Oklahoma Will adopt Obamacare

Another one bites the dust.

Facing a massive budget deficit due to overspending all the wrong money in all the wrong places, the Oklahoma legislature needed to do something drastic. So what have they cut (besides our faith in them to do things right?)

They re-expanded Medicaid by adopting Obamacare and plan to raise taxes more.

What a brilliant decision. I mentioned in my last post why cutting medical subsidies and removing the government from healthcare was a good thing, and how the ACA has raised premiums and deductibles, making healthcare more expensive for the rest of us in the process.

But this post is not designed to address the pitfalls of government run healthcare. This post is designed to address Oklahoma’s spending problem, and the fallacy that spending more on Medicaid will help anyone in the long run.

Our budget shortfall has been blamed on many things. But it really comes down to two big ones. Low oil prices, and excessive spending.

I’ve discussed how energy is hurting us before, and its time to discuss spending.

Much of our spending comes from our broken criminal justice system, whether its 90 million to private prisons, a topic for another time, or another roughly 450 million to jail mostly drug users-52% of our inmates are nonviolent.

Much more comes from subsideis to oil companies-200 million

Legislative salaries are the highest in our region-making more in four months than teachers do all year.

And of course, Medicaid. which accounts for a whopping 25% of our expenditures, equating to roughly 5 billion a year, and only getting bigger with the ACA.

So how do we fix our 1.3 billion dollar budget crisis?

Start with the justice system. End private prison subsidies, 100 million made back. End prison snetencing for nonviolent offenders, another 250 million.

Legalize marijuana, which made Coloarado 70 million and could make us as much as 50 million if we put a sin tax on it.

End energy subsidies. let the free market run its course. 200 million more.

And cut medicaid waste spending. net a solid 700 million.

Thats 1.3 billion right there; and cut legislative salaries for good measure.

These would be great steps to take to solve our budget crisis and make our state freer in the process.

-Travis Baker

I link all my sources. I do not own the images used.

Oklahoma to cut Medicaid

Medicaid Spending is likely to double in the next decade.

Recently, the state legislature stated that Oklahoma will be facing big cuts to Medicaid.

Naturally, people were very upset. How will the nursing homes survive without their government money? How will anybody afford Healthcare?

Well, the answer is quite simple.

To fully understand and evaluate Medicaid’s successes and failures, we must first have an understanding of its history. Medicaid was implemented in 1965, and tied into Social Security payments.

Before the implementation of Medicaid, people were still able to afford medical payments. This is because almost all doctors, including Ron Paul, had a progressive scale for medical bills, where the rich paid more, and the poor paid less. This was also voluntary, meaning that no government oversight occurred of this progressive rate. The doctors who did not implement the system soon did, for lack of business. This is the market at work.

Fast forward to 2010. The ACA expands Medicaid drastically. What happened? Premiums soared. Jobs and wages were cut. And taxes rose.

All of this for a program that 47% of Americans are unhappy with.

So why do people so readily think that government run healthcare is a good thing?

Maybe it is the likes of Bernie Sanders pointing to countries like Canada, whose healthcare is arguably worse than ours.

Maybe its a growing sense of insecurity brought about by decades of economic instability.

Or maybe its the ghost of FDR continually whispering into people’s ears that more government programs and more free stuff is the answer to all problems.

I think it’s a combination of all three.

Government subsidized healthcare is the biggest government expenditure, and is likely to double in costs in the next decade. It raises the prices of drugs, and reduces the quality of care. And it empowers the bureaucracy at the expense of the patients all over this country.

Cutting Medicaid is a good thing. Get the government out of medicine

-Travis Baker

I do not own the images used. I link all of my sources.

 

Legislature to Vote on Alcohol Bill

The Oklahoma legislature is nearing a vote on allowing high proof beer and wine to be sold in grocery stores and convenience stores.

This is a huge victory for retailers in the state, as this will increase the revenue of many stores both big and small. The ability to sell more products is very important in broadening consumer base and profit margin.

However not everyone is excited about the measure.

Many opponents claim that increasing the availability of alcohol will increase DUIs, and other byproducts of alcohol. However, many studies, show that liquor availability has no correlation to DUI arrests 

Other opponents are those who run small liquor stores, and they are naturally upset that they will lose business. This is fair, but one must realize that liquor stores are still the only place to purchase hard liquors of any kind, and most consumers of beer already purchased their beer from grocery stores.

The only real market that liquor stores are being hurt in is the wine market, and lets be frank, Oklahoman’s don’t consume a lot of wine.

This bill will bring a lot of revenue to Oklahoma stores, and will be very convenient for many Oklahoma consumers statewide.

That’s what I call a good bill.

-Travis Baker

I do not own the images used, I link all of my sources.

SB 1187

 

Senator Clark Jolley authored a bill to deregulate Oklahoma schools.

 

 

Senate Bill 1187 passed through the senate by a vote of 25-20 last Thursday. There is naturally a lot of controversy surrounding this bill.But what exactly does this bill do?

This bill was authored by my own State Senator Clark Jolley. The bill was amended twice, once during committee, and once on the floor.  The bill allows individual school districts to remove themselves from state educational standards with a vote from the school board.

What standards are these?

