05.23.11

GOP nirvana

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Health Care, Public Schools, Taxes at 11:08 am by wcnews

The true purpose of the 2006 GOP tax swap is now becoming a reality.  It was to create a budget shortfall/crisis, that could then be used to fulfill a long sought political agenda  It truly is what they’ve been hoping for, for generations. GOP Nirvana, more commonly known as “Starve the Beast”. Which essentially is that the GOP would drive up deficits so high, (or in Texas’ case projected budget shortfalls), that they would be left with “no choice” but to cut extremely popular public and social programs.

But the two programs, which are the most popular programs, also do the most good.  Education and heath care, more than anything else, help people out of and keep people out of poverty.  They are also the two public programs the GOP hates the most.  Two tax supported government programs that work.  They have long been seen Medicare and public education as frivolous and wasteful. They mistakenly believe that both of these programs, along with most other government services, should be given over to the private sector, privatized, so they can be run better and for profit.

But having no choice or no other option, is a matter of opinion, and is about how, or if, the options are presented and framed. Check out the results of today’s Texas Tribune poll. It purportedly tells us that registered voters in Texas are “stuck” between two supposedly equally bad choices, cutting needed programs and raising revenue/taxes in general.

Four months of hearing about the state’s budget problems hasn’t changed the minds of Texas voters. According to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, registered voters still want lawmakers to cut the budget, but they still oppose the major cuts in education and health and human services that cutting the budget requires.

[...]

Voters want the cuts — until specific programs are on the chopping block. Poll respondents were asked, on a scale of 0 to 10, whether they preferred to balance the next budget with spending cuts, by raising revenues or with something in between. The answers this time were about the same as in our February poll, with only 4 percent choosing to balance the books with new revenue and 18 percent saying it should all be done with cuts. Another 18 percent landed right in the middle. Broken down by political preferences, the average Democrat landed at 5.8 on the scale, or close to the middle but a little on the side of raising revenue. The average Republican scored 2.3 — much closer to the budget-cutting end of the scale. And the average independent was a budget cutter, too, scoring 3.6 on average.

[...]

When asked about specific cuts, those voters show their divided preferences. An overwhelming 85 percent oppose cuts to public education; 90 percent don’t want to cut the Children’s Health Insurance Program; 86 percent say no to cutting payments to Medicaid providers like doctors and hospitals; 93 percent want to avoid cuts to nursing home funding; and 84 percent are unwilling to cut funding for border security.

Other cuts were less unpopular but still don’t sit well with a majority of voters. Seventy-three percent say the state shouldn’t cut its share of higher education funding; 60 percent oppose pre-kindergarten funding cuts; 72 percent oppose cutting grants to college students; 65 percent would leave the state’s share of teacher and public employee pensions alone; 68 percent oppose ending state environmental regulation and leaving it to the federal government; 70 percent would not close an adult prison; 69 percent would not close a juvenile prison; and 72 percent wouldn’t cut funding for new highway construction.

After reading this article we are left with a feeling of frustration and that all we have are two choices, cut needed programs or raise taxes in general, and no one wants to do either. But those are not, generally speaking, the only two choices we have. We have a myriad of options, and a tax structure in Texas that is backward, harmful, and corrupt.

What is left out of this poll and our politics in Texas and nationally as well, is any mention of whether the public would be willing to raise specific taxes, on specific income levels that are not paying their fair share.  What is known as  progressive taxation. The is very little, if any mention, of how regressive our tax structure is in Texas. Here is a very simple definition:  Progressive tax, the more you earn, the higher your tax rate; Regressive tax, the less you earn, the higher your tax rate.

In the next poll there should be several questions similar to these, it would be very illuminating to see the results.

Are you aware that the weatlhy and corporations in Texas pay very little in taxes as compared to how much poor,working and middle class Texans pay?

Do you think the wealthy and corporations in Texas should pay at least as much in taxes as poor, working and middle class Texans?

If you knew we could pay to cover the budget shortfall we are facing in Texas, and we wouldn’t have to cut public education and needed social programs, if only the wealthy and corporations would paid their fair share of taxes, as much as poor, working and middle class Texans, would you be in favor of that?

