Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ignorance

As I have often written, I firmly believe ignorance is the greatest danger and enemy of democracy.  One of the sub-categories of dangerous lack of knowledge is the woeful ignorance concerning history. 

After the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor,  Franklin Roosevelt said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.  Dictators of nations before have used fear to manipulate populations of nations, and thereby in many instances have caused world tribulation.

Anyone who is a student of the history of Germany can easily see how Adolph Hitler manipulated the German people into believing their nation was about to be taken over by Communists and Jews.  Hitler represented to his people that he could be the savior of their nation by ridding them of threats or perceived threats, persuading them to forsake freedom for his version of safety.  As we all now know, the result was the killing of many people of Jewish faith and ultimate tragedy and defeat for the nation of Germany. 

Benjamin Franklin once said that those who forsake freedom for safety deserve neither.  Unfortunately, today many politicians — particularly some seeking the office of president — are employing the fear factor as the central theme of their campaigns.  Sadly, those like Donald Trump who claim not to be political, are employing the most common of political ruses.  If one notices, Trump never says no, even to the craziest idea.  The best you can expect from him in these circumstances is to say, “Maybe” or “We’ll have to look at that.”  The most recent and  scariest  ideas presented to Trump were not greeted with the disdain they deserve, but ostensibly encouraged by Trump’s failure to spurn them.  For example, according to press reports, one idea recently put forth  was to register all Muslims in America and perhaps require papers or armbands to identify them.  Does this bring back memories of the Nazis requiring the Jews be tattooed in sequential numbers?  Unfortunately, Trump failed to give such ideas the short shrift they deserve, but only pandered to the craziness of his admirer’s proposal.

Trump has openly declared that perhaps we do not need to pander to acceptable conversation between American citizens of different ethnic backgrounds, but has also even proposed it would be acceptable to torture in an effort to help secure us from threats of terrorists. 

Equally dangerous to our religious freedom is the proposal of Ted Cruz that we allow only Christians to immigrate.  He is playing to the fear of non-Christians and is only a step away from government classification of citizens based on their beliefs.

Such crazy ideas by Trump, Cruz and several others currently seeking to be president would destroy the very fabric of what has made our nation a beacon of freedom, and in all probability the best country on earth in which to reside.


If we do not denounce such attitudes and remember the lessons of history which we should have learned, we will end up being no better than ISIS itself.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

DO OUR TEXAS LEADERS HAVE VISION?

If our governor and lieutenant governor have vision for the future, they are concealing it extremely well.  While claiming to be fiscal conservatives, they continue to waste money and ignore long-term threats to our very existence. 

It seems our governor, in league with our current attorney general, is hell-bent on spending millions of dollars proving he hates our president more than any other officeholder around.  To the applause of our lieutenant governor, the attorney general — as well as the governor when he was the attorney general — have filed dozens of lawsuits against our own government.  Most of these lawsuits have produced no profitable results for our state.  In fact, a recent accounting has revealed that we have already spent 5 million dollars of your tax money proving our elected leaders in Texas dislike President Obama and things he has done.

In another effort to prove how tough they are, our leadership is spending $800 million dollars keeping DPS troopers along the border.  This is simply an effort to prove how much our governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general want to keep unlawful aliens from crossing our borders.  Unfortunately, state troopers have no authority whatsoever to arrest people who illegally cross our borders and absolutely no power to return them from whence they came.  One must ask, why have them there if they can’t arrest wrongdoers?  Unfortunately, the answer is as plain as the nose on your face.  It is to prove how tough our governor and lieutenant governor are on illegal aliens in Texas.

Another wasteful area of which our so-called conservative leaders are guilty is the area of our highways.  Historically, Texas has had a pay-as-you-go policy avoiding debt at the state level. Rick Perry, along with our current governor and other so-called conservatives, sold a bill of goods to Texans by passing a constitutional amendment to let us take care of our highways on credit.  They said the debt would be paid for by economic growth spurred by having good roads and bridges in Texas.  Alas, that has not happened.  It seems every prediction ever made in recent years that we could do without additional income from tax sources by simply depending on an increase in our business activity in Texas has proven to be a lie.  We are now robbing other vital programs such as public education and our colleges and universities to pay an enormous debt on the borrowed money foisted on Texans in an effort to keep our roads and bridges from completely falling apart.

