does trigger a recession

     The inflation rate in the U.S. is +7.9%- the highest in forty years.  According to Reuters, U.S. consumer debt is growing at the largest amount in fourteen years.  The average household has $155,622 in debt(includes mortgages)- up +6.2% from a year ago.  Government spending is at all time highs.  That is the trifecta of conditions for a recession, likely in 2023.

     President Biden’s solution to attack inflation?  More taxes.  Last week, he proposed a $2.5 trillion dollar tax increase on the wealthy and corporations.  The problem is corporations don’t pay taxes- people do.  Corporations pass through tax increases to the consumer.  Reduction of government spending, allowing hard working Americans to keep more of their money and reducing government’s footprint will get inflation under control.  President Biden’s increasing taxes on Americans won’t work.

 

Sunday, March 27, 2022

"The words of a president matter. They can incite!"

Weekly Opinion Editorial 


by Steve Fair

 

     “The words of a president matter.  They can move markets.  They can send brave men and women to war.  They can bring peace,” then presidential candidate Joe Biden said at a presidential election debate in 2020.   

     Regarding the January 6th Capitol incident, Biden said about President Trump: “The words of a president matter, no matter how good or bad that president is. At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, they can incite.” Biden tried to paint President Trump as an undisciplined, unpredictable loose cannon.

     Trump did go off script and say things his aides and advisors cringed at, but none of his unscripted moments were nearly as potentially damaging to America as Biden’s remarks at the end of a 27-minute speech on Saturday.  Speaking about Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Biden said, ”For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”  The Kremlin immediately reacted.  Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state news agencies, “That’s not for Biden to decide. The president of Russia is elected by Russians.” 

     Biden’s handlers immediately went to work trying to explain what he said wasn’t what he meant. “The president’s point was Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region.  He wasn’t discussing Putin’s power in Russia or suggesting a regime change,” the White House official interpreter of presidential speeches said. But that was what the president said, so which is it?  Perhaps President Biden should consider having an interpreter translate at his press conferences to save time.   Three observations:

     First, President Biden gave Putin a huge gift.  Putin has contended the West is trying to interfere in Russian policy and wants to overthrow the Kremlin and destroy Russia.  Putin, no doubt, will use Biden’s gaffe/blunder as propaganda to reinforce the idea the western world hates Russia’s way of life. 

     Second, Biden’s statement is not consistent with stated U.S. policy. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said regime change is not part of the strategy the United States, NATO and their allies have discussed in regard to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.  Biden’s statement contradicts that public policy, which has foreign policy experts and allied leaders scratching their heads.

     Third, Biden’s statement could change Putin’s war strategy.  If Putin believes Biden secretly wants him out of power, then he might use every means at his disposal to stop that from happening. Putin has some significant means.  He has his finger on 6,000 nuclear warheads.  By comparison, the United States has 4,000 nukes.  If Putin believes Biden is trying to take him out of power, he might do some desperate things.  Desperate men do desperate things.

     American author Nathaniel Hawthorne said, Words—so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become, in the hands of one who knows how to combine them!"  Joe Biden has shown he does not know how to combine them.  He’s right- the words of a president do carry a lot of weight.  They move markets- they send men and women to war- they bring peace.  That’s why the president shouldn’t impromptu suggest the overthrow of a foreign government’s leader, especially one with 6,000 nukes.  To quote Joe Biden- those words can incite.


Sunday, March 20, 2022

The attack on human dignity is when culture believes it's acceptable to kill children in the womb!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

CRISIS POINT!

by Steve Fair

     Last week, the Oklahoma state Senate approved several pro-life bills.  Senate Bill #1503(SB#1503) is a Texas style six-week abortion ban that would take effect immediately after it is signed by the governor. Senate Bill #1555(SB#1555) modifies the state’s trigger ban allowing pre-Roe v. Wade statutes to take effective if and when the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.  SB#1552(SB#1552) would allow the State Department of Health to enter into contracts with private organizations for providing alternatives to abortion.  Oklahoma is the second state- after Idaho- to vote a six-week abortion ban modeled after Texas. 

