Monday, August 15, 2016

TRUMP AND TURTLES

 Recently, several newspapers as well as several conservation groups have reported that recent research has found no sea turtle nest on the beaches of Galveston and the adjoining peninsula.  Scientists attribute the lack of sea turtle nests to damage done to the Gulf of Mexico by the Horizon oil spill.  The absence of turtle nests is significant in that it is an indication of the ecological condition of the Gulf of Mexico.

Mr. Donald Trump strongly advocates abolishing those pesky regulations that are holding our economy back.  This, and his denial that global warming exists, is a view shared by other billionaire businessmen who care more about making a dollar than protecting the environment we all live in.  Donald Trump and other irresponsible industrialists claim that environmental regulations are holding our economy back.  

I suppose they want to return to the good old days when paper mills were able to use the Neches River as a giant sewer for their waste.  Perhaps they would like to return to the days when the Sabine River had so much mercury in it that it was dangerous to eat the fish you might catch there.  Without environmental regulations, what if we allow oil companies to cut corners and have another blowout in the Gulf?  I suppose Mr. Trump would say what’s the loss of a few pelicans, trout or turtles compared to letting oil companies make greater profits?  Obviously, Trump is more concerned with the profits made by BP, Shell Oil and others than he is whether or not the eco system which produces much of our seafood survives. 


I’ve always considered fishermen and hunters America’s best conservationists.  Unfortunately, too many of us in that category have lost sight of protecting the very thing which allows us to enjoy our hunting and fishing.  Instead, hunters are focused more on whether or not we will be able to keep semi-automatic weapons with 15 shot mags.  


Fellow sportsmen, it is time to wake up: Take a stand for preserving our ecology even if it sometimes discomforts those who would sacrifice it on the altar of profit.  If we don’t wake up, we could in the near future awaken to discover that we have no game to shoot with our nice weapons and no fish to catch on our shiny, offshore rigs.

Monday, August 8, 2016

THE OSTRICH TAX POLICY

The no new tax motto by politicians is hurting home-owning Texans.  The fear of runaway taxation stoked by conservative politicians has led to a stupid tax policy in our state.  More accurately, it has led to no tax policy in our state.  Our legislature continues to lurch from crisis to crisis and claiming no new taxes while elevating our fees on everything possible.  The latest is a substantial increase in our car registration. 

The word “taxes” has been elevated—or lowered—to the level of a swear word.  As a result, few, if any, of those seeking office will even say the word.  The big lie following grandiose promises of politicians as to where the money will come from is that we will glean it by reducing waste.  Unfortunately, the most recent waste in Texas—as viewed by our elected members of the Legislature—happens to be at the expense of our children.

We live in a changing world.  Life itself is dynamic.  States change, technology changes, populations change and human needs change.  Therefore, why shouldn’t tax policy be one of change?

Democracy works best when our leaders offer new ideas, debate whether or not old ones are still valid and discuss and share with the public where it is we should be headed.  Unfortunately, taxation in Texas has never enjoyed any rational or considered study.  Our school mess is a prime example of why the lack of any vision or policy relative to taxation is hurtful to us all.  

The basic problem with school finance is that it is unwieldy, grossly unfair and does not provide an adequate amount for the state to meet its constitutional duty of an efficient system of public education for all.  Because our legislature has failed to provide an adequate amount of funding to support public schools, in oly 20 years Texas’ homeowners taxation has gone from near the bottom to second or third from the top of all states of the union.  Our public debt has exploded to the point that Texas’ taxpayers face a mountain of debt at both the state and local level. Because schools are now so dependent on the property tax, we continue to struggle with its inadequacy and unfairness.  Patrons of one school district can produce with a minimal tax effort thousands of dollars per student while the school district next door struggles with the maximum effort on taxes and can raise only a small portion of what their neighboring rich district can acquire.

If all property in Texas were taxed the same, we would not only have a fair tax but the tax on our homes and small businesses would also be much lower.  We would also do away with the continual lawsuits at the state level over school finance.  Unfortunately, we, the taxpayers, along with our elected state leaders and legislators, rushed to repeal the constitutional state property tax several years ago. Regrettably, that delivered scant benefits to the ordinary homeowners in Texas and large benefits to huge property owners.

