Thursday, October 22, 2015


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


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


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


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


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.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Legal Fictions

In law school I was taught about the theory of legal fictions.  For example, in business law and corporations I learned that, although it was fiction, corporations are treated in many respects like persons.  Unfortunately, our United States Supreme Court--supported by the rich and powerful--has created one step beyond the legal fiction.  Our Supreme Court has decided that money is speech and corporations are people. 

In examining what these legal fictions have brought us, the first and foremost detriment to our democratic way of life is the Citizens United decision which allows corporations and the wealthy to spend unlimited billions of dollars without voters even knowing the source of the funds.  

The thought that money cannot buy elections is truly naive.  If we, the citizens of this country, continue to tolerate what has happened without reacting with a constitutional amendment to set it right, we will deserve losing the freedom we have.  The average American is on the way to losing the power of his or her one vote.  The amount of money currently being spent on political activities is obscene.

 Interest groups have put together billions of dollars in so called super PACS which are basically unpoliced.  We are being told that even though super PACS amass untold wealth they cannot cooperate directly with the candidates and coordinate activity.  What a joke.  A great case in point is what is currently happening with our former governor, Rick Perry.

Perry’s old buddies did a great job of putting together $17 million in a PAC--or super PAC, as you may dub it.  It seems now that our ex-governor has run out of personal money, particularly since he can no longer travel around the country honing his conservative credentials at the expense of Texas taxpayers.  Now, he says he will continue to fight and is relying on his super PAC to allow him to continue his quest for president.  If you truly believe Rick Perry never speaks to the folks who put together the money concerning his future needs in order to stay viable as a presidential candidates, there are a couple of bridges around Jefferson County that I would like to sell you.  

Just as an example, one of the prime movers in fundraising for Perry’s super PAC is a former employee of Perry's with whom he co-owns property.  Do you really believe they do not share concerns about Perry’s future problems staying in the presidential race? (According to the Houston Chronicle, most came from about three large donors.) 

It seems, too, these 501 corporations--i.e., super PACS--are almost wholly without policing to see that they follow even the pitiful rules which currently exist concerning their activity.  Some folks at the IRS attempted to investigate whether or not the stated purposes of these organizations were in fact within the law, but these IRS investigators were attacked vigorously--particularly by conservatives claiming the IRS was being political and only doing so at the will of the current president.

The agency charged with the responsibility to monitor these organizations acknowledges little or no attempt at enforcement or investigation saying only they were overwhelmed and surprised by the number of such organizations created. 

The other consequence of the conservative attitude regarding corporations appears to be another legal fiction.  Corporations generally are business devices existing to insulate owners from having to take the full responsibility for the business activities engaged in via a corporate structure.  How then can or should a corporation be ruled to possess religious beliefs?  On the one hand, were a corporation to go bankrupt, business people would be appalled at the thought of requiring the owners of the stock--even were it to be only a single family--to pay the bills left by the bankruptcy.  However, our courts have ruled that the religious beliefs of the shareholders can be transferred to the corporation and the corporation can refuse to act in any way religiously offensive to the insulated owners of its stock.

While I certainly am a strong advocate for religious freedom, I have a hard time believing a corporation possesses religious beliefs.  They do not go to church.  They do not tithe.  They cannot be sent to prison for crimes committed in their name.  They do not have souls.

While a popular political statement contained in many political speeches today is, “Let’s take our nation back,” I believe the real way to take our nation back is by acting as stand-up citizens who rise up to do away with the ever-increasing power of money over our democratic system.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Donald Trump is Right (About SOME Things)

Strangely enough for many of you who read my columns, I believe Donald Trump is right on target on some things.  In fact there should be a place for Donald Trump in the national scheme of things.  Were I in charge, I would appoint Donald Trump as “Critic In Chief.”  He is correct in the long list he spouts at the drop of a hat about what’s wrong with America and our current political mess.

Listed below, not necessarily in order of importance, are the ten things Donald Trump has identified as major problems in the United States:

1. America is not dealing very well with the ISIS crisis.  While perhaps not a direct threat to America, ISIS' beheadings, and apparent success in luring Americans to their cause, at the very least is an embarrassment to the United States and does not help our image as the world power.