A real truism is that people will perish when leaders have no vision.  It is difficult to claim a vision of the future when right-wing leadership will not acknowledge such things as climate change and the fact that lack of regulation is rapidly causing us to be without water resources in this state.  The aquifers are falling.  They are being overused.  And before you know it, everyone will recognize that we in Texas are rapidly running out of water.

It is fine if you want to to dislike our president.  You do not need to spend my tax money, however, to prove it.  I believe you!  Just say so!  But, please take my tax money and spend it on problems that any rational human being can detect as those that will be fatal for us in the future. 


It seems to me we will be better served by leaders who will try to develop their vision and use our tax money in a way to meet challenges of the future rather than using our tax money to play political games.

Monday, November 16, 2015

TED CRUZ AND AMERICAN JOBS

Ted Cruz takes great pride in claiming he speaks for the Tea Party.  While the Tea Party was born and inspired by those patriots who dumped tea into Boston Harbor, the newly formed group should remember the patriots only threw the tea in the harbor, they didn’t sink the ships which brought goods to the fledgling nation of America.

If you listen to Ted Cruz talk, it sounds like he considers himself one of the few real American patriots left in the United States.  Unfortunately, Mr. Cruz seems to forget a majority of Americans voted for and elected Mr. Obama president of this country.  A person so selected deserves the respect of all American citizens, including those who disagree with his programs.  Unfortunately for those here in Texas, Mr. Cruz’ zeal to demonstrate his conservative credentials is not serving us well.

A case in point of how Mr. Cruz’ misdirected war on government is counterproductive is his current crusade to abolish the Mbank.  Most Americans would ask, “What the heck is the Mbank?  The Mbank is short for export/import bank, an agency of the United States government.  

The export/import bank was formed 81 years ago in 1934 under the leadership of Franklin Roosevelt.  It will provide loans to foreign corporations who choose to buy goods manufactured in the United States.  The bank will also assure manufacturers and sellers in this country they will be paid if they contract with overseas customers. While Mr. Cruz wants to classify this as corporate welfare, the agency has served America well.  

Unfortunately, there is little free trade throughout the world.  Most other industrialized nations such as Japan, Germany and certainly China, subsidize many of their companies with whom American manufacturers must compete.  The Mbank gives American manufacturers dealing in the export of products some measure of relief and allows them in many cases to compete.  Prime examples are Boeing Aircraft and General Electric, both of whom deal on the international market for aircraft engines and various heavy industrial equipment.

To its credit, the Mbank is one of the very few federal agencies that makes the nation money.  In return for extending credit to their customers and guaranteeing payment, American companies pay Mbank an annual fee.  Losses to the bank are rare and all in all the bank operation is self-sufficient, costing the taxpayers nothing.

If Mr. Cruz is sincere in his quest to find corporate welfare, he should take a look at the subsidies throughout the nation we are paying to big oil who for the last several years have made huge profits while destroying many parts of our environment.  

Or perhaps, it would be in order for Mr. Cruz and his fellow conservatives to explore the reasons pharmaceutical companies are allowed to gouge Americans — particularly, senior citizens.  The administrators of Medicare are prohibited by federal law from even negotiating for a better price.  Maybe he should even look into why it is that Americans are not allowed to order manufactured drugs from Canada which has a safety review process pretty much equivalent to ours. 

Mr. Cruz claims to be a great Bible scholar and to hear him tell it one of the few real Christians serving in politics.  Perhaps Mr. Cruz has forgotten the phrase in the Bible about straining gnats and swallowing camels.


While Mr. Cruz makes bold statements about how he wants to help the middle class create jobs and prosperity in this country, his actions  would result in shutting down government, not paying the nation’s bills and doing away with an agency that is assuring America that our exporters will continue to provide good jobs for our citizens. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Christianity

Through the tutelage of my mother I obtained and possess a deep abiding faith in the teachings of Christianity.  I also consider myself a diligent student of self-government and the democratic process.  Having spent 33 years in elected office, and even more working as a consultant in the legislative process, I have a close and in-depth view of how many politicians conduct themselves publicly and privately.

