The failure of reform will hurt Americans’ pocketbooks and will crush state and local budgets. According to the study, the number of uninsured residents will increase if reform is not enacted. Additionally, the number of employers offering coverage will drop, out-of-pockets costs will skyrocket, and spending by states on public programs will drastically increase. These costs will likely be passed along to Texas businesses and taxpayers.Click hereto read the full report from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation.
A week after a Texas agency reported health care reform legislation would cost the state’s Medicaid program an extra $20 billion over the next 10 years, a non-partisan foundation says inaction will exact a greater price.
The study, which estimates how coverage and cost trends would change from now to 2019 if health care isn’t reformed, found out-of-pocket expenses could increase by more than 35 percent in every state. It found middle-class working families would be hardest hit.
According to the study, the effects in Texas within 10 years include:
• As many as 8.3 million residents would be uninsured, up from 6 million this year.
• The average resident’s health care spending would increase as much as 81 percent.
• Employers’ premiums would increase as much as 121 percent.
• Medicaid/Children’s Health Insurance Program spending would increase as much as 117 percent.
• Uncompensated care would increase by as much as 138 percent.
It couldn’t be more clear that we need health insurance reform.
Gov. Rick Perry today replaced the chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, which is conducting a politically sensitive investigation into whether the state executed a man based on a fatally flawed arson investigation.
The commission’s new chairman is Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, a tough-on-crime politically connected conservative.
Bradley replaces Austin defense lawyer Sam Bassett as head of the commission, created by Legislature in 2005 to investigate allegations of scientific negligence or misconduct in the criminal justice system.
Bassett’s term expired Sept. 1, and the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association had urged Perry to reappoint him as the commission’s seat reserved for a defense attorney.
Austin lawyer Keith Hampton, vice president of the defense lawyers association, was dismayed at the choice of Bradley.
“This looks an awful lot like a governor who’s interfering with a science commission because the science demonstrated that we’ve executed an innocent person,” Hampton said. “To pick one of the most partisan people in the state and just anointing him as presiding officer is rather breathtaking.”
Bradley’s first act as chairman was to cancel Friday’s commission meeting in Dallas, where fire scientist Craig Beyler was to discuss his recently released report on the 1991 fire that killed three children of Cameron Todd Willingham.
Willingham was executed in 2004 based on bad science, unproven theories and personal bias by arson investigators, Beyler concluded. The evidence did not support a finding that the fire was intentionally set, he said.
the short story is that Willingham was convicted of arson and killing his own children, and was then put to death by the state of Texas. He professed his innocence from the beginning and it turns out he was right. The fire wasn’t arson after all, and an innocent man was likely put to death. The New Yorker wrote about the Willingham case earlier in the year, Trial by Fire – Did Texas execute an innocent man? Grits has more on it here, How does governor think Willingham killed his kids if not by arson? Looks like a political move , CYA, or both by the governor, instead of doing what’s right.
The final vote was 8-15 with 5 Democrats–Sens. Kent Conrad (D-ND), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT)–voting with all Republicans to kill the proposal.
Unfortunately it leaves the specter of health insurance lobby donations to those Senators as a motivating factor. David Sirota does a great job of showing why that is even a consideration, The Mathematics of Corruption.
In case you were looking for a good, succinct mathematical example of what corruption really looks like, consider this:
I’d say that just about sums it up: On issues of economic and corporate power, you can basically take the majority percentage of public support for a given measure and expect to get that many Senate votes against it.
Perhaps no other issue Congress deals with touches every American as intimately as health care. Yet a new poll by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health finds that, so far, the public feels profoundly shut out of the current health overhaul debate.
“Most people don’t feel that they personally have a voice in this debate,” said Mollyann Brodie, director of public opinion and survey research for the Kaiser Family Foundation. “In fact, 71 percent told us that Congress was paying too little attention to what people like them were saying.”
Nancy Turtenwald is one of those people. The tourist from Milwaukee was walking around the sparkling new visitor center at the U.S. Capitol Tuesday. She was quick to agree with poll findings that the lawmakers debating the massive health overhaul bill just a few blocks away weren’t much interested in problems like hers.