2. Immigration is clearly a problem in the United States.  Political inertia and partisanship has prohibited us from developing a rational and equitable system of immigration in our country.

3. Our infrastructure is suffering gross neglect from our national leadership.  The Congress, in its zeal to see how lean we can make our budget, is starving our infrastructure.  An alarming number of our bridges have been declared unsafe, and our highway system is not meeting the growing population or the growing need to maintain a modern-day economy.

4. Healthcare is a mess.  While the majority of doctors, and almost all Republicans, rail about Obamacare, none have stepped forward with constructive suggestions about how America can better deliver a health system to the majority of our citizens without remaining the number one cause of bankruptcy in America.

And Trump has hit the nail on the head and said what no politician will say out loud:  5. The obscene amount of money and the farce of believing super PACS, spending billions of dollars, do not overly influence the actions of our congressional leaders, governors or even local politicians.

6. Dealing with China, a problem too long ignored and continuing to grow.  Our debt to China continues to explode, and it seems no elected politician has a solution for demanding fair trade practices from this growing giant.

7. Treatment of our veterans is a national shame.  We rattle our sabers, want to boast of being the most powerful military presence in the world, and send our boys and girls to combat while too many of us feel we and our children are immune from having to face death on foreign fields.  Yet, we fail to really treat our veterans as heroes. 

8. National officeholders seem to be all over the place about how to deal with boosting America’s public education to lead the world in innovation, new ideas, technology and science. 

9. Neither party seems to have a really good idea on how to prevent Iran from developing and possessing a nuclear weapon thereby launching a nuclear contest for power.  It seems many of our congressional leaders would rather kowtow to the leader of another nation than to work with our president for some reasonable solution to the problem.

10. How to dramatically improve our economy, replace our high-paying manufacturing jobs, obtain a decent wage for American workers and encourage spectacular growth of our middle class are yet other issues of concern.

Perhaps this nation would be better off simply by all of us, whatever faith and whatever God we worship, concentrating our prayers on our nation finding solutions beneficial to all to the above-listed problems--because I doubt seriously Trump or anyone else will provide us with the relief we need.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Wealth Disparity

In some circles there appears to be a growing concern about the increasing wealth disparity in America.  As early Americans discovered, free enterprise is a great system--but it has its limitations and dangers.  

Among other interesting stories contained in the early history of great American fortunes was the revelation that when Southern Pacific Railway was created with $1 million capital not one penny was spent for rails, cross-ties or spikes.  The entire million was spent bribing Congress to give huge land grants to the investors in the SP.  

There were numerous great fortunes made by the early robber-barons who became America’s first multimillionaires.  America soon learned limits should be placed on unfettered free enterprise.  The U.S. government leaders soon realized that some restraints--such as laws against monopolies--should be put in place in order to keep free enterprise on an even keel.  Early in Texas, lawyers, in order to stop the unbridled power of railroads, not only created a Railroad Commission for regulation but also put limits on the amount of money railroads and other corporate giants could spend for the purpose of buying elections.

Several recent events are contributing to the widening gap between the rich and poor in America.  Keeping that gap to reasonable limits in part, or perhaps largely, is what has made the United States a self-government beacon to the world.  Without the widening gap, all citizens believe they have a real stake in ownership of the nation.  The great Communist Karl Marx’ position, as espoused in his book Das Kapital, predicted that eventually the rich would grow richer and the poor would grow poorer until the vast majority of wealth would be concentrated in the hands of a few.  A huge gap in wealth would cause a revolt by the poor.  Unfortunately, the U.S. in the past decade has been trending in that direction.

Unfortunately, decisions of our Supreme Court--such as Citizens United, which allows corporations and labor unions to engage in unfettered spending to influence elections--has made matters worse.  Donald Trump, who gets in trouble for telling his true feelings occasionally, said it best in a recent debate.  Trump stated that he likes to give away lots of money to politicians because it fixes things where they will bend to his will.  Imagine where we are going when our new system allows billionaires to donate hoards of wealth in the billion of dollars to affect the outcome of our free elections.

