151 Band

Saturday, January 01, 2011

$4/Gallon Gasoline By Summer?

The so-called "economic rebound" we are hearing about in mainstream media has apparently caused traders on the NYMEX to soil themselves and the price of oil is more than likely going to hit $100/bbl this year.  Of course, not many people are talking about it just yet. 

But you'll be hearing a lot more as the new Congress sits down to figure out just what in the hell is going on in this country.

Meanwhile, natural gas equivalent is about $1.40/gallon.

In an AP story, it looks like just about everything is about to get more expensive.

Read the whole story here.

2011 Accountability Tour Schedule

The 2010 elections threw down the proverbial gauntlet for fiscal conservatism, economic development, support for Constitutional freedoms and with that comes unprecedented accountability for elected officials.  Promises made and subsequently broken will not be tolerated in this political climate - regardless of party affiliation. 

Here is a list of issues and campaign promises made that We The People will be watching in 2011:

2nd Amendment:  The National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America and the Oklahoma Rifle Association supported candidates who embraced the right to keep and bear arms.  Many candidates used their desire for open carry or even campus concealed carry expansion as their mantra and this legislative session will set the tone for the 2012 election cycle. 

Illegal Immigration:  HB1804 set the Oklahoma media on fire a few years ago and the aggregate result was a rift within the ranks of the Republican party.  The conservatives desire to see illegal immigration and the subsequent costs to be curtailed through tougher laws yet the moderate Republicans feel as though tough immigration laws are detrimental to economic development and sends a message that Oklahoma is an intolerant state.  The cost to Oklahoma taxpayers where illegal immigration is concerned increases every year and has also impacted our education system.  Members of the House of Representatives have vowed to author "Arizona-Plus" illegal immigration legislation because the federal government has failed to fulfill their Constitutional duty of dealing with the issue.  This will result in a showdown of epic proportions, pitting the Chambers of Commerce against Constitutional conservatives and the 80% of Oklahomans who believe illegal immigration to be problematic.

MAP3:  City Council elections kick off and there is still a groundswell of opposition to the MAPS3 projects.  The establishment will be facing more aggressive opposition than ever and based on the emails and messages I have received, the opponents of Mayor Mick Cornett are kicking it up a notch or two and actually have some funding.  Keep your eye on this one.

FOP/Firefighter Voices:  Law enforcement received a slap in the face as a result of the MAPS vote last year wherein Oklahoma City voters were told public safety would receive financial benefits from the MAPS vote only to learn that they had been bamboozled.  With the political climate being what it is right now, the FOP and firefighters will have the ear of high propensity voters this year and their organizations will no loner be considered the paper tigers they have in the past.  2011 may very well be the year for public safety.

Goza Family
Senate District 47:  Lt. Governor Todd Lamb decided not to step down from his senate seat, costing taxpayers more money for a special election.  Candidates for that seat have been out and about, knocking doors and a couple are even up on radio already.  Carol Hefner has been the name to beat because of her name.  There are, however, some questions that have come up regarding her fiscal conservatism and a look at some court documents seem to bear that out.  During tough economic times, a lot of people are having difficulty, but not everyone is running for the State Senate either.  You can decide (here).  Then, there's Greg Treat.  Treat worked for Fallin, worked for Coburn and was the Victory director - a perfect stepping stone for the State Senate race.  Treat is a nice man with a great family, but with virtually no private sector experience whatsoever.  Coburn endorsed him for the race, which should come as no surprise whatsoever to anyone, but unlike Coburn, Treat has worked as a political insider his whole life.  Which leads us to the guy I like:  Kenny Goza.  Honestly, Goza is a self-made man with private sector experience and is a veteran.  Republicans say that they want candidates who are veterans, who are fiscal conservatives and who understand business.  If the people of SD47 really want that kind of candidate, they'll vote for Goza.  If they want more of the same, they won't.  Goza has even said that he will take his senate salary and give it to veterans and to the foster care system.  He's the real deal and doesn't NEED the job unlike his opponents.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs:  Every Republican candidate who won their elections included in their talking points the concept of "job creation."  Anyone who understands the proper role of government knows full well that government cannot create private sector jobs, but rather can create a regulatory environment conducive to private sector job creation.  Unfortunately, most voters don't understand that and it will serve to be a double-edged sword for elected officials because now, if they don't see an increase in jobs in Oklahoma, the same voters who put them in office will be intensely dissatisfied that these elected officials broke their promises.

Happy New Year.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Ohio Man Blames Ozzy For DUI

CLEVELAND (AP) — A suspected drunken driver who blames his arrest on Ozzy Osbourne and his music is awaiting arraignment in Ohio.