     There were also two Joint Resolutions passed by the Senate.  Joint Resolutions, if passed by both chambers, send the resolution to a vote of the people.  SJR#37 would place a constitutional amendment in the state constitution eliminating a right to any abortion in Oklahoma.  SJR#17 would place a constitutional amendment in the state constitution conferring full personhood- and the rights that come with it- from conception.  All the bills now move to the state House for consideration. 

     The American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU) chapter says these bills would ‘decimate abortion access in the region.’   According to the ACLU, Oklahoma has been a ‘lifeline’(interesting description) for Texans seeking abortion after Texas passed their six-week abortion ban.  The ACLU claims half of all Texans who went out of state for an abortion in the last six months came to the Sooner state.  

    “Since the grave error of Roe v. Wade, states like Oklahoma have worked diligently to enact measures to protect the lives of the unborn.  These bills passed by the Senate will further that work and will help sustain a culture in our state that values and protects life at all stages.  I hope federal legal precedents allowing abortion are overturned, restoring Oklahoma’s ability to prohibit abortion once again,” Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, (R-OKC)

     “Oklahomans deserve access to abortion, without obstacles, stigma, or harassment, but local politicians are emboldened after witnessing the ongoing attacks across the country to time-sensitive, compassionate health care. Make no mistake, our state is at a crisis point in the fight to protect abortion. Forcing people to continue a pregnancy by taking away their ability to get an abortion is dangerous and a violation of their rights. It is an attack on human dignity. At every point in a pregnancy, a person’s health, not politics, should drive their medical decisions," Tamya Cox-TourĂ©, executive director, ACLU of Oklahoma, said in regard the pro-life bills.  Two observations:

     First, abortion is a violation of the unborn baby’s right to live.  The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  You can’t have liberty and the pursuit of happiness without life.  No one has the right to take an innocent life.  The true attack on human dignity and decency is when a culture has reached the level that killing life in the womb is celebrated as a basic right. 

     Second, there is no way to deny abortion is a form of killing.  Science confirms what the Bible says- life begins at conception.  An embryo is not merely a cell with potential, but  a distinct human organism.  It fulfills the four criteria needed to establish biological life: metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction.  Pro-abortion advocates claim the organism is ‘not a person.’  That is a completely unscientific argument based on their own moral or political philosophy.  Medicine confirms the existence of a child before birth as a distinct human being.  Fetal surgery has become a medical specialty and includes the separate provision of anesthesia to the baby. 

     Oklahoma is at a crisis point on the issue of abortion.  Either the Sooner state becomes a safe haven for the unborn or it continues allowing children in the womb to be killed.  Contact your state Representative and ask them to support the pro-life legislation listed above.


Sunday, March 13, 2022

What's Good For the Goose is Good for the Gander!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

“GIVE ‘EM A BREAK”

by Steve Fair

      House Joint Resolution #1047(HJR#1047) is authored by Rep. Robert Manger, (R-OKC) and Rep. Tammy Townley, (R-Ardmore) in the House and Sen. Adam Pugh, (R-Edmond) in the Senate.  HJR#1047 would send to a vote of the people a proposal freezing the value of a homestead for individual head of households who are sixty-five (65) years of age or older to not exceed the fair cash value placed upon the property during the first year in which the individual head of household turns sixty-five years of age or older.  It would remove the current maximum income requirement for a senior valuation freeze and make all seniors over 65 eligible.  HJR #1047 unanimously passed the House Rules committee last month.

     Critics of the bill, which include the County Assessors Association of Oklahoma, believe HJR #1047 would give an unnecessary tax break to wealthy seniors.  Proponents of the bill believe it would help many seniors on a fixed income who need the financial help.  Three observations:

     First, HJR #1047 is revenue neutral.  That means it wouldn’t cost taxpayers anything.  HJR#1047 doesn’t ‘eliminate’ property tax for those over 65.  It simply freezes the value of the homestead.  Seniors would still pay taxes on their homes, including increases in the millage rate in their school district.  Most senior’s homes are already assessed at fair market value, so the only loss of tax revenue would be on the future increases. 

     Second, the current senior valuation freezing criteria is flawed.  The freeze is based on gross household income, which means a rancher counts the income from selling livestock, but not the expenses to raise the livestock.  The current system counts all income except veterans’ disability or a gift.  It includes income from food stamps, disability, and non-taxable income.  The maximum allowable income to be eligible for the freeze varies from county to county and increases each year.  Filing for the freeze ends March 15th.  If you have questions on your eligibility, contact your county assessor’s office before 3/15.