Now those questions above are just about the “political” aspect of taxation. Nothing about the moral aspect of taxation. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more (Luke 12:48). And, “I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me”, (Matthew 25:40).

In our current political and policy decisions we have chosen to put the accumulation of wealth ahead of all else. We will not allow one cent of accumulated excess – the so-called Rainy Day Fund – to be spent, so that a political ideology of gutting public education and Medicare, and many other programs that help the least brothers, can be fulfilled. GOP Nirvana indeed.

Texas Blog Round Up (May 23, 2011)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 9:00 am by wcnews

The entire membership of the Texas Progressive Alliance was actually raptured this past weekend, but thanks to our foresight and the scheduling capabilities of our blogging software we were able to put together a weekly roundup for you anyway. Because that’s the kind of bloggers we are.

The Lege reached a budget deal on Friday. Off the Kuff explains why it is a bad deal for Texas.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson in stating that “..by and large, Republicans aren’t as racist as they are greedy” makes the point that we must adopt a new form of populism in Texas.

At TexasKaos, lightseeker seeks to explain why Snake Oil is not a cure for evaluating teachers of for improving public education. Check out Snake Oil, Classrooms and Teacher Evaluations.

Nat-Wu of Three Wise Men takes another in-depth look at Irving politics.

This week, McBlogger says that Democrats joined with Republicans in the House in a bipartisan effort to screw every Texan.

Public school funding and the Texas legislature get set to go back to the future — as in litigation. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs finds a twelve-year-old column from Mollly Ivins that both rehashes and pre-cogs the details.

refinish69 asks WTF? President Obama is Now Talking Drill, Baby, Drill?

Neil at Texas Liberal noted a new study that said billions of planets are flying around the galaxy that are not in the orbit of any star.

05.20.11

Why are these guys laughing?

Posted in 82nd Legislature, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Had Enough Yet?, The Budget, The Lege at 1:35 pm by wcnews

Why are these guys so happy?  Obviously they think screwing over poor, working, and middle class Texans is fun!

Here’s the full list of citations for all the facts in the video from GOPPricetag.com:

“The Texas GOP Chose to Decimate Our Educational System”
$9.8 Billion Cut From Public Schools – Texas Tribune

41% Cut from State Grants for Higher Education – KXTS

State Grants for Pre-K Programs Eliminated – Texas Tribune

“Instead of Choosing to Close Tax Loopholes”

Texas budget passes without Demos – El Paso Times

“The Texas GOP Chose to Put Texans Out of Work”

GOP Budget Will Cost Texas 335,000 Jobs – Business Week

12,372 Public Education Jobs Lost Since January 2011:

12,353 Fewer Public School Jobs In Texas (And Counting) – Burnt Orange Report

“Instead of Choosing to Close Oil and Gas Industry Tax Loopholes Worth Billions”

Lawmakers choose tax break for gas producers over schools – San Antonio Express News

“The Texas GOP Chose to Slash Medicaid”

Texas Nursing Homes Concerned Over Medicaid Cuts – Houston Chronicle

Yacht Tax Break:
Republicans propose tax breaks for yacht owners – Minnesota Independent


Here’s the latest from Legetv.org series Real People, Real Consequences.

Must See TV – Starve The Beast

Posted in Around The Nation, Bad Government Republicans, Commentary, Right Wing Lies, The Budget at 11:40 am by wcnews

Lawrence O’Donnell is at this best when he does things like this. He does an outstanding job of showing how over the course of the last 60 or so years the GOP has been transformed from a party of balanced budgets to massive deficit spending. A transformation that has, unfortunately, taken our country with them. In the eyes of modern day GOP the ends, massive deficts, justify the means, massive tax cuts for the rich and corporations as the rest of the country suffers.

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

But as Digby highlights from O’Donnell’s segment, the complicity and impotence of Democrats to combat this over the years is the true tragedy.

… And that is why, in this, the first 21st century round of the deficit reduction game in Washington, the Republicans have already won. Ronald Reagan never dreamed the Republicans could initiate a debate and actually vote on a bill that dismantles Medicare, and be applauded as serious for doing so. The political question is no longer how much will we cut Medicare, the political question now is will we dismantle Medicare? Will we repeal it?