Thirty-three-year-old William Liston of Aurora was arrested Christmas Eve in suburban Cleveland. According to WJW-TV, he told officers, "Ozzy Osbourne and his music made me do it." Liston is to appear in court Tuesday on a charge of operating a vehicle while impaired.

Read the rest of the story here.

2010 In Review, 2011 Coming Down Tracks

2010 was an amazing year politically, culturally and emotionally for many Oklahomans.  There can be no question that multitudes were scratching their heads throughout the year, wondering just what in the heck had happened.

Here is a look back at some of the stories that caught my attention and will continue to garner attention in 2011:

Republican Sweep:  2010 brought a Republican sweep in the House, the Senate and statewide offices.  The defeat of even Senator Jay Paul Gumm in what is arguably one of the most Democratic Districts in Oklahoma shocked and surprised everyone.  A dentist is now the Superintendent of Public Instruction.  Republicans own the Corporation Commission.  Oklahoma has its first woman governor - a female governor.  In 2011, the Republicans will have an opportunity to fulfill their promises or in 2012, there will be another shift in power. 

District Attorney Prater
Ersland Case:  The Jerome Ersland case has polarized Republicans and Democrats alike.  For 2nd Amendment champions, there is division as well.  Ersland drew down and dropped a bad guy, but then went back and reloaded.  This is a case that will make or break the popular District Attorney, David Prater. 

Randy Terrill, Debe Leftwich:  Another high profile case that has drawn and will continue to make headlines is the charges of corruption and bribery of two elected officials.  The defendants have made it clear that they believe District Attorney David Prater is on a political "witch hunt," and Prater believes very strongly that this is not only a case of bribery, but underscores the need for strong responses to what the public perceives to be corruption. 

State Question 744:  Shot down in flames to the point of mandate, the people of Oklahoma are sickened by the condition of our education delivery mechanism and wholesale changes will be made in 2011 as a result.  Much like the gasoline tax the Attorney General's spokesbabe pushed a few years ago that failed, this state question will be the catalyst for positive change.

MAPS3:  The Tea Party opposed MAPS3, the establishment and Chamber of Commerce supported it and the tax increase (continuation) passed.  Rumor has it that an independent taxpayer watchdog group is paying attention and will be creating a fuss as to how the revenues are spent.

Camp Counselor to Congress:  Oklahoma is the reddest of red states and the 2010 Republican sweep set the standard for other states to follow.  Our disgust with the status quo reached epic proportions to the point where we sent a man with no private sector experience whatsoever, but was a camp counselor at a Christian summer camp.  Fascinating.

2011 is already shaping up to be a spectacular year for reform and revelations about more and more of our elected officials who have been playing fast and loose with the truth.  The Terrill/Leftwich investigation will more than likely blossom to uncover other issues with other legislators. 

It's going to be a lot of fun, kids.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied

Some years ago, I wrote a polemic or two dealing with the deplorable acts of some televangelists and in a few cases, saw religious broadcasters actually remove individuals from the airwaves.  There was one pseudo-televangelist that was particularly troublesome (Bob Larson) because his theological construct was exceptionally dangerous.  His theory was that Christians could be possessed by demons. 

Lady Justice Not Blind
In the midst of the doctrinal debate, I became friends with a staunch agnostic who absolutely hated Bob Larson.  He had been after Larson for years and really made no headway, but his hatred for the man simply burned deeper than anything I have experienced until recently.  This friend would get enormously frustrated with the process of working within the wonderful world of evangelical broadcasting and he used to say to me all the time, "justice delayed is justice denied." 

I used to disagree with the man but I think he may have been on to something.  Today, the airwaves are littered with numerous televangelists whose doctrines of greed have become the norm rather than the exception.  Politics is much the same way as well, isn't it?  Year after year we experience corruption, cronyism, broken promises...and every election cycle, we drink deep.

Conventional Christian wisdom dictates that we are to "wait upon the Lord," to be patient, kind and loving in our endeavors - even in the face of liars and the most depraved of humankind.  My agnostic friend disagreed.  He believed that immediate action was required to achieve that which he called "justice."  Christians understand that in order to receive "justice" it is to be meted out equally and that isn't something those who have a grasp of Romans 3 truly desire.  But there are times that try the very fabric of your being.  Times and circumstances that cause every molecule in one's existence to shudder, to demand "justice" of some sort.

