Monday, December 31, 2012

Perry's Cronies

There was a time when Bob Bullock was a staffer for Preston Smith.  In responding to media criticism that Smith kept appointing his cronies to various high positions in state government, Bullock pointed out it would be very foolish for a politician to appoint someone not friendly to him.  Certainly, this is a logical assumption when one chooses to make high appointments.  Unfortunately, however, one would think a governor would give a great deal of consideration to qualifications even when choosing among his friends or buddies in appointing them to high office.

A close examination of what has been going on in Texas for the past few years almost makes me rethink my opposition to term limits.  Rick Perry, being the longest serving governor in the United States, has now appointed every member of every major board or commission in Texas.  Additionally, he has appointed or influenced the selection of both our major courts and most of our appellant courts throughout Texas.  The sad part about it all is he appears to give more consideration to cronyism than to qualification.

The latest evidence that Perry cares more about the “buddy-buddy” system than he does qualification is the fact he recently appointed one of his staffers to the Texas Supreme Court.  This staffer has no great credentials as a lawyer, has never served as a judge–even a justice of the peace–and has little to recommend him as a qualified person to interpret the basic law of the land as far as Texas is concerned. 

Even more disturbing is that any examination of Perry’s history of appointments quickly raises the suspicion that appointments are pretty much for sale.  Any time a major news outlet does an in-depth study of appointments to boards of regents, commissions such as Parks and Wildlife, the Public Utility Commission, etc., there is generally a connection between the appointment and at least a $100,000 contribution to Perry’s campaign.

Perry has insisted on the Legislature continuing to fund his technology fund and the Texas Fund for Investment to Attract New Business, as well as worthwhile endeavors such as the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas.  However, in-depth studies by major newspapers in the state, such as the San Antonio news media, Houston Chronicle and Dallas Morning News have revealed large chunks of taxpayers’ money has been passed out--allegedly in the name of creating new business development in Texas--but unfortunately, after the large sums are ladled out to Perry’s buddies, all too often the job growth expectation does not come about, or the business goes under leaving little to benefit the taxpayers of Texas who footed the bill.  Even the Texas Legislature, which is not noted for great courage in attacking the governor’s programs, has raised the issue of accountability in many of these so-called economic development programs presided over by the governor.

Unfortunately, most Texans, as well as citizens of the United States, obtain most of their news from sound bites on television.  Again, unfortunately, television has neither the inclination nor the time to spend on what seems to me to be the makings of a real scandal.  Recently, the Houston Chronicle  published several stories concerning what they call the scandal-plagued Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas.  The Institute was the brainchild of a former staffer and good friend of Ann Richards.  Almost three billion dollars was set aside to try to combat cancer in Texas along the lines of the way California attacked the stem cell research.

The Dallas Morning News and Houston Chronicle have revealed, for example, a Dallas businessman, David Shanahan, invested $90,000 in a campaign contribution to Rick Perry and David Dewhurst.  He received a great return on his investment in that a grant from the Cancer Prevention Research Institute netted him 12.8 million dollars.  Another Dallas businessman, Peter O’Donnell, was one of the venture capitalists responsible for raising almost a quarter million dollars for Perry in recent campaigns and received for his trouble an 11 million dollar grant from the Texas Bio-Tech Fund--without any of the legislative required input from business or scientific review panels. 

I’ve always felt that a politically conservative person, particularly in Texas, was one who wanted to be very frugal with the taxpayers’ dollars and limit government activity to those things which could best be done by government and not private sector.  Unfortunately, it is my belief Rick Perry and his accomplices have given a new meaning to Texas conservatism and business climate--that is to say, the new Texas conservatism a la Perry is "Take care of your fat-cat buddies so long as they take care of you and underwrite your next campaign for president."

