Saturday, May 21, 2011

Investment Tip

Most of us want a good return on money we invest.  Here is an inside tip.  If you have $100,000 lying around you really don’t know what to do with, or can do no better than 1%-1.5% interest return on a CD, there’s a way you can do better.

Take your $100,000 and contribute it to the next election of Rick Perry, whatever that may be.  Even though Perry has burned up the airways traveling around making every Republican political ‘do’ he vows he is not interested in leaving the wonderful job of Governor of Texas merely to be President of the United States.  

I’ve come to the conclusion that betting on Perry has good odds.  Here’s a guy who managed to end a three-way election with only 39% of the vote and proceeded to act as though he’d been elected by a landslide.  While obsessing over federal involvement, describing Washington DC as the “Devil’s town” and making talk about Texas being better off not a member of the Union, Perry presided over a broken budget, giving little or no attention to the future of Texas, but balancing the budget with that dirty federal money, leaving us to the horrible $25-30 billion dollar deficit we now enjoy.  

Perry gets by with blithely supporting tax breaks for mega-yachts, while teachers are being laid off by the hundreds of thousands and nursing homes fear they will have to close their doors, while senior citizens scratch for some other place to live.  

Perry’s hypocrisy has not seemed to rub off or cause alarm with a majority of Texas’ voters.  He appears to be more “Teflon” than Ronald Reagan and more tough-skinned than “Little” George Bush.  While thousands of protestors swarmed the state Capitol grounds protesting draconian cuts in education, Perry continues to insist we shouldn’t touch the $12-billion or so that we are about to have in our Rainy Day Fund.  

Even more hypocritical and disgusting is the fact our governor has the gall to maintain we should continue the Rick Perry slush fund, better known as the Emerging Technology Fund.   Perry has, without any real oversight, given away $350 to $370 million to “fat cats” in Texas who really don’t need it. Supposedly, it is for the creation of high-tech jobs and does not constitute loans for startup businesses, but out-and-out gifts to multi-millionaires.  

People do not seem to be bothered by the fact that most of the recipients of these tax dollars also gave Perry gifts ranging in the neighborhood of $100,000 each.  At least two of the companies benefiting from Perry’s largesse have gone broke; it is almost impossible to determine whether or not any of the rest of them achieved their goal of promised jobs for Texans.  

Even the Republican Legislature must be getting a little nervous now in that they are recommending better oversight and transparency of the Perry slush fund.  In a state where school children will be without updated school books in the coming school year, it would seem to me to be a better investment to give $300 million to buy new school books rather than give $370 million to multimillionaires who claim they have the “keys to the kingdom” and will create very valuable, profit-making businesses in the future.

It is obvious that an investment in a Rick Perry Campaign can have an extremely high yield.  Many of the $50,000 to $100,000 contributors to this last governor’s race have received several million from the Perry slush funds.  Where else can you make a 100-1 return on your investment?

The next time one of your friends complains about the “welfare Cadillac”; namely, the poor person receiving welfare while driving an expensive car, you should point out to them the “welfare Cadillac” drivers are pikers.  Under the Perry Plan, we are giving welfare --which should be delineated as Lear-jet welfare-- by giving millions to businessmen who don’t need it to begin with.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


For a long time I have maintained that tort reform is more about power and money than reforming anything.  Once again my belief has been affirmed.  

While Republicans claim the recent landslide victory in the Texas Legislature, leaving us with 101 Republicans and 49 Democrats, is a result of the outcry of the people for more conservative government, there may be another factor at work. A closer examination of the results of the last legislative election reveals that tort reform groups furnished at least a half-million dollars in each open legislative race in Texas, proving once again that money matters.

Just to show how much things have changed in the last few generations, in 1962 when I ran for the House of Representatives I spent almost $5,000 total on a primary race, a runoff and a general election.  Since Tom DeLay’s plan has taken effect re-arranging Texas House districts, it is not unusual to see $500,000 or more spent on a House race.

Tort reform groups would have you believe this is strictly about doing away with silly, frivolous lawsuits which cost good business people thousands of dollars.  Recently, the Texans for Lawsuit Reform have weighed in on a new issue. They are now criticizing reapportionment of the House districts.  

Reapportionment, as you know, occurs every 10 years, except when Tom DeLay, alias “The Hammer,” persuaded the Republican leadership of Texas to depart from tradition and re-divide the districts in the middle of a 10-year cycle.  Richard Trabulsi, chief lobbyist for Texans for Lawsuit Reform, is now scurrying around the Legislature asking that the districts be made more conservative.  He is worried that because of certain growth populations, particularly among Hispanic communities,  his conservative strength will be diluted.  

Reform groups have long since done away with any opportunity for civil suit abuses and now it appears they are looking for ways to continue to justify their existence among the business community.  It is also obvious the business community is open to this long-term plan as evidenced by the millions and millions of dollars they continue to pour into the coffers of these groups to let them buy votes in the next election.