It makes me almost sick to my stomach to see some politicians use religion strictly for political purposes.  A current example is our newly elected Attorney General who has confessed to violating laws amounting to a third degree felony, and when called on about his misconduct, he fled immediately to the sanctuary of churches.  He appears to be seeking aid and comfort by publicly announcing his faith, leading congregations in prayer and filing frivolous lawsuits on behalf of the State purportedly to protect religious liberty.  What can you call it other than pure hypocrisy? 

In the sixth chapter of Matthew, Jesus  reminded us that our conversations with the Almighty should be in private, and not held publicly — as the Pharisees and hypocrites would do, praying loudly in the Synagogue mainly to capture the attention of man to demonstrate their religiosity.  How is this much different from the politicians who encourage and purportedly defend wanting to have prayer in school and at football games, and who try to make themselves heroes by defending the practice in court?  

While in office, I was more than once approached by persons condemning me for not supporting the practice of having teachers announce when students should bow their heads and pray in school.  They generally lamented the fact that Christianity was being attacked and that we were becoming a godless state and nation.  Generally, I would respond to these people by asking whether or not they chose to have a daily prayer session in their home.  Most had no favorable answer to this question other than a few who weakly claimed to say the blessing regularly at mealtimes.  It seems to me we should concentrate on praying in home before we start telling other people when and where prayer should be had.

If they could, some of our politicians — like Ted Cruz or Ray Huckaby — would have America’s government patterned after the likes of ISIS or Saudi Arabia, where the government punishes you for failure to adopt the beliefs of the rulers.  We would be much like those entities should we give in to the temptation of enforcing religious practices favored by the majority at the time.  We could have jail sentences for buying contraceptives, working on Sunday or purchasing or consuming alcohol.

Some of the most flagrant hypocrisy demonstrated by our elected leaders has to do with the issue of abortion.  Again, abortion is personally repugnant to me — but I do not believe that the issue of when life begins in the womb has been scientifically settled, but is a matter of faith with most people.  We get in trouble with government every time we give into the urge to enforce religious beliefs by government edict.  The hypocrisy of most of this is that many are very passionate about protecting the unborn such as our Governor, recently elected, who goes to great lengths to put roadblocks to legal abortions in the name of protecting the unborn. On the other hand, he does not lift a finger to try to help the half million children in Texas who are sick and dying because of Republicans’ obstinate refusal to accept the funds to cover these children with adequate medical care.   It seems to me a true Christian would be as concerned about those children who have already been born as with those yet unborn.

If one is truly concerned about stopping women from aborting unwanted children, why not make contraception easier and more available?  Why not streamline the procedure and encourage through tax incentives if necessary the adoption of unwanted children throughout this state. 


It is my fervent belief that ever since the Old Testament, God has not appointed man-made judges to judge my religious conduct here on earth.  It is also my belief that if politicians would concentrate on living religious their beliefs rather than using religion to get themselves elected or using government to impose their beliefs on others, we would all have a better country, state and community.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Unfair Job Postings

At one time there was a football rule which declared that touching a punted football by the receiving team was a rule violation — but one with no penalty.  I, along with many others, thought having a rules violation with no penalty was silly, and apparently the leagues finally agreed with me and simply ceased calling it a violation and declared the ball dead when touched by the receiving team.  It seems the State of Texas and our elected leaders have been given the gift of the same lack of penalty for a violation.

Our Legislature in its wisdom sometime back put a law in the books allegedly to give all Texans equal opportunity at well-paying state jobs.  It seems that many of our newly elected statewide officials either don’t care or do not believe they are required to follow the law. 

The new Land Commissioner, recently elected Governor, Agricultural Commissioner, Comptroller, Attorney General and Railroad Commission have all ignored the mandate of posting jobs so that ordinary Texas citizens could apply.  Theoretically, such a system would allow persons to be hired based on their ability and skill rather than their political connections — goal which almost every conservative politician touts.  How many times have you heard that Texas, and America, is the place where you can go as far as you want through developing your skills and being willing to work hard?

It is difficult for me to see how statewide officials can declare that Texas citizens should be law abiding and obey the law at all times when they flout the law with complete impunity and even lack of apology.

