Stanstamper’s Blog

December 6, 2011

The Two Sides of Compromise

Filed under: Uncategorized — stanstamper @ 10:32 pm
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Senior advisor to President Obama, David Plouffe, has sent out an advisory to the media appealing for Congress to act quickly and approve the president’s recommendation to extend the payroll tax credit program that was placed into effect last year.
The result would give the average American worker an extra $1,500 in spendable cash next year, something the president believes will “stimulate the economy.”
I can’t recall ever meeting a Republican who was not in favor of cutting taxes, yet the president’s plan is falling on cold ears.
Ahh, but there is a catch. Republicans point to the mountain of red ink (too much government spending) that threatens to devour our great nation not unlike a hungry wolf devours a rabbit. Repubs say the president’s plan “must be paid for with cuts.”
His response is to the contrary. “We will pay for it by taxing the rich.”
All of this is routine political rhetoric, and at least as of this writing, neither side has submitted a plan that has enough bipartisan support to pass.
But there’s something missing here. Just paying for the tax cut extension isn’t enough. It does not address the multi-trillion dollar (and growing) deficit that seduces our country into the financial abyss.
Were I a member of congress, my proposal would be to extend the tax cuts for a period of not one, but two years, and make them permanent if the economy were in fact rebounding. My proposal for paying for it would be for half of the funds to come from cuts, and half to come from an extremely modest tax increase on the top 1% of American wage earners AVERAGED OVER THE PAST 5 YEARS.
This is very important because any citizen who reaches retirement age and sells a family farm or business, INSTANTLY becomes a member of the 1% club for that year. This individual should not be forced to sacrifice a significant portion of his or her life’s savings, by virtue of having a once-in-a-lifetime sale of family assets.
And so we go forward, giving both sides the opportunity to save face with their political cronies and their respective parties.
Next, let’s approach the completion of a functional budget that will get our country back on track… in the same fashion.
Presently, posturing for political parties and those who fund them, as well as next November’s elections, drives the political train in Washington, D.C.
America deserves better, and the only obvious tool within our means to affect change is at the ballot box.
But we continue to be a divided nation even at the ballot box. Remember Barney Franks’s words last week, as he announced his retirement: “We (Congress) didn’t just parachute into the capital. We were elected.”
And so it is that the ballot box alone will probably take an extended time to allow the electorate to “adjust” Congress.
A quicker and more effective fix involves identifying an ideological champion… someone who has the knowledge and the courage to lay out a sensible plan… and most importantly SELL IT to the American people.
Though that may border on the edge of impossible, it is reality.
Whenever our brightest and sharpest minds come together on neutral ground and put the needs of our nation and its people before all other political gods, we will flourish.
Until then, we will languish.

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March 14, 2011

Are we losing the education war?

Filed under: Uncategorized — stanstamper @ 8:35 pm
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As a society, we have a lot of tough issues to face, from the stability of our government to how we determine what needs to be funded, at the expense of things that we cannot afford.
Since education comprises the largest single expense item in the state’s budget, it goes without saying that we must constantly evaluate not only how we are doing, but strive to get the best return on each dollar invested.
I take a much harsher approach to funding education than most. I don’t think we’re winning the education battle. I think we’re losing. That’s not to say that we don’t have a lot of great teachers who are doing a wonderful job. Nor is it to say that we don’t have a lot of very sharp and bright students.
It seems to me that we have to approach education as a war—a war that we must win, because children who don’t acquire a basic education, are doomed. I think too many kids are falling through the cracks, and with government money becoming more precious down the road, how will society deal with these education casualties, not to mention the harsh real-world realities that educational failures will be forced to endure?
I actually think “as a group” Hugo and Choctaw County teachers are doing a tremendous job, given the demographics of the area.
It seems to me that instead of throwing so much money at education, we need to focus more on parenting. We need to raise the “expectation” in many youth—that we “expect” them to do better.
If you will take time to read the story to the right of this column by State Superintendent Barresi, you’ll get a better understanding of what an educational mountain we have to climb.
All over this country, parents and taxpayers are telling their legislators they want to see “education reform.” How that reform is defined, of course, is the sixty-four thousand dollar question.
I don’t have all the answers, but better parenting is badly needed. Smarter minds than me need to put together some kind of “parenting curriculum” or counseling for parents who have “at risk” children.
I know there are at least a few such programs in place (parents as teachers, etc.), but more must be done.
When parents don’t care about their children, there’s certainly a diminished likelihood that the child will do well at school.
Nationally, many parents, who realize the importance of a good education, are revolting against the public school system, which they don’t believe is providing the best possible education for their children.
These parents have demanded vouchers, so they can take their children and their tax dollars to the school of their choice…where they think they can obtain a better education.
How can you blame a parent for this, and what is the long-term result for public education when the sharpest and brightest students leave?
See why I think this is a war?
I can’t help but believe that “more structure” is going to be required to save our education system. Along with more structure, is more order, more discipline and more “expectation” for achievement.
I don’t think it makes sense to force a child to take biology if they can’t multiply seven times six. We are graduating kids that can’t read a ruler or figure 10% off the price of goods.
These matters will continue to loom as the greatest challenges of our society. I pray that more Americans understand the consequences of continuing “business as usual” when it comes to losing the war that counts our children as victims.