It was a little over a year ago that Democrats passed the single biggest expansion of Medicaid in its history as part of a health care reform bill that increased health care spending for the population that is not eligible for Medicare. And now the Democrats health care fight is about whether they can keep Medicare alive, the most popular health care program the government has ever run.

Can Democrats even keep it alive? No Democrat thought they were ever, ever going to have to fight that fight. Not until this year did democrats notice how well the starve the beast strategy was working. Many of them did not realize how much they had participated in it themselves, some who voted for the Bush tax cuts, the single most effective starve the beast vote ever cast are now fighting to save Medicare. Their vote to starve the beast under George W. Bush was easy. But they have by now discovered that saving Medicare will not be so easy.

I don’t know who the Democrats who voted for the Bush tax cuts and are now fighting to save Medicare are, but I have my doubts about the latter. I think those who voted for the Bush tax cuts are either standard corporate lackeys or political hacks who don’t care one way or the other about government programs, they just wear the blue jersey because it’s convenient. At this point we have to count on sheer political opportunism to make the Democrats fight to save Medicare — Ryan handed them a potent weapon if they choose to use it.

But the rest of O’Donnell’s piece is correct and it’s worth listening to his recitation of the historical moments leading up to this to understand exactly how their plan worked. These deficits grew because the Republicans and their Democratic enablers cut taxes and destroyed the economy. Now they finally have their moment to enact their long sought spending cuts. Making Democrats do their dirty work for them is just frosting on the cake.

I don’t think taxes have to be off the table. Bush Sr raised them in 1990 and Bill Clinton raised them in 1993. But it’s hard and it will take a piece of political hide out of the President and congress that does it. I had expected that the newly elected Democratic president with his historic mandate and Democratic congress would have immediately taken action to ensure that the tax cuts for the wealthy under Bush would expire. That could have been fairly easily done by extending the middle class tax cuts under the Stimulus Plan. (It didn’t happen, I suspect, because there were delusions of a Grand Bargain.)

At any rate, he’s right that the current problem is the result of 30 years of relentless, demagogic, anti-tax rhetoric. You can call them crazy if you want but this has to be one of the most successful, long term conservative movement projects in history. Of course, head anti-tax activist Grover Norquist is the guy who greatly admired Lenin’s tactics, (as did the CATO and Heritage institutes) so they understood exactly what it was going to take.

Good stuff. It was St. Ronnie who sold this phony BS, Laugher Curve, Voodoo Economics to a generation of Americans that was used to buying products from TV pitchmen. It’s time we went back to the days when the rich and corporations paid their fair share of taxes. That’s all it would take to get rid of the deficits, nothing else.

05.19.11

The Koch-baggers are wilting in the heat of session

Posted in 82nd Legislature, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Commentary, Had Enough Yet?, Right Wing Lies, The Budget, The Lege at 11:40 am by wcnews

The pundits in Texas, aka the “Texas Village”, are starting to turn against the Koch-baggers.  They are the previously known as, and celebrated by the villagers, tea party GOP freshmen in the legislature.  (BTW, the only thing villagers like doing more then building something up, is tearing it down.)  The way Burka describes it the Koch-baggers certainly look like cowards.

Another holdup is that the Republican caucus doesn’t want to vote on 1811 (the fiscal matters bill) until a deal is reached on the budget. It seems that there are some amendments that caucus members don’t want to vote on at all — like school vouchers. They want the cover of an agreement so they won’t have to take any tough votes.

Oh, the poor dears. I feel so sorry for them. Did the Tea Parties back home neglect to tell them that people who run for the Legislature sometimes have to make decisions, and that those decisions are recorded for everyone to see–and some of them might turn out to be unpopular? Did they think that they were going to come here and pass Voter I.D., state sovereignty, and sanctuary cities, but, don’t worry, nobody cares what you do about public schools and health care and higher ed? Do they think that getting primaried is something that happens to other people? Doesn’t Ogden understand that the House freshmen came here to march, Sherman-like, from Austin to the sea through the state budget, laying waste to the countryside? What is this talk about voting? And this thing called “governing?” Where did that come from? Why should we have to vote? We know what the people want. We’re just here to ratify it. We were there on November 2. Those were days. Defeated Democrats strewn over the landscape. An impregnable supermajority. This voting is messy stuff. A person could get embarrassed voting. Why, a person could even … don’t say it out loud … get beat. We didn’t sign on for that.

