Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Education in Texas

Both a pleasurable and informative experience for me as chairman of the Texas Senate Education Committee was serving as one of Texas’ representatives in the Southern Regional Educational Board.   This board was created several years ago in an effort to try to bring southern states into the 20th Century and catch up with the rest of the United States in educating our children.  There are 16 states, mostly southern, with 2 border states of Maryland and Delaware.  This organization, of all of the organizations I had an opportunity to participate in while a member of the Texas Senate, was the most productive in producing ideas and studies of education.  I had the privilege of chairing the legislative branch of the SREB and, as a result, still receive publications produced by them.

In perusing the most recent publication, I learned some very cogent facts about our state in comparison to many others.  I have often opined we should all appreciate Mississippi because it keeps Texas from being dead last in many statistics, particularly related to education.  The tables presented in the most recent publication of the SREB bear out this unfortunate fact in some respects.  Many of the statistical analyses contained in the report are worth passing on to Texans, particularly, if they are concerned about education.

The most cogent facts presented in the report deal with population change and the status of educational funding and the impact of education on earnings--facts which might be helpful to parents as they are talking to their children about the desirability of getting a college degree.  Statistical analysis by the SREB shows a professional degree on the average is worth $128,600 a year; doctoral degree, $400,000; a master degree, $74,200; a bachelor degree, $58,800; an associate degree, $41,500; and any college degree, $38,600.  High school graduation, on average, is worth $32,800. Less than a high school education is worth approximately $19,000 in earning per year.  This makes a good argument for the value of a good education.  While the chart shows the value to the person receiving the education, there is an equal and corresponding value to the community in which the college graduate lives and works.  The taxes he or she will pay alone for the enhanced annual salary is well worth the investment made by taxpayers in helping that person be educated.

Unfortunately, the bad news in the report is Texas is second from the bottom in the number of its public school students who finish.  Were it not for Mississippi, we would be dead last.  We also are losing the race for students entering college seeking a bachelor or graduate degree.  North Carolina leads with 91% of their students seeking such degrees, while Texas lags behind all other states and beats only Mississippi again by 74%.  

Although Texas is in the middle with increased funding for higher education, the statistical analysis does not divide the amount of taxpayer money put into higher education--rather, it combines appropriated tax money along with increased tuition.

The analysis concerning various populations of White, Black, Hispanic and Other indicates the projection for 2019 that Hispanic students will rise from 54% of the student population to 62% while White students decrease from 42% of the student population to 32%.

I have often said one of the toughest things about being an advocate for quality education is explaining to taxpayers why it is in their best interest to educate someone else’s child.  A review of any statistical analysis comparing all states on the value of education can clearly demonstrate that an educated populace, including an educated workforce, brings great value to the community–not only in taxes paid, but simply social value to the community.  This seems to be a cogent fact forgotten by too many members of our Legislature. 

If Texas is to glean anything from this SREB report, it is that our leaders need to prepare for the contingencies of the future.  Texas already employs more minimum wage workers than any other state in the Union.  If we are to be a growing and vibrant state with a growing and vibrant economy, it is absolutely imperative that we prepare future generations with the skills and knowledge necessary to compete in the modern world.  It is in every Texan’s interest to make it easier, not harder, for young people to get more and more education.  Failure to do so will end up costing Texas in the long run.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

We have met the enemy...

One of the most memorable phrases gleaned from the satirical comic strip “Pogo” was, “We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.”  Unfortunately, today it seems too many Americans have taken the saying too seriously.  From clips on TV and statements of leadership, particularly from the Tea Party group, it seems some Americans view our national government as a foreign power which somehow has invaded us.  Those who incessantly attack our national government do major damage to our system.

Only a short history lesson can demonstrate why our government contains greater benefits than pitfalls and greater opportunities than drawbacks to those of us with American citizenship.  Our federal government has been the major catalyst in the greatest surges of prosperity in America.

