This really shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s been the case for while that whoever raises the most money almost always wins the election, Surprising Studies Find DC Does What Wealthiest Want, Majority Opposes.
A new study, Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans, by Professors Benjamin I. Page, Jason Seawright and Larry M. Bartels sought to gauge the political and policy priorities of the wealthy, and how these concerns contrast with the concerns of the rest of us. Amazingly, the priorities of the 1% match up with the priorities of our political class, while the priorities and needs of the vast majorities of us are ignored.
The study questioned people with wealth that placed them in the top 1%. They were asked what they felt were the “very important problems” facing the country. The most common response was the budget deficit, with 87 percent believing this to me the most important problem. This contrasts with the rest of the population, with only 7% saying this is the country’s most pressing problem. Of course jobs and the miserable state of the economy for people what are not in that 1% were cited by regular people as the most important problem.
The 1%’ers want “entitlement programs” like Social Security and healthcare cut while the American Majority want (and need) them expanded.
The 1%’ers opposed raising the minimum wage, government help for the unemployed, government spending to ensure that all children have access to good-quality public schools, expanding government programs to ensure that everyone who wants to go to college can do so, and investing more in worker retraining and education. The American Majority supports all of these programs.
The 1%’ers also opposed more regulation of large corporations, raising the Social Security “cap,” using corporate taxes to raise revenue and taxing the rich to address inequality. The public supports these.
Also mentioned is this Denos report, Stacked Deck.
If there is one idea that nearly all Americans can agree on, it is that everyone should have a chance to improve themselves and do better in life. At the same time, Americans strongly believe in political equality—the view that civic life should be a level playing field and everyone should have a voice in the decisions that affect their lives.
Yet today, there is wide recognition that America is not living up to either of these cornerstone ideals. A host of indicators show that the middle class is struggling—and worse, shrinking—and that upward mobility is elusive for many Americans. Meanwhile, evidence abounds that the U.S. political system is increasingly dominated by wealthy interests, and strong majorities of the public believe—rightly—that the deck is stacked against ordinary voters.
What is less understood, though, is the interplay between these two problems—the way that a tilting of political life toward business and the wealthy has served to undermine economic mobility.
And as this EPI report shows, Economy built for profits not prosperity, our current economic system is only exacerbating the problem.
Newly released data on corporate profitability for 2012 show the continuation of historic levels of profitability despite excessive unemployment and stagnant wages for most workers. Specifically, the share of capital income (such as profits and interest, which are hereafter referred to as ‘profits’) in the corporate sector increased to 25.6 percent in 2012, the highest in any year since 1950-1951 and far higher than the 19.9 percent share prevailing over 1969-2007, the five business cycles preceding the financial crisis.
This all just goes right along with what Lawrence Lessig says, “money buys results & erodes trust“. That the policies of our government are largely in-step with richest Americans, and out of step with the overwhelming majority of Americans, is likely why there’s little trust, respect, and approval or our current elected representatives.
David Cay Johnston: U.S. is Redistributing Income – Up.
Yesterday TxDOT Executive Phil Wilson was in the Senate Transportation Committee pleading for money for transportation in Texas, TxDOT Director Calls for Stable Highway Funding System.
At the Senate Transportation Committee’s first meeting Wednesday morning, Davis said it’s important to strike a balance as they decide ”whether we’re going to create the revenue sources needed to provide the infrastructure that the state so desperately needs.”
TxDOT has accumulated almost $13 billion in debt since it first started borrowing from the general revenue fund in 2004, Wilson told senators earlier this month. Nine years later, it’s still paying off that debt.
TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson said the agency needs at least $4 billion more each year to cover road expansion and upkeep. The proposed $20.8 billion budget would set aside just under $2.5 billion to repay debts, but caps the new construction budget at just over $1 billion.
“I think that really puts in perspective the situation that TxDOT finds itself in today, with an extremely large amount on the debt service side and a limited amount on the new construction side,” Davis told Wilson. “In my perspective we’ve really gotten upside-down in terms of providing the support for this agency that’s needed, and for you to conduct what we expect you to do.”
Gov. Rick Perry has proposed spending $3.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund on Texas transportation, but that would still come up short of Wilson’s request for TxDOT. Perry has suggested spending the money on building new highways and bringing old roads up to code for projects like Interstate 69.