Texas leads among the states in population growth with fewer, if any, forms of tax which match our growth.  The sales tax may be the exception, but it hits the poor and middle class hardest.

An income tax is generally regarded by Texas taxpayers as an instrument of the devil, and rejected out of hand with little or no discussion.  In-depth studies of the income tax, however, reveal the average homeowner or small business owner would fare much better with it than having to tolerate the ever-increasing property taxes on our homes or businesses.  An income tax as a revenue source would be more fair, more productive and able to keep pace with the changing needs of our state.  The ever-escalating tax on our homes is a tax on most of our most valuable possessions and continues after our productive years are long since in the past. 


While pondering our state’s budget and hopefully our taxation policy, we can only hope and pray our elected leaders will get their heads out of the sand and adopt IBM’s old motto: “THINK!”

Monday, August 1, 2016

WHERE HAVE ALL THE ETHICS GONE?

Recently it has been reported that Trump University was investigated by our then attorney general and current governor, Greg Abbott.  The result of the investigation was that, in view of findings that Texans had been “duped” out of several thousands of dollars, Trump University agreed to leave the state and not return. 

In fact, the assistant attorney general at the time (Abbott) recommended a penalty against Trump University of $5.4 million. Attorney General Abbott apparently passed on the option of a $5.4 million dollar fine or any reimbursement for victimized Texans and let Trump and his fake university leave the state.  Later, it seems, Abbott chose to accept a $35,000 contribution from Trump.  On top of that, our attorney general, Mr. Paxton, has now sent a cease and desist letter to the whistleblower and is attempting to cover up the whole thing. 

News sources do not attach a quid pro quo between allowing Trump University to escape a serious lawsuit and penalties and the contribution to Abbott. However, my question remains: Does it not tell us something about the ethics of our governor who is willing to accept a fairly substantial contribution from a man whose conduct led to him being exiled from Texas because of his con-artist-type behavior?

It seems the Republican Party which once prided itself on dedication to strict law and order and high morals now seems to find ways to embrace Donald Trump, who without a doubt is a serial liar, philanderer, con artist and bully.  Not only that, it seems the Grand Old Party in Texas has decided to turn a blind eye to illegal conduct and even do away, or make powerless, state agencies which attempt to corral unlawful conduct and unethical practices in government.

Our past governor, Rick Perry, who claims to be a Godly man, managed to “shop around” for a friendly Republican court to dismiss his indictment for trying to blackmail an elected official to bend to Mr. Perry’s will.  Little, if anything, has been said by leading Republicans about Rick Perry’s slush fund that we now know was nothing more than a slush fund for his cronies and a source of political contributions for Mr. Perry’s war chest.  There has even been little mention, if any, outside of a newspaper or two about Perry shelling out several thousand dollars to ex-staffers as they left his employment to get on his campaign payroll.

Perry must have set the standard of using state dollars for political purposes because we now know our Republican Ag Commissioner and Bush legatee have spent several thousand dollars paying employees who no longer were coming to work or doing any beneficial work for the taxpayers of this state.

I suppose we shouldn't expect more attention on ethics from a party which chose a man indicted for cheating citizens to be our state attorney general.  Mr. Paxton seems more inclined to sue the U.S. than con-artists in Texas.

Apparently, too many of us (voters) missed the message conveyed by the Republican Legislature abolishing the integrity unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office and adopting instead a “shop for your prosecutor” system for elected officials charged with criminal wrongdoing.  Our state Ethics Commission is virtually a toothless tiger and there appears to be little appetite among our elected officials from the governor on down to arm that body and make it capable of being a true watchdog for bad conduct among our elected officials.  

I guess it is alright to allow the Ethics Commission to remain so weak—particularly, in view of the fact it seems a majority of Texas’ voters do not seem to care.

SCIENCE V. SENSE

Conflict between conservative leaders and science is not new.  History reveals that in 1633 in Italy the conservatives jailed the leading scientist of the time, Galileo, for expressing his view that the earth rotated around the sun.  Almost 400 years later, it seems conservatives are still at odds with science.


