04.19.11

Sides have been chosen in the Texas budget battle

Posted in 82nd Legislature, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Taxes, The Budget, The Lege at 12:11 pm by wcnews

It appears that sides have been chosen inside the Texas GOP on the budget.  On one side it appears to be Gov. Rick Perry and the wing nuts in the House, and on the other is the Senate, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Senate Finance Committee Chair Steve Ogden.

This is a fight between Republicans over how much they will agree to hurt working and middle class Texans in order to protect the wealthy and corporations in Texas.

From today’s AAS, Senators ready to fight for their plusher budget (plusher?!), we can see that Dewhurst and Ogden are not willing to throw Grandma and Grandpa out of the nursing home like Pitt’s, Perry and the House are.

Gearing up for a bruising budget battle, Senate leaders on Monday lobbed some heavy artillery at the House of Representatives over the lower chamber’s spartan spending plan.

“The debate is whether you want to save public education and whether you want to save nursing homes or not,” said Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan. “I think we’re right, and we’re going to fight for it.”

Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst fired a shot of his own Monday as he laid out the case for his chamber’s 2012-13 budget proposal, which undoes a significant cut to nursing home providers who serve Medicaid patients that was proposed earlier in the legislative session. The House version still includes that cut.

“The last thing we want to do is force every nursing home operator who has Medicaid beds to shut down and some fifty to sixty thousand grandmas and grandpas are pushed out on the street,” Dewhurst said. “That’s not Texas.”

But House members and Republican Gov. Rick Perry are not likely to back down on their desire for deeper spending cuts and for leaving the state’s $9.4 billion rainy day fund untouched for the 2012-13 budget.

As members of the GOP try to figure out new schemes to add money to the budget, Texans are left wondering what it would take for these wealthy elected leaders to actually part with some of their excess in order to stave off such harmful budget cuts. Certainly if Dewhurst and Ogden would lead on this issue other wealthy Texans would be willing to accept such a policy.

[UPDATE]: The wing-nuts in the House are addressing the important issues, On Tax Day, the Lege Contemplate a Tax Break for Yacht Owners (Seriously).

Also this recent video from the Texas Democratic Party – Priorities:

04.18.11

Texas House finally faces facts – we have a revenue problem in Texas

Posted in 82nd Legislature, Around The State, Taxes, The Budget, The Lege at 3:18 pm by wcnews

The Texas House acknowledged today that the budget that was recently passed didn’t have enough funding in it.  In other words, the are admitting Texas has a revenue problem.  And that is a first step in getting this budget where it needs to be. House budget-writers back billions in extra revenue.

House budget-writers approved bills that could free up more than an additional $3 billion for spending on state services through the next two years through moves big and small.

The House Appropriations Committee approved bills to put off a $1.8 billion state payment for school districts from the upcoming biennium to the next one, and to speed up the collection of more than $1 billion in franchise, sales, motor fuels and alcohol taxes.

The legislation approved by the panel also would make moves including suspending the state sales tax holiday for back-to-school shopping and having unclaimed property revert more quickly to the state.

The bills would yield new money that could be put in areas including public education, college student financial aid and nursing homes, said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie.

He said that lawmakers are working with retailers on the back-to-school holiday idea, suggesting that item might not stay in the bill.

Earlier in the day Peggy Fikac in the HChron reported that the Seante Finance Committee is close to finalizing in budget proposal, Senate panel tries to ease fiscal pain.

Senate budget-writers voted to ease cuts in public schools, college financial aid and nursing home rates in a proposed spending plan that – while slim – would exceed a bare-bones House proposal by billions of dollars.

Now, they just have to figure out how to pay for it.

Senate leaders are looking at non-tax revenue and, possibly, dipping further into the rainy day fund than Gov. Rick Perry has said he is willing to do. If they do not find agreement on revenue, spending may have to be shaved.

“This is a pretty aggressive effort to fund as many critical items as we could. It’s going to be a challenge to make sure it balances,” Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said after the panel sent a two-year budget proposal to the printer Thursday night in anticipation of a committee vote next week on the overall bill.