The worst offender is newly elected Mr. George P. Bush.  Apparently, he thinks he is the new crown prince of Texas political royalty having been named “Bush.”  Mr. Bush hired 76.4% of his staff in complete violation of the law and now says henceforth he will follow the law.  I doubt very seriously if one of my clients were to be stopped for speeding and promised the highway patrolman that even though he was going 100 m.p.h. in a 50 m.p.h. zone, he would not do it in the future, that this would serve him well to avoid receiving a citation.

Governor Abbott hired about 70% of his staff in violation of the law; and other statewide officials a lesser percentage, but still in significant numbers.


Perhaps most egregious and hypocritical conduct was that of our newly elected Attorney General who is currently under indictment for misconduct and who continues to sue the President claiming President Obama has ignored the law.  Texans should remember next election that the promises of equal opportunity for all on the part of most of our statewide elected officials has a hollow ring — and also remember their actions tell us they really don’t care about giving ordinary Texans an equal shot at well paying, taxpayer funded jobs.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A GOOD IDEA ABOUT MEDICAL CARE

One of the biggest wasteful holes into which Americans pour millions of dollars is the quest for adequate medical care.  It has been estimated by a high-ranking federal official that Americans could triple the amount they pay for medical services and not increase our gross national product 1%.  Collectively, the medical profession continues to claim we have the finest medical care in the world, which is clearly not true.  Study after study ranks the United States no better than ninth in the world as to medical care for all of our citizens.  More than 42,000 Americans die each year from preventable causes.  The average American spends almost twice as much on healthcare as citizens of other industrialized countries.

In general, Republicans and conservatives continue to bash and call for the total repeal of the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare").  However, none of them seems to be able, or want, to offer an alternative which would provide the American people with access to decent health care.  People like Senator Ted Cruz offer a supposed solution which is outright goofy.  He wants to create a tax-free medical savings plan which would allow families to place money in the bank to save for future medical care; they would not be taxed on that income.  Senator Cruz does not seem to understand that people, many of whom are in dire need of medical care, have no extra income to put in the bank.  They are spending every penny they make for food, shelter and clothing.

A business writer for the Houston Chronicle in Sunday’s edition offered what seems to me to be a reasonable answer for this dilemma.  Mr. Tomlinson proposes Medicare for everyone; all American citizens.  Currently, Medicare is being provided at a cheaper rate than most medical care provided by insurance carriers.  According to the Chronicle, insurance carriers spend more than 15% of every dollar on overhead and profit. 

Mr. Tomlinson correctly points out that medical care provided by private insurers is actually costlier because it provides the insurance carriers a profit and pays for multiple layers of overhead–the CEOs, the managers, etc., etc. Medicare, he points out, spends about 3% on overhead and pays no profit.  The writer goes on to propose that if someone prefers to have private insurance they could opt out of Medicare and purchase their own coverage from a private insurer.  Another option would be to buy a policy of insurance which would cover any procedure or care not provided by Medicare. 

The system he proposes would in effect be a single-payer system which exists efficiently in many other countries and could ultimately be a money saver to all citizens of the United States.  The single-payer system affords a better system for doctors and medical providers in that they do not have to file multiple types of paperwork, nor are they required to adhere to a multiple system of guidelines.  While much to-do was made during the Affordable Care Act about patients not being able to have choice, the current system does exactly the opposite.  It is common for an individual covered by an employer's health system to be told they must choose from accepted health providers rather than the provider of the individual's choice.

Of course, there are some issues Mr. Tomlinson failed to address which are keeping the cost of medical care almost out of sight for many.  A prime example is the provision demanded by big-time, well-paid lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry.  It’s illegal to purchase drugs from outside the United States and illegal for the administrators of Medicare to even bargain with pharmaceutical corporations for price.


Obviously, Mr. Tomlinson has given the matter some thought which is more than I can say for many members of Congress whose only thought seems to be to oppose anything the Democrats or our current president propose.  While such a mind-set maybe good politics for them, it’s really not good policy for American families.  It is disgraceful the wealthiest nation on earth leaves many of its citizens at risk of their lives because too many of our elected officials would rather play politics than come up with plans that would relieve not only the physical but also financial suffering of millions of Americans.