There is also more recent evidence that conservatives, including our governor, continue to play fast and loose with the truth. You will certainly recall our governor suggesting that maybe it was time for Texas to secede from the union, and repeatedly make the claim that Texans send more money to Washington than they get back.  A recent revelation by Rachel Maddow, who has a late-night political talk show, revealed research showing that Texans receive more money from the federal government than the amount all Texans pay in taxes.  

Conservative members of the House continue to demonstrate their hypocrisy while attacking the federal government as though it was a foreign power.  They gladly accepted the $13+ billion to balance the budget two years ago, and now are accepting $830+ million which is supposed to be spent on education--but likely will not. At the same time, our governor, who purportedly hates federal funding, is begging for money to fight wildfires in Texas.  

This is a little strange in that the Texas Legislature, under his leadership, in its recent budget, just cut funding to rural fire departments.

On the subject of the budget, look for a showdown between the Senate and House.  The Senate, in a moment of sanity, decided to dip once again into the rainy day fund to the tune of slightly over $3 billion, making the Senate budget on education $5.7 billion higher than the House version. The House is likely to win this battle in that it requires a two-thirds vote of the House in order to spend money from the rainy day fund.  This simply is not likely to happen with the governor’s threatened veto and the new Tea Party-backed Republicans vowing “no new taxes” and “no use of the rainy day fund.”  

It seems our present Legislature is totally dedicated to sacrifice the future of education in Texas on its vowed “no new taxes” even though Texans are taxed less than citizens of 48 other states.

Friday, May 6, 2011


In recent elections, according to my memory, Republicans captured two countywide offices for the first time in Jefferson County.  Some attribute the results of the recent election to racism.  Others attribute it to the rise and activity of the Tea Party.  While yet others contend the Democratic Party is out of step with most average, middle-class citizens in America in general, and Jefferson County in particular.

For thousands of years common people have been duped into acting politically against their own interests.  For thousands of years people sold themselves basically into slavery through the belief that God appointed the kings to rule over everyone else.  Eventually, common people realized there were more of them than there were royalty and, thus, democracy as a form of government rose to the forefront.  

Democracy, however, depends on the common folks recognizing their own interests and acting in accordance.  America is rapidly retreating because too many Middle Americans are being duped into voting against their own interests.  The Republican Party has been extremely skilled in shaping political opinion.  

Cases in point are the efforts made to persuade America that the Democratic Party stands for nothing more than homosexual marriage and raising your taxes.  Close examination of either of those theorems will not hold water.  Republicans in Congress are currently urging the defeat of our president’s health care proposals passed by Congress, and every criticism thereof begins with, “The American people want...”  

The new political god in the United States, particularly with the recent Citizens United Supreme Court opinion, is money.  The Supreme Court has decreed corporations can spend whatever amount of money they choose, with or without their shareholders’ permission or desire, on politics.  What’s worse, the voters of this country do not have the right to know where the money’s coming from.  If you belong to the union or are a shareholder at one of these refineries--and Shell Oil, British Petroleum, Chevron or others contribute shareholders’ money to bust unions--you are, therefore, supporting a political position adverse to you and your family.

Another way you can tell whether or not a party is aligned with your interests is to check the source of the money.  The biggest contributor to the Republican Party in Texas is Bob Perry–14 million dollars donated in the last election cycle.  Bob Perry is a big homebuilder who was the originator of the idea of preventing people from being able to sue developers for foisting off substandard or shoddy homes on families and denying them access to the courts.  Aside from cutting taxes at the expense of school children, old folks and teachers, Perry and other Republicans continue their relentless assault on closing the doors of the courthouse to middle-class Texans.

The Republican solution to the mess we had following the hurricanes was simply to deny people the right to sue the insurance company which had messed up and denied folks their just claims for their destroyed homes.

Money obviously has begun to make a tremendous difference from Washington on down.  Since 2001 the amount of money spent on lobbyists has grown by almost three times.  In 2001 the amount spent on lobbyists lobbying Congress was slightly over 1 billion; today it is over 3 billion. The largest chunk of it is spent by insurance companies and health care providers.  Do you really believe either of these entities is looking out for your interest?  

While Republicans tout holding taxes down, they are mainly holding taxes down for the richest 1% of Americans.  In the time of Bill Clinton, the richest Americans were paying approximately 30% of their income in taxes; today, they are paying approximately 16% and some are paying none.  General Electric, the biggest corporation in the United States, paid none last year.  How much did you pay?

We can’t say we were not warned.  There is a cogent quote which goes, “A blind and ignorant resistance to every effort for the reforming of abuses and for the readjustment of society for modern, industrial conditions represents not true conservatism but incitement to the wildest radicalism.”  This statement was made in 1909,  not by some wild-eyed left-wing Democrat but by Theodore Roosevelt.  Similar warnings were issued toward the latter part of their tenure of office as president of the United States by Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, as well as Dwight D. Eisenhower, who warned society to be wary of the industrial military complex in the United States.