“If we’re successful, we’ll still be substantially reducing funding as compared to the current biennium,” he said.

Ogden did not give a final tally on the proposal. He said last week that as the Senate plan stood then, it would spend $16 billion more than the House measure. Senate budget-writers since have voted to add money in some areas.

And Sen. Ogden stated on the floor today that he’s ready to fight, Ogden: We’re going to fight for this budget.

Over the next few days, members of the Senate Finance Committee will have to figure out the best way to balance the state budget, said Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan.

“The central issue is how much of the nontax revenue are we going to support and therefore how much of the rainy day fund we’re going to need to balance up,” Ogden said.

On Tuesday, the committee members will tackle the menu of revenue options assembled by Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, that would be needed to pay for the billions of dollars of spending that have been added to the Senate budget, including $6 billion for public education.

“It’s going to be interesting tomorrow because a lot of these issues will have some controversy around it,” Ogden said.

One potential controversy will center on a proposal to eliminate a tax exemption for certain natural gas producers, he said, but it raises a lot of money.

“Basically, how much we decide to do here will determine how much of the rainy day fund we’ll need to recommend to balance the budget,” Ogden said. “Really, the senators are going to be asked to make a choice which is the better way to balance the budget.”

That decision is on Wednesday’s agenda. And the big question will be whether the senators will authorize taking more than the $3.1 billion already agreed to by the House and Gov. Rick Perry.

There still a long way to go. As Jason Embry asked today, “So with six weeks to go, does anybody believe we’re not headed to a special session?”  Probably a few people, but fewer each day.

At this point the House and Senate are pretty far apart. And Ogden said the right thing when asked about the where Gov. Perry and the House may stand on what the Senate is likely to pass, “..his primary concern right now is with the senators, not everyone else involved in this game”.

The final budget will likely be somewhere between the Senate and House bills. It’s good there’s still a long way to go – meaning well into the Summer – before a deal must be done. Because that time is needed for The Show to continue, and bring enough legislators around to a more balanced approach. One thing to keep in mind, it takes fewer votes to pass a tax increase then it does to use the Rainy Day Fund.

Texas Blog Round Up (April 18, 2011)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 1:58 pm by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance brings you this week’s blog roundup.

The first State House redistricting map is out, and Off the Kuff has a look at it and some alternatives to it.

Letters From Texas poked fun at the…um…hard turn John Sharp’s web domain has taken, in which somebody has…um…erected quite a different focus. But most of the week was spent on more serious concerns – the West Texas range fires.

Having previously declared himself out on supporting President Obama’s re-election campaign, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs finds even less to like about the rumored candidacy of Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez for US Senate. Less, as in nothing.

The Texas Cloverleaf looks at the proposed TX House redistricting implications in Denton County.

This week on Left of College Station, Teddy covers the local politics of the City of College Station controversial vote to annex the community of Wellborn, and Teddy covers the national politics of the Congressional Republicans failure to lead by their politicalization of military pay. Left of College Station also covers the week in headlines.

From Bay Area Houston The Houston Chronicle asks How stupid are Texans?

DosCentavosopines on State Rep. Leo Berman’s kinder gentler racism through a “cost-saving” English-only bill.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants everyone to know that Victoria DA Hissy Fit’s tainted case against city officials has been dropped.

The Texas GOP released it’s proposed map of Texas state House districts for the next decade. Dembones at Eye On Williamson posted about the most oddest shaped district in the map, Gerrymandering Wilco.

Libby Shaw at TexasKaos tells us that When Middle Schoolers Serve in Congress there is price to be paid…

Neil at Texas Liberal noted that Rick Perry has asked Barack Obama and Washington on help with Texas wildfires. http://texasliberal.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/rick-perry-asks-for-help-from-washington-for-texas-wildfires-where-are-the-tea-party-volunteer-disaster-relief-teams/ While everybody impacted by the fires merits help, it sure is something that Washington-basher Rick Perry feels he must turn to the federal government to solve Texas problems. Where are the Texas Tea Party citizen-volunteer disaster relief teams to help people in need?