Here are a couple of suggestions from the Transportation Committee chairs in The Lege.
Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, chairman of the House transportation committee, and Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, chairman of the Senate transportation committee have proposed a constitutional amendment to spend sale taxes collected on vehicle purchases for roads. That money is now dumped into general revenue and spread throughout the state budget.
Dedicating car sales taxes to roads could send billions to highway construction every year, Phillips said.
“If the Legislature does not find (road) money, this state will have massive transportation gridlock,” Phillips said.
House Speaker Joe Straus has said lawmakers may consider raising the $25 cost Texas driver pays to renew their license. Proposals to increase that fee by $8 filed in 2011.
As for getting money from the Economic Stabilization Fund, aka Rainy Day Fund (RDF), there are many things competing for that money – education and water are the big ones. Of course these needs did not just pop up, they’ve been around for a long time. What we haven’t had is leadership that’s willing to address them. The only way our state’s needs will be addressed in this session is if the wingnuts relent, Plenty of Money in State Coffers, but Not to Spend.
Two years ago, Texas lawmakers didn’t have enough money to spend. Now, it seems, they can’t spend all the money they have.
Now they’re fenced in by self-imposed spending caps, the need to fill some of the gaps in the current budget, and a school finance lawsuit that could require a multibillion-dollar remedy this year.
They’re allowed to break that law, but only by coaxing a majority of those tightfisted conservatives elected by voters who told them to shrink government.
The list of important programs and services begging for dollars — in 2011 and now — is about the same: education, health care, transportation and water, to name a few.
That puts an odd spin on the budget being written now, at a time when the state’s economy is pretty good. To those seeking support for particular programs or services, things haven’t changed.
The money is not there when the state’s fortunes are bad, and it is not there when the state’s fortunes are good.
With so much money in the RDF and so many serious needs for that money, we are again reminded of how the leadership of this state has been intentionally neglecting the needs of this state for some time. The reason these problems have been neglected is because of ideology. If the politicians running our state were concerned about what’s best for Texas, they would not be neglecting these serious issues.
Even though there’s plenty of money coming into the state, and billions in the RDF, only The Lege can authorize spending that money. And a state government that’s ideologically captive will not allow that money to be spent on the neglected needs of our state. We all know that the GOP in Texas has an aversion to “taxes”, but it looks like fees they are fine with. Of course that’s largely and distinction without a difference. While increasing some fees and ending diversions will add some money to transportation, it’s pretty clear it will not come close to adding the kind of money that Wilson says we need.
The ruling party in this state has been telling us for years that we don’t have a revenue problem in this state but that we have a spending problem. It should be obvious now that’s not the case. But they’re locked in an ideological box and when reality doesn’t match their ideology they don’t have a plan to get us out of it. The GOP’s ideological reliance on tax cuts to fix everything means they’re blind to all other remedies.
Progress Texas lays out a different path then what we’re likely to hear from Texas Gov. Rick Perry in this State of the State (SotS) speech today. Take a look, Investing in Our Future – The State of the State in Texas.
Today, Governor Rick Perry gives his 7th State of the State address. We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to catch up on what is going on in the Texas Legislature, brief you on the latest news on the major issues, and point you towards resources where you can learn more. Hopefully, this will give you a better starting point for learning about some of the major issues facing the 83rd Texas Legislature.
If there is an issue area you would like to learn more about, or more information on the topics below you believe should be included, please do not hesitate to e-mail me and let me know. You can reach me at phillip-at-progresstexas.org, or leave a comment below.
Below you will find information on the following topics – clicking on the links take you straight to that issue:
- Budget & Taxes: Investing in Our Future
- Expanding Medicaid: 231,000 Jobs by 2016
- The Battle to Save Public Schools
- Family Planning Cuts Run Deep
- Water for a Rainy Day
- LGBT & the Fight for Equality
- The Voting Rights Act Still Matters
More on the speech later.
Over the weekend the Texas Tribune had a article regarding our part-time legislature, A Part-Time Legislature, but in Whose Interest? Much of their article has to do with the issue that there’s little transparency and even less punishment when legislators make questionable decisions regarding how they make their living.