     Third, most seniors need the financial help.  Some wealthy Oklahoma seniors don’t need the freeze, but the vast majority of seniors in the Sooner state aren’t wealthy.  They are on a fixed income and struggle to pay their bills.    

     The Oklahoma Board of Equalization certified $10.49 billion with $9.1 billion available for the 2022 legislature to appropriate ($1.3 billion is carryover from last year).  Ten years ago (2012), the Oklahoma state budget was $6.8 billion.  In one decade, the state budget has increased by +25%. 

     Whenever there is a strong budget in Oklahoma, a plethora of state agencies line up to advocate for increases in funding.  State employees line up for raises.  But the average Oklahoma taxpayer rarely gets a break.  HJR#1047 would be a godsent to many seniors raising their grandchildren and struggling to pay property insurance and maintain their homes.  The truth is- it isn’t a tax cut at all.  HJR #1047 would just put county government on a fixed income like the seniors.  What’s good for the goose is good for gander.  Contact your state legislator and urge them to support passage of HJR#1047.      

Sunday, March 6, 2022

OKLAHOMA'S SECONDARY EDUCATION SYSTEM NEED REFORMATION- SB #1647 IS NOT THE VEHICLE!

 Weekly Opinion Editoirla


DEBATE & DEFEAT THE BILL!

by Steve Fair

     Oklahoma Senate Bill #1647, authored by President Pro Tempe of the Senate Greg Treat, (R-Edmond), would create the Oklahoma Empowerment Act.  If it is passed and signed into law, it would give parents more control over their child’s schooling dollars.  Parents would be allowed to take $3,517 per year (the amount the state spends a year on a public-school student), put it in a saving account held by the state and use the money toward a private school education if they so choose. 

     SB #1647 passed the Senate Education committee by a vote 8-7 two weeks ago.  Four Republican Senators joined the Democrats and voted no; Dewayne Pemberton, Muskogee, Tom Duggar, Stillwater, Brenda Stanley, Midwest City, and Blake Stephens Tahlequah.  Three of the four Senators are retired public school educators. 

     On Wednesday, SB #1647 passed the Senate Appropriations Committee 12-8.  Treat revised the bill to place a cap on income for eligibility, removed allowing the money to be used for homeschooling and added some audit provisions.  Five Republican Senators voted no: Duggar and Pemberton joined by Darrell Weaver, Moore, Roland Pederson, Burlington, and Darcy Jech, Kingfisher.  The bill now moves to the full Senate. 

     Governor Kevin Stitt supports SB #1647.  He made school choice a priority in his State of the State address.  Speaker of the House Charles McCall, (R-Atoka) opposes SB #1647 and has vowed to not hear the bill in the State House.   If McCall holds firm, SB #1647 is dead on arrival.  To apply some pressure, McCall’s constituents are getting mailers from school choice advocacy groups trying to convince him to hear the bill.  Critics of the bill include both Republicans and Democrats and it appears the dividing line on the R side is urban and rural legislators.  Three observations about SB #1647:

     First, the money is taxpayer money.  It doesn’t belong to the legislators.  It doesn’t belong to the public schools.  No legislator or elected official funds a program.  Taxpayers fund programs- legislators appropriate funds.  Senator J.J. Dossett, (D-Owasso) said about SB #1647: “It’s not a good idea to send public dollars off the grid.  Public dollars belong in public schools.”  Dossett, a former teacher and coach in Owasso, is wrong.  No public funded entity is automatically entitled to any taxpayer money.  Every appropriation involving taxpayer dollars should be performance based.

     Second, Oklahoma’s education system is in need of major reform.  The Sooner state has too many school districts.  The state spends too much money on buildings, buses, and administration.  For years, lawmakers have said they were working to get more money to the classroom, but they have failed to address the real issue:  the large number of secondary school districts in the state(535). 

     Third, McCall should allow SB#1647 to be heard in the House.  He can certainly oppose it’s passage, debate against it, point out it’s flaws (there are plenty), and use all his influence to defeat it, but the job of the Speaker is not to weed out legislation they personally oppose.