Like many, the crew at McBlogger is feeling the pinch of higher gas prices. What’s really causing it and what can be done about it may surprise you.

TexasVox brings you a double dose of bad news about fracking, first bad news for the climate from shale gas as it could be warming the planet worse than coal and second, the awesome press conference put on by our TPA friend TXSharon about health effects from fracking. Oh, and on a completely unrelated note and blog, I warn you not to go see the new movie version of Atlas Shrugged.

Bradley and the Forensic Commission report

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 10:49 am by wcnews

From the reporting on the Forensic Commission’s final report on the Willingham case, reading between the lines it’s obvious, that the Willingham investigation was flawed, if not completely incorrect. If the original investigation was factual, then why so many recommendations on how to actually “fix” fire investigations in Texas, based off of the Willingham case?  Exactly.

Here’s what Grits had to say about the report, Punting: Forensic Science Commission fails to answer on misconduct, negligence in Willingham fire investigation.

In what is likely John Bradley’s last hurrah as Forensic Science Commission chair (he reportedly cannot secure Senate confirmation), the Williamson County DA convinced the commission to issue a draft report making no finding on the central question it convened hearings and an expensive report from an expert to address: Whether there was negligence or misconduct by fire investigators in the Todd Willingham arson case?

[...]

Regular readers will recall that nationally renowned fire experts told the Forensic Science Commission that investigators at the Willingham arson case were negligent for not following even best practices of the day, as well as utilizing erroneous arson indicators that have since been debunked by modern science. Further, the state fire marshal’s office flat out embarrassed itself with a legalistic defense of unscientific methods and outdated practices. Given the expert testimony, it’s no wonder Mr. Bradley wanted to avoid as long as possible drawing conclusions regarding the negligence of investigators: If they do draw one, it will likely be to find negligence since no actual arson experts were willing to defend the Willingham investigators. So issuing no decision is the only way for Bradley to kick the can down the road, hoping the Attorney General will squelch the investigation after he’s gone by throwing one of his lawyers under the bus.

Of course Bradley’s job was political, and has long since been done.

More from Dave Mann at the Texas Observer, A Nebulous End to the Willingham Inquiry.

The commission’s nearly 50-page report—the product of a high-profile, frequently stalled investigation—is an odd mix. It documents at length the flawed state of fire investigation in Texas and details in general terms the kinds of outdated evidence that led to Willingham’s 1992 conviction for starting the house fire that killed his three daughters and eventually led to his 2004 execution. In that sense, it confirms the opinions of nine national experts who have examined the case and found no evidence of arson.

The report also makes 17 recommendations on how to improve the level of fire investigation in Texas. And, most importantly, it urges the Texas Fire Marshal’s Office to reexamine older arson cases for similar flaws.

Yet for all its documentation of general problems with arson evidence, the report rarely connects these flaws directly to the Willingham case. In fact, the report sidesteps two of the central questions: Were the original fire investigators on the Willingham case negligent and did the Fire Marshal’s office have a duty to inform the governor or the courts prior to Willingham’s 2004 execution that the evidence in the case was no longer reliable?

Kuff had this to say about the report.

Unfortunately, the FSC doesn’t have the power to do more than urge the Fire Marshall to act, and there’s still an inquiry into the AG’s office to determine just what authority the Commission has. That will be John Bradley’s parting shot. This probably was the best report we could have gotten given Bradley’s endless meddling. Maybe with the Willingham matter more or less settled and no election looming, Rick Perry will appoint someone less egregious as Bradley’s replacement. Yeah, yeah, I know.

The best thing to come out of the report is that Willingham’s family has taken solace from it.