Wonderfully, it turns out, for many of those elected. Paid a pittance by taxpayers for their official state duties, lawmakers need to make a living elsewhere, and the prestige and influence of their elective office often helps them do it.
But with a conflict disclosure system rife with holes, virtually toothless ethics laws often left to the interpretation of the lawmakers they are supposed to regulate, and a Legislature historically unwilling to make itself more transparent, the reality is Texans know exceedingly little about who or what influences the people elected to represent them. They have no way to differentiate between lawmakers motivated entirely by the interests of their constituents and those in it for their own enrichment.
“Ostensibly, there is a defined level of disclosure and an agreed code of conduct,” said Jack Gullahorn, a Texas ethics expert who represents the state’s trade association for lobbyists. “But in general, either the sanctions aren’t there or the provisions aren’t clear enough to give people that don’t want to play by the rules any incentive to avoid the consequences for their actions.”
Over the coming months, The Texas Tribune will look at these lawmakers and the ethics rules that govern them, addressing issues like conflicts of interest and breaches in public accountability.
In other words is a legislator beholden to their constituents of to those who pay them a salary to live on? It definitely makes for a murky existence. In the comments Gritsforbreakfast makes a solid point in the comments of the Tribune article. That the “part time” nature of the legislature, (meeting 140 days every two years), is not responsible for this. But there are two aspects of the part time/full time discussion. One is the discussion of how often the legislature should meet, annual or biennial sessions. And the other, whether they are paid a full time or a part time wage.
Kuff had this to say about the second in relation to the Tribune article, On conflicts of interest.
A big part of the problem is that being a legislator means needing to take a six-month leave of absence from your job every other year, for which you get paid all of $7,200. It’s not particularly conducive to holding a regular job, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of people who want to hire you. It’s just that these are often people and organizations with interests in particular legislation, and they want to hire you for your expertise as a legislator. As you might imagine, that can be a problem, especially since the rules of financial disclosure for legislators allows them a fair bit of leeway in describing how they earn their money. To me, the answer is to recognize that being a legislator is a fulltime job regardless of how much the Lege is actually in session, and pay legislators a salary that recognizes this. Once you do that, you can very strictly limit the amount of things for which they can be paid outside of their legislative duties, and ensure there are sufficient punishments for breaking those rules. I don’t expect anything like this to happen any time soon, but until then I don’t think we have much grounds to complain about what these folks do, or think they have to do, to earn a living.
And the compensation issue is the bigger issue, as far as conflict of interest and corruption issues are concerned, then how much time they spend in session.
I debunked the the myth of the citizen legislator in Texas several years back, A Texas Myth: The Citizen Legislator. Here’s an excerpt:
While legislators do make more than the $7,200 annual salary it’s still not a lot of money. While these two reasons are why many believe in the citizen legislator myth, it is also exactly why very few citizens can actually run for and serve in the legislature in modern day Texas. The word citizen, as used in this context infers the common person. But in reality only those who are independently wealthy or whose job allows them the time off for the legislative session can afford to run for, and serve, in the legislature. While the lore of a part-time “citizen legislature” that meets every other year to blunt the effects of carpetbaggers makes a great tale, it is today little more than that.
But as the twenty-first century unfolds, the Legislature remains a curious combination of old-style politics, nineteenth century institutional design, and the realities of a state with 22 million people, many of whom live in or near some of the largest urban areas in the country.
That “curious combination” is now, quite possibly, causing more problems than it’s worth. There are several recent stories swirling around the Texas Legislature that point out structural weaknesses in how we fund it. Tales of “ghost workers”, spouses being paid with campaign funds, and legislators using campaign funds to pay off credit cards, are more the norm these days, than is the myth of the legislator coming for 140 days every two years and going back to the farm, ranch of general store. More often than not it’s the lawyer, insurance man, or consultant that can afford to be a legislator.
Although the regular session is still 140 days, there are many more special sessions these days and much more work to be done between sessions (interim). In the interim now there are many committee hearings that do the work, as set out by the leaders of both houses, that needs to be done to get ready for the next regular session. Often times these hearings are held not just in Austin, but all over the state, and over a span of many months. Again this schedule is not very conducive for a “citizen” working at a 40 hr./week or more job, 5 days a week, with a couple of weeks vacation a year.