Campaigning is fun. Governing is serious. Welcome to reality.

Also, Harvey Kronberg points out (QR:  see Backstory on the Meltdown), many of the tea party freshman are scared of voting against their campaign donors.  Many of them took the Koch money (Empower Texans) to fund their campaigns in 2010. The question is, will the dare go against it now and vote to use the ESF money?

Separately, sources who were at the Caucus meeting downstairs tell QR that there is growing frustration among House Republicans. There is little support for taking up any of the fiscal matters bills, taking truly painful votes on hundreds of amendments only to possibly see the bill vetoed over what the Governor has called, “accounting tricks”.

Plus, those hundreds of amendments hold the seeds of direct mail attacks, savage robocalls and smear radio and TV in the next primary and general. Just look at the track record of the folks at Empower Texans or a half dozen campaign consultants.

The current situation is close to what we predicted at the beginning of the session. We wrote months ago that veteran lawmakers would ultimately opt for the rainy day fund rather than raise taxes or cripple the largest employer in the districts. Plus, suburban Republicans know or are learning that voters deliberately moved into their districts for the schools. The question boiled down, we wrote, as to whether the freshmen would come to understand the power of their stakeholders – in this case parents and teachers.

One freshman characterized his fellow first-termers as increasingly frustrated that the rainy day fund was off limits.

This all seems ludicrous and as we’ve written about before, (see The Show), pointless. It’s pretty clear that whether it is done in a week, a month, or 18 months from now, ESF money will be used for the 2012-2013 budget. But timing is everything. While the Koch-baggers are being held hostage by their mega-donors and ideology, the time will come when they will have to choose between them and a vote for the ESF.

Others in the village are starting to point out what’s been evident for years in Texas. We are a state without leadership, Short on money and shorter on leadership.

Which brings us to the House. Members of the GOP’s 2-to-1 majority were all sorts of distressed Wednesday. Some grumbled that their resistance to using the rainy day fund had been overestimated. Others were irked that one of their colleagues was moving toward a floor vote on a private-school voucher plan, which could cause them headaches in a primary or general-election campaign.

Most importantly, House members had little information about the must-pass legislation cutting the amount of money that the state owes school districts. School finance is historically a complicated task, chock-full of unintended consequences, that sometimes takes years to solve. But because the House did little to address school finance in the first 18 weeks of its 20-week session, members are rushing — and struggling — to tackle it now, even prompting a member of Straus’ leadership team to fret openly about “flying fairly blind” on the issue.

Lack of leadership indeed, and it’s been that way for years. The GOP in Texas runs the whole show, and they can’t agree among themselves. Their fake “free market”, government is the problem, ideological BS is filled with future political peril. And they know it, because even they can’t bring themselves to vote for it. This must mean that what they ran on in 2010 was just political pandering to a small fringe of voters in Texas.

How else is there to explain what they’ve been saying all along? They said that the voters of Texas elected them to cut, cut, cut, not use the ESF, and not raise taxes or fees. They’ve passed that budget in the House, and because of fear, the GOP can’t pass it through the legislative process – of which they control everything – and send it to the governor. Why not? Either they believe it or they don’t. Either it’s what the people want or it isn’t. If it was what the people want then they shouldn’t be worried about political repercussions. If it isn’t then they are in a lot of trouble.

Further reading:
CPPP Sums up the case for using the Rainy Day Fund for 2012-2013.
Fears mount in Texas Legislature of special session on redistricting.

05.18.11

The latest on the budget

Posted in 82nd Legislature, Around The State, The Budget at 4:37 pm by wcnews

There is much consternation surrounding our state’s budget today between GOP politicians in Texas.  It is a very fluid situation, which seems to fluctuate between a situation of potential hope, and total breakdown. Right now we seem to be in one of the breakdown phases.  Sen. Ogden is getting frustrated.

As he walked through the west side of the Capitol today, a frustrated Sen. Steve Ogden said he expects a special session.

