GOP’s Big Dilemma

The GOPeers have a huge dilemma on their hands in Roy Moore. Alabama GOP are adamant in that they will not back away from Moore and they don’t give a tinker’s damn whether he is guilty or not. And the polls though close still have him over all ahead of the democratic candidate Gary Jones.

The GOPeers in congress have all put distance between themselves and Moore to no avail. The Whitehouse can’t say anything for a couple of reasons. One the trumpster was guilty of basically the same thing and got away with it. And two Roy Moore’s base is the trumpster’s base so the trump guy ain’t gonna do anything that will upset his base.
McConnell who led the expulsion of Packwood from the Senate over sexual misconduct allegations back in the 90s has a dilemma also he’s got to drop a dime on Moore or he will look foolish, and he would prefer that they do a write in, with Sessions who is having none of it. So that leaves the GOPeers ethically challenged on many levels.
Where will that lead? Likely they will hold their noses and seat the sexual predator of teens because that is who the GOP is these days. Not only are they ethically challenged they are morally rotten to the core and have no creds anymore on how to govern because they have no integrity with which they can govern, having uttered the world no one to many times over the past 8 years.

So desperate to pass something even a tax reform bill that stinks to high heaven they will hold their noses and genuflect and procrastinate and welcome Roy Moore with open arms into the senate.

After all they did the same thing with the trumpster and look where we are now. When you are willing to lay down with sexual predators then you have no claim to being morally or ethically superior. They have sold their souls to the highest bidder. Ole Scratch now owns the Republican Party lock, stock and teardrop.

They have no shame!
Bob Bearden

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Sin Taxes Need Holier-Than-Thou Tax Balance

I don’t smoke. Once I was a campfire cigar smoker, but a rainy afternoon with three cigars on a country porch broke me of that affectation.

So, if our lethargic legislators ever finalize a budget, its most-ballyhooed fund-raising feature of a $1.50 increase tax per pack of cigarettes would not affect me.

I’d have to pay for the added gasoline tax and more for my liquor purchases. But, I’m free and clear of the biggest funding increase for state government.

That’s not fair. Smokers should not have to pay for services we all use.

Talking sports down at the Shop-N-Bag recently, I watched one guy come in and buy a pack of cigarettes for $5. That pack would cost $6.50. Another guy bought two packs for $8.50. They would cost $11. Those are immediate price increases of more than 30 percent.

According to the Center for Disease Control – which has now been barred from sharing health statistics that would prove environmental degradation – only about 17 percent of American adults smoked in 2015. So, even if Oklahomans smoke a little more, it’s likely that less than 20 percent of us have been chosen to pay for Oklahoma state government.

Statistics show that smoking predominates among lower-income people.

In 2008, Smokers comprised 30 percent of the people making less than $6,000 a year; 34 percent of those making up to $12,000 and 30 percent of those making between $12,000 and $23,999.

From there, the next three $12,000 brackets fall from 26 to 22 to 21 percent for people earning from $48,000 to 59,999. The next two brackets are spaced at $30,000, with the $60,000 to $89,999 folks smoking at 16 percent; those up to $119.999 at 13 percent and those earning more than $120,000 smoking at a 13 percent ratio.

So, the legislators have chosen about a fifth of us to foot our bills – and the poorest among us to contribute the most proportionately.

Well, they should just quit smoking?

Nicotine has tested to be just as addictive as heroin, cocaine, and amphetamines and more addictive than alcohol.

Most smokers start young “to be cool” or because “everyone’s doing it.” Addiction is not a moral failure, but a chemical dependency

My standard example of the power of nicotine concerns the guy at the desk to my left 40 years ago in one of the best small-town newsrooms ever assembled. He came in one Monday after a weekend of partying with some thin, brown-wrapped cigarettes that he smoked European-style for added effect.

Too cool. He stuck with those spiffy status smokes – that I won’t give a free plug – for a couple months before he was carrying packs of regular cigarettes to feed his need.

His story resembles many others.

Nicotine has also tested to reduce stress, which a lot of low-income people face on a daily basis. Then, too, once someone is hooked, the next puff will reduce the stress of their nicotine craving.