“I don’t think they are people like us, you know?” she said. She thinks Congressional lawmakers know very little about the daily lives of the average American — and the health care costs they face. “How often do they go and buy gas and bread and stuff to see what it’s really like for the people like us?”
So who does Turtenwald think Congress is listening to? “Lobbyists, and people who will get them reelected.”
It’s pretty hard to disagree with that when you watch an ad like this and see how much money Democratic chair of the Senate Finance Committee Max Baucus takes from the health care lobby.
Chuck Schumer and Max Baucus just said that there were not 60 votes for the public option in the Senate.
The Public Option doesn’t need 60 votes. It needs 51. That is, unless the GOP filibusters it. What Baucus and Schumer are saying — explicitly — is that there are Democrats who would support a GOP filibuster to keep the public option from having an up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate. They are saying that there are Democrats who would vote with the GOP to block a vote on something that the President says he supports — a public option.
That is a very serious charge. It’s tantamount to party treason. Schumer and Baucus need to say who these members are immediately.
It’s been EOW’s contention for some time, that this is exactly why some Senators don’t want a public option to come to the floor for a vote. Because if it does they will vote for cloture, and it will become law. That’s why killing it in committee is so important to them.
Almost ten months ago, I announced my intention to seek an open seat on Texas’ Third Court of Appeals in 2010. Since then, my campaign has taken me from enjoying Texas Independence Day with the Democratic Party of Bastrop County to celebrating the first hundred days of the Obama administration in Bell County. I have given speeches in Llano and Lampasas, and eaten barbecue in Kyle and steak in San Angelo. Putting my judicial impartiality to the test, I judged a chili cook-off in Rockne. And to my kids’ delight, we have taken part in Texas traditions like the Bluebonnet Festival Parade in Burnet County, the Fourth of July Parade in Round Rock, and the Lexington Homecoming in Lee County. All along the way I’ve been introduced to an untold number of great people and organizations in Austin and beyond that I otherwise might never have met.
As I have traveled around the 24 counties that make up the Third District–and yes, I can name them–I have repeatedly been impressed with the people I meet and their interest in the Third Court. You can follow all of my adventures on the campaign blog on my website, www.votekuhn.com. Now, as the campaign season begins in earnest, I’d like to share with you why this court–and this race–matter, and encourage you to get involved in my campaign.
In many ways, the Third Court is the most important court in Texas. Not only does it hear both civil and criminal appeals from the counties it covers, but since Austin is the capital of Texas, the Third Court hears a large number of cases involving state agencies or officials, as well as administrative appeals. While some of these cases can go on to be reviewed by the Texas Supreme Court or Court of Criminal Appeals, the Third Court will have the final say in the vast majority of these cases. As a result, the Third Court has a huge impact on the legal issues that affect the entire State of Texas.
If you care about the issues that affect the everyday lives of Texans–the environment, education, energy, public corruption–you need to care about the Third Court. Unfortunately, the Third Court’s docket is clogged with a backlog of cases, and in some instances, people have been waiting up to four years for cases to be resolved. As I travel across the district, I hear the same concerns from attorneys, judges, and voters alike: the Third Court needs to be more productive and less partisan. Texans care about the Third Court, and want to know that it has been entrusted to individuals who take their charge seriously.
That’s why I’m running for the Third Court of Appeals: because justice matters.
If given the opportunity to serve on the Third Court, I cannot promise that you and I will agree on every case. But I can promise that in each case I will work tirelessly, apply the law evenhandedly, and never forget the importance of each opinion to the parties, their counsel, and the jurisprudence of the state. The Third Court of Appeals’ current backlog is unacceptable, and I will work to end it. I am a Democrat, but politics will play no role in my decisions. And I will staunchly defend every citizen’s right to a fair trial.
Now, as we kick the campaign into high gear, I’d like to invite all of you to join me in my campaign to ensure justice for the people of Texas. On my website, you can become a supporter of my campaign. You can also become a Fan on Facebook. But most importantly, I want to hear from you.