Monday, October 12, 2015

MISCALCULATION ON THE PART OF YOUR ELECTED TEXAS OFFICIALS HAVE PUT YOU AT RISK ON THE HIGHWAY

Most states of the union require and strictly enforce the mandate that people provide liability insurance before placing their vehicles on the public roadways. It seems simple enough to follow the action that people who drive on Texas highways should be responsible enough to protect their fellow citizen and fellow drivers against the likelihood that sooner or later they, or their property, would be damaged by the negligence of another driver. Unfortunately, Texas has simply winked at the problem and instead of enforcing or passing a simple mandate to be enforced by withholding license plates or driver’s license of those not insured have gone on to try gimmick after gimmick — none of which has worked.  

More unfortunately, in the past few years the Legislature has enacted a program which makes the situation significantly worse. The Legislature has repeatedly succumbed to the insurance lobbyists who do not want mandatory liability coverage because then every time an injured driver faces a jury, the jury will know that more than likely they are reaching into the pocket of an insurance company not the poor widowed defendant that stands before the jury box. Wholly forgotten in this process is the widowed lady who is probably driving the last vehicle she will ever be able to afford, and who has her vehicle and maybe her body completely impaired by a thoughtless, uncaring, uninsured driver.

The recent folly by the Legislature involves another bit of hypocrisy with the brag of passing no new taxes. Not only is it a lie, it’s most hypocritical. The Legislature, in an effort to put more money in the pot, enacted a surcharge system whereby you are fined for having paid a fine. It was first thought of as a sly system of getting into the pocket of irresponsible drivers without being subjected to the criticism of increasing the taxes. Unfortunately, it not only has not worked, it has backfired and made our highways much more unsafe for you if you are a responsible driver.

Unfortunately, Texas is blessed with too many poor folks. If they are apprehended, ticketed and have to pay a fine, too often they are saddled with growing surcharges which many of them can ill afford. Rather than paying the surcharges, many of these folks (and it appears to be a growing number) simply choose to run the risk of being stopped and arrested for not having a driver’s license and for not having liability insurance. 

You see, you can’t get liability insurance unless you are a licensed driver in Texas. Recent studies and examiners of the project have learned there is an alarming escalation in the number of people choosing to drive not only without insurance but also without a valid driver’s license. The Legislature has even relaxed the penalties for driving without a license. Previously, a patrolman would stop a car, and if the driver had no valid driver’s license they were arrested —because it would have been an additional violation of the law for them to simply continue driving without the license.  Now, because of legislative action, unlicensed drivers are being merely ticketed and sent on their way.


Inaction by the Legislature to address this problem is costing you money, making our roads unsafe, and rewarding scofflaws who choose to ignore any responsibility for protecting their fellow drivers on the Texas roadways.

Monday, October 5, 2015

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR

It appears a majority of Texans continue to demand less government. Unfortunately, it also appears that our state Legislature and our statewide elected leadership agrees. I’m not sure the average Texan, however, requested less government in some of the areas we now enjoy. We have less higher education at a reasonable cost, less funding for public education, less preparation of our young people to be ready for college, less health care, even less safety on our public roadways, and, on the national level, less chance of exporting more goods manufactured in the United States.

Our leadership has turned down several billion dollars of available grants from our federal government. As a result, Texas continues to lead the nation in medically uninsured children. This is accompanied by some of the nation’s largest numbers of children afflicted with childhood diseases and with one of the highest death rates for Texans experiencing serious injuries in the workplace.  I doubt seriously if parents of children with disabilities needing intensive therapy are pleased with the recent reduction in funding depriving many of these children of the much needed therapy in order to function in society. Apparently, they simply must console themselves watching their children suffer by saying, “Well at least our leaders have shrunk government in this particular area.”

We continue to shrink the state’s responsibility for education of our children via the public education system. This is so even though the founders of Texas — our brave forefathers who carved a nation from a territory and a state from a nation — had the foresight to provide in our constitution that the Legislature must provide an efficient, free system of public education. The recent leadership in Austin has continued to sacrifice adequate funding for public education on the altar of shrinking government and no new taxes. In today’s political world, I hear few, if any, of our elected members of the Legislature boasting about how great Texas is doing with its public education system. 