04.15.11

Fear and cowardice in Texas

Posted in 82nd Legislature, Around The State, Commentary, Taxes, The Budget at 12:55 pm by wcnews

There is, what appears to be, a hidden and unspoken theme emerging regarding the current legislative session. The “cuts only” budget that emerged from the Texas House, it is recognized by many elected Texas Republicans, would be a disaster for the state if enacted. They will not do what is needed and produce a fair budget that will allow Texas to prosper in the future.  Instead they will proceed with a budget which they know will harm Texas, and  many, if not all, Texans.  The reason they will do this is out of fear and cowardice.

Dave McNeely puts it this way, Political ambition, lack of courage evident in Austin.

The lobbyist walked out of the Capitol, disgustedly shaking his head.

“It’s the worst session I’ve ever seen,” said the lobbyist, a former legislator of more than a decade. “Everybody over there’s scared to death.

“Rick Perry’s running for vice president,” the lobbyist continued. “David Dewhurst’s running for the U.S. Senate, and every statewide nonjudicial elected official wants to run for something else.”

The lobbyist, no raving liberal, was aghast at the position of Gov. Perry, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus to reach a balanced budget through spending cuts alone.

He echoed the sense of impending doom expressed by superintendents, principals, teachers, university administrators and others who think the cuts-only approach is fueled by the political ambitions of Perry and, to a lesser extent, Dewhurst, and is dangerous to the future of Texas and its schoolchildren.

On the health care front, many doctors, hospital administrators and other medical professionals are horrified at the impact they think the Legislature’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre of cuts will have if it is anywhere close to what passed the Texas House.

Governors and legislators in the past — Democrat John Connally in the 1960s, Democrat Mark White and Republican Bill Clements in the 1980s, Democrat Ann Richards in the 1990s — faced up to the need for more resources for education and health care. They either called for new taxes, or at least allowed them.

And here’s an excpert from a recent AusChron article, Timid moderates join fringe Republicans in push to pass suicidal state budget.

At the state level, House Republicans have hidden behind the shield of creating a balanced budget as justification for economically toxic cuts. Have some Republican lawmakers voted against their consciences? Absolutely. They tack to the right because they are terrified of primary challenges. Moderates fear that whoever is unleashed by the dogmatic right and the anti-government, anti-regulation crew will be far more damaging than any swallow-their-pride votes they must take. After this session, there may not be much left to damage.

It’s sad that the moderates in the Texas GOP are willing to sit back and allow this to happen. But, as Kuff points out today, the extremists in the Texas GOP are more than will to make Texas’ economic problems worse, When you find yourself in a hole, go ahead and keep digging.

As it happens, the House Ways and Means Committee is talking about the business margins tax, and is considering legislation to amend it. The only problem is, the legislation they’re considering would make a temporary exemption for the tax to businesses that gross less than $1 million a year permanent. This would add another $75 million to that structural deficit. Makes perfect sense, right? Go read Burka and Abby Rapoport for the details and marvel anew at the way our state government works.

It’s key not to get stupidity like this confused with courage.  Obviously in a state the size of Texas that is growing so fast, we will need more revenue to pay for more schools, more roads, and more infrastructure.  It’s not good for Texas that these needs will be further ignored by the GOP majority, along ideological lines, because of fear and cowardice.

“It looks like a uterus!”

Posted in 82nd Legislature, Around The State, Redistricting, Williamson County at 9:59 am by wcnews

After she got done laughing, that’s what my wife said  [view image  here] when I showed her Greg’s map, Creative Cartography in PlanH113, of the GOP gerrymandered plan for the proposed new House District 149 in Williamson County. And then she said, that’s got to be illegal. Well if it isn’t it should be.

If you live in Williamson there are hearings in the House Redistricting Committee today, Arpil 15th (12:00 PM), and Sunday, April 17th (2:00 PM) at the Capitol Extension [Parking Map].

If you’d like to testify it would be recommended to show up early and be prepared to wait. The best bet is to keep any comments short and targeted to one or two topics. It’s likely each person will get 5 minutes or less to testify and be heard. Also be sure and check out dembones’ previous post, Gerrymandering Wilco.