June 10, 2010

Bad Political Inertia…

Filed under: Uncategorized — stanstamper @ 12:44 pm
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America’s political process is a lot like a 200 car freight train. Once you get it going, it’s hard to stop.
When it comes to our present levels of government spending, it’s hard to find many politicians with even the courage to TRY to stop some wild and crazy spending.
While I applaud the president for taking action (though a year late) to modify federal hiring and look for departmental cuts (a low target of 5%), this is his first significant movement to slow what has become a trend of expanding government while the private business sector contracts.  We also continue to purchase high-dollar military items even the Joint Chiefs say they don’t need.
If you take time to read the piece written by Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn to the right of this column (published in the Hugo Daily: 6-8,9,10) you will begin to understand that American politicians are not only addicted to spending, but we have surrendered common sense in the process.
Because of the length of Sen. Coburn’s letter, we will run it in three installments. The second and third installments are almost unbelievable in the facts that they reveal.
Sadly, the Washington bureaucracy has little appetite for change, and Coburn and other conservatives have their work cut out for them. They are going to be met with fierce resistance every step of the way.
Oh, yes, it does matter who voters elect to send to Washington this fall.
Wisdom is only a portion of the formula for a productive politician in today’s world.
Other important attributes are willingness to LISTEN to the voters and COURAGE. DO THE RIGHT THING, and you get to keep your political job.
But, here we go again. Nearly half the country thinks the right thing is to print more money and dole it out, or design and purchase weapons systems we can’t pay for. (How about $300,000 for the pilot’s helmet in the new Joint Strike Fighter?)
Also in the HDN we publish another revealing story about how politicians presently don’t want to be called to vote on anything controversial on the eve of the seasonal elections. They can’t even pass a budget because they know it will be loaded with all kinds of “normal” spending embarrassments that will rile the voters even more.
Too bad the citizenry can’t vote every year. That would help keep some of these political shenanigans to a minimum.

April 14, 2010

Let us be thankful for the fools…

Filed under: 1 — stanstamper @ 4:22 pm
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A tragic chapter in the history of southeast Oklahoma is presently being written.
It involves the taking of the waters of Sardis Reservoir without any significant benefit being realized by the region.
The benefit will be given to Oklahoma City and its suburbs, which already enjoy the state’s best jobs and highest income levels.
The city’s desire to acquire the waters of Sardis is not without opposition from a group of citizens primarily in Pushmataha county. We fear that they don’t have the political clout to derail the metro’s desire for the water.
Whether or not the lake will become like Atoka, and have a yo-yo lake level, frequently drained to serve the needs of the metro—is yet to be determined.
The pursuers of the lake’s waters promise that they will abide by a minimum lake level agreement, but mysteriously, that agreement hasn’t been stipulated.
It may be that the last bastion of hope for the residents around Sardis Lake and in Southeast Oklahoma, is the Choctaw Nation, which has both the financial resources and the threatened loss of Tribal assets at stake.
There is well more than enough water in the Kiamichi to provide for the needs for Oklahoma City and central Oklahoma without Sardis Lake becoming a casualty to their needs.
Herein lies the problem—greed and leadership.
The city has the greed and absolutely no reluctance to take a regional asset, and the state is absent the leadership to affect meaningful and commonsensical change.
It would surprise us if Governor Henry would show some backbone and demand practical options that would provide for the metro’s future water needs, without long term damage and insult to our beautiful part of Oklahoma.
I would bet that the architects of the Oklahoma City water grab are quoting Mark Twain: “Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them, the rest of us could not succeed.”