Sadly, however, in actuality, today's battle is over money and greed. 

Conservative Republicans continue to deny scientific findings in order to help their wealthy benefactors, even when history has proven the denial of scientific facts is not in the interest of a majority of us.  The standard bearer for the Republican Party, Donald Trump, has been quoted calling climate change a "hoax," "mythical" and a "con job" and stating that "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make manufacturing non-competitive."

Do you recall when the cigarette industry continued to publish article after article by "bought" scientists saying smoking was not harmful to the human body and was not really the cause of lung cancer? Similarly, hundreds if not thousands of working men and women died from asbestos exposure while corporations not only denied the connection, but actually concealed it from their workers.

Locally, in Jefferson County, how long did it take for refinery workers to force their employers to admit that benzene was a cause of leukemia and benzene emissions a contributor to leukemia among our children? 

One only needs to read a recent publication entitled “Dark Money” to discover how many billions are being spent by the Koch brothers to preserve their multi-billion dollar activities through the bogus denial of climate change caused by their refining plants’ emissions.  

The most recent example of conservative conflict with science deals with the oil and gas industry in Texas, but the handmaiden for Texas oil and gas is our elected Railroad Commission.  A new study by University of Texas scientists has revealed a large number of recent earthquakes are in fact caused by drilling activities.  This fact is hotly disputed by our elected Railroad Commission, and even worse, our Republican controlled Legislature—which espouses the primacy of local government—has passed a law prohibiting cities from regulating drilling activities which affect local citizens by creating tremors.


It seems some things never change. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

WHO CARES FOR KIDS?

There’s an old saying that the master who does not hold his servants accountable will end up getting very negative results.  We citizens of Texas need to take a hard look at those who serve us in Austin.  A district court has documented that approximately 700 small children have died from negligence or abuse because Children’s Protective Services is mismanaged, grossly understaffed, and underfunded.  Such a shame in view of the fact that the Attorney General, Commissioner of Agriculture and other elected state officials have squandered several hundred thousands of dollars rewarding ex-employees who no longer work—and have done so illegally.

We rank 37th in support of our public education system, and our leaders refuse to replace the $5 billion+ dollars deducted from the education budget two sessions ago.  They smugly stand idly by while even the Supreme Court, in its attempt to justify their inaction, says that our system has many, many faults, but it meets minimum standards.  Ask yourself whether or not you would trust a baby doctor—who clearly has many faults and shortcomings as a physician, yet meets minimum standards—with the handling of your child.

 The Legislature in its panic to avoid addressing a shortage of tax money has driven us into debt by over 30 billion dollars, and yet our highway system is in sore need of fixing.  A substantial number of our bridges have been ruled to be substandard by reputable engineering investigations.  Yet there is not one hint of how we could raise additional revenue to address our crumbling transportation infrastructure. 

Our governor steadfastly refuses to accept several billion dollars in federal funds which are available to us for health purposes while we continue to lead the nation in uninsured citizens. 

Come on people, there’s got to be more important issues for us to dwell on rather than who goes to the potty where; whether we wear our guns inside our coat or out; and whether or not we should allow our public schools to spend $62 million dollars on football stadiums.

It is past time for us to take a more enlightened view of our public servants and stop blindly voting because of a label.  Self-proclaimed arch-conservatives may conserve a dollar or two, but they are certainly not conserving a bright future for our posterity or the future of this state. We all need to be better motivated to participate in the elections and be better informed on how we hold our public officials accountable.

Monday, July 11, 2016

SOUTHEAST TEXANS

For 32 and one-half years I represented the people of Jefferson, Orange and other Southeast counties in the State Legislature. I found Southeast Texans hardworking, honest, ready to help their neighbors. The majority of Southeast Texans are folks who work for their paydays to support their families, but most of all, Southeast Texas were discriminating and savvy about the people they voted for. I submit, as well as hope and pray, most are too savvy to buy the huckster-type sales pitch of Donald Trump.