Writing for the Washington Post in 2015, Keith Humphreys, a professor and Director of Mental Health Policy at Stanford’s Department of Psychiatry, points to three reasons for heavier smoking among lower-income people:

  1. Lower-income smokers take longer and deeper drags on their cigarettes than others;
  2. The peer pressure of living and working within a higher smoking group makes it harder to quit;
  3. Lower-income smokers have less access than others to effective stop-smoking treatments.

Humphreys cites another study to make the point that “endlessly raising tobacco taxes eventually becomes cruelly regressive for addictive low-income smokers who can’t or won’t stop smoking.”

This addiction, he adds, could send smokers “into the black market for untaxed cigarettes.”

In fact, the only other opposition I’ve seen to the cigarette tax increase comes from Republican state representatives in Eastern Oklahoma, who feared the tax hike would send their constituents to Arkansas to buy their smokes and reduce tax local revenues – from other purchases made while the smokers were on cigarette runs.

This led some of them to vote against that fake budget proposal floated by the Republican legislative failureship .

And, consider, too, the reduced buying power of the smokers themselves.

Down at my local store, I’m told that most smokers are about pack-a-day smokers.  That’s $10.50 a week that’s not being spent elsewhere, $40 a month, about $500 a year. For each and every smoker.

Commercial interests aside, it is just plain wrong to make a small, mostly-struggling segment of society foot the bill for state government.

So, how can we equalize the tax system to make more folks contributors and better exhibit our Oklahoma spirit of fair play?

I’ve been pondering some kind of holier-than-thou tax to complement the sin taxes that our Legislature turns to when seeking operating funds.

I think I’ve found a tax that would satisfy the rationale used to justify the cigarette tax increase to fund health issues – since smokers are prone to more health issues than the righteous, doncha know.

Having established that the cigarette tax hike amounts to about a 30 percent increase per purchase, let’s just tack a 30 percent tax increase onto every purchase of ice cream.

Just think. Every day as the caravan creeps along Highway 81 toward the ice cream shop, our impatience at people slowing down two miles before their turn would be mitigated by our knowledge that these sturdy citizens were on their way to fund to state governmental services.

And, every other ice cream purchase would make that same contribution.

The good people of Oklahoma have decided that smokers deserve their tax increase because of the health issues linked to cigarette smoking.

But, obesity and diabetes are also health issues – and problems that can be exacerbated

by heavy ice cream consumption. The same reasoning has to make sense in both instances.

And, while nicotine is highly-addictive, you only have to search “sugar addiction” on the Internet to find plenty of ways to curb your sugar cravings.

Mercola (Take Control of Your Life) claims “76 ways in which sugar could pose a significant threat to your health, divided into four categories: increased risk of diseases and sicknesses, nutrient imbalance or deficiency, bodily impairments and behavioral changes.”

Later, we’re informed: “Massive sugar addiction can result in obesity, diabetes, heart damage or failure, cancer cell production, depletion of brain power and shorter life spans.”

Jordan Gaines Lewis of CNN last March observed, “Like drugs, sugar hijacks the brain’s reward pathway, evidence suggests.”

His very technical report has sections titled “Sugar: natural reward, unnatural fix;” “Sugar addiction is real” and “Sugar withdrawal is also real.”

Thus, we can use the same punish-them-out-of-their-predicament arguments against ice cream eaters that we aim at smokers.

Make them pay monetarily for the physical damage they are inflicting upon themselves. The state could use the money – and a greater proportion of us would be paying the bill.

Soda pop could be added to the anti-sugar tax base, too – including diet pops since the jury vacillates on the harmful effects of the sugar substitutes and their tendency to send their drinkers to other sugar sources.

Not a smoker, and a limited ice cream eater who swore off soft drinks about three years ago, maybe I’ll need to move from one to two beers a week to contribute my share to the budget – or take a few more in-state road trips.

 

 

(Gary Edmondson is Stephens County Democratic Party Chair

 

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GOP Budget Plan Shows Priorities

Monday, after frittering away a regular session and a not-so-special session recess that would have made the pre-K kids at Will Rogers proud, Gov. Mary Fallin and the Republican legislative failureship proclaimed their solution to their self-inflicted budget crisis.

Much of the plan trotted out by Fallin, Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz and House Speaker Charles McCall is similar to a proposal Fallin’s offered nearly three weeks ago – one which Democrats agreed to two weeks ago.