Join us for our kick-off event next Wednesday, October 7th, at Threadgill’s. We’ll have music from the Double Eagle String Band. I am especially proud of our fantastic host committee of elected Democrats across Central Texas. The information is below. As we look towards next November, I look forward to meeting you, and hearing your thoughts on our court system and how we can ensure that Texans receive the justice they deserve.
Kurt Kuhn Campaign Kick-Off
Senator Kirk Watson
Rep. Valinda Bolton * Rep. Pete Gallego
Rep. Donna Howard * Rep. Diana Maldonado
Rep. Elliott Naishtat * Rep. Eddie Rodriguez
Rep. Mark Strama * Councilmember Chris Riley
Tens of thousands of Texas families are waiting as long as several months for food stamps as a surge in applications lands on an already strained system.
And when state workers do process the applications, they often do it wrong.
Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, said, “Right now, our focus is on reducing the backlog, but then we also know we have to tackle these error rate issues.”
She attributed the errors to the lack of experienced staff — more than half of state enrollment workers, as of June, had less than two years’ experience, compared with 8.4 percent in 2004 — and the pressure of an increased workload.
There are about 2.8 million Texans enrolled in the food stamps program, an increase of about 11 percent since last year. Benefits offices across Texas are struggling to answer and return calls about food stamps and other programs because of what Goodman said is “a combination of volume and really old phone lines.”
The commission has asked Gov. Rick Perry and the Legislative Budget Board for permission to hire about 650 more workers.
“We’ve received their request, and our budget staff is analyzing it,” said Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger.
The timeliness problem started several years ago when the agency lost workers in advance of an outsourcing effort. Goodman said the problem was complicated by a surge of applications following Hurricane Ike last year and another surge this year as the economy soured.
“We’ve been hit by a number of various kinds of storms, some literal, some figurative,” Goodman said.
In other words, when the economy was good, our state leaders were outsourcing, aka privatizing/corporatizing, as much of our government as they could to…ahem.. make it more efficient and save money. See how that worked out? Now that the economy has soured, along with privatization, the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) is left with fewer, and less experienced, employees while the workload, because of the weaker economy, has increased exponentially. Again, we must ask, why does anyone expect people who believe government is the problem to use government to solve problems? It’s insane if someone does.
Great timing by the LBB, eh? Reading this, I’m struck by the thought that the feds don’t really have any leverage to make Texas do the right thing. Yeah, sure, they can withhold funds, but all that does is further injure the people who are already being hurt by Texas’ manifest failures. And pardon me for saying so, but taking care of the needy isn’t exactly an issue for GOP primary voters, so it’s not like there’s a political incentive for Governor Perry to clean things up, or for Senator Hutchison to inveigh against him.
Hank Gilbert, Democratic candidate for Texas governor, said Monday that the crisis in food stamp application processing—which could ultimately lead to a loss of federal funds for the state—was yet another example of Governor Perry’s failure to lead the state.
“Every time Governor Perry is given the chance to actually step up and lead, he sits back and does nothing. Our state stands to loose out on federal funds benefiting Texas’ most vulnerable citizens and Governor Perry is out running around pretending there is no recession and that there is nothing wrong in Texas,” Gilbert said.
“Here Texas sits, completely out of compliance with federal law, with 38,000 hungry Texans sitting and waiting on someone in leadership in the Capitol to actually do something. And where is Rick Perry? He’s AWOL—‘absent without leadership,’” Gilbert said.
“As Governor, your power may be somewhat constitutionally restricted, but if Rick Perry wanted to help the 38,000 Texans who are waiting on their food stamp benefits to be processed, believe me when I tell you he could have done so. If nothing else, he could have demanded that the LBB do something,” Gilbert continued.
Gilbert also criticized Perry for spending the last nine years of his administration finding more ways to hurt Texans than help them.
“From House Bill 2922 that led to the disastrous experiment to privatize health and human services, which failed at a cost to taxpayers of almost $1 billion, to watching his allies like Tom Craddick and David Dewhurst balance the budget on the backs of ordinary Texans, Governor Perry has created fewer opportunities for Texans to help themselves or better themselves than any of his predecessors. We have fewer research universities, less public housing and spend less on Medicaid and unemployment recipients than many other states. Much of our population is stuck in poverty and Governor Perry’s ox is stuck in the ditch. He’s done nothing for poor and middle class Texans,” Gilbert said.
