Friday, May 30, 2014

The Federal Government Haters

On this recent Memorial Day,  the television was filled with citizens full of patriotic verve.  Unfortunately there is a seriously growing element in our society who seems to think of our national government as a foreign power.  I wondered as I saw armed so-called patriots gather to defend a rancher if they are really patriots.  How can one be a loyal American who also professes not to even believe in the United States of America and obviously have little regard for the rule of law?  I wonder if those gathering and denigrating the United States would choose to live in any other nation.

Our federal government is us.  It is the United States of America.  Those who are quick to criticize and profess that government is totally inefficient--and should be reduced small enough to be drowned in a bathtub--have never thought of what our government does for us.

I wonder if these critics would feel comfortable flying in airspace uncontrolled by a government agency.  What if we simply let competition take care of our airways?  I wonder if the Tea Party leaders would feel comfortable hopping on a plane that perhaps was not the fastest or could fly the highest without air controllers guiding the flight. 

How about those of us who enjoy listening to a clear channel radio station or enjoying our favorite program on television?  What if we just let competition take care of that?  Our airways would be reduced to a mish-mash of stupid programs paid for by those with the most money.  It brings back thoughts of those super broadcast stations out of Mexico advertising the sale of autographed pictures of Jesus.

How about if we just let the oil companies pay for our waterways and keep them dredged?  How long do you think the waterways along the Neches would remain open and how many jobs would be lost when ships could no longer go from Sabine Pass to Beaumont? 

What about you Tea Partiers who live in Port Arthur-- how comfortable would you feel when the next hurricane hits, were it not for the 19' levee our government built around the city?  We wouldn't have federally subsidized flood insurance and you couldn't afford to buy it from private sources.

How about the weather warnings we get from a nationally funded weather service?  Perhaps some innovating television service station owner would spring for enough money to research our climate and let us know when we are about to be hit by a level 4 hurricane.  I doubt, however, that they would do it without a subscription fee, which would probably be more than our current cable TV.  Do you even think about the comfort that comes from having a federally insured savings account in your bank or think about the technology that the government sponsored aerospace explorations has brought in comfort to our daily lives?

I suppose the whole of the unthinking, so-called patriots is summed up by the fellow who said that he wanted government to keep its handsoff his social security and Medicare.  

America is still our country.  America is still the best nation in the world with all of its warts and foibles.  It still makes me grit my teeth when I hear people who so hate our form of government they would like to see it destroyed.  It also makes me wonder why we would vote to place our government in the hands of someone like that who hates it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What Perry should really say...

Our governor, Rick Perry, has recently launched an effort to lure businesses from California and New York to Texas.  Perry’s message has been very subtle, disguised as touting Texas’ “business climate.” Perhaps our Governor should speak plainly and tell businesses in New York and California what he is really trying to say, in plain language. The following are ten points Perry could incorporate into his letter to lure businesses to Texas.

1. Come on to Texas, where we have no income tax. Of course we don’t have enough money to run our schools, maintain our highways, or provide health care for our citizens, but we have no income tax. By skillfully pushing off state responsibility on local governments, we have maintained one of the lowest effective tax rates of any state in the union. However, if you buy a nice home in Texas, your property taxes will be sky high. Your sales tax will ever increase, and almost every fee from hunting licenses to traffic tickets will be higher than most other states. 

2. We are an anti-regulation state. Why, recently we’ve even allowed a company to blow up a whole town with no significant penalty. We refuse to believe global warming is in fact caused by humans, and will fight to the bitter end to allow industry’s right to pollute. What if it does cause a little emphysema, asthma or benzine-caused leukemia. What’re all of those petty bothers compared to a good business climate and lots of jobs?

3. Some say our no new tax policy has caused us to be in a real bind with keeping up a decent highway system equal to our growth in population. We have found a remedy for that. In areas where big oil-field trucks have torn up paved highways, we have replaced them with fine gravel roads. It was good enough for grandpa, it’s good enough for us.

4. We have kept a Rainy Day Fund savings account in the bank. We have almost $12 billion and have preserved it by cutting public education by $5 billion a couple of sessions ago. Our public school system is really of no concern because most of my friends’ kids are in private schools anyway.

5. Some argue that Texas continues to be near the bottom, surpassing only Mississippi, in the quality of public education. Not to worry. This criticism is more than offset by the fact that our education system keeps us near the top of any state in low-wage workers. We have an abundance of yard men and maids available in Texas. We will continue to work to make sure that wages do not get out of hand in our state.

6. In spite of national criticisms by the liberal left wing, we do in fact have an adequate health care system for the poor here in Texas. It’s called go to the emergency room. While we don’t tax people directly, they pay for it when they pay for their health insurance. Aside from that, we have many of the finest health facilities in Dallas and Houston that are readily available to people of means.

7. I must brag on our Attorney General in Texas. He has sued the United States government more times than he has filed a major lawsuit against corporate crooks or polluters. You see, he’s doing his best to maintain the good ole’ Texas business climate.

8. We are especially proud of our Supreme Court, most of whom I’ve appointed at one time or another. They almost never allow an injured individual to abuse one of our corporations with a lawsuit.

9. The really good news is that, as Governor, I have established several slush funds with which I can reward friendly political supporters, such as you could be, with several millions in start-up funds. I have given these funds catchy names, like the Enterprise Fund. The really good news is that in Texas most folks have not caught onto the fact that we have wasted billions of dollars of taxpayer monies with these slush funds, but they have been very beneficial to my political career. 