As we emerged from the first Great Depression of 1929, the government put together the Jobs Program which included the Civil Conservation Corps.  Many of us still wonder at the magnitude and beauty of the national parks throughout the United States. Many of  those parks were built using CCC labor while providing jobs which enabled many families in America to survive the rigors of the Great Depression.

In all probability, one of the greatest advancements for the middle class and America as a whole was the GI Bill.  Fashioned as we emerged from the Great War, Americans invested at a time when our national debt was at an all-time high.  We invested in educating those who had served us and given of their time in the Great War.  While it benefited veterans, it benefited America far more.  It is a prime example of how government investment in a time of need can move us forward as it did in this instance.  It moved us forward in education, innovation, investment, entrepreneurism and prosperity.  America has enjoyed no greater surge forward than we did at the time we invested in making higher education affordable for a huge segment of our society–not just the rich and privileged.

The next gigantic investment in America which holds us in great stead today, without which we would be one of the poorest nations on earth, is the interstate highway system.  Proposed and pushed by General Dwight Eisenhower during his presidency, we invested billions in creating a transportation system which assured the future of much of our commerce, but also it is an example of how government can in fact be the stimulus to create jobs.  What advocate of making America’s national government insignificant would look back and wish for insignificance in our government’s role in creating the interstate highway system which serves us so well today?

Here’s another example:  Back in the ‘60s the anti-science, know-nothing, do-nothing conservatives in America considered our 35th president’s aim of putting a man on the moon to simply be a pipe dream.  However, the vision of John Kennedy and the Space Program, underwritten by our government, has resulted in numerous inventions that serve us in the form of business opportunities, human comfort and entertainment.

The plethora of patents and scientific advancements directly attributable to the quest to put a man on the moon is unmatched in any nation’s history.  Advances in medicine, communication, business technology and on and on would not have been possible without our government’s investment.  Had some of the naysayers in politics today been in control at that time they would have opted for a greater balanced budget and lower taxes instead of our quest to explore space.

Governor Perry, who belittles the effort of government to create jobs, conveniently overlooks the fact that a significant portion of the job growth in Texas, upon which he bases his quest to lead our nation, was fueled by government jobs.

Never in the history of our country is there a greater need for America to do what is necessary to make an investment–yes, even with borrowed money–in our crumbling infrastructure such as buildings, bridges, highways and public school buildings.  We also desperately need to invest in giving the next generation access to a reasonably priced cost of higher education, training them for the kinds of jobs which will make America competitive and return manufacturing back to the United States instead of India and China.  

At a time when we have gone from number one in the training of needed skills to number sixteen in the world, it is absolutely the wrong time to heed the “no tax at any price” voices.  It is the time to invest in order to lift ourselves by our bootstraps out of the doldrums of an economy devastated by two wars on credit and an insane desire to have wealth prevail over the needs of ordinary citizens.  

Whatever Happened to Humans?

I am absolutely convinced two of the main contributors to the unemployment currently plaguing our nation are Republicans and machines.  Whatever happened to pleasant receptionists who used to answer the phone and were able to explain to you whether or not their company, or anyone around, could be of assistance to you?  I particularly dislike the machine which has replaced the receptionist wherein they ask you to spell the name of the person to whom you want to talk.  First of all, you have to know a person.  Second of all, you have to know how to spell his or her name.  

If I’d had all of that information, I would have probably had their number to begin with and wouldn’t have to deal with such a creature who required all this information.  

It seems to me that if machines have a purpose it should be to keep people from having to go to a lot of trouble in the business world when they seek to purchase goods or services from someone.  'Seems to me that more and more machines, particularly answering devices, are doing just the opposite.  Trying to find the proper place for a simple repair is a good example.