“I was always taught that how we treat the least among us—the poor, the disabled, the elderly—tells someone a lot about who you are. How Governor Perry treats these folks tells us a lot about what kind of leader he is,” he concluded.
Texans for Public Justice released “a comprehensive study of the financing of Texas’ 2008 legislative elections” called Money in PoliTex. From the press release:
The online Money in PoliTex report analyzes $95 million raised by 312 major-party legislative candidates. It provides district-by-district summaries of campaign funds and a complete contributor list for each of Texas’ 181 sitting lawmakers. Political fundraising looks recession proof. Texas legislative candidates raised 25 percent more money for the 2008 election ($95 million) than the preceding one in 2006 ($76 million).
Scintillating Money in PoliTex findings include:
The House’s 281 major-party candidates raised $70.3 million, with winners collecting $50.6 million (72 percent of the total).
Thirty-one major-party candidates for 16 Senate slots raised $24.7 million, with winners accounting for $16.7 million (68 percent).
The No. 1 interest group, Lawyers and Lobbyists, spent almost $15 million (16 percent).
Texas’ top 126 individuals collectively spent $45 million on the 2006 elections.
Legislative candidates owed 22 percent of their war chests ($21 million) to 702 whopper checks that were each worth $10,000 or more. Small donations of up to $100 accounted for just 3 percent of the money.
Legislative candidates raised 82 percent of their money from mailing addresses outside the districts that they sought to represent ($78 million).
Seven Senate incumbents and 61 House incumbents were reelected without any major-party opposition in the primary or the general election.
The full report is here with complete donor lists for every member of the Senate and House from the 81st session.
Over the last several weeks the “Right Wing Noise Machine“, their version of the mighty wurlitzer, was cranked up in an effort to take down Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN. Their mission includes “building community organizations that are committed to social and economic justice”, and “helps those who have historically been locked out become powerful players in our democratic system”. While some of their employees, it appears, have made mistakes, they deserve the same treatment as any federal contractor. That those in a hurry to punish ACORN have inadvertently ensnared the military industrial complex and it’s fraudulent contractors, is ironic.
Rachel Maddow on her show last week did a great job of showing how the bill to defund ACORN could cause huge problems for some military contractors.
The congressional legislation intended to defund ACORN, passed with broad bipartisan support, is written so broadly that it applies to “any organization” that has been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. It also applies to any of the employees, contractors or other folks affiliated with a group charged with any of those things.
In other words, the bill could plausibly defund the entire military-industrial complex. Whoops.
A new study by professors at Occidental College and the University of Northern Iowa examines the media’s coverage of ACORN, finding that during last year’s presidential campaign and again this year, the “mainstream” media has rushed to repeat a barrage of false claims by Republicans and conservatives about the organization without first checking to see if the claims are true.
At the same time, I would encourage the handful of fellow progressives who see the story solely as a Fox News witch hunt to acknowledge this part of the bigger picture: That ACORN is a large non-profit that is very poorly run, and in need of some major reform. It would be good, in a way, if that’s what this story were really about — making things work better. But conservatives don’t want to reform ACORN, nor do they want another, better-run outfit to come along and do some of the things it does — helping the urban poor find better housing or increasing voter registration. They want to destroy ACORN and the things it does. Period.
The real reason they are after ACORN is that they don’t like its core mission — siding with beleaguered homeowners over banks, and trying to register inner-city residents to vote at the same rates as the suburbanites who’ve dominated American politics since the 1980s. Taking down the group’s mission of urban empowerment won’t strengthen America, just the Republican Party. And you don’t need a Ph.D. in social work or journalism to figure this out, since O’Keefe has made it clear that ACORN’s success — and not its corruption — is what prompted him to launch his investigation. Here’swhat he told the Washington Post:
Though O’Keefe described himself as a progressive radical, not a conservative, he said he targeted ACORN for the same reasons that the political right does: its massive voter registration drives that turn out poor African Americans and Latinos against Republicans.