A recent study of ACT, a national group that rates education progress in the various states, has estimated that only 27% of our high school graduates in Texas are prepared and able to pass the basics of English, Math and Science at the college level. Even worse, the college board, which administers the SAT — a standard measurement of readiness for college — estimates two-thirds of our high school graduates are not ready to meet the challenges of college.  What this means in plain and simple terms is that Texas will continue on its current path — which is not unlike a third-world nation — with little regulation. This pleases folks like the Koch brothers and leadership in the industrial world who want to continue to provide low-paying, low-tech, low-quality jobs.


In my humble opinion, much of this is caused by the misplaced faith of too many Texas voters who simply believe we can produce quality education on the cheap — that fewer taxes will produce more jobs and a thriving economy. And then the money saved is wasted on paranoia that we are being invaded by aliens from south of the border stealing all of our good jobs.  Just imagine the improvements in education which could have been accomplished if we had used the almost $1 billion dollars for education instead of spending it on our national guard and highway patrolmen going to the border to stem the flow of illegal aliens —  neither of which  even has the authority to arrest illegal aliens.  Sadly, the more it is examined, the more obvious it becomes that the motive and the waste of this money was done purely to make certain politicians look good in the eyes of uninformed voters with misplaced agendas.

Monday, September 28, 2015

LIMITED VISION

There is an oft-repeated old saying that 'when leaders lack vision, the people perish.'  I’ve known for a long time that our ability to see things on earth is limited by the curvature of the earth.  I also learned while in the Naval Officer Candidate School that you can see for 15 miles from the bridge of a destroyer.  Clearly, the higher you are elevated, the further you can see. 

Unfortunately, this does not necessarily seem to apply to the height of political office which one has reached.

It seems too many of our leaders in high office in Texas either can’t or refuse to look into the future — particularly as to education.  Many business leaders in Texas have recently come to the realization that we are becoming more and more ill-prepared to meet the requirements of an educated workforce necessary for a profitable future.  While almost all Texas politicians promise and espouse first-class education, obviously too many are ready to sacrifice quality education on the altar of austere budgets.  Instead of funding education first in Texas we are too often met with platitudes, outright false statements, or off-the-wall ideas for quick fixes to our educational shortcomings.

The most prevalent motto of those who want to shortchange public education in Texas is, “You can’t fix it by throwing money at it.”  The quick response is, “In Texas, no one has ever tried.”  Although money may not be all of the answer, you certainly cannot have quality education without adequate funding.  Texans should ask themselves — after repeated findings by various courts that Texas public education funding does not meet constitutional standards — "why does the Legislature insist on waiting for yet another court finding?" 

In higher education the Legislature has made it more and more difficult for Texans of all stripes to receive a college education.  Probably the biggest impediment occurred when the Legislature gave away its own power for setting college tuition and delegated it to various boards of regents.  If you want to talk about taxation without representation, this is a fine example.  Nobody gets to vote on the regents who set the cost of educating our college-bound children.  College tuition has more than quadrupled since that time, and we are met with few real answers about how to improve the situation.  Rick Perry, for example, keeps touting his plan for a $10,000 education.  More than likely, our colleges could provide a $5,000 education, but it would not prepare young Texans for the requirements of future employment.  Additionally, it would not give the broad perspective to college graduates which we expect from colleges of national reputation.


The business community has recently issued a number of warnings concerning future preparation of the Texas workforce.  A recent article published in numerous papers around the country has caused some of our leaders to propose a 60/30 plan.  This would provide that 60% of our population receive a postgraduate degree by the year 2030.  Studies reveal, for example, that the number of post-graduate degree holders in Texas lags behind California by several percentage points.  Texas lags behind the national average by 2-3 points, and is only ranking that high because of in-migration of workers from other parts of the nation.  I certainly ascribe to the 60/30 plan and believe it to be a bold, forward thinking plan.  Unfortunately, a 60/30 plan, or even a 50/50 plan, would not work unless our elected leadership in this state develops a different attitude about public and higher education.  Funding education on the cheap will only result in Texas continuing to lead the nation in poor folks.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

FREEDOM’S GREATEST ENEMY

My wife and chief critic vetoed my recent idea of an article on America’s dumb majority. After some reflection, I concluded it’s not the people — it’s the malady. Democracy, self-government, and freedom’s greatest enemy is  . . .  ignorance.