Recently, I had need to inquire about a repair to one of my shop tools--a floor model Craftsman drill press.  After finding no local number for repairs or service, I in desperation dialed the 1-800 number. After several rings I received a recording.  “You have reached the Sears store in Port Arthur, Texas. However, if you are calling about automotive, appliances...”  and about ten other choices, push so and so. None of the ten choices exactly fitted my needs, so I pushed zero.  I was greeted by another machine which obviously did not understand plain English.  I repeated my request and was promptly transferred to yet another machine containing a list, none of which fit my problem.  I had yet ten more choices and the final choice on this one was for a service person.  I gleefully pushed that button and was treated to about five minutes of elevator music.  Eventually, some exotic sounding person-- who had neither an American-variety accent nor fluency in English-- answered.  He asked if he could be of service or help, which I understood on the second try, so I informed him I was seeking repairs for a floor model drill press.  He replied, “A grill?”  No, I said, a drill.  He obviously didn’t understand what a drill was.  

I explained to him patiently I was looking for repairs to a machine which sat on the floor and was used to bore holes.  He requested that I wait just a moment, whereupon I was treated to about seven minutes of elevator music.  When he finally came back on the line, he had mastered the task of saying drill press.  I told him yes, that’s what I wanted.  Repairs to my drill press.  He treated me to more music while I held once again.  Finally, the fellow whom I decided was Sinbad the exotic Indian phone voice returned with, “What is your area code?”  I gave it and after about another five minutes of waiting and more music he returned once again with a phone number and address for the Sears service center in Orange, Texas.

Gleefully, I called the new number and was rewarded with an answer from a voice with a decidedly Texas accent.  The Texas accent knew what a drill was right away.  I asked him if they could fix it.  “Nope,” he says, “We’ll have to ship it off.”  “How long will that take?” I asked.
“Two weeks,” he said.  

I send my healthy young runner to pick up my floor model drill press and take it to the service center in Orange only to learn they do not ship off floor model drill presses, only table model drill presses. Nonetheless, I am told we can take it to a service center in Beaumont.

The following day I send my in-need-of-repair floor model drill press to the Sears center in Beaumont only to learn they do not accept items for repair.  They will send a service man out to the location where the drill press is and will repair it there.  “Fine, come on out,” I say.  “Well, you can have an appointment 22 days from now,” he said.  I asked, “Will you let me know somehow?”  He says, “Well, you should call the service center.”  

At first I considered seriously just throwing my hands up and start shopping for a new floor model drill press, but then I think, what sort of adventure awaits me when I start trying to make a phone call concerning a scheduled appointment of a service person to my home?  I can hardly wait to find out!  Perhaps it will provide enough material for another article. Stand by.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Forgotten Amendment

The Tea Party Movement seems to have forgotten precious guarantees of our United States Constitution or may purposely be ignoring it.  Tea Party members, who claim to be great patriots, are endorsing almost without exception the right-wing Republican candidates who seem to be hell-bent on destroying rights guaranteed to American citizens under the Seventh Amendment.  The Seventh Amendment reads as follows: “In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right to trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”

While much of the dissatisfaction of colonial Americans arose from the unfairness of taxes unilaterally leveled by the king, those onerous taxes were made worse by the fact they would be enforced in a court of admiralty which leveled judgments on citizens without the benefit of a jury.  John Adams rightly and vigorously complained of the practice.  John Adams once said, “We shall confine ourselves, however, chiefly to the act of Parliament, commonly called the Stamp Act, by which a very burdensome, and, in our opinion, unconstitutional tax, is be laid upon us all; and we subjected to numerous and enormous penalties, to be prosecuted, sued for, and recovered, at the option of an informer, in a court of admiralty, without a jury.”

Tea Party candidates continue, seemingly, to embrace right-wingers who, in the name of tort reform, appear dedicated to wiping out or disabling any right to trial by jury in the United States.  The tort reform effort is not based on fairness but simply on money, and in some cases so-called efficiency.  

If one reviews the tort reform program outlined by the various tort reform organizations for the last legislative session, it quickly becomes apparent the bulk of their program is to do away with, avoid, or hamper the jury system in Texas.