I have found through a long career of playing competitive ball that the guys who were the first to brag on themselves were usually mediocre players attempting to inflate their own worth to the team.  I’ve not seen a bigger braggart than Mr. Trump.  He’s the best negotiator, best Christian, best military strategist, best businessman, best lover and one of the richest billionaires in the country.  It has been difficult for me to understand why a man with all those qualities has been so reluctant to reveal his income tax records so a lot of that bragadociousness could be verified.

My father told me a long time ago a fellow who will lie to you will steal from you.  I have been keeping a record of the outright lies repeatedly told and doubled down on by Mr. Trump.  Here are a few.

Trump claims he was never in bankruptcy because the four bankruptcies he was involved in were bankruptcies of "corporate entities" ... albeit these were corporate entities in which he had lured people to invest. 

Trump claims he always opposed the war in Iraq as well as assisted the rebels in Libya.  Videos of him saying to the contrary are clear evidence he plainly mis-spoke or outright lied about this.

Trump claims Hillary wants to repeal the second amendment.  There’s been no such proposal from Hillary Clinton who has proposed some moderate restrictions on the purchase of guns such as background checks for all and stopping potential terrorists from being able to purchase a weapon. 

Mr.Trump vowed he would immediately expel all undocumented immigrants, restrict anyone of the Islamic faith from entering America and self-fund his political campaign to avoid conflicts of interest.  Mr. Trump has backed down on nearly all of these commitments.

Although Mr. Trump is trying desperately to appeal to the religious right in the coming election, he has boasted of his sexual dalliances, and obviously engaged in adultery and sexual misconduct for which he claims to have never sought forgiveness.  He claims a dedication to the Christian faith but cannot think of a favorite scripture in the Bible—and when attempting to quote one, couldn’t get it right. 

He continues to degrade women with such statements as there is, “No such thing as a 10 without large breasts and a nice rearend.”

He promises great results without filling in the details of how they would be accomplished other than illegal or outlandish type strategies.  As an example, to fight and rid theworld from ISIS, he proposes killing their families, torturing them with waterboarding, putting religious mosques under surveillance or simply “bombing thehell out of them.”  Unfortunately, he also thinks he could make the world safer by having America withdraw from NATO or allowing Japan or South Korea to be armed with nuclear weapons.

His criticism of world trade is clearly hypocritical in that he has imported non-union labor from overseas for some of his projects, and has the majority of Trump ties, furniture, clothing and other products produced out of the UnitedStates by virtual slave labor.


If the working folks of Southeast Texas believe Donald Trump—born rich and made richer by taking advantage in sly, unscrupulous deals—could really empathize or have much in common with the working folks down here, they are seriously flawed in their thinking.  I hope and trust the people of this corner of Texas are still the good, right-thinking folks I have known the majority of my life.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

FOURTH OF JULY

The coming 4th of July is a time when all of us loyal Americans should celebrate and thank our Maker for the privilege we have of living in a great nation.  It really rubs me the wrong way when I hear a candidate for president use as his slogan that he wants to make America "great again."  Obviously, he cannot see that America was and still is the greatest nation on earth.  Were we not a great nation, the thousands and thousands of people from other parts of the world would not be so anxious to come here.

Our nation was started by a group of people who fled England to avoid persecution for their religious beliefs.  We are one of the few countries on earth where we can choose to worship any god we choose, or choose not to worship any at all if that is our option.

You can count on one hand the nations of the world where the citizens of the country are free to criticize the heads of state of a nation without fear of reprisal.  Think what would happen to a citizen of North Korea were he to cast aspersions on their supreme leader anywhere akin to the criticisms that our current president endures.

Our system of higher education is the envy of the world, and in large measure it is because of our great colleges and universities that we still lead the world in innovative technology and innovation.

Our unique system of self government allows us to arm ourselves, speak as we choose, assemble at any time we want to, own our own property, be protected by a world-class military and change our government leaders if we want to or have the will to do so. 

We are still the strongest nation in the world as we have repeatedly demonstrated by protecting the countless freedoms and benefits which we enjoy every day.  Those among us who take great pride in speaking of our national government as though it was some sort of despotic, foreign power have obviously not counted their blessings for the privilege of living in such a great and wonderful country. 