They want an additional $1.50 tax on every pack of cigarettes sold, a six cent per gallon tax increase on fuel and increased taxes on alcoholic beverages.

The major difference between Monday’s plan and the governor’s original suggestion is that the Gross Production Tax on the oil and gas industry would stay at its current, minuscule two percent and not be raised to the still-below-national-average of five percent that Fallin originally floated.

Rumors were rife over the weekend about irate phone calls and letters, whines, and complaints from the oil moguls who loot this state’s resources with Republican collusion that they just couldn’t handle that five percent GPT – to be applied only to new production – though fair extraction taxes have not stopped drilling in other states.

While Fallin, Schulz and McCall were patting themselves on the backs for protecting the only the constituency that really matters to Republicans, Democratic Rep. Emily Virgin observed on Facebook,

“Capitol Republicans just announced a revenue plan that asks you to foot the entire bill without asking big oil to pay one cent more….Their plan spends every dollar that it raises and does nothing for the budget hole we are inevitably facing next session….

“I  will be voting no on this plan because I do not think it is moral or equitable to ask low and middle income Oklahomans to bear the burden of funding government while giving big oil a pass.”

Also getting a pass would be the only Oklahomans rich enough to benefit from Republican economic policies. The governor’s initial proposal called for a slight income tax hike for those earning more than $250,000 and another small bump for people making more than $500,00 a year.

That proposal was also missing from Monday’s announcement, meaning people earning $16,000 will continue to pay the same tax rate as those earning $16 million.

In the past, Speaker McCall has insisted that he needed some Democrats to cross the aisle to meet Oklahoma’s anti-tax increase restrictions. I’m not sure where he thinks he’ll be getting them this time.

Perhaps Monday’s announcement is only the “dog and pony show” that Rep. Virgin called it, a chance for GOP failureship to claim that they have a plan that bad old Democrats are stalling.

What they have is a bad old plan that establishes indubitably that GOP priorities are the protection of the wealthiest among us at the expense of everybody else.

Or, as Democratic Rep. Eric Proctor told KOCO-TV, “I don’t think the people of Oklahoma are going to buy that we need to raise taxes on gasoline to protect big oil.”

 

(Gary Edmondson is Stephens County Democratic Party Chair.)

 

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State Capitol Needs Energy Upgrade

The State Capitol Building was closed last week for electrical system upgrades. And, no one really noticed since the Republican-controlled Oklahoma Legislature – called into special session a month ago to address budgetary shortfalls and a state financial crisis of epic proportions and of its own energy-shortage creation – was in recess, unwilling to get down to the necessary work of keeping our state viable.
Recess?

That’ s an apt description for the people who played and frittered away all of last Spring before pushing through an obviously illegal tax – the demise of which triggered the current crisis.
Recess?

That’s like saying the Duffer-in-Chief needs more time off to play golf
Recess?

Well, a Legislature with a recessive gene for incompetence could trigger a statewide recession if members don’t get their acts together soon.
The not-so-special session was convened Sept. 25 – the Republican failureship not having one plan to bring up for consideration.

So, Gov. Mary Fallin produced a plan with the $1.50 per pack cigarette tax legitimately included (if unfairly assessed) and an increase in the state’s Gross Production Tax from the absurd two percent to five percent – still below the average in other states. She also proposed two new tax brackets for people earning more than $250,00 and then $500,000 and a six cents a gallon increase for gasoline.
She announced it as a bi-partisan plan, and, a few days later, House Democrats announced their acceptance of its key parts, Minority Leader Scott Inman even suggesting Democrats might agree to a slightly smaller GPT – instead of seeking to return to the old days when a seven percent GPT did not discourage oil and gas production in the state.
But, not so fast. GOP House Speaker Charles McCall said that, while the governor and the Democrats might be in agreement, his party, which holds a 77-28 advantage in the House, was not ready to raise the money needed to keep state agencies afloat.
At that time – a full two-and-a-half week ago, Gov. Fallin said:

“Like the public, I am disappointed by the lack of progress in accomplishing these goals almost two weeks after the start of the special session….The clock is ticking toward some very serious consequences for nearly one million Oklahomans who depend on services provided by the Department of Mental Health, the Oklahoma Health Commission and the Department of Human Services.”

So, faced with the prospect of harming one-fourth of the state’s population, Republican legislative failureship did nothing.