I often say, anyone wanting to know about the Texas Legislature should have asked me when I was first elected. As a newly-elected freshman member of the House, I knew everything that needed knowing — at least I thought I did.

The more I confronted big problems with what I believed to be simple answers, the more I learned about how complicated the problems were. A great example of problems faced by our system of government is inadequate funding.  The simple solution touted by would-be elected leaders, in order to fund their various promises during the election cycle, is elimination of waste. Unfortunately, once elected, politicians find enough waste very illusive. Most quickly discover that one constituent’s waste is another constituent’s necessity.

Another great example of attacking a complicated problem with a simple solution occurred when I was elected was insurance. As a young man seeking office and listening to voters, one of the main complaints was the fact that automobile insurance in Texas was higher than most other states. My solution was simple — pass a bill requiring our regulatory body on insurance to mandate lower rates. I soon discovered, after being elected, it is quite possible for the Legislature to mandate the sale of insurance at lower rates. Unfortunately, the Legislature does not have the power to force insurance companies to sell Texans insurance. Therefore, if we mandate lower rates, we are left with the problem of insurance carriers leaving the state.

A question each voter should ask themselves is how can those with lack of knowledge become great leaders. Conversely, how can people who are ill informed wisely choose our leaders. Education, probably the greatest responsibility of state government, is a great example. No function of state government will have a greater impact on our quality of life, our living wage, or the future of our children as education. Sadly, I would wager without fear of losing, not one Texan in ten can explain with any accuracy how we fund our public schools. Nor could most voters remotely describe how our colleges and universities are funded. Poll after poll of American citizens reveals a lack of knowledge of how we govern ourselves. A small minority of voters can even name those holding high office — from Lt. Governor to chief justice of our supreme court.


Unfortunately for us, the skills required to be elected are not necessarily those required to be a great leader. Problems faced by our state and national leaders are more complex than they appear. Broad and intricate knowledge of our needs are essential to finding real solutions. Our leaders need to possess great knowledge and skill to meet those challenges.  

Boastful and simple remedies and rhetoric will not serve us well. We need to be better informed about issues, qualifications and needs when choosing our leaders if we are to expect our leaders to be better informed of our needs and how to respond to them. 

The real key to learning is the realization of how much there is that we don’t know.  When we who vote on our elected leaders come to this same conclusion about government, we will all be better off.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Labor Day -- Past and Future

"Labor--human activity that provides the goods and services in an economy; [or] service performed by workers for wages..."

The earliest record of a Labor Day celebration goes back to 1882 in New York, sponsored by the local carpenters' union. Not until 1887 did Congress establish the first Monday of each September as a day to commemorate and celebrate labor in the United States. The recognition of labor by Congress, however, did not stop many of labor's problems in the 19th Century. When public employees in New York attempted a mass demonstration in 1888 to demand an 8-hour work day, they were attacked by the New York police department and many were shot.    

Tim Lyne, writing for a publication called "Gawkers," has written that Labor Day is a rip-off and nothing more than a reason for getting drunk in your yard.  Hopefully, Labor Day means more to most Americans than Mr. Lyne's assessment.

Unfortunately, organized labor and laboring people in general have been on a steady decline in the past few years.  The influence of organized labor has taken a serious nosedive in the past decade, and apparently continues to wane.  The wage disparity between people who labor for a living and the wealthy in America has greatly widened and continues to grow.

CEOs and managers of large corporations earn as high as $20-25 million per year while many workers struggle to exist on $7.00 an hour, many working two jobs to make ends meet. Part of labor's problem and declining influence can be laid to the attack on labor beginning with Ronald Reagan's firing of air controllers and other measures such as the Governor ofWisconsin’s attack on public employees and unionization.

