Thursday, October 22, 2015


One of the biggest wasteful holes into which Americans pour millions of dollars is the quest for adequate medical care.  It has been estimated by a high-ranking federal official that Americans could triple the amount they pay for medical services and not increase our gross national product 1%.  Collectively, the medical profession continues to claim we have the finest medical care in the world, which is clearly not true.  Study after study ranks the United States no better than ninth in the world as to medical care for all of our citizens.  More than 42,000 Americans die each year from preventable causes.  The average American spends almost twice as much on healthcare as citizens of other industrialized countries.

In general, Republicans and conservatives continue to bash and call for the total repeal of the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare").  However, none of them seems to be able, or want, to offer an alternative which would provide the American people with access to decent health care.  People like Senator Ted Cruz offer a supposed solution which is outright goofy.  He wants to create a tax-free medical savings plan which would allow families to place money in the bank to save for future medical care; they would not be taxed on that income.  Senator Cruz does not seem to understand that people, many of whom are in dire need of medical care, have no extra income to put in the bank.  They are spending every penny they make for food, shelter and clothing.

A business writer for the Houston Chronicle in Sunday’s edition offered what seems to me to be a reasonable answer for this dilemma.  Mr. Tomlinson proposes Medicare for everyone; all American citizens.  Currently, Medicare is being provided at a cheaper rate than most medical care provided by insurance carriers.  According to the Chronicle, insurance carriers spend more than 15% of every dollar on overhead and profit. 

Mr. Tomlinson correctly points out that medical care provided by private insurers is actually costlier because it provides the insurance carriers a profit and pays for multiple layers of overhead–the CEOs, the managers, etc., etc. Medicare, he points out, spends about 3% on overhead and pays no profit.  The writer goes on to propose that if someone prefers to have private insurance they could opt out of Medicare and purchase their own coverage from a private insurer.  Another option would be to buy a policy of insurance which would cover any procedure or care not provided by Medicare. 

The system he proposes would in effect be a single-payer system which exists efficiently in many other countries and could ultimately be a money saver to all citizens of the United States.  The single-payer system affords a better system for doctors and medical providers in that they do not have to file multiple types of paperwork, nor are they required to adhere to a multiple system of guidelines.  While much to-do was made during the Affordable Care Act about patients not being able to have choice, the current system does exactly the opposite.  It is common for an individual covered by an employer's health system to be told they must choose from accepted health providers rather than the provider of the individual's choice.

Of course, there are some issues Mr. Tomlinson failed to address which are keeping the cost of medical care almost out of sight for many.  A prime example is the provision demanded by big-time, well-paid lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry.  It’s illegal to purchase drugs from outside the United States and illegal for the administrators of Medicare to even bargain with pharmaceutical corporations for price.

Obviously, Mr. Tomlinson has given the matter some thought which is more than I can say for many members of Congress whose only thought seems to be to oppose anything the Democrats or our current president propose.  While such a mind-set maybe good politics for them, it’s really not good policy for American families.  It is disgraceful the wealthiest nation on earth leaves many of its citizens at risk of their lives because too many of our elected officials would rather play politics than come up with plans that would relieve not only the physical but also financial suffering of millions of Americans.

Monday, October 12, 2015


Most states of the union require and strictly enforce the mandate that people provide liability insurance before placing their vehicles on the public roadways. It seems simple enough to follow the action that people who drive on Texas highways should be responsible enough to protect their fellow citizen and fellow drivers against the likelihood that sooner or later they, or their property, would be damaged by the negligence of another driver. Unfortunately, Texas has simply winked at the problem and instead of enforcing or passing a simple mandate to be enforced by withholding license plates or driver’s license of those not insured have gone on to try gimmick after gimmick — none of which has worked.  

More unfortunately, in the past few years the Legislature has enacted a program which makes the situation significantly worse. The Legislature has repeatedly succumbed to the insurance lobbyists who do not want mandatory liability coverage because then every time an injured driver faces a jury, the jury will know that more than likely they are reaching into the pocket of an insurance company not the poor widowed defendant that stands before the jury box. Wholly forgotten in this process is the widowed lady who is probably driving the last vehicle she will ever be able to afford, and who has her vehicle and maybe her body completely impaired by a thoughtless, uncaring, uninsured driver.