Why Republicans Lost

Since the recent presidential election, various conservative talk shows have expressed a plethora of opinions as to why Obama won the election.  Rush Limbaugh maintains that Romney lost because voters are just plain stupid.  Star Parker, an editorial opinion writer, maintains the results of the election occurred because too many Americans lack character.  Fox News has offered a variety of opinions, but mostly maintain too many Americans have become lazy, slothful, and are simply “takers,” not “givers.”  Romney, of course, maintains he lost because Obama bribed too many of the citizens with tax dollars.  Most of the folks offering such opinions are the same folks who now want their various states to secede from the Union.

Numerous saner elements of the Republican Party--such as Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida--are offering what I believe to be sound advice for the Republican Party in order to get back in the running.  They have hit on some of the things which influenced the results of the election.  However, fortunately for Democrats, I believe the far right lunatic fringe of the Republican Party will never let the GOP get back on track concerning the items mentioned by rational Republicans.  The far right fanatics will continue to deny science, abhor gays, have no respect for women and continue their fear-mongering about a hoard of illegal immigrants who will take over the United States.  I believe some of their questionable concerns and ideas became legitimate reasons the people of America chose to re-elect President Obama.  There are also other reasons, however, that I believe factored into the swing to Obama.

Like “know nothings” of ancient times who believed the sun revolved around the earth and that the earth was flat, too many in the Republican Party insist global warming is simply a myth propagated by the left-wing liberals of our time.  It is my belief the real reason Republicans refuse to acknowledge global warming is that to do so would require action to retard massive amounts of pollutants being pumped into the air to make many industrial complexes profitable.  Too many conservatives equate rational regulation of industry with denial of freedoms by the government akin to the regressive tax measures imposed by King George on tea. 

Another thing I believe contributed to the Republican defeat was the type of opinion expressed by Romney in the privacy of a meeting with $50,000 donors when he was most likely to be more unguarded and truthful of his core beliefs.  The “47%” comment reflected a lack of concern and compassion for fellow citizens who suffer in poverty and without health care or hope.  It is clear many Republicans or conservatives ignore the mandate of our constitution wherein we are to provide, through our government, for the common good.  Startling evidence of this occurred during the presidential debate of the Republican Primary where it was implied that those without money or health insurance should simply die rather than become a burden on the taxpayers of the U.S.A.

A third reason, which I believe turned the average-thinking citizen off, was what I consider an improper use of religion.  Religion has been used for century after century to induce common folk to act against their own interests–from the time when citizens were persuaded that kings were selected by God to rule to modern times when pundits, such as Pat Robertson, spread the gospel that hurricanes and other disasters are brought on by the sinful ways of certain states.  Like many countries of the world ruled by religious theology, some so-called evangelicals in this country would make our government the same way, punishing people for straying from what they believe are biblical mandates. Ignoring the Constitution drafters’ provision warning against melding church and state, they insist upon inserting religion into government at every opportunity. This activity ranges from encouraging prayer in schools and other places and to include creationismwhich is a matter of personal religious faith and beliefin textbooks as a scientific reality. Many of these folks have probably never read a detailed account of Darwin’s theory and regard evolution as an instrument of the Devil and a rallying point for unbelievers.

Finally, a big reason for Obama’s margin of victory arose from Republican conservative attitudes  towards folks other than affluent Whites.  Numerous statements have insinuated that people of color desire nothing better than to be poor and live on the government dole, or that voter fraud was born of minority efforts to participate in the elective process, or that children of immigrants should be punished for having been brought to the United States.  One should recall Romney’s response to Governor Perry’s rare show of concern for Hispanics in advocating the Dream Act, which would allow immigrants who had attended educational institutions in the U.S. to remain.  Romney maintained he would veto such legislation and that such children should self-deport or be deported.  Republicans in several state legislatures have continued to introduce bills which are insulting to people of color or those with Hispanic surnames. These efforts range from the Arizona legislationwhich would allow baseless arrests to inquire as to one’s nation of originto bills introduced in the Texas Legislature which would create stiff penalties on illegal aliens, except for those brought here to serve as yard men or maids.

Republicans should hark back to the advice of the cartoon strip character Pogo, whose famously said “We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.”