I give the governor points for prescience on these matters. Headlines in last week’s Oklahoman  two days apart were: “State agency cuts funding for child abuse prevention” and “Cuts imperil mental health system.” The latter headline carried the subhead of “Cuts will drive up crime, officials say.”

There are actually people who celebrate the suffering of their fellow citizens in the name of small government.  But, as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Connie Johnson tells crowds, we form governments – and should fund them – to accomplish things beyond the means of individuals.

Still, one aspect of reduced government spending will undoubtedly gain favor from those who want responsible government.
As reported by CNHI’s Janelle Stecklein in last week’s Banner, “several members of the Board on Legislative Compensation, tasked with setting lawmakers’ compensation said Tuesday (Oct. 13) they’re considering a pay cut.”

According to Stecklein, board member Mike O’Neal said, “The message is you’re not working as smart as you ought to, number one. But, more importantly, when the citizens have to suffer, then all of us need to be a part of that.”

Board Chair Wesley Milbourn added, “We’re very frustrated. We don’t like to see Oklahomans losing jobs. This is a performance issue. And income and salary ought to be based upon performance.”

This reminds us of the notion of governmental malpractice and sets the wheels of fancy daydreaming toward suing these do-nothing legislators for their incompetence. There’s a new, ever-renewable revenue source that warrants attention.

Some folks will try to lay the blame solely on those who supposedly lead the Republicans. And, after a month of inaction, they finally suggested some stop-gap measures including raiding the state’s rainy day funds.

But, if the back-benchers and rank-and-file legislators don’t have the courage to demand responsible action or to oust the incompetents, they are no better than the GOP  failureship.

The work at the Capitol was to be finished in time for legislators to return this week. Let’s hope the electrical adjustments included wiring the seats for periodic bursts of inspiration to get our legislators off their duffs.

(Gary Edmondson is Stephens County Democratic Party Chair.)

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The Time Is Here; The Place Is Now

sheri3LAWTON – Warning against comfortable complacency, Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson challenged those at the Comanche County Democratic Party banquet Oct. 13 “to become a beacon of change” and to “continue to do the work” as they work to correct the ills they see in the world.

The founder of Black Lives of Matter of Oklahoma, Dickerson cautioned those who would prefer to be “comfortable” that many people “don’t have the luxury of being comfortable. We don’t want you to be sorry,” she said, “We do want you to be different.”
Dickerson said that people who care about the country are faced with foes who are “selfish, cruel, cowards,” referring to President Trump as a man with “small hands and a narrow mind,” and sizing up many of the opposition as not having “a lick of sense – and not trying to find it.”

“This is a struggle for the soul of this country,” Dickerson said, “its moral center.”
She encouraged those in the crowd to start their crusade right where they are now. Quoting her uncle, Benjamin Hooks – a former executive director of the NAACP – Dickerson said, “You don’t have to leave Oklahoma to find the work.”
Acknowledging the rising tide of racism in American society, she said that the forces for positive change had worked too long, too hard and sacrificed too much to stop now when confronted with new challenges.

Pointing out that Trump seemed unaware that Puerto Ricans “are us and deserve our support,” Dickerson said, too, that it was past time for calling out the fools and coward for what they are. “The will show himself without our help.”
She encouraged one-on-one, face-to-face dialog with others to show them that they “are worth my time” and prodded those in the crowd to “reveal your scars” accumulated in the struggle for justice.

Turning her attention to state politics, Dickerson said the Legislature had “worked harder” to pass a Blue Lives Matter bill than it had on securing the health and welfare of the young and old people of Oklahoma.

She assured the assemblage that “that building on 23rd and Lincoln belonged to everyone and not just the special interests.

The “marginalized” people in society, Dickerson said, are “tired of your apologies” since “they don’t help us to survive or encourage us to go forward.”
Instrumental in implementing positive change, she added, is getting people to the polls for voting.

“The revolution is not free,” Dickerson said. “The movement comes at a cost.”
She encouraged the crowd to “continue to be uncomfortable” and to make sure the complacent are uncomfortable as well. “Continue to do the work.”

(Gary Edmondson is Stephens County Democratic Party Chair.)

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Yes, Connie Johnson Candidate for Governor Expresses Support for SQ788.