A citizen legislator in the 21st century would be someone who is not beholden to monied interests, lobbyists, or their employer for them to be able to continue to support themselves and their families in order to keep serving in the legislature.
In tandem with the above article the Texas Tribune has launched a Business as Usual project, as well as an Lawmaker Explorer app to see how your legislator makes their money.
One thing is clear with the current part time pay legislature is that we don’t have citizens legislators. But even worse we don’t have legislators that are responsive to their constituents – the citizens of Texas. That’s what needs to change. Pay them well, limit outside pay, and institute harsh punishments for breaking the rules, as Kuff said. This kind of reform should be given serious consideration, but it won’t until citizens demand it.
The Texas Progressive Alliance welcomes the 2013 Legislature and hopes that it actually tries to make Texas a better place as it brings you this week’s roundup.
Off the Kuff discusses what some new legislators are saying about education and the questions they should be but aren’t being asked.
The GOP is for more of the same and demonizing the poor and less fortunate, the Democrats are for finding reality-based solutions that help everyone get ahead. WCNews at Eye on Williamson points this out Fairness and equality (are) missing from Texas economy.
There were a few under-reported environmental developments in Texas last week, so PDiddie at Brains and Eggs reported on them.
BossKitty at TruthHugger had to laugh at the low brow War on Kwanzaa, then, got riled at the Sunday Morning talk shows, Drop the script written by bitter old men!
Over at Texas Kaos, Libby Shaw explains how Senator John Cornyn Threatens to Wreck Our Government. Check it out.
Neil at Texas Liberal posted that he left the woods for the safety of the city.
East Texas man suffers setback in legal action against oil pipeline
Mike Bishop, an East Texas landowner trying to stop an oil pipeline that crosses his property, has been representing himself in court proceedings with some success. But on Monday he learned that it’s more difficult than it might appear in the movies.
Bishop is trying to sue the Texas Railroad Commission in Travis County to prevent the completion of a pipeline owned by TransCanada that could bring Canadian diluted bitumen (the heavy black viscous oil from the bituminous sands, or tar sands) from Alberta, Canada to the refineries on the Texas coast.
Bishop maintains that diluted bitumen is not crude oil, and TransCanada doesn’t have the proper permits to transport it. He also claims the Railroad Commission, the state’s oil and gas regulator, is failing to protect the state’s surface water and ground water. TransCanada has disputed Bishop’s assertions, and lawyers for the state declined to comment.
Bishop, a retired Marine who is not a lawyer, learned the hard way that he did not properly serve documents to the Railroad Commission, and the case couldn’t go forward.
Bishop said he researched the law and accepted advice from state workers, but he also noted that he was kind of winging it. Bishop admitted in court that he had “no clue” about suing the state.
Lawyers for the state tried to explain to the judge that the state has sovereign immunity, which prevents it from being sued in state court without permission from the Legislature. But Travis County District Court Judge Stephen Yelenosky said the state’s argument would have to wait until Bishop properly serves the correct documents.
Speaking to Bishop, Yelenosky explained the importance of having a lawyer to navigate the often complicated legal system.
Bishop said after the hearing that he hasn’t been able to find a lawyer to take on the Railroad Commission.
“I’m going to go home and regroup,” said Bishop, who added that he was not discouraged.
Looks like a good way to pick up some votes in East Texas.
Perry has more on eminent domain coming up for Sunset review in Texas this year, You can end Rick Perry’s land grab.
The Texas Progressive Alliance urges you to take advantage of early voting this week if you haven’t already done so as it brings you this week’s roundup.
Off the Kuff looks at the 30 Day finance reports for various legislative races.
BossKitty at TruthHugger is sick of the backwards prevailing attitude of some GOP candidates. Maybe their flawed understanding demonstrates where America’s education system has failed. Legitimacy Denied For Rape and Climate In 2012 Election. And, with permission, is able to share this awesome chart that speaks for itself GOP Rape Advisory Chart – All Inclusive. At the last minute, BossKitty sees significance in the clash between a hurricane and a cold front at election time, God’s Will And The 2012 Election.
The Texas Cloverleaf asks if no paper ballots mean no problem at the polls?
It’s closing in on 10 years since the GOP took full control of Texas. WCNews at Eye on Williamson has a rundown of how things have changed, It is almost 10 years since the GOP takeover of Texas.