Changes in the Worker Compensation Law in Texas have made it almost impossible for an injured worker to be represented by counsel and to obtain a jury finding on the extent or value of his or her injury.  Our Republican Supreme Court and Republican majorities in the House and Senate have embraced arbitration as an inexpensive way to resolve legal disputes.  Arbitration is generally billed as an agreement by which parties agree to resolve their differences with an impartial arbitrator whose decision is final and binding and not appeal able to any court.  The problem is that once one examines arbitration in reality, it is either one of those “small print” items slipped into a consumer’s contract or part of an employment agreement whereby the choice of arbitration is one-sided: Agree to it, or seek employment elsewhere.  Far too many arbitrators are beholden to large corporations and render favorable decisions in their favor or face the prospect of not being used as arbitrators in the future.

Another device tort reformers use to short-circuit being tried by a jury of one’s peers is the so called multi-district litigation provision.  This device allows a hand-picked judge to designate one judge, perhaps far from one’s home, to decide all cases of a similar nature.  This device has been successfully used against victims of asbestosis.  Designating one or two special courts far from one’s home where the trial must be held causes even people at the point of death with this dread disease to have their case disappear into the black hole of legal cases.  Oftentimes it ends up the case is not tried until the original litigant is dead, buried and his will probated.  

I’m certain this is not what our founding fathers had in mind when including the right of trial by jury in our national Constitution.  Adams commented on this type of legal device as well, saying, “So it is also in the trial of causes between party and party.  No man’s property or liberty can be taken from him till twelve men in his neighborhood have said upon oath, that by laws of his own making it ought to be taken away, that is, that the facts are such as to fall within such laws.”

Dressing up in period costumes with three-cornered hats, waving the flag and condemning taxes does not a patriot make.  The devices mentioned above to avoid jury trials were sold to the American people and Texans by selling the notion that ordinary citizens do not have sense enough to judge their peers.  Most tort reform measures represent a basic mistrust of twelve citizens who sit in judgment of the evidence and decide the facts of civil cases.  The mistrust of ordinary citizens is amplified by the fact that the past majority of cases heard by the Texas Supreme Court involving the question of a jury finding have been reversed by the nine Republican members.  

Our nine Supreme Court justices, who never saw or heard a witness in a case, seem to believe their judgment should prevail over the twelve citizens who did.  Out of 30 cases heard by the Supreme Court in recent times involving the question of an adequate jury finding of fact, approximately 22 have been reversed by the Court.  

Obviously, our Supreme Court does not agree with James Madison who once said, “...trial by jury in a civil case is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature.”  Nor does it comport well with Thomas Jefferson who said civil jury trials are, “...the only anchor yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”


Oscar Mauzy, former state senator and former Supreme Court justice, had a large sign hanging on the wall of his senate office.  It read, “Forgive and Remember.”  Unfortunately, too many voters have not adopted the part about remembering.   It is my belief too many voters do not necessarily forgive--they simply forget.  

The current rush and seeming obsession with trying to reign in deficit spending all of a sudden in America clearly demonstrates that too many Americans who have vivid recollections of the Great Depression are no longer with us.  Or, American leaders have collectively forgotten the lessons we should have learned at that time.

My mother, who is 96 years of age, recalls vividly how hard times were when many Americans literally did not have any idea where their next meal, or that of their families, would come from.  She recalls, with some emotion, the hopelessness of many Americans during that downturn.  

The lessons which apparently have been collectively forgotten by our leadership are that Roosevelt’s New Deal, with massive spending and a dedication to rebuild much of America’s infrastructure, began to pull us from the depths of America’s worst depression. The change in economics of having the government inject money into the economy was working.  Unfortunately, Roosevelt, much like Obama, yielded to the hue and cry from the right-wing to prematurely start dealing with the so-called looming deficit.  When Roosevelt’s focus switched from simply creating jobs by massive infusions of money, the road to recovery took a sharp downturn and led to a measurable setback in the recovery.