January 19, 2010

Lookin’ Like a Fool…

Filed under: 1 — stanstamper @ 2:06 pm
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I’m probably not the only redneck to lament over the sight of someone walking with their “pants on the ground.”
And out of nowhere comes a 62-year-old civil rights worker from Atlanta, Ga., and on “American Idol,” no less, he sings his version of “Pants on the Ground.”
“You call yourself a cool cat…you’re lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground.”
Larry Platt has become an instant celebrity. Even football legend-hero Brett Favre celebrated in the locker room after the Minnesota Vikings’ big whoopin’ of our beloved Dallas Cowboys, singing his own version of “Pants on the Ground.”
“You’re lookin’ like a fool with your hat turned sideways and your pants on the ground.”
It will be interesting to watch in the coming weeks and months, to see if any of our “future leaders” decide to pull up their britches and spare us a look at their shorts.
Thanks to General Larry Platt for taking this message to the top of the media world. Even “The View” aired his song as did virtually all of the late night talk shows.
“You call yourself a cool cat…you’re lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground.”

January 8, 2010

Cold Weather Ranching…

Filed under: 1 — stanstamper @ 4:59 pm
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People who have never raised or cared for livestock probably don’t understand some of the implications that cold weather might have on the animals’ care.

Even before I was a teen, part of my daily chores included getting up before sunrise and feeding cattle and horses.

I remember being a bit surprised at how thirsty the stock would get during frigid weather. I couldn’t believe they could drink so much icy water when it was below zero.

Dad made it clear to my brother Steve and me that we needed to take a chopping axe with us on our morning and evening feeding rounds so we could chop through the ice on the ponds and allow the cattle to drink.

I discovered that thirsty animals could be just as aggressive wanting to get a drink of water as they could be if you walked through the herd carrying a sack of breeder cubes.

Chopping ice, especially when the weather was in the low teens, could get to be hard work.

Now I’ll have to admit that faced with the prospect of work, that was both hard and cold, I put my thinking cap on and tried to figure out a way to “work smart, and not so hard.”

That’s when I got a really great idea.

I could drive the front two wheels of our John Deere tractor out on the ice, and voila! They would break the ice, and with the big rear wheels of the tractor on solid frozen ground, as soon as I backed away, the cattle would rush in and get their drink.

This worked extremely well, and I was delighted at how well my intelligence had worked for me.

Dad was surprised on one such morning, when I made it back to the breakfast table about a half hour earlier than before, and was able to assure him that the cattle were indeed getting all the water they needed.

Well, my wits continued to save my back for a number of days, until the wintertime temperatures plummeted and stayed cold for a week.

I noticed that the ice on the ponds got thicker by the day until at last, the weight of the tractor’s front wheels was no longer enough to break it.

Being on the eighth grade basketball team, our practices began at 6 a.m. sharp each morning. I  had to bribe my brother Steve into taking me to practice by cooking his breakfast every day after I fed the stock.

But, dadgumit, I was going to be late because the tractor couldn’t break the ice, and I would have to go back to the barn and get the choppin’ axe after all.

I put the John Deere in reverse and backed up just a couple of feet, selected fourth or fifth gear, and angrily popped the clutch.

The green machine  spun the tires and slid sideways well out onto the frozen pond to the point that it was at least 10 feet from the bank.

And then I got a lesson in physics and anger management.

Ka-whoosh!

I just thought the morning air was cold.

I made the quarter-mile walk back to the house wondering what I would tell dad. I was relieved to find that he had already left for work in Idabel where he had just purchased the Gazette.