The House cannot pass a school bill, and it cannot pass a major fiscal matters bill, Senate Bill 1811 — with its hundreds of amendments.

At least get them to conference, the Senate’s finance chief pleaded.

“The fact that neither bills are moving means that (a) special session almost is a certainty,” the Republican from Bryan said this afternoon.

While Ogden certainly isn’t the one to call the shots in the House, he seemed quite sure that SB 1811 wasn’t getting through the House today. He also noted that House members have yet to pass a school bill.

In a somewhat mocking imitation of a House member, he said: “We don’t want to take tough votes because if we don’t get a budget, it’s just going to be bad for us.” [Emphasis added]

He added: “It’s politics at its worst, is what it is.”

With the GOP willing to break tradition on so many issues this session, it’s  instructive that they can’t the agree amongst themselves on how to pass a budget.  It’s safe to assume that many, but not a majority in both chambers, and the governor, are solid behind the wing nut House budget. It’s likely that the rest of the GOP is stuck, needing a better budget, with no way to get there that’s palatable to the wing nuts.

To be clear, this is a fight between the Republicans in Texas, no one else is involved.

Expect to hear more in the coming days about how far away, yet close they are to a deal, Ogden, Straus Differ On Texas State Budget Progress.

As soon as House members re-convened on the floor, House Speaker Joe Straus walked into a closed-door meeting. As members of the press trailed him, the speaker said, “We’re close and we’ve been close, but we’re not there.”

[...]

When asked if he anticipated a special session, Straus said, “We’re not anticipating anything beyond May 30th. We’re going to keep working.”

Either chamber’s budget, at this point, would be a disaster for any Texan that is not rich or a corporation. Here’s the video of Democratic state Rep. Mike Villarreal grilling GOP House Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts yesterday on the House floor.

Here’s Villarreal’s statement from yesterday.

“I am pleased to hear that additional revenue will be available to help meet the state’s needs. However, even with the new revenue, the proposed budget would crowd more children into classrooms, force universities to raise tuition, and decimate the health research universities that serve as economic engines. It would be a grave mistake to think the additional money is an excuse for Senators to give up on funding education or for Representatives to give up on passing the non-tax revenue bill scheduled for tomorrow. We are still far short of a budget that our schoolchildren deserve. With the Rainy Day Fund now growing even larger, it is appalling that the Legislature would rather slash support for our children’s classrooms than use a dime of our savings account.”

While the final sticking point, from what the GOP is saying, is on public education funding, there is some real bad stuff, accounting tricks, etc.., in the parts of the budget. Especially Health and Human Services, from Nick Blakeslee Ghost Rider.

As the Morning News’s Bob Garrett reported this morning, the question of funny money came up at last night’s first public hearing of the budget conference committee. The budget only balances if billions of dollars worth of hoped-for Medicaid savings materialize, and Sylvester Turner questioned LBB officials on how likely that was to occur. He never got a good answer.

Among the shakiest of these assumed savings are found in Rider 60 (page II-94 of CSHB1), which calls on HHSC commissioner Tom Suehs to request from the Obama administration a variety of Medicaid waivers–that is, permission to operate outside of the federally designated rules of the program–to allow us to deliver services more efficiently and hopefully save money.

As Rep. Villarreal stated in the video above, it is extremely unlikely that the federal government would give Texas these waivers.

The budget in Texas is far from complete and the back and forth continues.

Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, asked Pitts if Gov. Rick Perry’s statement Tuesday denouncing dependence on “accounting gimmicks” to balance the budget is bad, very bad.

The usually unflappable Pitts brushed off Gallego’s question but in doing so revealed that Senate budget chief Steve Ogden’s comments ticked him off .

“I’m not going to discount anything the governor says and I’m not going to discount anything that my counterpart in the Senate in the back of the [House] chamber says,” said Pitts, R-Waxahachie. “We’re trying to work out an agreement, Pete.”

Moments later, Ogden appeared in the House chamber.

As reporters circled, Ogden said, “I talked to y’all and I got in trouble. I’m not going to talk to y’all. I’m here to talk to Pitts.”

Ogden then walked up to Pitts near the House dais, and presumably apologized. He wouldn’t confirm it later but their body language suggested yet another emotional high of budget negotiations 2011 is … now … behind us. Maybe.

