Monday, April 30, 2012


Hypocrisy continues to prevail in Texas, particularly in the area of health. Governor Perry and others continue to lambast the effort of everybody who is being responsible and managing their own health care by way of insurance.  Republicans also go bonkers attacking every organization which has ever favored allowing legal abortions--so-called "protecting the unborn."  

Unfortunately, at the same time, the already-born do not fare so well.  Somehow, our governor and our legislators ignore the fact that Texas leads the nation in under-insured or non-insured children. Worse yet, a recent study has shown that Texas also leads the nation in children’s deaths due to abuse--and this occurs while the Texas Legislature continues to underfund Children’s Protective Services.

Poor folks in Texas seeking help with their health are in for another body blow.  Not only poor folks, but middle-class Texans also are about to suffer a major difficulty. If the legislative mandate stays in place--Texans particularly elderly Texans--can forget the friendly service of their corner drug store, as well as home delivery of pharmaceuticals.

Texas, through our governor, has decreed that Medicaid payments, including pharmaceuticals, will be controlled by private benefit managers. Unfortunately, several of these also own their own chain of retail pharmacies such as CVS.  These so-called managers are now offering contracts which would only reimburse independent pharmacists rates per prescription which cause the corner drugstore to lose anywhere from $5 to $11 per prescription.   

These so-called managers are attempting to do away with the independent pharmacy and force Texans to either deal with Walgreens, CVS or mail order pharmacies. The local corner drug store is not only a major convenience and friend to many Texans, but it is a good thing for our health.  The local pharmacist generally knows his customers, knows their needs, and in addition to filling prescriptions, can give decent advice related to medications. In most cases the corner pharmacist does not require you to stand in line and treats you more like a real human than simply a number waiting to be served.

Policies being adopted by our state at this time will also have another devastating effect on Texas--it will send about 36,000 employees’ jobs out of state.  A recent study commissioned by independent pharmacy groups predicted 1,300 stores in Texas will be out of business in the next few months.  While Texas politicians will state to the public they are looking out for us, it gives me little comfort to know the state law requires that an all-night pharmacy must be within 70 miles from my home.

If the way the state of Texas has chosen to deal with Medicaid pharmaceuticals is any indication of future policies, Texans would be ill-served to follow Governor Perry’s recommendation that we do away with Medicare and simply have the federal government send block grants to the states and let the states devise a plan for health. Such a scenario is almost sure to short Texans even further on health care, even though we now rank near the bottom of all of the states.

It seems like the same ol’ same ol’--rich folks, well connected with the governor’s office, are gonna get richer. And the rest of us will have to shift for ourselves, being at best inconvenienced, and at worst deprived, of adequate health resources.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Unfortunately, too many Americans seem to be ignoring the fact that one of the greatest causes for the amount of debt our nation now is burdened with is caused by two undeclared wars.

Rachel Maddow, a MSNBC personality, has recently written a book entitled, Drift.  The theme of the book is that America has begun to drift into a war-like country, too ready to engage in international intervention and adventurism.

One of the problems with our nation is that we have created an all-volunteer army.  Previous to this, in time of crisis, the Selective Service System was activated and would call up able-bodied men to serve as members of our armed forces. While the American population has responded in a spectacular way in times of crisis, it is clear the principle of civilian control of our armed forces has always been foremost in most of our citizens minds.  Although many draftees served with great valor and bravery, most of them disliked every minute they spent in the armed services.  Such an experience is a great safeguard against the military ever, as a unit, taking over and replacing our Democratic form of government.

Another great problem with an all volunteer army is that Americans have become so complacent that we apparently engage in warfare too readily because there is no personal sacrifice required of those of us not serving in the armed forces.  Such a mind set can be dangerous to our Republic. 

Part of what caused the collapse of the Roman Empire was that the Empire engaged too long in constant warfare beyond its borders.  It decimated the treasury of Rome and ultimately was one of the great factors in the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

Our constitution addressed the issue of when America should go to war and provides, in short, that it should be when Congress declares war ostensibly against another nation.  Congress sat on its hands as President George W. Bush sold the concept of war on a situation, not on a country.  No war was actually declared, and so the war was conducted off the books.

Bush sold the concept of the war on terror.  Just how silly the concept is is readily identifiable if one thinks about what would have happened if Lyndon Johnson had mobilized the armed forces to feed the poor or build housing for the unfortunate, having declared his war on poverty.