Currently, Pulitzer prize-winning economists and other experts on the world economy correctly advise us that cutbacks desired by the Tea Party in Congress are calculated not to create jobs but to create a reversal of a slow recovery from a recession.  There is living proof that these economists are right.  England has already tried austerity to relieve the joblessness situation in and it is apparently not working.  Germany, on the other hand, has pretty much ignored the deficit, continued to invest in public spending and revival of its infrastructure; its economy seems to be leaping forward in the effort to recover for the vast majority of citizens of Germany.  

We continue to be warned by experts that the premature dedication to austerity in America will short circuit our previous efforts to stimulate the economy.  Unfortunately, the folks who uttered not a word while George W. Bush gave tax breaks to oil companies and the mega-rich, and spent like a drunken sailors on two unnecessary wars, are now trying to convince America that the neediest Americans need to double their sacrificial efforts to save the country from future ruin.

Politics in many ways is a game of self-fulfilling prophecies.  Republican leadership in America vowed the election of Barack Obama would bring disaster and ruin to America.  Their entire effort has not been aimed at making America a greater nation but at guaranteeing the Obama administration will be a total failure.

Our state Republican leadership, beginning with Governor Perry, has been employing much of the same tactic to maintain control in our state.  Doesn’t it seem suspicious that in an election year our State Board of Education, controlled by our governor, relaxed the standardized test grading procedures so the vast majority of Texas schools appeared to have surged forward in the field of excellence?  

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Coming Year: Bring on the Politics

After years of watching elections, contested elections and related matters, I am absolutely convinced many of us are born with an extra political gene. We are political junkies and enjoy watching all of the machinations of those seeking public office. The coming year ought to be a real doozie for those of us with this kind of political DNA. Unfortunately, most of the action will be among the Republicans.

The retirement of Kay Bailey Hutchinson from the Senate has produced a virtual rodeo of related candidacy announcements among Republican officeholders, with the biggest hat finally thrown into the ring by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Initially, half a dozen Republicans announced they would seek the vacant Senate seat, including a former Secretary of State and two members of the Texas Railroad Commission.  Since that time, a fellow named Ted Cruz also has chimed in and intends to try to parlay the combination of being Hispanic and a very conservative Republican into winning Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s slot. Two of the other candidates, both named Williams, having taken a look at the district congressional seats carved out by the recent Legislature, have decided to seek the same seat just outside Fort Worth.  That should make for an interesting contest with two people of the same name seeking the same job.

Now that Dewhurst has announced he's running for the U.S. Senate , the race is on for Lt. Governor. Three statewide incumbents are already casting eyes on that slot. Jerry Patterson, an ex-marine fighter pilot, who occupies the office of Land Commissioner of Texas, has announced for the office already. Patterson is a darling of the gun lobby, very outspoken, has established connections with Veteran groups, and is flamboyant even in his method of transportation. Patterson barnstorms the state campaigning in an antique Steersman aircraft...the kind of aircraft most commonly used for crop dusting. 

Another candidate is Susan Combs, State Comptroller. This is an office well suited for developing business contacts and good connections with big-moneyed folks well known for funding political campaigns.  The State Comptroller makes critical decisions involving millions and millions of dollars every day, and many of these decisions have a direct impact on how well your business runs. Combs is a fairly well-known officeholder having occupied the Agriculture Commissioner seat before the one she now holds.  Combs has the reputation for being a straight shooter and competent in the management of her office.  Combs’ background is in farming and ranching, she is well known as a “no nonsense” person, and en route to the run for Lt Gov she has gone from the Legislature to the Agriculture Commissioner’s office to State Comptroller.

The third is known as a “good ole’ boy” from East Texas.  Todd Staples came to the Senate defeating David Fisher, who appeared to be the favorite at the time--a relative of well known and revered East Texas federal judge, Joe Fisher.  Staples was pretty soon adopted as a darling of conservative Republicans and blessed by some of the state leadership as a future statewide officeholder.  When Combs chose to leave the Agriculture Commission office, Staples won the seat handily.  