Not all Republicans favor rapists… but all rapists — just like all racists — vote Republican. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs gets the breaking news straight from a rapist himself.
Rick Perry has his own Solyandra Problem Libby Shaw tells us about Perry’s high tech investment bust. Unlike the phony baloney Soladra issue, Rick’s little scheme managed to pick 4 losers to back. Read all about it at TexasKaos.
At the local level, Neil at Texas Liberal said that Ann Johnson merits your support and your efforts in Texas House District 134. At a global level, Neil said that global warming may well play a part in the big super storm impacting the United States.
CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants to know how shooting a truck full of unarmed Latinos from a helicopter is good procedure for the DPS?
Yesterday that was an interim hearing in the House State Affairs Committee, regarding two interim charges. Via the Texas Legislative Reference Library:
Charge: Resource adequacy in the Texas electricity market
- Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy for the ERCOT Region: Fall 2012, ERCOT, September 4, 2012
- Annual Energy Outlook 2012, U.S. Energy Information Administration, June 25, 2012
- ERCOT Investment Incentives and Resource Adequacy, The Brattle Group/ERCOT, June 1, 2012
- Report on the Capacity, Demand, and Reserves in the ERCOT Region, ERCOT, May 22, 2012
- Texas Electricity Profile 2010, U.S. Energy Information Administration, January 30, 2012
Charge: Inefficiencies in the regulation of public utilities to minimize cost to consumers
I was struck by a couple of things while reading the AAS article on the hearing, Lawmakers urge decision on electricity market. Most of what was discussed was not about how to make the market better for the consumer. It was about how to make the building power plants more profitable for corporations in Texas, which will definitely make energy more expensive for the consumer.
State lawmakers on Wednesday grilled utility officials on the cost of addressing the threat of electricity shortages by 2015 and urged the Public Utility Commission to act quickly to choose a solution.
They were told wholesale prices might need to rise 30 percent — though retail rates for consumers might not go up that much — but several hours of testimony underscored that various segments of the industry and its customers, particularly manufacturers, disagree whether the situation is dire enough to dramatically change the wholesale electricity market. [Emphasis added]
Does anyone really believe the price increase won’t be passed onto the consumer, in total? But as the article goes on to show the price has to be raised so the corporations that build power plants in Texas can make a profit.
But Sam Newell with the Brattle Group, the state’s consultants, warned that ERCOT has a structural problem with low wholesale prices that discourage investment in new power plants to keep up with the state’s growing economy.
In 2011, when extreme weather temporarily hiked electricity demand and prices, Newell said a power plant would only have made what it needs to average over its lifespan: “You’d have to have weather like 2011 (every year) for the economics to work out for the investor.”
How is that any different then raising taxes to build a new power plant? The only way it’s different is that it will actually cost the consumer/taxpayer more because now a profit has to be guaranteed. And the consumer/taxpayer used to own the finished product. What it also means is that building new power plants in Texas has little to do with what’s best for Texans (the consumer), but whether a profit can be made by the corporation that builds the power plant. This is what privatization has brought us and it’s not right.
Texas officials may double electricity price cap.
Here’s the link to the debate videos, (it’s in section by topics).. It’s between Democrat Matt Stillwell and Republican Tony Dale. Stillwell did a reallygreat job, and he hits all the right notes, particularly on the budget, transportation and education. Check it out.
The Texas Progressive Alliance has Big Bird’s back as it brings you this week’s roundup.
BossKitty at TruthHugger was in a hurry and only posted one article. Thanks to underfunded oversight and a broken Congress, the state of the Veterans Administration, VA System Failure, Blame Robot Congress is disgusting.
Off the Kuff deconstructed a truly crappy poll that was nonetheless accepted uncritically by the media.
WCNews at Eye on Williamson shows us that one of the problems with our elections is who doesn’t show up to vote, Getting non-voters to the polls.
Green presidential candidate Jill Stein’s Texas swing wrapped up last Sunday in Houston with a visit to the Emile Street Community Farm, a fundraiser at a Montrose-area environmental showcase home, and another appearance on KPFT Pacifica radio. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has pictures.
Neil at Texas Liberal went to a campaign appearance of Green Presidential nominee Jill Stein.
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