04.14.11

The West Texas Wildfires – Help if you can

Posted in Around The State, Take Action at 1:31 pm by wcnews

Harold Cook at Letters from Texas has been doing a great job informing us on this tragic situation, In case you missed it…cowboy up.

The fires have also brought out the very best in some damn good people, and relief and rescue efforts have moved into full swing, even as the fires are still being fought. Cowboys from Oklahoma have offered to volunteer to drive down with their horses to round up cattle and move them to safer ground. Offers of hay and spare range land have been made, by ranchers, some of whom may not have it to spare.

Veterinarians have offered their services to treat injured animals. Shelters have opened, food and clothing have poured in from all corners, and the area’s hotels and rental resorts in Alpine, Marfa, and Marathon have thrown open their doors to those whose homes have been damaged or destroyed and who need a place to stay. Such a high volume of clothing and canned goods has appeared out of nowhere that area emergency management teams have requested that no more be sent – and said that what they need most is financial assistance. The fire teams need to be re-supplied, and other recovery efforts need to be staffed and supplied as well.

That’s where you come in. Many have asked on Facebook what they can do to help, so here are two recommendations, to benefit those on both two legs and four:

The Jeff Davis County Relief Fund, which is coordinating a little bit of everything (thank you Juanitajean.com for posting this) Updatenow you can contribute online.

Grand Companions Humane Society, which is in Fort Davis, and is helping with displaced, lost, and injured pets.

Neil at Texas Liberal has a bunch of info here, Texas Wildfires Are Ongoing—Facts About Wildfires.

Please help if you can, thanks.

The President’s Speech

Posted in Around The Nation, Commentary, Good Stuff, Taxes, The Budget, Unemployment, jobs at 11:11 am by wcnews

Since writing a  post yesterday comparing President Barack Obama to failed GOP President Herbert Hoover, here are a few comments on yesterday’s speech.  My initial take was, great speech.  But that’s what Obama does, he gives great speeches.  The problem is the follow through and his weak negotiating skills.

The part this speech needed and missed, was a focus on jobs and putting unemployed Americans back to work. The quickest, best way to  get rid of the deficit is to get millions of under and unemployed Americans back to work and paying taxes.

That being said he hit some really good points in the speech. He did such a good job that the wing-nuts in the GOP were whining as soon as he finished.  They called it a partisan speech.  Good!!  The GOP plan that will kill Medicare and Social Security, and give more tax cuts to the rich, is extremely partisan and by people who hate you!

Here’s an excerpt from the speech and what probably sent the GOP into a tizzy.

But as far back as the 1980s, America started amassing debt at more alarming levels, and our leaders began to realize that a larger challenge was on the horizon. They knew that eventually, the Baby Boom generation would retire, which meant a much bigger portion of our citizens would be relying on programs like Medicare, Social Security, and possibly Medicaid. Like parents with young children who know they have to start saving for the college years, America had to start borrowing less and saving more to prepare for the retirement of an entire generation.

To meet this challenge, our leaders came together three times during the 1990s to reduce our nation’s deficit — three times. They forged historic agreements that required tough decisions made by the first President Bush, then made by President Clinton, by Democratic Congresses and by a Republican Congress. All three agreements asked for shared responsibility and shared sacrifice. But they largely protected the middle class; they largely protected our commitment to seniors; they protected our key investments in our future.

As a result of these bipartisan efforts, America’s finances were in great shape by the year 2000. We went from deficit to surplus. America was actually on track to becoming completely debt free, and we were prepared for the retirement of the Baby Boomers.

But after Democrats and Republicans committed to fiscal discipline during the 1990s, we lost our way in the decade that followed. We increased spending dramatically for two wars and an expensive prescription drug program -– but we didn’t pay for any of this new spending. Instead, we made the problem worse with trillions of dollars in unpaid-for tax cuts -– tax cuts that went to every millionaire and billionaire in the country; tax cuts that will force us to borrow an average of $500 billion every year over the next decade. [Emphasis added]

To give you an idea of how much damage this caused to our nation’s checkbook, consider this: In the last decade, if we had simply found a way to pay for the tax cuts and the prescription drug benefit, our deficit would currently be at low historical levels in the coming years.