We should all take inventory this 4th of July and rejoice in the freedoms and blessings we have, envied by others. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

WHO’S TO BLAME?

Several years ago a cartoonist named Walt Kelly published a regular cartoon called Pogo.  Pogo was a very wise ‘possum who would regularly opine on the state of the union, social issues and other important items.  Probably Pogo’s most famous quote was, “We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.” 

Currently, there is a great outcry about the loss of jobs, the imbalance of trade between the U.S. and other countries and free trade robbing the middle class of its livelihood.  Donald Trump proposes an isolationist policy whereby he would slap large tariffs on any product entering the United States manufactured in another country.  He rails on and on about how Americans are losers because our leaders are stupid and do not know how to make a deal with foreign nations.

Unfortunately, the fault does not lie principally with bad deals made by our elected leaders on trade agreements, but with most of us because of our greed.  A recent experiment reported on national television revealed that when average consumers were asked to choose between a pair of $50 jeans made in China and basically the same jeans made in the United States for $85, consumers overwhelmingly chose to trade with China.  Additionally, recent polls show that 67% of American consumers choose price over where products are made.  Daily, billions of automobiles, televisions, computers, clothing and God knows what else are sold in America to consumers based on advantageous price.  Without a doubt, American consumers vote for free trade if it means saving them a dollar or two on price. 

Similarly, immigration—so attacked by Trump and other so-called conservatives—is similarly caused by too many Americans’ desire for cheap labor.  If this were not true, our American Congress would have long ago simply passed a law putting severe penalties—even including jail—on employers who chose to employ illegal aliens in their businesses.  It continues to boggle my mind that those who squawk about illegal immigration refuse to support a very simplistic remedy for the whole situation.  The guy who rails at Tea Party conventions oftentimes is the same guy having an uninvited guest from Mexico mowing his lawn on a weekly basis.

In another arena we continue to let politicians—who first admit they are not scientists and know little of global warming—get by with allowing the decline of the air we breathe and the water we drink simply because “fat cat” companies don’t want to lose a dollar’s worth of profit to protect the environment.


We decry the government and say government is not working while probably less than half of qualified voters even take the time to vote.  Unfortunately, even those who do oftentimes are sadly uninformed and vote based more on their prejudice than on being well informed on the qualifications and aims of those seeking office.  

Yes, I’m afraid Pogo was more right than wrong that there is a clear explanation of why we have so many idiots in office. It’s called representative government.

Monday, June 13, 2016

IS TEXAS’ PUBLIC EDUCATION OK?

When one of my old country friends felt some highbinder was trying to sell him a bill of goods he would exclaim, “That fellow must believe he can convince me that horse manure tastes like wild honey.”  The same could be said about the recent Texas Supreme Court ruling concerning public education.

Having presided as Senate Education Chair for many years and grappling with the thorny problem of trying to solve the issue of public school funding, I am familiar with the pitfalls encountered in such an effort.  It is amazing to me that anybody of intelligence could look at Texas’ current system of allocating public resources to public education and declare it to meet the constitutional mandate of our constitution.  The critical words at issue in our state’s basic legal document is that our legislature is obligated to provide an efficient system of free public education for the children of this state (emphasis mine).

It boggles my mind that our system could be called efficient when it provides some districts with the ability to furnish twice or three times the amount of dollars to educate the children in that district while other districts, even though given a maximum tax effort, can produce only one-fourth as much per pupil.

Another clue as to whether or not our system truly meets our constitutional mandate for free public schools for Texas children is the fact that Texas has now slipped to 37th in ranking for what we do for public education.  There have been lawsuits filed concerning the unfairness and inadequacy of school funding in Texas since the early ‘60's.  No court having examined the situation has pronounced our system to be what it should be.  All trial judges who have examined our system of funding have found it not to meet the constitutional mandate.  Frankly, the current situation with our Supreme Court appears, simply, to be one where the Republican Supreme Court wants to let our Republican Legislature off the hook so they do not have to face the reality of adequately funding public education.