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That Was the Week That Wasn’t

Last week has to be judged a success for Oklahoma Republican legislators. They managed a full week in the big city without one of them getting busted for lewd behavior though Mr. Law and Order, Rep. Scott Biggs of Chickasha, was outed for late filings of campaign contributions.

As predicted by everyone capable of reading the state constitution, the regular session’s cigarette tax could not be disguised as a “fee” when it came before the State Supreme Court. Thus, our steadily declining state budget was hit with a $215 million deficit, which became a $500 million budget hole since it now includes lost matching federal funds, according to Barbara Hoberock of the Tulsa World.

People knew the “fee as tax” subterfuge was not going to work. After the Supreme Court threw it out, people knew that a special session was going to be necessary. After Gov. Mary Fallin called the special session, legislative leaders had another ten days or so to prepare.

So, GOPers arrived in Oklahoma City last week with no plan except to blame the 28 Democrats in the House for the inaction of the 73 Republicans.

The governor herself arose from her lethargy with a budget plan. In keeping with the GOP’s record of transparent government, it was “presented Wednesday behind closed doors,” Hoberock reports.

The key to this plan is still that $1.50 per pack tax on cigarettes.

Another idea that emerged last week was to impose a $1 fee per head of cattle sold. Not selling any cattle myself, that didn’t sound like so much. But folks in the cattle business objected mightily.

How much more onerous is it, then, to add $1.50 to every pack of cigarette sold in the state?

Not a smoker, this tax wouldn’t affect me, either. But, I do wonder why we don’t have compensatory “holier-than-thou taxes” to even up the revenue generated by “sin taxes.”

We’re in this sorry state of affairs because the governor and her GOP pals who control the Legislature have done nothing for the past seven years except provide tax breaks and obscene profits for their true constituents – the oil and gas industry and the wealthiest people in the state.

They cut the Gross Production Tax from a reasonable 7 percent to a miniscule 2 percent. They provided income tax breaks for the highest income tax brackets.

Fallin’s plan, Hoberock reports, calls for a five percent GPT on new wells only. Thus, all of the wells sitting at two percent GPT will keep underpaying us for the depletion of our resources.         Not so, the much smaller wind energy industry. It will lose the sales-tax exemption it was promised as an incentive – the success of which is evident to anyone visiting the northwest corner of the state.

Restoring the GPT to seven percent for all wells would be an OK first step – if not raising it to ten percent for a few years to make up for the money we’ve lost.

The governor also calls for two new tax brackets. Currently, a person earning $16,000 annually pays taxes at the same rate as the person earning $16 million – five percent.

Under Fallin’s proposal, “Those earning $250,000 to $499,999 would be taxed at 5.25 percent while those earning $500,000 or more would be taxed at 5.5 percent,” Hoberock writes.

Gosh, I hope that leaves them enough left over for them to stimulate the economy.

Of course,  Reagonomics proved the fallacy of trickle-down economics 30 years ago. What we get is more akin to the splatter-all-around economics of the old cow above the flat rock.

Fallin has other revenue-raising proposals, one of the biggest would be a six cent tax increase per gallon of motor fuel. This would raise the gas tax from 17 to 23 cents per gallon –  including a one-cent “fee” on the current supposed 16-cent tax.

Among her other revenue builders are putting sales taxes on such “luxury” items as car washing, carpet cleaning, extermination services and lawn and gardening services. Hoberock does point out real luxuries such as short-term aircraft rental and fur storage, but note that some of these “luxuries” fall into the category of “Things that I used to do, I just can’t do today” – taxes aimed at the fixed-income elderly.

The Fallin plan calls for a $1,000 teacher pay raise the first year and a $2,000 raise the second year, a far cry from the $5,000 raise generally recognized as necessary for bringing the state pay scale in line with neighboring states.

But, take heart, dear educators. Trump economic advisor Gary Cohn, who is pushing a federal version of “feed the rich” economics thinks that an extra $1,000 will be enough to re-do your kitchen or “buy a new car.”

Wasn’t it Walters’ own Fred Harris who observed that we’d have plenty of money for governmental services if we could just get the rich off welfare?

Stephens County Democrats will meet Oct.10 at 7 p.m. in Room 108 of the Morris Building at Red River Vo-Tech on West Bois D’Arc.

 

(Gary Edmondson is Stephens County Democratic Party Chair.)

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