“Politicians are getting elected single-handedly due to this organization,” he said. “No one was holding this organization accountable. No one in the media is putting pressure on them. We wanted to do a stunt and see what we could find.”
But O’Keefe didn’t go after the voter registration unit of ACORN. Maybe that’s because real investigative journalism is hard work, but more likely it’s because powerful people like U.S. Attorneys, who didn’t even have to dress up like pimps because they have subpoena power,already tried that angle and didn’t find one single bogus vote cast. Instead, the two young filmmakers and the deep-pocketed FNC are taking down ACORN through the back door, and if what has already happened in North Carolina is any indication, they will succeed.
In other words, it’s their work helping the poor and getting them registered to vote, that’s gotten ACORN in the right wing’s sites.
None of this is to excuse any errors or fraud that ACORN employees have made. It goes to show how this entire crusade is politically motivated by the right wing to get rid of a group that helps the less fortunate. ACORN registers the poor to vote, and as everyone knows, the less fortunate are more likely to vote Democratic. That the hastily-written anti-ACORN legislation may snag defense contractors is cause for alarm on the right, no matter how heinous the crimes of the military-industrial complex are.
As laid out in the recent HChron editorial on ACORN something like this is what’s probably needed.
On Tuesday, ACORN announced the hiring of former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger to conduct its own internal investigation. Also on Tuesday, the Department of Justice announced an internal investigation to determine whether ACORN has received grant money from the department and, if so, how it has been used.
ACORN deserves the presumption of innocence guaranteed by the American system of jurisprudence. That said, the circumstantial evidence of thoughtless advocacy is deeply disturbing. We believe that independent investigation of ACORN is urgently required.
The Houston Chronicle shares the advocacy organization’s commitment to improving the lot of the poor and minorities in this country. To the extent that this necessary work is being ridiculed or called into question by unacceptable behavior on the part of ACORN staffers, harm is being done. The work of increasing access to voter registration, advocating for affordable housing, bringing affordable health care and broadening educational opportunities for the poor and downtrodden in our midst is critical to an equitable American future.
In short, the work is bigger than ACORN. A cloud of suspicion hangs over it that must not be permitted to besmirch the larger work. If the group has strayed from its mission in significant ethical and legal ways, that fact needs to be revealed. If not, that fact needs to be made equally clear.
Either way, a clean breast must be made so that the historically important task of caring for our last, least and lost can continue unimpeded.
ACORN deserves to be treated like every other federal contractor when fraud is suspected, no better, no worse.
Gilbert, in his always so folksy manner, artfully articulated to Watson and Dallas Morning News political writer Gromer Jeffers, why he feels he has crossover appeal:
Hank Gilbert is a guy just like everybody else who is watching this broadcast. I grew up in rural East Texas–the son of two Union parents who owned a farm where every dollar counted. My wife and I sit around the kitchen table a couple of times a month just like most everybody else in this state does–trying to figure out what we can pay that time of the month on bills. I’m no different than anyone else. What I am not is an entrenched politician like most of the people in this race.
That’s a powerful, connecting statement from Gilbert. You best believe that hundreds of thousands of Texans sit at the kitchen table on a weekly basis trying to figure out what bill is to be paid and what bill has to wait to be paid. Hank has crossover appeal because he really is like every other mainstream Texan out there who wants answers to the problems we face in our state.
Hank has been getting quite a bit of media coverage since his official announcement. Which is great because the more people see Hank the more they like him.
Paul Burka keeps up the pressure on Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to “put the issue to rest with an unequivocal commitment” as to whether she will actually resign her Senate seat and campaign full-time against Gov. Rick Perry in the 2010 Republican primary.
For some reason, it is very hard for Hutchison to commit herself. That is why the campaign continues to be a string of daily one-liners that lacks a coherent message.
Hutchison has committed to resign in the final weeks prior to the filing deadline, perhaps as late as Dec. 28 through Jan. 4. The key reason for waiting to resign is to force Perry into a politically difficult choice of setting the special election concurrent with the uniform date in May, or declare an emergency and set a date as early as 37 days after the vacancy is created.
