Tulsa World, Feb. 11, 2014
Smart, Texas Tech fan crossed the line
Oklahoma State University basketball player Marcus Smart did a dumb thing in Lubbock, Texas, Saturday night. Provoked by a fan, he lost his self-control, and he shoved the man on national TV.
Then, Smart did the right thing Sunday by offering a sincere apology. The Big 12 did the right thing, too — handing Smart a three-game suspension.
It’s difficult to come down too hard on a 19-year-old kid who lost his temper when he was called a “piece of crap” (or worse, according to some reports).
But players simply can’t do that.
We have a good deal of scorn for the Texas Tech University fan, an adult, who delivered the words and received the shove. You ought to be able to love your team, enjoy a basketball game and still be proud of your behavior the morning after the game.
Let’s put it this way: Neither side showed the maturity that anyone would want representing their school.
The fan went over the line, and Smart came right back at him. The fan also has offered an apology and given up his seats for the remainder of the season.
Marcus Smart could have a successful career ahead of him both at OSU and likely even into the NBA. We hope so. He’s a talented young man. Pro scouts often have said that as much as his ability to play basketball impresses them, his character is just as strong.
Fans are expected to be emotional about their teams. Players are expected to be passionate about their sport. Both also need to have some self-possession, some personal boundaries.
We hope that both Smart and the Texas Tech fan have learned where that line is and how to stay on the proper side of it.
The Oklahoman, Feb. 10, 2014
Oklahoma income tax hits rich and poor alike
Did you know that 0.25 percent of $1 million yields more than 0.25 percent of $30,000? Did you know that people who don’t owe state income tax don’t get any direct benefit from a cut to a tax rate they don’t pay? Those facts are obvious to most Oklahomans, yet opponents of tax cuts act as though these are startling new revelations.
Gov. Mary Fallin has called for cutting Oklahoma’s top income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent. Predictably, opponents immediately resorted to class warfare arguments. David Blatt, with the Oklahoma Policy Institute, said 41 percent of Oklahomans would see no benefit from Fallin’s tax cut and individuals in the middle class would receive about $30. However, the top 1 percent of taxpayers would save more than $2,000.
Well ... yes. People who pay little or no income taxes don’t suddenly pay less than zero when tax rates are lowered.
But nearly six in 10 Oklahomans do pay income taxes. Given that Oklahoma’s top tax rate kicks in at $8,700 in taxable income for single filers and $15,000 for couples, this group includes many who clearly do not share the lives of the “idle” rich.
It’s also true that the more money you earn, the more money you save when the tax rate is cut. That’s just basic math. This doesn’t mean the rich are getting a bigger tax cut than the middle class. The rate reduction would be the same for both. Instead, it means the rich have more money than the middle class and pay more in taxes, which isn’t breaking news. They will pay more in taxes regardless of the rate.
Rep. Scott Inman, a Del City lawmaker who leads the House Democratic caucus, said Fallin’s tax cut proposal was “laughable and clearly demonstrates that the governor is focused more on the politics of selling a tax cut to a right-wing base that wants it than she is based upon actual fiscally responsible policy.”
Again, given the low income levels landing people in Oklahoma’s top income tax bracket, those interested in a rate reduction are not merely an insignificant or overly partisan sliver of the state population.
Given the state’s budget situation, and the backlog of needs that accrued when lawmakers had to cut spending during the national recession, we’ve questioned whether a tax cut should be on the front burner this year. Fallin’s proposed budget illustrates the trade-offs that must occur to cut the tax rate while balancing the budget at a time of revenue decline. In general, though, low income tax rates encourage successful people to live in a given state. Neighboring Texas, an economic engine for the nation, has no personal income tax.
We’ve also agreed in principle with OK Policy’s contention that the top income tax rate shouldn’t kick in as such low-income levels. Rather than painting the rich as undeserving beneficiaries of tax cuts, why not make sure more lower-income people aren’t taxed at the highest rate?
To their credit, both OK Policy and Inman also advance solid arguments to justify increased spending in certain areas rather than enacting a tax cut. If they want to do more than provide sound bites, they should focus on rational, policy-based arguments — not crass appeals to class division based on a mathematical sleight-of-hand.
The Journal Record, Feb. 10, 2014
E-cigs have not been proved safe
At first whiff, electronic cigarettes don’t seem like such a bad idea. They can look like cigarettes and produce a vapor that can be inhaled like a cigarette, but there’s no burning tobacco involved. They deliver a dose of nicotine so, like patches and gum, it sounds like a reasonable product to help smokers quit.
Look more closely, though, and the argument for vaping, as it’s known, goes up in flames.
The manufacturers, cigarette companies among them, market e-cigarettes as a nicotine delivery system that uses harmless water vapor. Surely, that’s better than smoking, right? But e-cigarettes, which were first made in China in 2003, are not delivering nicotine with harmless water vapor. In California, a 1986 law requires annual publication of compounds known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. At least two studies have found that the e-cigarette vapor studied carried up to 10 of the compounds on that list, namely: acetaldehyde, benzene, cadmium, formaldehyde, isoprene, lead, nickel, nicotine, N-nitrosonornicotine and toluene. Most were found in directly inhaled vapor and secondhand vapor.
The cigarette lobbyists now flooding the Oklahoma Capitol will argue that no one has proven e-cigarettes are dangerous. The problem is that no one has proven them safe, either, and that should be reason enough to restrict their sale and marketing in the same way we restrict tobacco products.
As it stands, however, there are no regulations on who may purchase or use electronic cigarettes. And let’s not put our heads in the sand when it comes to the target audience. There are more than 100 flavors available, including root beer, marshmallow, Moutain Du, Skit-Ls, sugar cookie, watermelon and White Gummi Bear. That and the lack of age restrictions on sales gives the product as much chance of getting children addicted on nicotine as it does getting adults off the stuff.
Gov. Mary Fallin showed foresight and strength in quickly banning vaping on state property, a policy that parallels her similar ban on tobacco.
Someday, electronic cigarettes might prove to be a reasonably safe, effective smoking cessation tool. But for now, with no regulation, there is no way to know what’s in that vapor or how dangerous it might be. We do know electronic cigarettes deliver nicotine, and that nicotine is highly addictive. We should not risk Oklahomans’ health by keeping candy-flavored nicotine readily available, much less on the say-so of tobacco companies.