I’m sure Coach Landreth didn’t know why I wasn’t very attentive during that particular practice. I was worried about what kind of trouble I had gotten myself into.

Doug Rawls wasn’t able to get out to the farm with his big semi-wrecker that day, but assured dad he would the next.

I met him after school and remember his amusement at seeing only the muffler and the top of the steering wheel of the tractor sticking out of the frozen ice.

I had my work cut out for me to get the winch cable to the drawbar at the back of the tractor, but I got it done.

When Rawls pulled the winch cable, not only the tractor, but the entire frozen pond came with it.

I was so excited I called some of my friends to come out and we would try our own version of cow-pasture hockey.

Other than paying the wrecker bill and a maintenance bill out at L.B. Anderson’s John Deere, I thought my embarrassment would quickly go away.

At least until about a year later when I was working during the summer at the McCurtain Gazette newspaper in Idabel.

Dad sent me over to the bank to make a deposit and the president of the bank eyed me curiously.

I thought I’d show some good manners and introduce myself.

After I walked over and shook his hand and introduced myself, with a broad grin he said, “I’ve heard all about you. You’re the young cattleman that breaks pond ice with a tractor.”

After my face turned bright red, he cut me some slack. “Don’t feel bad, I did the very same thing when I was a kid.”

I left, glad that dad was satisfied that I had learned a lesson, and didn’t feel the need to apply the belt on top of my embarrassment.

After that, I checked all the Army surplus stores I would pass, but I never was able to find any surplus hand grenades or dynamite

December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Filed under: 1 — stanstamper @ 4:12 pm
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In the year of our Lord, two-thousand and nine, we, who are temporary stewards of the earth, have a lot on our plates.
As is always the case, we first pause to bid goodbye to family and friends whose worldly hours have elapsed. In so doing, we cannot do justice to the contributions they made during their labors, but we can endeavor, as did they, to leave the world better than we found it.
Without question, our work is cut out for us.
No matter how frustrating or challenging the work before us often looms, we should never allow ourselves to fail to recognize how blessed as a nation we truly are.
Most, if not all of these blessings, have been paid for by plain hard work and sacrifice by our forebears. To the extent that our freedoms and our blessings may have become constrained, we can only blame ourselves.
The work of maintaining Liberty and Freedom is never done. Similarly let us not forget from whence we came.
For millions of Americans Christmas is a time to recognize a living God who gave his only begotten Son to the end that all who believed in Him would enjoy everlasting life.
We hope this Christmas finds you and your family in good health, good spirits and thankful that more than 2,000 years ago, a true and living God permanently entered our lives.
To the individuals and families who find themselves in the grips of grief or adversity, we offer our hope and prayers that God will lift you up and comfort you.
Beyond these realities, our spirits are lifted as eager faces and sparkling eyes look upward to those who nurture them and give them comfort—in anticipation of Christmas and the important celebration of the birth of our Lord.
We join in the celebration and extend our own sincere wish to our readers and friends—Merry Christmas!

December 23, 2009

Three Americas

Filed under: 1 — stanstamper @ 8:59 pm
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A few months ago, this column focused on that inescapable fact that America continues to grow more and more divided.
We talked about “two Americas” in which political ideology was becoming more and more pronounced.
But today, we ask if this split is not changing again.
Perhaps there are actually three Americas.
Between the well-entrenched political left and right, we have the tea baggers, and their numbers are said to be growing. They are quick to deny their loyalty to any political party.
The tea baggers are growing more and more frustrated at the two party process. They appear to be more centralistic—some would say fair-minded.
By some counts, the tea baggers outnumber both the left and the right, but political historians say they can’t crack the two-party system and won’t ultimately hang together.
On our opinion page today, these diametrically opposed political philosophies are very obvious right here in Oklahoma.
Democrats appear to back health care “reform at any cost” and Republicans say, “Is it reform, and who gets financially hurt in the process.”
But, that is what a two-party system is all about, and it is this enormous gap in the middle into which the tea baggers are flocking.
Many taxpayers are growing more appalled at the quality of leadership in all facets of government. Meaningful reform plays second fiddle to personal gain and party ideology.
Sure, there are a few exceptions, but they quickly grow weary of constantly fighting the system.
Like many vocations, when an individual comes along with the skills, integrity and desire to be an effective political leader…that individual can simply step into corporate America and be more successful without having to carry all the frustrating baggage that comes with the job.
And some, of course either get “Potomatic Fever” after arriving in Washington, or “Oklahoma River Fever” in our grand state.
It’s some kind of unfortunate virus that converts them from sensible to party hack, and it doesn’t take long.
Having an old geezer standing around one of these political newbees, constantly reminding him or her of their roots and of their once proud values, can delay this process. But unfortunately, few have that old geezer and fewer still would listen to him.
For those who enjoy being an observer of the political process, this is an exciting time. The natives, on both sides of the political spectrum, are restless—ready to go to political war in support of the party’s causes.
As always, to the victor, goes the spoils.

