Saturday, February 25, 2023

Every sin tax Oklahoma passed in the last 40 years was done to "help the children.”

 Weekly Opinion Editorial

820 Not For Kids!

by Steve Fair

    Oklahomans start voting this week on whether to expand marijuana use in the Sooner state.  Early voting begins Thursday, March 2nd, at county election boards across the state.  SQ#820, if approved, would allow recreational use of pot for those over 21.  Advocates contend the state is losing millions of dollars in tax revenue by not taxing dopehead use.  They say the tax from recreational use could be used to ‘help the children.’  Currently only medical use of weed is legal in Oklahoma.  Three observations:

     First, every sin tax Oklahoma passed in the last 40 years was done to ‘help the children.”  Liquor by the drink, parimutuel horse track betting, the state lottery, and casino gambling all were marketed/peddled to Okies as vehicles to provide more money for education.  The tax revenue windfall from each was supposed to improve Oklahoma children’s quality of life by making them healthy, wealthy and wise.  Never mind the aforementioned did major damage to Oklahoma families by promoting addictive activities.  A strategy to smoke, drink and gamble the way to prosperity seems foolhardy, irresponsible, and bad public policy.  Most of the time the tax revenue from ‘sin’ tax is a net loss to a community.  According to the National Highway Safety Administration, in states where pot has been legalized for recreational use, fatal traffic accidents attributed to DUIs associated with pot have skyrocketed.  The only high drivers we need in Oklahoma are those driving up Mt. Scott.

     Second, liberals are pushing SQ#820.  Out of state liberals have pumped $3.2 million dollars into the campaign to move Oklahoma to the left.  The same people who in 2022 ran the shady, dark money group Clean Up Oklahoma are mailing Vote Yes on SQ#820 push cards to voters.  They are spending millions of dollars to convince Oklahoma voters weed is not a gateway drug and legalizing it would be great for the state.  The head of the Yes group is a former Bernie Sanders staffer and the money for the affirmative campaign is not coming from Oklahomans.  Why would liberals spend that kind of money in a conservative state?  Because SQ#820 is a ‘test balloon’ for those liberals to identify pockets of strength for their progressive agenda.  They believe Oklahoma, with its libertarian leanings, is low hanging fruit for progressives.  They could be right.

     Third, the get-out-of-jail free element of SQ#820 is imprecise and obscure.  If approved some people would get their sentences for weed offences expunged.  It is unclear exactly how the process will work, but the Yes folks say it will result in less court cases.  Oklahomans have seen the results of liberal meddling into the criminal code.  SQ 780 and 781 decriminalized many crimes and changed felonies to misdemeanors, and resulted in the release of lawbreakers back into the community.  According to the FBI crime data base, criminal activity in the state is up since the two bills were passed.  Oklahoma’s violent crime rate is higher than New York and California.  Oklahoma law enforcement has been hamstringed.  SQ 820 is along the same line as 780 and 781.  It advocates forgiveness without justice and compassion without fairness.

    There is no way a majority of Oklahoma voters want legalized, reactional marijuana in the state.  But that majority must vote.  Rest assured the stoners, tokers and dope smokers will get their vote out.  The question is- will the sober, clear-headed and temperate show up?  That remains to be seen.  The world is run by those who show up.  If Oklahomans care about the state(and their children), they will vote No on State Question #820.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Education is important, but it isn’t the only factor determining a child’s success in life!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair


     The Oklahoma legislature is in session and funding for secondary education tops the agenda.  Speaker of the House Charles McCall, (R-Atoka) has penned two bills. HB 2775, if implemented would increase funding to public schools by $500 million.  HB 2775 includes an across-the-board annual pay raise for all classroom teachers of $2,500, which totals $150 million.  $300 million would be distributed to school districts across the state on a per pupil basis and $50 million would be sent to the lower income school districts in the state.   

     The second bill by the Speaker is HB 1935.  It allows a $5,000 annual tax credit for parents of students attending a private school.  HB 1935 also includes a $2,500 annual tax credit for homeschooled students. The tax credits would be retroactive, so parents would benefit on their 2023 tax returns.