In spite of all of our political rhetoric from our governor, lieutenant governor and past governor about wanting to make Texas first and preparing future generations to underpin a dynamic, growing economy for the state, their rhetoric continues not to match their deeds.  In fact when things get tight, rather than dip into the so called Rainy Day Fund, our Republican leadership led the charge to simply rob public schools of $5 billion dollars.  Incidentally, the $5 billion has not been replaced and we are barely keeping up with same amount for natural growth in the number of school children in our state.

One thing our legislative politicians should awaken to is there is another court system that might reach a different solution than our partisan Supreme Court–the federal court system.  Back in the ‘60's, Edgewood School District, a very poor school district in San Antonio, filed a federal suit.  By a close vote of the panel of judges hearing that lawsuit, the court ruled against plaintiffs, but in the process were extremely critical of Texas’ system of funding.  The courts said although the Edgewood case did not quite reach the status of being a denial of equal protection, it was very close; and unless the state did something to address the problem, the federal courts would take another serious look at Texas’ system.  While our past attorney general, now our governor, and the current attorney general seem to enjoy making a hobby out of suing the federal government, the future of our children in Texas is far too important to continue to play political games, particularly with public education.

The real problem that faces our legislature is there is really only one way to solve the inequity in the way we finance public education–that is to raise enough revenue to adequately fund our schools on an equal basis.  Doing so would have the benefit of stopping the meteoric rise in property taxes on our homes and small businesses in the state.  The means available for doing so are very limited: (1)  A statewide property tax that would raise enough revenue and could be divided equally among all of the schools—or, God forbid, (2) a state income tax that would raise enough money to adequately and equitably support our schools.  The other choice would be to raise the sales tax or create some new tax to get the job done.  It appears, however, that none of these options could garner enough favor among our “no new tax” legislature to get us out of the mess we are in.

Unfortunately, it is my prediction that our legislature will continue to try and find substitutes for money while trying to address our school problem.  It will also continue to siphon off the funds — that ought to be going to educate the vast majority of our children — by authorizing more and more private and charter schools to be funded without tax dollars, or continue to force higher and higher property taxes locally.


They say that a true statesman is one who looks years into the future and tries to prepare our government to address it in a way beneficial for the greatest number of citizens.  While I pray for more statesmanship in our state, based on past practice and partisan politics, I am not hopeful.

Monday, June 6, 2016

ALLIGATORS AND THE REPUBLICAN PARTY

In their recent state convention [See party platform, item #39], it seems the Republican Party favors elimination of protection by the federal government of endangered species.  To me a party which appears to be obsessed with claiming a strong belief in God would want to preserve much of the way the earth was designed by our Supreme Creator. Nature has a delicate balance which could be upset by elimination of various species.

A perfect example of government protection of nature’s beasts is the alligator. 

By the 1960's alligators were disappearing from Texas’ swamps and marshlands.  The only natural enemy of a gator is humans.  Though taking of alligators was unlawful in Texas, enforcement was well-nigh impossible because when caught with a valuable alligator hide, poachers and illegal hunters would simply claim the gator had been taken in another state and its hide simply brought to Texas for sale.  There was really no way to identify the source of an alligator hide or other body parts.

Because of the value of alligators whose meat could be consumed, its hide made into valuable purses, shoes and other items and its teeth taken as a source of ivory, alligators were disappearing at an alarming rate and about to be listed on the federal register as an endangered species.

Because of concern expressed by environmentalists, I, while a member of the Texas House of Representatives, introduced legislation to make it a crime to possess any part of an alligator while in Texas.  The strategy worked and in only a few years alligators had made a spectacular comeback in our Texas estuaries and marshes.

Alligators were really essential to the whole ecology of marshlands because as a part of their propagation female alligators wallow out a large hole in the marsh pushing vegetation into a large pile whereupon they would place their eggs, cover them with other vegetation and allow the decomposition of the vegetation to furnish the heat thereby hatching many new gators.  The process was extremely helpful to the other creatures inhabiting marshlands because in times of drought, alligator holes were often the only source of water for other creatures.