November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Thougths…

Filed under: 1 — stanstamper @ 3:19 pm
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Giving thanks has been a tradition in our country that started long before European settlers landed on our coasts.
Almost daily, we use this column and this page of our newspaper hoping to inform and enlighten our readers on matters of importance—things that have an impact on their lives.
We think Oklahomans, and Choctaw Countians in particular, are among the most charitable people you will find anywhere. Virtually everywhere you look there are volunteers, giving the most precious thing they have, their time, trying to make life better for someone else.
Choctaw Countians serve their fellow man through many organizations: civic clubs, youth groups and church projects. Each seeks to give something back, as our forebears gave to make things better for us.
Our blessings are pretty remarkable and perhaps too often we allow petty issues to divert our attention from the vastness of the blessings and opportunities that surround us.
Here at the Hugo Daily News, we are all thankful that we have the freedom to publish a small community newspaper and say things that would land journalists in prison in many countries.
In our county and its cities within, we see many people who haven’t lost the old-fashioned work ethic that made America great.
We are thankful that our readership has never been higher and our opportunity to serve our customers has never been greater.
At this time of Thanksgiving, our thoughts and prayers are with individuals and families who are facing difficult times and illness.
Though challenges often materialize, and some are daunting, we will always have the freedom to draw upon the inner strength given to us by God in large measures — to overcome adversity.
So we extend our wishes that you and your family have a happy, safe and memorable Thanksgiving.

November 17, 2009

Why Hurry Mega-Health Plan?

Filed under: 1 — stanstamper @ 3:25 pm
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Proposed health care legislation in Washington continues to generate concerns among all but the youngest of American citizens.
Seniors are worried about what will, or will not be covered. Some fear the new legislation will throw them under the bus.
Business owners are also fearful of being forced by the government to provide coverage. Many businesses are struggling financially and simply cannot afford several thousand dollars a month in new expenses.
From our vantage point, given the financial challenges our nation faces, we don’t like what we hear coming from the President concerning his desire to “rush this bill through.”
The most expensive piece of legislation in our nation’s history deserves more than a rush job through the Congress—especially our current Congress, which seems oblivious to what anything costs and who will pay for it.
Senate Democrats are in a conundrum. Rush the bill through now and face the wrath of voters back home, perhaps giving voters time to “forget” before next fall’s elections.
Or will they run the risk of taking their time and opening the gates of negative public input.
With only a few more than 20 legislative days remaining this year, odds are against a 2009 bill passing.
America’s most successful companies, which provide elaborate health plans to their executives are screaming about some Democratic plans to place an excise tax on “high cost” plans.
Another Democratic plan suggests that employers be forced to withhold more from employees which earn over $200,000—all intended to subsidize the cost of insurance for low-income recipients and what many fear will suck from the system—illegal immigrants.
Democrats have their work cut out for them as 39 of their members in the House voted against the House version of the bill.
Many of our readers have called to get phone numbers of Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation so they can voice their opinions.
All but a handful oppose the present health care proposal, as do we.
It would be out of character for the Congress to take the time necessary to find a sensible balanced plan that did a minimum amount of harm in the free-market.
But using the word “character” with many members of this Congress is a bit odd in itself.

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