     McCall, as Speaker, is the political and parliamentary leader of the House, responsible for maintaining decorum and enforcing the rules.  He designates the number of committees and appoints committee leadership and membership on the committees.  His duty does not include expunging or snuffing out legislation that has wide spread support. His role is not that of a dictator, but a facilitator.

     SB #1647 would not radically reform education in rural Oklahoma.  There are currently not enough options for students in rural Oklahomans outside of public schools, but SB #1647 deserves a debate and then it should be voted down. 

Friday, February 25, 2022

END OF A FIFTY YEAR PUBLIC OFFICE CAREER!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

RELIABLE INHOFE RETIRES!

by Steve Fair

      On Friday, Senator James Mountain Inhofe announced his resignation from the United States Senate effective the end of the 117th Congress (1/3/2023).  Inhofe, 87, has served in the upper chamber since 1994.  Prior to that, he served three terms in the U.S. House.  All told, Inhofe has served 35 years in Washington.  Prior to that, he served as mayor of Tulsa for six years and prior to those ten years in the Oklahoma legislature.  In total, Inhofe has spent over 50 years in elective office.

     During his time in the Senate, Inhofe served as Chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works and the powerful Armed Services Committee.  He first came to national attention in 1993, while in the House when Inhofe led the effort to reform the discharge petition rule.  House leadership  used the process to bottle up bills in committee and keep them from getting a floor vote.  Inhofe has been a vocal critic of those who believe in man-made climate change and global warming.  He wrote a book entitled, “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.”

     Like Senators Boren, Nickles and Coburn, Inhofe by resigning before March 1st saved Oklahomans from a special election.  The special election to fill the remaining four years in Inhofe’s term will be held as the same time as this year’s general election.   Both of Oklahoma’s U.S. Senate seats will be up in November.  Expect the Republican field to replace Inhofe to be crowded. 

     In an interview, Inhofe endorsed his chief of staff, Luke Holland, to replace him.  He said he would campaign for Holland before the GOP primary, which is June 28th.  Holland is a fourth generation Oklahoman who grew up in Bartlesville and already has a website.  Former Oklahoma Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon and Congressmen Kevin Hern and Mark Wayne Mullin are also potential candidates.  Three thoughts about Senator Inhofe:

     First, Senator Inhofe is conservative.  He has been consistently ranked as one of the most conservative members of the Senate.  He is unapologetically pro-life and pro second amendment.  He is a strong and reliable supporter of the military.  The military will miss him and his staunch loyalty.

     Second, Senator Inhofe is trying to pass the baton.  His endorsement of Holland is meant to keep his agenda and political views alive.  It remains to be seen if that works in 2022.  It didn’t work in 2003, when Senator Don Nickles resigned.  Senator Inhofe endorsed and campaigned for then OKC Mayor Kirk Humphries.  When former Congressman Tom Coburn got in the race, it spoiled Inhofe’s plan.  Coburn easily won the Republican primary.    

     Third, Inhofe wasn’t afraid to disagree.  In 2010, when earmarks were banned in the Senate, Coburn called earmarks nothing more than re-election tokens.  Inhofe said elimination of earmarks was a phony issue.  Coburn said earmarks were the gateway drug to overspending.   The GOP Senate voted to eliminate earmarks in 2010(Remember the ‘bridge to nowhere’).

     In February 2021, the Democrat controlled U.S. House voted to bring back earmarks.  In April 2021, the Senate followed their lead.  Inhofe and several other Republican Senators voted to bring earmarks back.  Coburn’s successor, Senator Lankford said: “The problem is earmarks are one of the worse of the worst ways that Congress spends taxpayer dollars.  They are often a misuse of funds and become a way to buy votes from other legislators on bills they normally wouldn’t vote for.”  Lankford voted no, Inhofe yes on bringing them back.

     The issue of earmarks is a heavily debated topic by Republicans.  Former President Trump favors earmarks.  Most fiscal conservative Republicans oppose earmarks for the reasons listed above.

     Senator Inhofe will be missed.  He was a stable, consistent, reliable voice for Oklahoma in Washington for 35 years.  British statesman Benjamin Disraeli said, “the secret of success is constancy of purpose.”  Jim Inhofe knew and remained focused on his purpose.  Oklahomans were blessed to have Senator Inhofe represent them.