But that’s not what happened. And so, by the time I took office, we once again found ourselves deeply in debt and unprepared for a Baby Boom retirement that is now starting to take place. When I took office, our projected deficit, annually, was more than $1 trillion. On top of that, we faced a terrible financial crisis and a recession that, like most recessions, led us to temporarily borrow even more.

[...]

It’s a vision that says America can’t afford to keep the promise we’ve made to care for our seniors.  It says that 10 years from now, if you’re a 65-year-old who’s eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today.  It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher.  And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy the insurance that’s available in the open marketplace, well, tough luck -– you’re on your own.  Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.

It’s a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit.  Who are these 50 million Americans?  Many are somebody’s grandparents — may be one of yours — who wouldn’t be able to afford nursing home care without Medicaid.  Many are poor children.  Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s syndrome.  Some of these kids with disabilities are — the disabilities are so severe that they require 24-hour care.  These are the Americans we’d be telling to fend for themselves.

And worst of all, this is a vision that says even though Americans can’t afford to invest in education at current levels, or clean energy, even though we can’t afford to maintain our commitment on Medicare and Medicaid, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy.  Think about that.

In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90 percent of all working Americans actually declined.  Meanwhile, the top 1 percent saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each.  That’s who needs to pay less taxes?

They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 33 seniors each to pay $6,000 more in health costs.  That’s not right.  And it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President.  (Applause.)

This vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America.  Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing “serious” or “courageous” about this plan.  There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.  And I don’t think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill.  That’s not a vision of the America I know. [Emphasis added]

That’s right our current economic situation is George W. Bush and the GOP’s fault.  And it’s hurting working and middle class Americans and benefits the wealthy.  And the GOP wants to make our economy worse for working and middle class Americans and even more beneficial to the wealthy.

[UPDATE]: It’s good to see Obama doing what all successful liberal President’s have done:

  • Got to make people feel good.
  • No liberal regime has ever succeeded in American History without successfully stigmatizing the conservatism that preceded it as a failure that ruined ordinary people’s lives.
  • A transformational Democratic president must be a credible defender of the economic interests of ordinary Americans to a preponderance of those ordinary Americans sufficient to push through their distrust of cosmopolitan liberals as such. (Anti Big Business Populism).
  • No liberal regime has ever succeeded in American History without successfully stigmatizing it’s opposition as extreme, as alien, as strange, as frightening to ordinary Americans who want order in their lives.

 

Rachel Maddow did a great job breaking down what was good about it.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

She also spoke to Dean Baker a little later, who brought up a little of Krugman’s concern (see first update), that this is as fare left as this debate will get.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Also be sure and check out 9 Things The Rich Don’t Want You To Know About Taxes.

In the end, it was a great speech by a politician, that’s it.  Nothing, has been done yet, and doing nothing might actually might be the best plan for our budget.  The point is Obama has made great speeches before, and promises before, and not followed through.  Forgive me but I’ll save the praise for when this gets done.

04.13.11

Gerrymandering Wilco

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, Commentary, Had Enough Yet?, Redistricting, Right Wing Lies, Williamson County at 10:57 pm by dembones

PLANH113 proposed HD149

Rep. Solomon's gerrymandering work of dark art

UPDATE: HD33 in Corpus Christi elected a Republican? This blog previously reported that Rep. Raul Torres (R-Corpus Christi) is a popular Democrat. Apparently he is neither. I regret the error and corrected the post accordingly.

House redistricting committee chair Burt Solomons’ proposed state House district map was published this evening (PLANH133), and the dread certainly was justified. Williamson County, after record growth in the last decade, was entitled to two full state House districts and about half of a third. The one-third that Republican map-makers carved is a serpentine strip running along the Travis-Williamson county line from one end to the other, at some points dwindling to a strip of land just large enough for the Dell headquarters — one quarter mile.