At this point there is only speculation about whether or not Rick Perry will in fact launch a campaign for President of the United States, or will be successful in an effort to be drafted as the number two person on the Republican presidential team.  In any event, there is much speculation about what impact his decision will have on overall politics in Texas.

So far the only Democratic contender seriously mentioned for any of the office is former General Ricardo Sanchez of South Texas who made his announcement back in May that he would seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

Add up all of the above factors--and then add to it the consideration that President Obama will be seeking re-election--and what you end up with is a political junky’s dream trifecta...the equivalent of prime seats to the Super Bowl, the World Series,  and the World Championship of Soccer. Indeed, let the games begin.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why Perry Won't Run for President

                                                               photo by: Bob Daemmrich

It is always risky to make predictions.  Even sports analysts, who are great prognosticators, are very reluctant to predict the winner of the National Football League or the World Series.  Conventional wisdom says if you claim to be an expert in something and make a wrong prediction, it somehow diminishes your credibility.  Nonetheless, here goes as far as our governor’s presidential ambitions.

Having been a watcher of Rick Perry’s career for many years, and having served with him in the Legislature, I believe that much like the leopard, his spots do not change.  First of all, Perry is an opportunist; and a very lucky one at that.  Perry got elected as a Democrat and switched to the Republican Party to run for Agriculture Commission after having advocated the end of that office because the incumbent had the audacity to insist that farmers reveal to farm workers what poisons they were spraying on them in the fields.

Perry got elected Lt. Governor with the assistance of the Bush family in a year when there was a Republican tsunami.  Mom and Pop Bush got on television and told Texas that Rick Perry was like a son to them and ought to be elected.  He narrowly outdistanced State Comptroller Sharp who had reaped national claim in office as an excellent public servant.

Perry walked into the office of Governor by default when George Bush went to be president of the United States.  Ironically enough, in a five-person race, in which the Bush family switched their loyalties and supported Kaye Bailey Hutchinson, Perry managed to get elected Governor of this state with 38% of voters voting for him and 62% voting for someone else.  Nonetheless, Perry took it as a mandate and took a sharp turn to the right, consolidating the far-right base and demanding strict loyalty of all of his appointees, which by the most recent election was 100% of the state appointments.  The bottom line is that while Perry has been praised for his political acumen, most of it has been luck and timing.

First of all, my prediction is based on the fact, and my belief, that Perry has never intended to run for President.  Perry loves the attention and once again seeks the opportunity for taking advantage of perfect timing.  Perry is safely in the office of Governor and can take advantage of the taxpayers of the state paying for much of his travel expense; and thanks to the most recent session of the Legislature, can do so without public scrutiny.

Perry continues his move to the far right and while making speeches all over the country, has endeared himself as the “darling” of the Tea Party group and religious right-wingers.  

This is part of the reason I truly believe he will not have the guts to become an official candidate for president and endure the scrutiny that will bring.  As an example, while touting his ability to fight with the federal government on such things as the environment, time has proven him wrong -- there IS, in fact, global warming and Texas’ record of producing jobs at the expense of a healthy climate is becoming more and more apparent.  Perry brags about the state leading the nation in job creation but does not mention the other areas in which Texas leads the nation. These include such things as being near the top in bad statistics -- such as health for children, lack of high school graduates, and use of the death penalty.  

Perry appears to be owned by the super rich in Texas.  In most all cases they demand legislative action benefiting their own personal interests while ignoring the vast majority of Texas’ citizens.

Perry’s treatment of Hispanic and other minority groups will bring more focus and will come to light more if and when he is seriously considered as a real presidential candidate.  A good indicator is the recent foray into San Antonio where Perry spoke to a conservative group of Hispanics who basically sat on their hands instead of giving him the usual standing ovation when he finished his speech.