Teachers’ salaries, teaching requirements, and curriculum are the big three. And i mentioned teachers; salaries in a post last month, please read that article before continuing. It will help you understand this issue better.

This bill erases minimum salaries for teachers. Proponents of this bill note that it is voluntary, but when 43 million dollars of the education budget were just cut, there is heavy incentive for districts to scale back on teachers’ salaries.

OK Legislature: “We are cutting 43 million from the budget”

Schools: “Damn that sucks.”

OK Legislature: “By the way if you want, you can no longer adhere to teacher minimum salary.”

I am fully convinced this bill is an underhanded way to cut teacher pay in favor of emergency certified teachers.

This bill has one huge problem irrelevant to localizing standards, which I am in favor of. This puts the long-term future of public schoolchildren in dire jeopardy. This harms our already gutted teacher base, and revokes any and all protection from our teachers.

This bill does not help fund our schools. It views our instructors as an asset to be cut.

Please write your local representative and voice your dissent. Oklahoma’s future just may depend on it.

-Travis Baker

I do not own the images I use. I link all of my sources.

 

Oklahoma’s Growing Tourism Industry

Yesterday, Oklahoma City’s own Topgolf, a popular attraction in the metro, reopened after ice storms caused severe damage which caused it to close for roughly a month.

This got me thinking about the staggering growth of the tourism industry in the Oklahoma City area. I touched briefly on it in a post I made a few days ago. Oklahoma is having an astounding period of economic and tourist expansion, thanks in no small part to the success of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Many skeptics of the ability for tourism to boost an economy neglect to think of cities like Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and many more. Local events and entertainment can more than sustain a local economy, in fact it can make it thrive.

One common thread in major tourist cities is the gaming industry. Casinos are a staple in many cities, and throughout Oklahoma in particular. However there is one key difference. Because nearly all of Oklahoma is Native American land, casinos can not be developed by non-native people.

This poses a problem to the expansion of Oklahoma’s tourist industry. If people cannot build casinos, we can not further develop our gaming industry.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand and lament the wrongdoings of the past toward Native Americans. I understand why laws allocating industry ad funds to them were necessary. However, I think these laws are no longer necessary.

But alas, it is a federal law that Casinos must be built on Native land. As a solution, I think our state legislature should negotiate with Tribal Governments more to build more casinos and expand the gaming industry.

It could be a boon to our state economy.

-Travis Baker

travisbaker328@gmail.com

I link all my sources. I don’t own these images

 

Are Sin Taxes Right?

It may surprise absolutely nobody that I am a vehement libertarian. (I know, shocking.) Meaning that I favor a limited government in almost every way.

But I do have lapses in that ideology. For example, sin taxes. A sin tax is a heightened tax on a specific good or service, such as cigarettes or alcohol.

Mary Fallin recently called for another raise on the cigarette tax. Fallin suggested adding another $1.50 onto what is already a hefty tax.

Is this moral? After all people should have the right to bodily autonomy. Why should cigarettes be any different?

In my opinion, sin taxes are perfectly fine. They do not make it illegal for you to purchase said good, and only slightly hinder you financially. I believe a sin tax is a great way to improve life within the state on one condition. The good in question affects all of us, not just you.

Cigarettes are the perfect example of this. More people die from secondhand smoke than direct smoking. Lighting up hurts society just as much or more as it hurts you.

In this case, you are damaging society, and you should, in my perspective, pay a little bit more into the system than everyone else to cover the damages to the environment and healthcare system.

On goods like alcohol, there is nothing inherently dangerous to society concerning consumption; only when you drive under the influence are you putting people at risk (but that’s an article for another time.)

A sin tax on cigarettes is a great way to discourage smoking and make a healthy revenue for the state at the same time.

I call that a win-win.

-Travis Baker

travisbaker328@gmail.com

I link all my sources, I do not own the images used.

Mary Fallin calls for Criminal Justice Reform

In her annual State of the State address, Governor Fallin stated that she would be prioritizing criminal justice reform in her final term as governor.

Some, including myself, would say that this is a case of too little, too late. Oklahoma has the highest incarceration rates in the nation, and is overfilled in terms of prison capacity. It is astounding that the state of Oklahoma spends nearly 500 million dollars  on prison expenditures annually.

This has obviously become quite the problem, and while I believe it should have been addressed a very long time ago, I laud Gov. Fallin for making it a priority alongside education reform and our budget deficit.

One way I believe that we can really help is by ending the mandatory minimum sentencing for drug related crimes. Nearly 3/4 of our prison population are currently serving for non-violent drug crimes. Drug crimes are also treated much more harshly in the state of Oklahoma, often having longer sentences than crimes like murder and rape.

Where is the justice in that? Why should someone convicted on drug charges be punished so severely? These people have the disease of addiction. What they need is treatment, not jail time.

Most of the rest of the country is starting to shift towards a rehabilitation over punishment model. Judges more and more are ordering rehab instead of sentences in prison.

My older brother struggled with drug use for all of his adult life. I have personally seen the effects it has on people. Good people. Locking them up is futile, because without proper treatment and rehab, they will return to their addictions.

We need to end mandatory minimum sentencing. For both the sake of the taxpayer and the drug addict. It helps everyone when we actually help these people.

 

-Travis Baker

travisbaker328@gmail.com

I link all my sources. I do not own the images used.