If you are a person with less than one million dollars in the bank, do you have as much say in government as a billionaire?  Recently, a friend of mine put forth a plan which would narrow the gap.  His plan would cure the problem of run-away pay for managers of large corporations and the continued stagnation of worker pay.  He called his idea the “shareholder fairness bill.”  His idea was to pass a law in the United States requiring the CEOs of corporations to earn no more than ten times the amount of their lowest paid worker.  This certainly would create a pot of money more available for dividends for those who invest their money in the corporations, as well as tending to have CEOs more concerned about the level of their low-paid workers.  Currently, the average gap between worker and CEO is 300 to the CEO's favor!

Having a constitutional amendment to undo the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United would also be in the interest of small investors in large corporations.  Currently, if I own stock in a major corporation, the managers of that corporation can take money which is partially mine from the profits of the corporation and donate it to politicians who do not vote in my interest.  Also, corporate political gifts may not be in the interest of working people who invest their labor and their money in the corporation.  

The same principle has been applied to unions for years prior to the Citizens United ruling.  Unions were prohibited from donating dues money for political purposes because it was money donated by their members, and the choices of the union leader might not square with the choices of dues paying members of the union. 

While I disagree with the U. S. Supreme Court about corporations being people, I do agree with them that today, in politics, “money counts.”

While the free enterprise based economy is the best yet devised, we should take care to put safeguards in place which will assure us that the Communist predictions of Karl Marx will not come true in our nation.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


The leadership of our state Legislature, in my opinion, has been somewhat foolish in handling the state’s money.  There are ways to deliver humanitarian relief and at the same time save money.

Our State Legislature has continually reduced the amount of money per student dedicated to education–both public education and higher education.  Not only will this cost us in terms of lost jobs, businesses, and innovative thinking in the future, but it in fact costs us money now.  The one which is most evident is the fact most inmates in Texas have not had the privilege of graduating from high school.  Most are there not because they are mean, but because they are ignorant of how to cope with the everyday challenges of life.  It costs the state more money to keep a young person in prison than it does to keep them in a graduate program in college.  Unfortunately, Texas has more of its citizens in prison than there are prisoners of all the countries of North America put together, as well as South America. 

Health care is another way our state is blatantly shortsighted.  Aside from children who are deprived of adequate health care as they grow up and who later become a burden on our social welfare system, there are specific examples of how poor health care and lack of foresight costs taxpayers millions and millions of dollars.  

A good/bad example of how we deal with health care is diabetes.  If a person with diabetes reports to a state health facility, he or she is asked, “Are you blind?”  “No.”  “Do you need kidney dialysis?”  “No.”  “Do you need an amputation?” “No.”  The answer is then, “Well, come back later when you get worse--we have a program for you.”  It has been estimated by medical experts that over half of diabetes in Texas could be controlled or cured by a simple screening and proper diet.  Although we once had a program to accomplish this, it has been scrapped by the Health Department and the Legislature.  We are virtually spending billions on the above-listed treatments brought about by diabetes.  It has escalated every year for the past fifteen years. 

 Cutting off assistance and attempting to put Planned Parenthood out of business  is another costly item.  Prenatal care has been shown to be very effective in the birthing of healthy children.  Young mothers without prenatal or adequate health care produce children with defects which lead to dependence on state programs for the rest of their lives.

Worker safety is yet another glaring example of wastefulness and harm to our citizens.  Texas leads the nation in job deaths.  Construction, refining and oil field work are all very dangerous and yet Texas is one of the few states which refuses to mandate workers’ compensation.  All too often workers in Texas who receive debilitating injuries on the job end up at emergency rooms which we, the taxpayers, eventually pay for--or even worse, they end up on welfare. 

Our Legislature and statewide leaders continually raise the issue of how they would like to give homeowners relief from burdensome property taxes.  The simple answer they continue to ignore is the state should adequately fund things which are clearly the state’s responsibility: a state system of public education, eliminating the multi-billion dollar state debt on highways, and adequately funding retirement programs for state retired workers as well as teachers.   

It seems not only foolish, but irresponsible to leave these matters as growing indebtedness while we leave several billion dollars in the so called Rainy Day Fund.