Most of all his ideological bias will be revealed as intolerant, bigoted and self-serving.  A glimpse into the real Rick Perry is revealed by his recent attempt to present himself as a major disciple of Christ.  In politics it is true as elsewhere that birds of a feather flock together.  Perry has decided to use religion to shore up his image in politics by calling for a national prayer day for Christians only.  The American Family Association with whom he has joined up in this effort is a well known intolerant group which ignores the “love they neighbor” part of the Bible and seems to hate more than it loves.  This group and Perry have made it clear the August 6th prayer meeting is for Christians only.  

Perry's alignment with the American Family Association also hitches him to the pastor helping to lead the charge -- John Hagee. John Hagee was disclaimed by John McCain when Hagee tried to endorse McCain during the 2008 election.  Hagee has asserted the Catholic Church is the “great whore.”  He also said God sent Adolph Hitler to be a “hunter of Jews.”

Even worse is Perry’s dismantling of education in Texas, running his own slush fund to give to his rich buddies -- without adequate oversight and no check on flagrant pandering -- instead of giving to consumers, all of which will soon catch up with him.  I believe, however, Perry’s plan is to raise as much money as possible, while teasing the Republican right-wing that he may really become a candidate, amassing his own slush fund for politics and firmly establishing himself as the “darling” of the far right, hoping that whoever wins the Republican nomination will be almost duty-bound to select him for the number two slot on the Republican team.

You heard it here.  Perry is not running for President.  He is running for Vice-President.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The "RULE OR RUIN" Strategy

Recently the Republican minority leader of the United States Senate was being interviewed concerning the crisis of the Middle East--specifically, the relationship between Israel and Hamas.  He, McConnell, observed there would never be peace between Israel and Hamas because Hamas denied the existence of Israel, and its stated purpose is to destroy it.

Having heard this, it occurred to me that minority leader McConnell’s attitude toward Obama is much the same as Hamas’ attitude about Israel.  At numerous public meetings, Republicans have avowed their stated purpose of opposing everything our president is for in hopes his presidency would fail.  I wonder what’s happened to us in America.  Once upon a time, after the election, everybody advocated putting aside partisanship and with hope to unite behind our president for the common good and for America.  It was then called patriotism.  Now, apparently, it’s all politics.

Sadly, too many Americans are buying into this “rule or ruin” strategy.  

Picture yourself as the coach of a football team.  Suppose you made a judgment about the person who should lead the team as the quarterback, and you discovered a minority of the players were disgruntled about your pick to lead the team.  This disgruntled minority conspired to lay down on the job to score, and to do the best they could in a team effort to make your quarterback look bad.  Would you keep these people on the team?  Would you question their loyalty?  

How can you be truly a loyal American while working to keep the leader of your nation from succeeding in his job to defend the country, to promote the common good and to bring back a shattered economy he had not caused but inherited?  

Harry Truman truly believed any political leader should be a student of history.  He reasoned that, given a set of circumstances, human beings pretty much react in the same manner faced with similar circumstances.  On the eve of the Great Depression, Republican Herbert Hoover advocated balancing the budget, cutting back on spending--most of the same things Republicans advocate now as a way to overcome a sick economy and the drastic shortage of jobs.  FDR on the other hand took the opportunity for America to use its credit card to help us climb out of the depression, and at the same time invested our borrowed money on the infrastructure which in turn created jobs.  

Just here in Jefferson County there remain numerous reminders of FDR Programs which helped end the depression, and left us with a better community.  The courthouse, for example, was built as a part of such a program--and also the sub-courthouse in Port Arthur, and Woodrow Wilson as well as Franklin school.  Most of our basic national parks were put together by Roosevelt’s Conservation Corp.

Too, in our review of history, we should not forget how we got to where we are.  In recent history, one of our most prosperous times when we enjoyed a surplus was under President Clinton, prior to the Bush tax cuts.  The Bush tax cuts, which cost us trillions of dollars for the last 10 years, have apparently not provided jobs for middle-America.  