The recent folly by the Legislature involves another bit of hypocrisy with the brag of passing no new taxes. Not only is it a lie, it’s most hypocritical. The Legislature, in an effort to put more money in the pot, enacted a surcharge system whereby you are fined for having paid a fine. It was first thought of as a sly system of getting into the pocket of irresponsible drivers without being subjected to the criticism of increasing the taxes. Unfortunately, it not only has not worked, it has backfired and made our highways much more unsafe for you if you are a responsible driver.

Unfortunately, Texas is blessed with too many poor folks. If they are apprehended, ticketed and have to pay a fine, too often they are saddled with growing surcharges which many of them can ill afford. Rather than paying the surcharges, many of these folks (and it appears to be a growing number) simply choose to run the risk of being stopped and arrested for not having a driver’s license and for not having liability insurance. 

You see, you can’t get liability insurance unless you are a licensed driver in Texas. Recent studies and examiners of the project have learned there is an alarming escalation in the number of people choosing to drive not only without insurance but also without a valid driver’s license. The Legislature has even relaxed the penalties for driving without a license. Previously, a patrolman would stop a car, and if the driver had no valid driver’s license they were arrested —because it would have been an additional violation of the law for them to simply continue driving without the license.  Now, because of legislative action, unlicensed drivers are being merely ticketed and sent on their way.

Inaction by the Legislature to address this problem is costing you money, making our roads unsafe, and rewarding scofflaws who choose to ignore any responsibility for protecting their fellow drivers on the Texas roadways.

Monday, October 5, 2015


It appears a majority of Texans continue to demand less government. Unfortunately, it also appears that our state Legislature and our statewide elected leadership agrees. I’m not sure the average Texan, however, requested less government in some of the areas we now enjoy. We have less higher education at a reasonable cost, less funding for public education, less preparation of our young people to be ready for college, less health care, even less safety on our public roadways, and, on the national level, less chance of exporting more goods manufactured in the United States.

Our leadership has turned down several billion dollars of available grants from our federal government. As a result, Texas continues to lead the nation in medically uninsured children. This is accompanied by some of the nation’s largest numbers of children afflicted with childhood diseases and with one of the highest death rates for Texans experiencing serious injuries in the workplace.  I doubt seriously if parents of children with disabilities needing intensive therapy are pleased with the recent reduction in funding depriving many of these children of the much needed therapy in order to function in society. Apparently, they simply must console themselves watching their children suffer by saying, “Well at least our leaders have shrunk government in this particular area.”

We continue to shrink the state’s responsibility for education of our children via the public education system. This is so even though the founders of Texas — our brave forefathers who carved a nation from a territory and a state from a nation — had the foresight to provide in our constitution that the Legislature must provide an efficient, free system of public education. The recent leadership in Austin has continued to sacrifice adequate funding for public education on the altar of shrinking government and no new taxes. In today’s political world, I hear few, if any, of our elected members of the Legislature boasting about how great Texas is doing with its public education system. 

A recent study of ACT, a national group that rates education progress in the various states, has estimated that only 27% of our high school graduates in Texas are prepared and able to pass the basics of English, Math and Science at the college level. Even worse, the college board, which administers the SAT — a standard measurement of readiness for college — estimates two-thirds of our high school graduates are not ready to meet the challenges of college.  What this means in plain and simple terms is that Texas will continue on its current path — which is not unlike a third-world nation — with little regulation. This pleases folks like the Koch brothers and leadership in the industrial world who want to continue to provide low-paying, low-tech, low-quality jobs.

In my humble opinion, much of this is caused by the misplaced faith of too many Texas voters who simply believe we can produce quality education on the cheap — that fewer taxes will produce more jobs and a thriving economy. And then the money saved is wasted on paranoia that we are being invaded by aliens from south of the border stealing all of our good jobs.  Just imagine the improvements in education which could have been accomplished if we had used the almost $1 billion dollars for education instead of spending it on our national guard and highway patrolmen going to the border to stem the flow of illegal aliens —  neither of which  even has the authority to arrest illegal aliens.  Sadly, the more it is examined, the more obvious it becomes that the motive and the waste of this money was done purely to make certain politicians look good in the eyes of uninformed voters with misplaced agendas.