We know, and history has proven, that money and privilege can buy influence.  O.J. Simpson was found "not guilty" by a jury of his peers even in the face of reality.  Regardless of the evidence, regardless of the testimony, he was found "not guilty."  Contrast that with the case of Jeffrey Todd Pierce.  A man without influence, and he certainly had no friends in the prosecutor's office, who was found guilty of a crime he did not commit  and it took 15 years of agony in prison to actually PROVE his innocence.  Think about that for a moment:  He had to PROVE his innocence. 

Law enforcement officers bust their chops and put their lives on the line every single day to keep us safe and to keep the roads safe only to have their reports called "hearsay" by an attorney who sleeps under the blanket of freedom and protection others provide.  It's the world in which we live and try as we might, our efforts are much like the author of Ecclesiastes states:  "Chasing after the wind."  Law enforcement busts them, the system puts the influential back out on the streets with impunity and then the system scratches its collective head and wonders why so many take the law into their own hands and mete out their own brand of justice.

Other countries, in some ways, have a better grasp on these types of issues than we Americans.  For example, in Europe, if a televangelist makes an outrageous claim, they must prove their claim or be booted off the airwaves.  It's basic "proof in advertising" that somehow eludes us. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Guest Editorial: It’s Time for the Negative Income Tax

Craig Dawkins
It’s Time for the Negative Income Tax
By Craig Dawkins

December 25, 2010

The late, great economist Milton Friedman developed a revolutionary concept in social welfare and income taxation in his 1962 book “Capitalism and Freedom.” He called it the negative income tax (NIT).  Properly written into law, the NIT would totally reform every social welfare program in America while, at the same time, reforming the federal income tax system.

Here’s how the NIT works. Every citizen over the age of 18 would receive a fixed amount from the federal government every year. (I know what you’re thinking but just wait and read on.) The tax rate on income would tax incomes at a flat rate, say 25%. The NIT would have no effect on Social Security or Medicare. At this point you are still scrunching your nose. Continue please.

Under my NIT example of a 25% tax rate, a person who earns $40,000 would owe $10,000 in taxes. But if they get a NIT of $10,000, they would have net taxes of ZERO. Only those earning more than $40,000 would actually have to pay taxes under my example. Without getting bogged down, that’s the quick and dirty on how it works. The tax rate and NIT assumptions could be modified to suit different priorities. Now for the good stuff.

 The U.S. has never needed fiscal reform and austerity measures more than today. A negative income tax would eliminate most every federal  social welfare program. It would just shut them down. With the NIT, they are needed no more. With one fell swoop, the NIT eliminates a bunch of state and federal bureaucrats. A massive reduction in the government workforce would ensue.

Social problems like homelessness, hunger, and the concern of illegal aliens acquiring social services would come to an end. If all tax loopholes were closed and a flat income tax rate adopted, government revenues would increase while net tax rates would decline for most Americans. Incentives for work would increase significantly as people would keep a historically large portion of their incomes. And people who have become dependent on government for everything they need can learn to be responsible for their own needs with the financial resources made available by the NIT.

Freedom would be enhanced as the NIT system would completely disempower the nanny-state. Big government do-gooders who seek to regulate the food we eat, the liquids we drink, the smoke we ingest, the sugar and salt content we intake, would be left frustrated and banished. People would be free to consume what they wish to consume, including hand guns.  The personal liberty robbing government agencies would be closed forever. That would be a huge step in the right direction.
But this prospect offers little for most liberals/progressives who hate the idea that people would be given resources that don’t restrict personal freedoms. They believe government knows best.  Liberals want to social engineer society by offering targeted tax reductions to manipulate how people use and invest their financial resources. And they want and need that large, bloated federal bureaucracy to power their agenda.

The NIT agitates many conservatives who, like liberals, also want to control the freedoms of Americans through the social welfare model. They like the idea of telling welfare recipients that they can’t use their aid on slot machines, alcohol, or cigarettes. Many conservatives also believe government knows best. They, just like liberals, are misguided. Some are bothered because they don’t want an income tax at all and advocate a repeal of the 16th Amendment. That horse left the barn almost 100 years ago.

The NIT would be a compromise system. Since the principle problem of the poor is the lack of money, the NIT solves that problem. It also shuts down ever growing bureaucratic agencies which use our tax dollars to lobby Congress for more and more money. The NIT also nicely deals with the immigration problem in that only legal residents would receive the NIT. If immigrants come, they come to work. No welfare. No aid. No màs! If combined with a flat income tax, the NIT would empower liberty, not perfectly, but it would greatly improve the status quo. 
Craig Dawkins is a professor of economics and finance, a policy analyst and activist for a freer society.