A major cause of our current fiscal dilemma was brought about by the deregulation efforts of Phil Gramm, a Texas Republican who spent most of his career trying to help the banking industry, which now pays him a very handsome salary to do very little but consult.  Gramm’s efforts at deregulation probably are directly connected and a probable proximate cause of bursting the housing bubble which in turn was the beginning of our economic collapse.  Gramm, and others, expanded their efforts for “voodoo”-type accounting practices, deregulating and removing the watchdogs from Wall Street which caused ordinary working folks to lose millions on companies like Enron.  

The same folks who applauded all of the above measures are now trying to convince us that, by simply trusting insurance companies, the cost of medical care will become affordable for us all--and we will all be taken care of.  

I am also having a difficult time understanding the Republican strategy that spending cuts will somehow lead to more jobs.  I thought a recent quote I read made lots of sense when one fellow observed that it is difficult to starve yourself to success.

Some people bemoan the fact that liberal policies of Democrats are simply an effort to redistribute the wealth. They seem to overlook the fact that for the last 10 years Republicans have done a great job of redistributing the wealth by moving most of it to the top wealthiest folks in our society.  
Instead of creating jobs, all they have done is create huge fortunes that these folks are sitting on while whining about programs which will give the elderly some comfort in their old age and Medicare which will at least give us a safety net when we are old and ill. 
Aren't these among the basic things you would expect a decent democratic country--both the majority and minority--to do for its citizens?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Imagine, if you will, a business selling “thingamabobs.”  It has been in business for several generations, owned by the same family.  Recently, a new manager of the business has been selected.  The business produces very reliable and well-made “thingamabobs,” and they sell at a lower rate per “thingamabob” than 90% of their competitors.  The workforce of the business works at an hourly rate at or below the rest of their competitors, and sales are fairly good.  The business then gets its annual report that due to increasing supply costs and lagging sales, in the coming year the company will not have enough money to pay its overhead, utilities, salaries or other necessary expenses to keep the business going.

Even though the business could easily slightly increase the cost of their product  and still remain competitive, the board of directors, under the leadership of its recently appointed manager, decides this is not an option.  No increase under any circumstances of their products.  The board also, under its recent leadership, decides not to use any of the money in an emergency savings account which would take care of at least half of the shortfall of the company’s income.  The board of directors makes a decision to stick with the same old price, no matter what the consequences; and, in order to accommodate the shortfall of income of the company, they layoff half the workforce.

As a shareholder in the above company, you would have the opportunity to vote your shares to retain the current management or seek new leadership, what would you do?

Unfortunately, the above scenario appears to be the course chosen to follow by our governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the House and our board of directors, the Texas Legislature.

We often hear from conservatives that government should be run like a business.  I cannot imagine any owners of a business tolerating such a ridiculous course of action as described above.  Yet, that is exactly what our Legislature, with the influence of the newly elected Tea Party candidates, has chosen to do.

Texas ranks in the bottom five of taxes per capita taken from its citizens.  We rank at the very bottom in expenditures per capita on state government in Texas.  Unfortunately, although we appear to be gaining jobs, they are jobs of the lowest pay in the nation.  

We lead the United States in minimum wage jobs.  

We started this session with over 10 billion dollars in a rainy day fund to be spent in a time of need; and if only our Legislature would look, there are at least 20 billion dollars in unjustified tax breaks and loop holes for rich folks who do not need or deserve them.  

Rather than even explore tax reform or the relative option of seriously damaging the future of this state by cutting educational opportunity, our Legislature appears to want to sacrifice the future of this state on the altar of “no new taxes.”

One could easily argue that by doing little or nothing the owners of this large business known as Texas will have to pay the price for tolerating such inept management.  Unfortunately, that’s not exactly true.  It will be the children and grandchildren of the Texas shareholders who will pay the ultimate price in a future not much better than some third-world countries.