     “This plan works for every education stakeholder in our state.  We know the key to future success is a great education and House Republicans are committed to ensuring each student can attend the school that best meets their needs.  We must accomplish our education goals without eroding necessary funding to our public schools and our public school teachers wo are so vital to student academic excellence,” McCall said.

     If the two bills pass and are signed into law, it would put Oklahoma ahead of bordering states, Arkansas and Missouri, tied with Kansas and just behind Texas in per pupil expenditure on education.  McCall claims the two bills will set every child in the state up for success.  It is reported Governor Stitt and Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Waters both support the two bills.  Three observations on the two bills:

     First, teachers don’t teach for the money.  If an educator were in it for the money, they wouldn’t have chosen education.  Oklahoma classroom teachers deserve a raise.  But money alone will not fix Oklahoma education.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics in 2021 only one fourth of Oklahoma secondary students were proficient when looking at all grades/all subjects.  Test scores have declined in the past five years- even after Oklahoma taxpayers have funded record increases for education.  Education leaders need to come to the table with more than just requests for more tax dollars.  Oklahoma needs to make some hard decisions regarding secondary education.

     Second, the tax credit is a compromise.  Governor Stitt, and others,  favored a voucher system, which would have allowed parents to control a portion of the per pupil funding districts receive for each student.  They championed the idea the money followed the student- to a public or private school. 

     After the governor’s State of the State address, in which he endorsed school choice, public school education, especially rural districts, mobilized.  They claimed Stitt’s proposed voucher system would have closed schools and successfully alarmed enough people to get the Governor and the legislature to find middle ground on the contentious issue.

     Third, the hit to state revenue from HB 1935 is difficult to determine.  The current Oklahoma state income tax bracket is 4.75%.   It is estimated only 5% of all K-12 students in Oklahoma go to private schools.  In order for a family of 4 to take their full $20,000 tax credit associated with HB 1935, their annual taxable income would have to be $425,000. The truth is that most private school student parents will not benefit the full amount of the tax credit. 

     Setting up a child for success in education doesn’t happen when tax dollars are spent and teachers get a raise.  Oklahoma taxpayers have been told for decades that education success was just around the bend- if only more money is spent.  Education is important, but it isn’t the only factor determining a child’s success in life.   A child is set up for success when their parents stay involved in their offspring’s life and guide them to recognize their chief end is to love God and love others. 

Sunday, February 12, 2023


 Weekly Opinion Editorual


by Steve Fair

     The State of the Union address has become more of a self-promoting propaganda tool than a report to Congress.  While President Joe Biden wasn’t the first to use the speech to promote political philosophy, he was the first to unveil his campaign tag line.  Repeating, ‘let’s finish the job,’ at least 7 times during his speech, the POTUS hit at least 7 liberal hot button issues.  Here they are in no particular order:

     First and foremost, Biden wants to raise taxes.  “No billionaire should pay less taxes than a firefighter or policeman. The tax plan is not fair,” Biden said.  He is right about it being unfair, but there are not enough billionaires to make his plan work.  Currently the top 1% of wage earners are paying 40% of the total tax burden.  The bottom 50% pay just 2% of the total.  It’s the 49% in the middle who are paying their unfair share.  Neither Party has done a good job of revamping the tax code.    

     Second, Biden wants to give teachers a raise.  Few people believe school teachers are overpaid, but should raises not be tied to results?  Poor outcomes by public educators have been tolerated for decades.  It is past time to have a merit system for teacher pay.  One size doesn’t fit all. 

     Third, Biden wants to help unions organize.  Democrats have lost ground with their once reliable support from unions.  President Trump made inroads with them in the 2016 election.  They saw the failed policies of the Democrats had eroded the once thriving manufacturer base in America.  Biden recognizes Democrats need to get unions back to win.