The strategy of the legislation worked so well that in the ‘70's while a member of the Senate, Parks and Wildlife, as well as citizens, prevailed on me to introduce a second alligator measure.  Alligators were becoming so prolific in Southeast Texas that complaints were arising by people who had their pets attacked and eaten in yards which abutted waterways or swamp lands.  Through cooperation with Texas Parks and Wildlife, a bill was devised setting strict regulations whereby alligators could be hunted pursuant to permits in limited seasons.

Because of government intervention, alligators have flourished, wetlands have benefited, hunters have a new and exciting outlet for their efforts and there is even a flourishing industry attached to the hatching, sale and use of alligator parts in our state.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

THE SHAME OF RICK PERRY


“Mr.Trump, have you no shame?”  These are the words addressed to Donald Trump by Rick Perry only a short time ago in Perry’s effort to shame Trump out of the presidential race.  It now appears Rick Perry has no shame.  It seems he is willing to put aside his so-called conservative principles in an effort to further his own self-aggrandizement and to stay in the public’s view.  Perry has placed the good of the country second to his own personal ambition by endorsing Trump while offering himself up as Trump’s vice-presidential running mate. [Update, June 8: Trump declines veep idea but still has a post in mind for Perry.]


Perry called Donald Trump a cancer on conservatism, a phony—in other words, indicating Trump was merely a huckster trying to pull the wool over the eyes of American voters.  When asked how Perry could put aside his criticisms of Trump given his past condemnation, he said that was simply political talk.  It seems to me this is a confession that Rick Perry will say whatever is necessary in a political context to curry favor with voters.  On the other hand it is pretty good evidence neither Perry nor his fellow travelers ever mean what they hold forth about pretending they are concerned only for what is good for the state and nation. 

If one believes Perry’s touting of his fervent Christian beliefs, which he claims to be long-held, one would have to question how he could support someone like Donald Trump.  Last time I checked, Christian beliefs did not include having numerous affairs out of wedlock, divorcing one’s wife twice or three times, or being so smug about your self-righteousness that you claim you never felt the need to ask God for forgiveness.  This is in addition to the obvious evidence that Trump holds very doubtful beliefs about Christianity.  Although he claims the Bible to be his favorite book, he could not correctly quote a scripture fromthe Book of Corinthians and refuses to reveal his favorite biblical scripture.  So much for Perry supporting candidates with so-called family values that he seems to espouse so greatly.

For Perry, who was Texas’ governor for fourteen years, supporting someone like Trump who babbles insults based on gender, religion, national origin or race brings into question all of the proclamations of Perry doing what was right for citizens of Texas.  Anyone with an iota of political experience could readily see the phoniness of building a wall on the Mexican border, arresting and banishing 11-million Mexicans who do not have legal papers, or doing away with the national debt in two years is simply ignoring the truth. For Perry to support someone who has told the litany of falsehoods and uttered the insulting comments as has Donald Trump can only be explained by Perry's burning ambition to stay in the public limelight and retain status that holding a high office brings.


We are only now discovering how Perry doled out millions to his buddies from gubernatorial slush funds in exchange for financial support in the elections.  We are also seeing how willing he was to let little children suffer without adequate health care by refusing the billions of dollars available to Texas from federal funds merely to burnish his conservative credentials while running for president.  Yes, Rick Perry have you no shame?

Monday, May 23, 2016

WHAT’S WRONG WITH PAY-AS-YOU-GO

If the father and mother of a normal family had the ability to earn adequate income to provide for the necessities for their family and yet refused or failed to give adequate sustenance or clothing to their children while all the while depositing portions of their income into a savings plan, such conduct would be considered child abuse.  Or, at the very least, the parents would be deemed unfit or unwise.  This is especially true if, while denying their children adequate care and stuffing money into their savings account, they refused to follow a course available to them to earn more money.  This scenario is exactly what the State of Texas has chosen to do with its so-called Rainy Day Fund.

Texas’ constitution written by our forefathers provided that Texas should never engage in debt but should pay its bills as the needs arose.  For years, until the approach of the current 21st Century, the Legislature managed to avoid imposing debt on the taxpayers of Texas and established basically a savings plan of surpluses available in the approaching ‘90's.  The Legislature had a choice at that time of either putting surplus tax money into a savings account or reducing taxes.  The Legislature chose the Rainy Day Fund over the option of saving money at the time for their constituents.