Billionaires continue to pay precious little to support the nation which has allowed them to become wealthy, while ordinary homeowners struggle to hang onto the shelter for their families.  A recent comparison which is appropriate--with so many middle-class folks voting for the Republican line against their own interests--is the statement “There are too many mice voting to help the cats in hopes that some day they will become a cat.”

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Endangering Our Future

“When the leaders have no vision, the people will perish.”  This quote appears to have connection with the current leadership of Texas.  The seeming lack of vision from our current leaders does not bode well for the future of our state.  Buoyed by right-wing think tanks and the Tea Party, our governor and Legislature seem intent on causing irreparable harm to Texas, education and other social services.

While giving no thought to examining an outmoded and antiquated system of taxation, our leaders would seek to correct our huge deficit on the backs of teachers, children, the ill and aged.  

Often wrong, but seldom in doubt, Governor Rick Perry ignored the warning of former Comptroller Carolyn Keaton-Rylander about three sessions ago and claimed his property tax cut proposal would allow the state to reduce property taxes and at the same time fully fund education.  Rylander, who has spent at least a decade estimating future tax revenues and comparing them to the needs of the state, was ignored by Perry.  She claimed the Perry proposal would leave school funding about 5 billion short each year.  Rylander was right.

In typical Perry fashion, the governor publicly predicted Rylander was simply an “alarmist” and the phenomenal growth he would promote in Texas would more than make up for the shortfall predicted by Rylander.  It didn’t.  Even worse, Perry and others continued to ignore the increasing debt raised by the inadequately funded state budget.  

Hypocritically, our governor took more than a billion from stimulus money appropriated by Congress to help relieve and balance the state budget for 2009 and 2010.  At the same time that federal funds were saving Perry’s and other conservatives’ bacon, Perry had the gall to suggest at a Tea Party rally that perhaps it was time for Texas to secede from the Union.  It appears he didn’t recall that having been tried once before.  

While taking billions from the feds to help cover up a huge deficit in Texas’ funding, at the same time, Perry, has refused to accept slightly over $800-million on the grounds there were too many strings attached to it and that the feds were trying to tell Texas what it had to do.  Strangely enough, the big strings attached to the $800 plus millions was that it had been appropriated by Congress for the purpose of education; and if Texas accepted it, they had to spend it on education.

Even though the wealthy in Texas are among the lowest taxed in America, the Republicans prefer to balance the budget by firing teachers and cutting payments for people who are in nursing homes.  They seem incapable of even taking a look at the possibility of changing the huge corporate giveaways such as the $23-million to the gas industry in the form of reduced taxes–even though the gas industry is turning out record profits.  It also appears the approximate $300-million slush fund available for the governor to give his fat-cat friends in the name of business development is sacred.  A recent attempt by Democrats in the Texas House failed better than 2:1 to take the slush fund of the governor and invest it in education for young people in this state.

Reminiscent of the 50's, right-wing politicians in our state are presuming to tell the universities how to run their business.  In the 50's Texas lost some national scholars and educators on the grounds that some of them only taught 3-4 hours of class work but contributed internationally to tremendous research which proved of benefit to the future of this state.  Know-nothing, brainless conservatives, for example, ridiculed the fact one of our universities was studying the sex life of the screw worm fly.  By discovering the screw worm fly would breed only once during its life span, producing millions of sterile, male flies, screw worms in Texas have virtually been eradicated.  The value of the millions of livestock saved by this ridiculed research can’t even be counted today.  Now, right-wing “policy wonks,” pals of the governor, are suggesting we improve the efficiency of our colleges by curtailing research.  These are closely akin to the know-nothing conservatives of the early 1900's who wanted then to shutdown the United States Patent Office on the grounds that almost everything worthwhile had already been invented.

The future of this state does not lie in giving away millions to fat-cat speculators and business people.  The future of this state lies in developing the potential of great minds; particularly, those of our young people.  We cannot fire enough teachers to replace $29-billion in our budget.  Thousands of younger teachers who will be laid off will eventually find better jobs.  They will be loathe to return to teaching.  Fewer young people, particularly bright young people, will be more and more reluctant to enter teaching when it is not viewed as a job with a secure future.  In a generation or so in the future, I am certain this state will be faced with a huge teacher shortage which will only be solved at a much greater price than keeping the teachers we have or the price of having our children taught by unqualified persons in the classrooms.

The distinguished professors who will be chased from Texas by wrongheaded thinking--that cannot see the value of research and development--will not be replaced or lured back to Texas for generations.  Our colleges will pay the price of having lower standings nationally and internationally and in losing the good reputation we have gained in recent years.  The price we pay today to maintain what quality of education we now possess will pale in comparison to the price of lack of vision for the future.  Without doubt, it is a “pay me now, or pay me more later” situation.