We should demand of Congress the concept put forth by Ross Perot. His idea concerning the commitment of troops was that we should first commit the people and then the troops.  We should demand of our leadership that no Americans should be placed in harms way--nor should American taxpayers be burdened with a senseless war--unless the Congress of the United States is willing to declare war on someone. Of course there should be authority of the president, our commander-in-chief, to respond to sudden attacks or national emergencies. But it should be clear that is the case, and not just the desire of key people in the government to have us engage in wartime activities and call it something else.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Lack of Funding

An oft repeated adage is that when the leaders lack vision, the people perish.  Nothing could be truer as demonstrated by Texas today.  Our governor and fellow Republicans apparently believe that the way for Texas to prosper is to keep taxes low, wages low, and any benefits or consideration of the average worker almost non-existent.  While Texas has provided great opportunities for the wealthy who are drawn here because of the low taxes and low wages, Texas has not done right by either the poor or the middle class.  Shortsighted policies of the current conservative leadership of Texas indicate serious lack of vision for the future of our state.

Lack of vision is clearly shown in the fact that, because of our stubborn reluctance to consider any increase of revenue in this state, our gasoline tax--the primary source of supporting our highway system--has been unchanged for several decades.  We have reached the point in Texas where there is no money available for new construction.  Lack of funding for our highways has led to more toll roads for Texans and a greater bonded indebtedness saddled on Texas taxpayers than ever before in the history of this state.  Second only to education, a decent infrastructure in a state is essential to future prosperity. 

There is little debate about the fact that education and future economic growth are inexorably joined.  One has to look no further than the fact that under the current leadership of Rick Perry and Republicans, doubling college tuition in a few short years has made it more difficult to create a college-educated workforce for the future.  Shortchanging education by cutting public educations budget by over 4 billion dollars is further evidence of the lack of vision of our leadership.  Despite claims to the contrary by our governor, lieutenant governor and others, the funding of education on a per-pupil basis substantially trails the national average.  While business leaders proclaim the future of Americas economy will depend on a workforce trained in such courses as math and science, Texas has a woeful deficiency in graduating students proficient in math and science both from our public school system and our colleges and universities. 

Efforts to increase Texas commitment to catching up with the rest of the nation in education have largely been brought about by lawsuits and federal mandates.  Further evidence of lack of vision among our Republican leadership is exemplified by Senator Florence Shapiro, current chair of the Senate Education Committee, and Congressman Culberson of Houston. Senator Shapiro suggests the way to deal with our current teacher shortage in the math and science area is to trim the math and science requirements for high school graduation.  When the Supreme Court of Texas ruled the Legislature had failed to comply with the constitutional mandate of offering an efficient system of free public education, Congressman Culbersons suggestion was that we simply amend the Constitution to remove that mandate.   Unfortunately, a recent session of the Legislature--by underfunding education--at least in part followed the suggestion of Congressman Culberson by changing the legal requirement to fund the minimum foundation program which assured adequate funding of public education in Texas.

The current vision of our governor in Texas of low taxes, low wages and suppression of organized labor will lead us soon to the status of many undeveloped nations of the world.  Already, Texas is starting to look like those countries in many respects.  The national foundation studying the rate of rich to poor found the concentration of wealth among the few in Texas causes us to resemble many of the underdeveloped nations of the world.  Currently, Texas is among the leaders of the nation in high school dropouts, teenage pregnancies, and working Texans living in poverty. 

In fact, most poor children in Texas have a working parent, and yet Texas has the most children of any state in the nation with inadequate healthcare.

Considering the above facts, building an economy accommodated by a poor and uneducated workforce is not calculated to improve Texans status at near the bottom in per capita wealth of its citizens.  If our current governor continues to successfully advocate low taxes, low expenditures, and the starving of higher education as well as our public education, future generations will be robbed of high-paying, high-skilled jobs.  If Texas voters continue to vote for right-wing conservatives who expound and advocate promising no new taxes no matter what the cost, all of us will reap what they sow. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Truth About ALEC

It has often been said the rich man dances while the poor man pays the fiddler.  With the advent of the Supreme Court’s recent “Citizen United Opinion,” money is more influential and important in politics than ever before in the history of America.  A perfect example of how multimillionaires and billionaires are influencing America can easily be found in an organization primarily sponsored by the Koch brothers called the American Legislative Exchange Council, a/k/a ALEC.

The Koch brothers are intent on making the secondary golden rule a reality in the United States--and if not nationally, then state by state. The secondary golden rule is, “Them that has the gold, rules.” ALEC has gained popularity in many conservative states and is the fountainhead of numerous ideological proposals to limit voting, enhance the power of the rich, support regressive tax measures for the middle class while bestowing large favors on such entities as the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, British Petroleum, etc.