Like the family who deprived their children rather than spend from their savings account, Texas has denied millions of its children educational opportunity, health care services and many other essentials for Texas’ constituents.  It appears the Legislature has been unwise in the use of the Rainy Day Fund by simply using it to avoid having to consider raising taxes. While eagerly preserving the Rainy Day Fund, our state leaders have managed to allow debts in numerous areas to continue unabated.  One example of failure to attend to its children is the spectacular rising cost of a higher education in Texas.

For another example, no money until recently has been allocated for highways and roads even though our roads and bridges are seriously deteriorated throughout the state.  It seems the Legislature would rather search for gimmicks rather than 'ponying up' and doing what is necessary to raise adequate funds for our highways. They have the ability to attend to the needs of the state as are currently necessary. However, the current estimate of what it would take to get us out of the mess created by attempting to provide adequate highways and roads in Texas through toll ways is that it has left us $30 billion in debt.  

On the horizon there are other bad signs our state could be in further financial trouble. Our recent Attorney General and the current Attorney General seem to be hellbent on succeeding by suing the United States government. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the suits they have filed have been unsuccessful.  There are currently three or four serious lawsuits pending against the State of Texas concerning education and the neglect of children, any one of which could bring about severe financial impacts.  The question will be whether or not our leaders will simply use up the Rainy Day Fund and then attend to other needs of the State by paying as the needs arise.


Our forefathers had it right.  We should pay as we go.  And if our earnings or income is not adequate, our leaders should have the guts to stand up and say "we are going to cut services for you and your children rather than ask you to pony up a little more money to attend to these needs."  

For years politicians have been running on the promise they will pay for the wonderful things by eliminating waste and corruption.  After 32 years as a member of the legislative body, I’m here to attest there 'ain’t' that much waste and corruption to be found.  Our legislative and state leaders need to simply suck it up and admit to the public what’s needed and attend to it.  

Texans are not so stupid they can’t understand increasing the tax burden a little to provide for those things essential to future growth and a decent living for the citizens of Texas.

Monday, May 16, 2016

DEFINE CONSERVATIVE

It is clear most Texans who vote in our elections consider themselves conservative.  In the past I have written about how a Texas conservative is defined.  Frankly in too many instances it is my fervent belief that being a conservative politician in Texas means dancing to the tune of special interests—particularly the oil and gas industry, along with the insurance industry.

Recently Dallas Morning News published a provocative article about whether or not members of Texas Republican leadership are true conservatives.  In the minds of most folks a governmental conservative or conservative politician is one who does everything possible to save taxpayers money, has a tight fiscal budget, and limits government intrusions into citizens’ everyday lives.

The article questioned whether or not our leaders were true conservatives, particularly in the field of responsible money management for our state.  When Rick Perry took office our state’s bonded indebtedness was $14.8 billion.  Under the fiscal leadership of Perry and our current governor, our state’s bonded indebtedness has risen to $40.8 billion.  While the rallying cry for our Republican politicians has long been the accusation that all Democrats do is tax and spend, they seem to ignore the Republican style which could best be described as borrow and spend.

While ignoring the option of a small gradual increase in our motor fuel tax, or taking the option of pegging our motor fuel tax to the rising economies of national productivity, our leadership has deemed it good policy to simply issue more bonds and borrow more money to support unprofitable toll roads. 

Failure to keep an eye on our ever growing obligation on retirement programs in Texas, there has been a spectacular growth far above the national average in our unfunded liabilities for retirement.  Our retirement liability is growing at a rate of 13.5% per year, about twice as much as the national level, and far exceeding the economic growth of our state which is 6.5%.

Our governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general have pretty much ignored the growing debt through the borrowing they have sanctioned by simply saying that increased economic activity and population growth in Texas would more than make up for the difference and we would quickly be able to pay off our debt.  Population growth in Texas has failed by several percentage points to match the projected forecast of our leaders.  Texas’ population growth has slowed to where it is only about 3% per year.


It seems to me that perhaps we should re-define conservatism or demand that our statewide politicians who sell themselves as being conservatives do a better job of practicing what they preach.