      Fourth, Biden wants to cut oil and gas consumption.  “We may need gas and oil for the next ten years,” Biden said to laughter in the chamber.  America using a majority of clean energy is decades away from reality, a fact most liberals will concede.  That was why Biden’s remark was met with so many hoots and hollers.

     Fifth, Biden wants to increase regulations on private business. Gas and oil companies top the list of businesses Biden wants to go after.  Citing the price of gas at the pump and food at the shelf, Biden said; “Capitalism without competition is extortion.”  Biden said.  But it’s not.  Extortion is against the law and companies that break the law should be prosecuted, but when you have a limited supply and a high demand, the price must go up to balance out the equation.  Simple economics teaches that high prices are the cure for high prices.  More regs will hurt private business and prolong economic recovery.

     Sixth, Biden wants to limit gun ownership.  Mentioning ‘assault weapons’ as guns he wants to ban, Biden played to the liberal base.  The Second Amendment is just a little too pesky for the Democrats.  While disarming America is their goal,  they fail to acknowledge the issue is not the gun, but the heart of the person misusing the gun.

     Seventh, Biden wants to reverse the reversal of Roe vs. Wade.  Killing babies in the womb is a longtime plank in the Democrat Party platform and one of the major differences in the two Parties.  Biden was obligated to kowtow/grovel to the base on that issue and he checked the box. 

     When Biden said Republican lawmakers wanted to cut Social Security and Medicare, Republicans in the chamber begin to shout and yell.  The POTUS appeared rattled and momentarily got off script, but recovered quickly and got back on message. 

     “Let’s finish the job,” Biden said to conclude the speech. Clearly, this is the ‘theme’ of Biden’s re-election campaign.  Just think- millions of dollars were spent on research with focus groups and advertising professionals to come up with those four words.        

      Americans should finish Biden’s political career by sending him home.  The 80-year-old shuffled in and out of the chamber, looked his age, and his overall appearance did not instill confidence in his cognitive skills.  It’s not just Republicans who want Biden to not seek re-election.  Many Democrats want Biden to be finished, but at this point, they don’t have anyone who is a viable candidate to knock him off in the primary. 

Recreational use of marijuana is bad public policy!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by  Steve Fair


     On Tuesday March 7th, Oklahoma voters will go to the polls and vote on State Question #820.  If approved, it would create a state law legalizing recreational use of marijuana for persons 21 or older.  It would add a 15% excise tax incremental recreational use sales tax to the other taxes already on legal pot.  The last day to request an absentee ballot for the election is Monday February 20th.  In person early voting will be available on Thursday March 2nd and Friday March 3rd from 8am-6pm. 

     Proponents of SQ 820 assert passage will safely regulate and tax weed in the Sooner state, generate millions of dollars for state government to spend on schools, health care and public safety and expunge criminal records of people who they say, ‘made one small mistake.’  They also claim it would generate an estimated $821 million of tax revenue over a five-year period.

    Those opposed to SQ #820 point to state data that shows a 4,000% increase in children overdosing on cannabis since medical marijuana became legal in Oklahoma in 2018.  “People want to say that this(SQ820) is good tax revenue for the state, but if we were to do this, no amount of money is worth putting our kids at risk,” Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn maintains.  Three observations about SQ#820:

     First, marijuana can often be a gateway drug.  The National Institute of Drug Abuse found adults who reported using weed were more than likely to abuse other harder drugs.  In other words, those who used marijuana often went to other harder drugs. That is supported by data from the Centers of Disease Control(CDC).

     The CDC says there are multiple short and long-term effects of marijuana on the brain.  They suggest frequent use of pot can cause disorientation, anxiety, paranoia, and depression.   The CDC says temporary psychosis and schizophrenia are also more likely to be developed by those who use cannabis. 

     Second, sin taxes don’t overset their cost to communities.  Taxes on alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and medical marijuana may generate revenue for state government, but their expansion has been devastating to communities and families.  From increased crime to addictions, the financial impact has been of negative net effect to the state.   

