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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers

January 8, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Oklahoman. Jan. 8, 2019.

— Latest employment numbers are reason for cheer

An increase in the unemployment rate isn’t usually considered good news, but that is the case for December’s jobs report, in which the nation’s unemployment rate rose to 3.9 percent.

That’s a positive development because, as CNBC reported, the jobless rate “rose for the right reason as 419,000 new workers entered the workforce and the labor force participation rate increased to 63.1 percent.” In contrast, unemployment has fallen on other occasions in the past decade primarily because people left the workforce. The fact that more people are now looking for work is a sign more people have reason to think good jobs are available. This sign of economic vitality should be welcomed.

Until the 1970s, the labor force participation rate was typically between 58 and 60 percent. That changed with the economic booms of the 1980s and 1990s, which also coincided with many more women entering the workforce. By 2000, the labor force participation rate peaked at 67.3 percent. The rate was still above 66 percent in 2008, when the Great Recession struck. In the following years, the rate steadily declined, falling as low as 62.4 percent in September 2015.

The recession played a large role, as did demographic changes. During that period, many Baby Boomers began reaching retirement and left the workforce. Even so, there was reason that the slow-growth economy following the 2008 downturn was often called a “jobless recovery.”

Today’s labor force participation rate remains far below the 2000 high, and the improvement is still modest, but the fact the rate is moving in the right direction is encouraging. Also encouraging is that the 312,000 jobs created in December were far more than the 176,000 predicted by economists.

Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, writes that December’s employment numbers “would seem to make a mockery of market fears of an impending recession” and “suggests the U.S. economy still has considerable forward momentum.”

“The economy has been slowing, but someone forgot to tell the labor markets,” Jim Baird, chief investment officer for Plante Moran Financial Advisors, told CNBC. “Employers, it would seem, didn’t get the memo from Mr. Market that it’s time to tighten their belts.”

Americans are also seeing increased wages in many instances. Michael R. Strain, the director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, recently noted low-income workers are among the biggest beneficiaries. Strain pointed out the median usual weekly earnings of workers who didn’t complete high school “grew faster than 6 percent in 2018, significantly outperforming all other education groups. In 2017, this group of workers also saw the fastest growth in weekly earnings.”

Recent stock market volatility remains a concern with some suggesting it portends weaker growth ahead. That volatility is driven in part by rising tariffs from ongoing trade disputes, and we’re among those who hope the Trump administration brings those disputes to a quick and successful conclusion. But market growth also is hampered by the actions of the Federal Reserve, which are unrelated to administration policies.

Regardless, economic optimism continues to increase. December’s job report shows this optimism is based on more than wishful thinking.

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Tulsa World. Jan. 8, 2019.

— Kevin Hern’s refusal to keep his congressional pay during shutdown is selfless, patriotic; the rest of Congress should do the same

We congratulate U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern for his choice not to keep his congressional pay during a partial federal government shutdown. Every other member of Congress should do the same.

Congress and President Trump are at an impasse over $5 billion in funding for Trump’s proposed wall along the southern border. It has left the nation without a completed budget. Nonessential portions of the government have been closed since Dec. 21; other federal workers are on the job but aren’t getting paid.

It’s the third shutdown in two years and the 11th since 1980.

Whether the government is operating, the Constitution says Hern can’t refuse his Congressional salary. So he’s donating it to 10 veterans organizations. Hern says he won’t be cashing his paycheck until the problem is solved.

So far, Hern, a Republican in the 1st District, has donated about $5,000 that he doesn’t feel he should accept.

That’s a selfless and patriotic act. If we saw a little more selflessness and patriotism in Washington, and less parochial politics, maybe we could make some progress as a nation.

Hern also has signed on to a proposed constitutional amendment to stop Congressional pay during shutdowns that result from future budget stalemates.

That’s a good proposal, although we’d also include the president of the United States in the list of those who don’t get their check if the budget job doesn’t get done.

President Trump, a billionaire before he was elected, is already in the habit of not accepting his paycheck; but as a symbolic act, it’s still important. A budget requires the agreement of the legislative and executive branches, and no one should get paid until everyone does their work.

The budget stalemate is Hern’s first big political test since taking office, and we think he’s passed it.

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The Norman Transcript. Jan. 6, 2019.

— Vonnie Clark will be missed

After more than five years with the Transcript, and 20 years with CNHI, regional circulation manager Vonnie Clark retired on Friday.

Simply put, Vonnie will be missed.

A faithful employee who worked hard and held her employees to a high standard while remaining calm, patient and compassionate, Vonnie could hold down the fort all by herself. Circulation is not an easy position — carriers are last people to touch to paper before it reaches our subscribers. Production delays always impact circulation the most.

Carriers are out early in the morning, 2 to 6 a.m. If a route “goes down,” i.e. a carrier quits, it’s up to the circulation department to throw the route. And if papers don’t get where they’re supposed to go, phones start ringing. It takes a patient individual who cares about subscribers to do Vonnie’s job, and she did it well for decades.

Serving on the editorial board for the past four years, Vonnie provided a thoughtful, open-minded perspective with plenty of common sense.

During a retirement party at the Transcript on Friday, Vonnie said she’d created a pros and cons list when she began discussing retirement with her husband, Jim. There were plenty of pros: more time to spend with her family, sleeping in, travel possibilities, etc. Most of us would have a similar list.

The con? She was going to miss her friends at work.

We’re happy for her. We’re glad she’s going to be able to spend more time with the people she loves, to sleep in on Monday mornings, to travel more.

We’ll miss her, too.

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