Over 50 reactionary measures have had ALEC as their birthplace. These bills have all been introduced in one or more states in the union, and many have become law.  

A prime example of an ALEC created statute is the Voter ID law which has passed in Texas as last session’s number one priority of Republicans. While the argument of  “What does it hurt to present a picture ID to vote?” appeals to some, the measure goes far beyond. Recent studies have shown 3 cogent facts which justify the Justice Department in disapproving such a statute.

   1.  Thousands of people in Texas do not have a Voter ID.
   2.  Many counties in Texas do not have a Department of Public Safety 
        where a Voter ID card can be obtained.
   3.  The premise that Voter ID cards are needed to stamp out voter fraud 
         is simply not true.

After a study of millions of voters in Texas over a three-year period, only 5 instances were found where voter identification could have been involved. Of 20 cases looked into by the Texas Attorney General, most offenses dealt with mail-in ballots, an issue not addressed by a picture ID requirement.

Further evidence of ALEC and the Koch brothers’ effort to deter voting is a statute recently adopted in Florida which puts severe time limits on volunteer voter registration drives. Massive voter registration has long been recognized as one of the ways ordinary folks can combat the power of money at the polls.

Another area influenced by ALEC has been the promotion and growth of the private prison industry. This growth has led to a powerful lobby supporting increased incarceration rather than lower costs and more effective methods of correcting bad behavior in this state. In spite of the fact that Texas leads the nation in per capita incarcerated citizens, we are still near the top in our crime rate.

The controversial “Stand Your Ground” statute adopted in Florida is among the vigilante-type bills promoted and pushed by ALEC and their multibillion dollar sponsors.

Yet another counterproductive area, which in my opinion hurts the public good, is the promotion by ALEC and their fellow travelers of charter schools. Charter schools have taken a big bite out of the education dollars provided by Texas legislators. While there are a few charter schools which have produced extremely good results, the vast majority perform below average and spend more per pupil than the state allows for public school students. Many proprietors of charter schools operate on meager qualifications and charge exorbitant fees. An example within the confines of Southeast Texas is a charter school with less than half the student population of any of the major school districts within the area; and yet, its director/superintendent or principal, whatever the title, receives a salary almost equal to that of the major school districts of Port Arthur, Nederland and Port Neches.  

The average voter in Southeast Texas should take a hard look at the source of legislation passed and praised by our current, conservative majority in the Texas Legislature. It will take little investigation to discover that ALEC sponsored legislation is not in the interest of the average working Southeast Texan.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Abolish the Postal Service--An Anti-Government Idea

The United Postal Service was created by the Continental Congress in 1775 under the leadership and espousal of Benjamin Franklin.  It has existed ever since, furnishing a variety of convenient services to the people of America for well over 200 years.

During the Nixon era, in a frenzy of advocating that government be run like a business, there was an attempt to quasi-privatize the United States Postal Service.  The postal service oversight was removed from Congress and handed to a board of governors appointed by the president.  Unfortunately, under George Bush in 2006, Congress imposed on the postal service a feature unlike any requirement known to any business in the English speaking world.

Through the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, Congress imposed a requirement that health care benefits for not only current employees but also for future retirees be funded in advance.  To my knowledge, no corporation in the world has such an onerous requirement.  The result of this legislation is to force the postal service to undergo a 5.5-billion dollar 'nut' every year.  Without this artificial burden, the U.S. Postal Service would be highly profitable.  A recent report Ive read showed that the postal service, but for this burden, would have produced a 700-million dollar operational profit in recent years.

There is pressure coming from right-wing forces who desire to strangle any function of government. Currently, their goal is to shutdown the post office, or put it into bankruptcy.  This seems to be a joint effort of folks like the Koch brothers and the owners of Fed-Ex.  We need to consider what shutting down the post office would mean.  

First of all, it would do away with hundreds of thousands of jobs and the closure of 32,000 local post offices throughout the United States.  While the advocates attacking the postal service are not attempting to kill it off in one fell swoop, their plan is to phase it out of business.  Their plan would include the closure of 3,700 post offices, shut down half of the mail processing centers in the country, lay off approximately 100,000 postal workers, and cut mail service on Saturday as well as do away with special delivery of next-day mail.

In the past 20 years, Congress has not appropriated a single penny to keep the postal service running.  On the contrary, Congress has taken it upon itself to raid funds generated by the postal service and sequester them for other purposes.