     Third, medical marijuana should be regulated like other medications.  Few dispute that weed has medicinal benefits for certain medical conditions, but clearly Oklahoma’s current ‘medical marijuana’ law needs to be addressed.  When 10% of Oklahomans(376,000)  have a medical marijuana card, clearly much of the use is not ‘medical’ in nature.  Oklahoma, by far, has the highest share in the country of percent of population according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

     Most Oklahomans are unaware there is an election on Tuesday March 7th.  Because of that, voter turnout will likely be low.  There is no doubt proponents of SQ#820 will show up.  Opponents of the proposal must vote to stop expansion of drug use in the state.  

     There are two primary reasons Oklahomans should vote no on State Question #820.  The first is the expungement component of SQ#820.  Who is eligible for expungement is ambiguous/obscure/unclear.  The second reason is because recreational use of marijuana is bad public policy.  The challenges legal pot creates dramatically offset the tax benefits.  Increased addiction and crime is not something to promote in Oklahoma.  SQ#820 is a white elephant investment. 

Thursday, February 2, 2023

An increase in humility and self-abnegation might result in God’s healing of America!

Weekly Opinion Editorial 


by Steve Fair

     The desire and drive to self-promote is synonymous with the heart of mankind.  Everyone is tempted to exalt and extol themselves, on either a large or small scale.  Trying to impress others by bragging on accomplishments, earned credentials, prestigious positions, and important responsibilities has become a growing phenomenon.  In modern day America, humility and meekness are considered undesirable character traits.  Bragging, swagger, self-confidence and bluster are coveted attributes.   Three observations:

     First, no one does self-promotion better than politicians.  That seems to be part of the job description..  “I am not sure I know the answer to that complex problem,” said no politico ever.  The self-described public servant has an answer for everything and they put their own ‘spin’ on it.

     How effective a politician can put ‘spin’ on issues and situations determines just how far they can go in the industry.   Spin isn’t about suppressing the truth, but more about leaving out truth from the narrative.  As the old saying goes; “No one knows what you know or what you don’t know.” Political operatives are paid big bucks to ‘spin’ stories to an unsuspecting public.  The goal is to ‘sell’ the message.  The key to stopping the ‘spin’ is a public that is skeptical and a little bit cynical. If citizens stayed consistently engaged and paid close attention to their government, the spin doctor’s tales would fall on deaf ears.  

     Second, self-promotion is self-serving.  Self-promotion is often nothing more than idle chatter and accomplishes nothing.  “Put your money where your mouth is,’ means action follow words.  Self-promotion can energize a crowd and might lead to action, but in most cases it does little more than glorify the self-promoter. Most braggarts are quick to point out their superiority over others.  They can run faster and jump higher than anyone else, but actually running a race requires capital they are unwilling to invest. 

     Third, self-promotion is not Christian.  Throughout scripture, believers are told to be meek, humble, self-effacing, discreet, and unassuming.  No place in the Bible commands believers to ‘toot your own horn,’ or to ‘pat yourself on the back.’  Yet, the vast majority of politicians, even those who profess to be believers, never miss a chance to brag and boast of what they have accomplished.  Solomon wrote that pride goes before a fall.   Jeremiah 9:23 says a smart man shouldn’t boast about his intelligence, a strong man about his strength and a rich man about his wealth.  True believers brag on Christ, and not themselves. 

     Self-promotion naturally flows out of all men, even when trying to suppress it. The growth of social media has contributed to the rise of self-promotion. However, the real issue is the gullibility of citizens that are easily persuaded to believe something that is not only half true or not true at all. But not all are fooled by self-promotion.  In a 2015 study by the Association of Psychological Science (APS), self-promoters were often perceived in a negative way by those they are trying to impress.  Instead of accomplishing the desired effect of impressing others, they actually damage their image with their target audience.   What braggers and self-promoters don’t recognize is while they are lifting themselves up, they often unintentionally put others down.  They come across as conceited and self-centered. 

     The old saying, ‘it ain’t bragging if you can do it,’ is dumb.  It doesn’t cease to be boasting just because you can do it.  An increase in humility and self-abnegation in America just might result in God’s healing of our land.