10. The clincher to this letter is that if you move your business to Texas, it most assuredly will help me in my run for President.

Yours very truly,

Rick Perry

Monday, May 12, 2014

Riding a Mule in the Derby

Several years ago, an old friend of mine told me that one would never win the Kentucky Derby riding a mule. If our leadership does not awaken, Texas will be riding a mule while other states are riding thoroughbreds.

Smart social scientists studying the demographics of our state are revealing some disturbing findings.  Without a doubt, our state is becoming more and more Hispanic. In fact, it appears in the very near future that 78% of Texas’ growth will be Hispanic. 

Conservatives--such as one of the Republican candidates for Lt. Governor--attribute this to lack of security on our borders. However, the demographers have analyzed it more scientifically. There are many causes, but principally, Anglos represent an aging population, including would-be mothers.  Hispanic women are younger and more given to more births in the not-so-distant future.

Also clear is the fact we are denying an adequate education to our Hispanic population. In large measure the reason for this is that too many Hispanic Texans are condemned to live in very poor school districts. The Texas Legislature and current leadership prefer to hide their heads in the sand rather than address the problem. Even though citizens in poor school districts are taxed with a greater burden, it produces less revenue than patrons of wealthier school districts. This in turn ends up being reflected in the lack of opportunities for students in these poor districts. This alone is not the cause of the growing number of under-educated Texas citizens--but it is a significant cause.

It is estimated that in the not too distant future one Texan in four will not have a high school diploma.  All of us Texans need to immediately recognize that it is to our advantage to assist in educating other peoples’ children.

Texas already boasts that among all of the states we are in the top five in low wage jobs. Almost every economic prognosticator of future success emphasizes the future of the American economy and wealth depends on knowledge and having a qualified productive workforce. It does not take a genius to figure out that Texas will not attract a great deal of high-tech industries with a low-skilled, poorly educated workforce.

So long as Texas continues to depend on property wealth as a principal source of our basic educational facilities, we will continue to have problems. While conservatives are quick to retort that you can’t fix education with money alone, they fail to recognize the fact that you can’t do it without money.  

They also fail to realize the cost of ignorance is far greater than the cost of delivering a quality education.  

The policy of having a state system of public education depending on funding by local districts of unequal wealth will always lead us to problems in equality and fairness--not the least, in more instances than not, it will lead to poor quality education for a significant portion of future generations of Texans. 

Until Texans realize this and get over their aversion to any form of new tax, no matter how much better it may be than old taxes, Texas is destined to lag behind--not only other states of the United States, but the world.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Why too many miss an important concept about the law of tort...

I read an an editorial in the Beaumont Enterprise recently with which I agree.  I will readily admit this is not an everyday occurrence with me, particularly when reading some of their conservative editorial opinions.

The paper editorialized in favor of more stringent regulations with stronger penalties related to the manufacture of automobiles. I wholeheartedly agree the same is needed. The thing about the editorial, however, is that the editorial writers of the Beaumont Enterprise have overlooked the very best way to assure product safety. What I’m talking about is the law of torts as it existed prior to all the conservative, Republican, giant corporation assault.

Unfortunately, regulations or standards--particularly at the federal level--are adopted or written all too often by the very industries they purport to regulate. At the very least, they are passed over strong objection from an army of lobbyists that regulations will cost jobs, raise prices and in general befuddle the free enterprise system. Too often regulations are too little too late, and too often protect rather than penalize the wrongdoers. There have been numerous efforts--some successful--to provide that if a product meets government standards then immunity is provided from any suit or complaint, no matter what the injury or shortcoming.

Should you study the regulations concerning standards for the safety of automobile seats, you will learn very quickly how flimsy these regulations are. Standards are so loosely provided that an automotive engineer can construct a car seat out of cardboard--and it will satisfy federal safety standards. 

Another not so well known secret is that boards of directors of giant car companies for many years blatantly calculated the likelihood of having to pay out damages for deaths or serious injuries against the costs of making automobiles safer. While there has been some progress to overcome this equation, it has been slow in coming. And, as the recent GeneralMotors fiasco pointed out, it has not completely gone away.

In Ralph Nader’s book, Unsafe At Any Speed, it was revealed that some car manufacturers, while balancing costs versus safety, had in fact placed cars in the annals of commerce that amounted to firebombs, exposing whole families to agonizing deaths and destruction. Neither state governments nor federal governments move very swiftly to correct or reveal the extent of the dangers provided by corporate decisions. It was lawyers.

As I have pointed out numerous times, in spite of a Supreme Court decision, corporations are not people. They cannot be given a prison sentence, and all too often the fines they are assessed are a mere pittance compared to their profits. What does get corporate attention is the bottom line. The best direct route to their bottom line is to make corporations and other manufacturers directly responsible when they cause injury directly related to their choice to save money rather than make their products safe for consumption.  

What is too often said about the tort system is that it’s just a game whereby fat-cat lawyers get richer.  The fact of the matter is the whole tort system was built on a concept of self-responsibility. People, by their action or inaction, cause injuries to others in society and should be held responsible. The victims should be made whole insofar as possible. The so-called tort reformers never mention these worthwhile purposes of a good tort system–only that lawsuits may cost the richer portion of our society a little money. 

A better solution than that offered by the Beaumont Enterprise would be to have strong regulations and standards for manufacturing and then make those who fail to adhere to them strictly liable in tort for whatever damage can be proven.