The real problem, however, is the fact that quite possibly organized labor has done too great a job of empowering a part of the labor force, while leaving the other behind. Highly skilled union workers such as electricians, operating engineers, and refinery operators enjoy extremely high wages and benefits while others such as fast food workers, Wal-Mart employees and many government employees continue to lag. Many pensions, both public and private, are grossly underfunded and on shaky ground.

Political policies continue to make the wealth gap even worse. Our tax policy provides that the wealthier you become, the less percentage of your income must be dedicated to taxes. While politicians claim to revere hard work and the sweat of laboring people, investment of money is treated far better than regular wages earned by workers for tax purposes. Medicare and Social Security have been underfunded and ignored for years while health care costs accelerate and lead to more bankruptcies than any other cause in America.

The prospects for working people in America do not appear to be any rosier than they were several years ago.  In my opinion, this is primarily because too many former working people who have supposedly "made it" and enjoy great pensions--mostly brought about by organized labor--have forgotten their roots, or have turned their backs on the organizations most responsible for their current, comfortable status in life. And, too many working folks either fail to take the trouble to go vote, or fail to determine which politician's interests coincides with theirs. 

I am constantly amazed and appalled at working people who vote for members of a party which would dismantle their Social Security, help destroy the retirement programs they have earned, slam the courthouse door preventing jury trials for those who have suffered abuse, disease, or injuries while their employers enjoy vast profits.

Labor Day should be a day of reflection by all as to the honor we should bestow on those who have built a great nation and have created a social environment second to no other nation in the world--and to the policies which could destroy the underpinning of it all.


Happy Labor Day.  I can only hope we have many more.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Great Again

I confess that as I rise and place my hand over my heart to recite the pledge of allegiance to the flag, I still get a special feeling.  A little tingly and pride in the fact that I have the privilege to be an American.  It saddens me to hear politicians rant and rave about how we need to make America great again.  I happen to believe that with all of its flaws, America is still great.  Were it not, why would so many people want to come to our country?

Recently I read in the paper about a group passing a petition around Texas urging Texas to secede from the United States.  I can’t imagine something more stupid than someone wanting to renounce their American citizenship.  They obviously have failed to stop long enough to count their blessings.

The United States of America still provides us with a defense from foreign countries by having the largest and best military establishment anywhere in the world.  No place is better than America to be able to realize your ambitions. Few places in the world give us the opportunity to worship the God of our choice in the manner we choose.  Where else in the world can we raise our voice and call our leaders–even our president–names if we so choose?  Elsewhere in the world such conduct would land us in prison or worse.  When we take the time to add up the benefits, America is head and shoulders above any other nation in the world in greatness.

It disturbs me to see leading politicians readily announcing that their greatest goal is to see that our duly elected president does not succeed as president.  Of course, there are many detractors among our fellow citizens today about the shortcomings of government.  But I am confident that in the end we will overcome unwarranted criticisms and continue to demonstrate to the world that America is still great.

One of the disturbing factors in our current political atmosphere is that so many citizens appear to want people who hate government--and who seem to know the least about its administration--to take the reins of leadership.  What if you were to read in the want-ads an ad from a young mother advertising for a sitter for her children stating she wanted someone who had never changed a diaper and even disliked children?  I trust most of us, if not all, would denounce such a wrongheaded approach to the care of precious children.  Why then should we follow the same idea by electing people who would like to drown American government in a bathtub?

While I still firmly believe in America, I do believe a danger exists–that danger being that too many Americans, for some reason, have decided to cease being good citizens.  I say this based on recent trends and statistics concerning voter participation.  An older gentleman once spoke to me about personal skills, saying you should always remember to use them or lose them.

Nothing could be truer than applying the same idea to informed citizenship.  Less than 10% of Texans chose to participate in the past statewide elections.  A majority of that minority of citizens obviously believed it didn’t matter that the would-be chief legal officer of our state had admitted guilt to a third degree felony.  Electing someone of that ilk is not the fault of our system but the fault of citizens too dumb or too lazy to delve into the qualifications of those who would run our government. 


Please!  The next time you are tempted to buy into the cheap political slogan of “make our state great again” or “make our nation great again,” take stock in your own performance as a citizen and see whether or not you would grade yourself with A+, a failing grade or incomplete.