The postal service was a great idea when Benjamin Franklin proposed it.  I, for one, think it is a good idea to continue it today. 

Privatization has long been an idea for Republicans who maintain they want to shrink government until it is so small it can be drowned in a bathtub.  Privatization has not worked in many areas in which it has been tried.

You might recall when George Bush was governor he attempted to privatize much of the human services department.  It resulted in massive layoffs of government workers.  Then, when the private company which tried to operate from the Bahama Islands couldnt get the job done, they spent about twice as much money luring back the government workers to do the jobs they previously held.

The private prison system is another fiasco in which private companies with big lobby money continue to lobby for outlandish sentences for minor non-violent crimes.  It is keeping our prisons full and is counterproductive.  It serves to benefit no one except the shareholders of the private prison industry.

Abolishing our postal service will benefit no one except the very rich in the company, will harm small business, and will be a tragic blow to commerce of this country at a time when we can least afford it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Fear of Government?

Of late, in conversations with my conservative leaning friends, I have detected a greater frequency of the use of the term socialism.  In detailed conversations, I am somewhat skeptical as to whether or not some of these friends really know the true definition of socialism.  Webster, Wikipedia and others simply describe socialism as a method of government by which the government controls the means of production and distribution of wealth.  As to distribution of wealth, the current tax system--which clearly favors the rich over the middle class--it is clearly a method of distributing wealth.  While conservatives espouse hard work as a great way of life, none seem to be concerned about the fact we tax citizens' labor more than we tax rich folks' investments.

The bugaboo of creeping socialism has been around since when the mind of man runneth not to the contrary,” as the old saying goes.  Social security, which few--with the exception of Rick Perry--would dare advocate abolishing today, is no doubt a social program.  If submitted to the vote of the people, I would place my money with people voting to retain social security as opposed to those for its abolition.  Medicare is in the same category and has been a true blessing to older folks.  The naysayers at the time social security was established in this country claimed it was the camels head in the tent and we would soon be relegated to a socialistic or communistic form of government.

It has always been a mystery to me as to why politicians who espouse hatred of government are so anxious to join in and be a part of it.  Its my belief that too often Americans, having listened too much to the Fox network, have forgotten many of the benefits of government.  Who among us would want to repeal government control of our airwaves by which anyone with enough money could begin broadcasting on any frequency he or she chose to use, thereby abolishing any guarantee that people could receive a clear signal broadcast by the right wing owner of Fox News?  How about airline or private airplane travel?  What if we did away with government rules about when and where you might traverse the skies?  It would certainly make flying more thrilling, but in all probability not nearly as safe.

Too many of my fellow citizens forget they themselves are beneficiaries of social programs established by government.  In a recent conversation with some of my friends, we were discussing the benefits of a college education.  Two of these were associated with spouses who had enjoyed the benefits of having a first-class medical education. Each proceeded to tell me how their spouses had put themselves through college, paid for their education, thereby earning a license issued by the state allowing them to ply their trade on their fellow citizens.  What if there was no licensing of medical professionals?  Is this not government controlling business?  While both of my friends wax very eloquently on the merits of working ones way through college, both seemed completely oblivious to the fact that working taxpayers, many of whom will never darken the door of a college, let alone a medical school, paid the lions share of costs for each student traversing this wonderful process.  At last estimate, medical students in Texas pay about 20% or less of the cost of providing them with such an education.

The current rant about government intrusion is the current right wing battle cry of repeal Obamacare.  The part currently pending before the Supreme Court of the United States is whether or not the commerce clause of our constitution allows Congress to mandate that citizens acquire certain kinds of insurance coverage.  Ive yet to hear any of these advocate doing away with financial responsibility requirements of drivers who use our highways.  The theory with mandatory liability coverage for drivers is that each driver should show responsibility for the havoc he or she might reek on our public byways.  Why is the same not true when it comes to those who, believing themselves to be impervious to sickness or tragic accident, thrust themselves on the taxpayers of the country by lingering in some cases for years in a vegetative state because of serious injuries befalling them when they have made absolutely no provision for such happenstance?

Because of many of my Republican friends concern over socialism, I am reminded of the scripture in the Bible which suggests many of us strain gnats and swallow camels.  Ive yet to hear one of my Republican friends be critical of things such as the so-called Patriot Act which robs many American citizens of freedom from government oversight, control and even possible imprisonment without due process.  It is one of the few areas in which I find myself agreeing with Congressman Ron Paul.