The waiting is forcing Hutchison into a difficult position of her own, but at least for her, it should be over months before the March 3, 2010, primary. The question for her campaign is whether she can weather the withering attacks between now and the end of the year. If Burka keeps this up, the damage is likely to be so extensive, it will take a cadre of purse boys and tons of refrigerated makeup to put her good face forward in time to win over the GOP primary voters.
UPDATE: Dave McNeely summarizes the logistics behind the possible special election, and the logjam of Republicans wanting to move up if Hutchison leaves the Senate.
The word from Washington is that Hutchison wants to cast votes on measures like a “cap-and-trade” pollution control measure, a health-care plan, and budget measures — some of which may not come up until mid-January.
Texas election code requires that lower-level public officials must resign in order to run for a higher office; however, there’s no such statute binding Hutchison. She can seek her party’s nomination for Governor, and if nominated, run all the way until November 2010 without vacating her Senate seat. The mayhem such an act would create, as Republicans scurry to file for the last few open offices, may present an opening for Democrats, if we’re poised to take advantage.
EOW has mentioned many times how the Texas GOP finally having a “high profile” primary for governor would likely be a bloodbath. That it’s coming true should surprise no one. Every hard core member of the GOP in Texas will likely have to decide between current GOP Gov. Rick Perry and US Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Over the weekend we learned that current, and soon to be former, Texas GOP chair Tina Benkiser made her choice, Benkiser endorses Perry, resigns as Republican chairman. The LSR has a detailed analysis here.
Essentially after being criticized by the Hutchison campaign Benkiser, who was going to face challengers in again 2010, decided to “go Palin” on the Texas GOP and quit. Burka posted a few times over the weekend on this issue and had this analysis, in response to one of Benkiser’s 2008 challengers Mark McCaig.
My [Burka's] comments: McCaig’s comments reinforce what I wrote in my post about Benkiser’s switch to the Perry campaign. She was an ineffective and controversial chairman and sought to build that part of the party with which she is ideologically comfortable instead of broadening the appeal of the party. Benkiser did nothing to attract Hispanics to the GOP; indeed, she presided over the adoption of a party platform that states, concerning immigration, “No amnesty! No how! No way!” McCaig couldn’t have said it better: “The folks who care what Tina has to say were already in Perry’s corner.”
While Benkiser may have presided over that statement, it’s unlikely that anyone running to replace her is going run on removing that from the platform. That is if they want to have any chance of elected chair. Because the only group more to the right of in Texas of GOP primary voters are the state GOP convention delegates. In other words it’s unlikely that a new GOP chair will change the anti-immigrant stance of the current GOP.
On one side, Perry has deep-pocket support from B.J. “Red” McCombs, developer Gene Powell and Clear Channel Communications founder Lowry Mays. Hutchison has GM chairman Edward Whitacre Jr., construction magnate Bartel Zachry and La Quinta founder Sam Barshop. That’s a lot of financial firepower divided between Republicans instead of aimed against Democrats in 2010.
Perry’s local support is managed by Perry’s political appointees. Powell is a UT regent; Hope Andrade is secretary of state; and Rolando Pablos is chairman of the Texas Racing Commission.
Appointments carry backlash. Local supporters also have been drawn in to charges that Perry has politicized higher education — three former UT regents said Perry lobbied them to support former state Sen. John Montford as the next UT chancellor instead of Francisco Cigarroa.
Other Republican players support Hutchison because she protected San Antonio during the 2005 round of base closings and has delivered new military jobs, such as the new military medical training center at Fort Sam Houston.
Meanwhile, most local Republican elected officials — such as House Speaker Joe Straus, state Sen. Jeff Wentworth and U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith — are staying neutral. A few have joined the fray: District Attorney Susan Reed has endorsed Hutchison, and state Rep. Frank Corte, a social conservative, has endorsed Perry.
With the GOP in Texas becoming more and more right wing, it was only a matter of time before the more moderate Republicans – like Hutchison and Straus – started becoming marginalized. What remains to be seen, if this primary actually happens, is what will happen in the aftermath. Will the cracks become full fledged breaks, or can they be papered over once the primary is done? We’ll just have to watch and wait to see what happens.