To either end of this meandering strip of real estate, Solomons attached Milam and Burnet counties, bringing the total population of the brand new 110-mile wide House District 149 to 167,059 residents. Although the strip from Williamson County is narrow, it cuts through some of our most densely populated and minority communities. About 30 percent of the nearly 100 thousand Williamson County residents in the proposed HD149 are Hispanic or African-American.

Solomons’ map, should it eventually pass, would result in denying those 100 thousand Williamson County residents a voice, because whichever Republican moves into the district to run for it will be able to count on the rural portions of the bulging ends of this dumbbell-shaped monstrosity to deliver an easy 10-point victory, if they vote in 2012 as they did in 2010.

Williamson County, or at least the sliver of it that has been slashed away and paired with two rural counties, was one of the biggest losers in Solomons’ disgraceful map, but the atrocities do not stop there. In Houston, Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-137) and Rep. Hubert Vo (D-149) were drawn into a single elongated district in southwest Harris County. And in Corpus Christi, Rep. Raul Torres (R-33) was squeezed into the same district with Rep. Connie Scott (R-34), the map lines reaching out carefully to carve out Torres’ neighborhood.

Those who justify this take-no-prisoners, extremely partisan redistricting process by declaring it one of the spoils of victory are oblivious to the damage their power grabbing is doing to our democracy. The Great Recession has disproportionately hit working families, Latino and African-American communities harder than the rest of the population. If you were barely making ends meet in 2007, you’re now either out of work, or facing cut-backs and benefit reductions, longer hours and more stress. The base of the Democratic party is too beleaguered by economic terror to exercise its political might at the ballot box, as evidenced by the anemic voter turnout in Nov. 2010 among these constituencies.

Texas 2010 VAP participation

source: U. S. Census, 2010; and Texas Legislative Council

This map further disenfranchises the majority of hard working Americans, who depend upon an education system that is being dismantled and sold for scrap by a crew of millionaires whose kids go to private school, and their pathological fundamentalist homeschooling minions. Republicans made up about 15 percent of the voting age population in 2010, but through their endless maze of disenfranchisement: making it harder to register, harder to vote, and slicing them into districts that lean Republican; then flooding the right-wing candidate with political contributions from Bob Perry and James Leininger, it is no wonder that our voices continue to be drowned out at the ballot box.

We needed FDR, did we get Hoover instead?

Posted in Around The Nation, Commentary, The Economy at 11:10 am by wcnews

It’s really hard for me to understand why the really simple arguments are not made. Especially regarding our current economic situation. It’s pretty simple to understand that over the last 40 years as the New Deal regulations were taken off the financial sector, and taxes became extremely low on the wealthy and corporations, deficits ballooned, wages decreased, and inequality increased to levels not seen since the Great Depression.

It would make sense, it would seem, that the best way back to a more fair economic system would be to tax the rich and corporations, re-regulate the financial sector, and putting people back to work at a living wage, would be the best way to fix our current economic insecurity. And the fact that those things are not even in the realm of possibility of being discussed by our elected leaders means that we are still a long way from where we need to be.

Job creation should be the priority of every elected representative in our country and state, and the silence on that issue is deafening. Not to mention that doing nothing would be a much better policy position than anything that’s been proposed in Washington thus far. Here’s the graphic representation:

As Paul Krugman asked in his most recent Op-Ed, The President Is Missing, “What have they done with the Presidnet?”

What have they done with President Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn’t seem to stand for anything in particular?

[...]

Among other things, the latest budget deal more than wipes out any positive economic effects of the big prize Mr. Obama supposedly won from last December’s deal, a temporary extension of his 2009 tax cuts for working Americans. And the price of that deal, let’s remember, was a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts, at an immediate cost of $363 billion, and a potential cost that’s much larger — because it’s now looking increasingly likely that those irresponsible tax cuts will be made permanent.

More broadly, Mr. Obama is conspicuously failing to mount any kind of challenge to the philosophy now dominating Washington discussion — a philosophy that says the poor must accept big cuts in Medicaid and food stamps; the middle class must accept big cuts in Medicare (actually a dismantling of the whole program); and corporations and the rich must accept big cuts in the taxes they have to pay. Shared sacrifice!

I’m not exaggerating. The House budget proposal that was unveiled last week — and was praised as “bold” and “serious” by all of Washington’s Very Serious People — includes savage cuts in Medicaid and other programs that help the neediest, which would among other things deprive 34 million Americans of health insurance. It includes a plan to privatize and defund Medicare that would leave many if not most seniors unable to afford health care. And it includes a plan to sharply cut taxes on corporations and to bring the tax rate on high earners down to its lowest level since 1931.

And as Paul Waldman wrote after Obama announced his latest budget “deal” to benefit the wealthy, It’s only going to get worse.

It would have been nice if when announcing the budget deal, President Obama had set aside the politician’s natural inclination to declare victory and his own preference for casting himself as the adult who settles things between the squabbling children. He could have said something like this: “The deal we just made is preferable to a government shutdown, which would have been truly disastrous. But nobody should mistake it for anything but the tragedy it is. As a result of the cuts Republicans have forced, people who rely on government services will suffer, and the economy will lose jobs. The Republicans held the government hostage, and we had no choice but to pay the ransom.”

Of course, by now we all know that Barack Obama just doesn’t talk that way. But considering future budget negotiations, it might help if he started to. In May, we will need to raise the debt ceiling to enable the government to borrow more money, and in the fall, Congress begins work on the 2012 budget. In part because the president has presumed, in line with conservatives, that we ought to be cutting spending, those debates will proceed entirely on Republicans’ terms. The only question will be which Democratic priorities, programs, and constituencies will be spared and which will be gutted.

There are alternatives to the current policy direction that has been taken. But, I realized a while ago, that Obama is not into confrontation. It’s just not who he is. He believes in trying to find the “mythical center” on every issue, which doesn’t exist. His capitulation negotiation style, if it can be called that, just keeps moving our country further and further to the right and it’s unacceptable.

Since the passage of the too small stimulus bill in early 2009 Obama’s economic policy has been more like Hoover’s, then like that of FDR, which is what we needed. As this article points our the FDR vs. Hoover argument continues, FDR, Herbert Hoover and the New Deal argument that still animates American politics today.

They and others under the Hoover Institution umbrella are today’s intellectual sword-bearers in the Grand Duel between America’s 31st and 32nd presidents, which survived Roosevelt’s 1945 death and Hoover’s 1964 passing. The Duel is a constant presence in the daily discourse of the modern era. In 2009, for example, the New York Times’ Adam Cohen rebuked conservative talk show host Monica Crowley for her contention that the New Deal actually prolonged the Great Depression, an exemplar of popular, modern Hooverite doggerel. For his part, Cohen took this as a not so veiled assault on Obama economics — a viewpoint, according to Cohen, that neither the Americans of the 1930s nor their modern-day heirs would buy. “They knew,” wrote Cohen, “that FDR was on their side in a way that Herbert Hoover and his fellow free marketers hadn’t been.”

And there lies the problem in our current debate. Who today is on their side? It’s apparent that no one, with any real power, is willing to step out of the corporate shadow and be on the side of  the least in our society, the poor, the elderly,  and the disabled.  As well as working and middle class Americans who need Roosevelt’s “Economic Bill of Rights” now more than ever.

There is a proven model out there about how to put Americans back to work and bring economic security back to our country and keep the middle class in America from being taught in History class.  We don’t need the “Bold, persistent experimentation” of the 1930’s, we already know what works. Jobs first, higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations, and the economic security will flow from that.

Further reading:

Investing in America’s Economy.

The People’s Budget.

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