POSTSCRIPT: Ogden spoke with reporters (yet again!) and said, “I don’t think we’re that far apart on public school funding.”

Geez!! This is getting comical.  The sad part is that our budget crisis in Texas could be solved very easily. Ending some of the $32 billion dollars annually in tax exemptions, especially those that hit the wealthy and corporations.  And using the Economic Stabilization Fund, aka the Rainy Day Fund, the way it was meant to be used.

Further reading.
The Texas Legislature is ‘a house divided against itself’.
CPPP Statement on Fiscal Matter and Revenue Estimate.

We must adopt a new form of populism in Texas

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 9:20 am by wcnews

There’s a reason why Republicans start to whine about “class warfare” whenever anyone points out the GOP’s close ties to the rich and corporations.  Because it is the GOP’s open secret, their Achilles Heel, and the truth hurts them.  If you look at any GOP proposal it is likely that screwing the poor, the working and middle class, in order to benefit the rich and corporations, is at the heart of it.

We can go through this with a couple of bills that are almost finished working their way through the legislature this session. One is the Texas Photo ID law, aka Voter ID, and the other is the so-called “Sanctuary Cities” bill. Both bills have caused considerable partisan discord over the issue of race. That discord over race keeps the parties fighting over that issue while the greedy culprits get away scot-free.

Both of these bills in essence keep the lower classes fighting with each other over racial issues, while the wealthy class gets what it wants. Mostly the continuation of a right wing legislature that is friendly to the rich and corporations low tax interests. The Texas Photo ID bill is meant to keep fewer traditionally Democratic voters from voting in future elections. Whether through implied intimidation or through just making it harder for the poor and the elderly to cast a ballot.

And the sanctuary cities bill has a multi-pronged effect. It does nothing to stop the flow, or punish those who employ and take advantage of, the cheap labor that comes across the border to work. But it’s not just that. There is an entire billion dollar industry that is profiting from taxpayers to incarcerate and detain these workers.

This video will help everyone get up to speed:

To learn more about the corporate-funded group ALEC and the corporate scheme to profit from taxpayers, read these two items, Immigrants For Sale, and, Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law. In Texas, former House Speaker and state Rep. Tom Craddick is the past President of ALEC. Current state legislators Rep. Charlie Howard, Rep. Jim Jackson, and Sen. Kel Seliger are the current state chairmen in Texas.

While there is much to like about what Bob Moser has to say in his column about how race is playing into the current legislative session, The White-Power Legislature.  A better way to put it is that, by and large, Republicans aren’t as racist as they are greedy. Althoguh these statistics regarding public education and Medicare are beyond disturbing.

I’m not suggesting anything conspiratorial here—Heaven forbid!—but it does seem mighty suspicious that school funding is being decimated at a time when Texas schools are “browning” at a rapid pace. In the last decade, Hispanic enrollment in public schools jumped by 50 percent, with 775,000 more students. Meanwhile, 6 percent fewer Anglo students are enrolled, as well-off whites opt for private schools. Why is public-school funding less of a priority for Anglo legislators nowadays? You do the math.

It’s much the same with Medicaid. Of the 3.5 million non-elderly Texans who rely on Medicaid for their health care, 63 percent are Hispanic; just 18 percent are Anglo. Five times more Anglos have health insurance through their employers than African Americans. Fifty-nine percent of Texans without health insurance are Hispanic; 26 percent are Anglo. So why are Anglo legislators hell-bent on decimating Medicaid? Here again, you can do the math.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether our lawmakers are motivated by blatant prejudice or “unconscious habit.” The toll that their slash-and-burn budget will take on Hispanics and African Americans is clear. It’s horrifying. It’s unconscionable. And it will, eventually, wreak economic disaster on the entire state, with millions more poorly educated, unhealthy citizens. That’s why the budget must be recognized, and called out loud and clear, for what it is: white supremacy masquerading as economic conservatism.

Race is always a touchy subject, and this is not an attempt, in any way, to discount the issue of race in the current legislative session. But instead that race is a means to an end. The end is that the rich and corporations are trying to keep the lower classes fighting amongst themselves while they keep their money and are left unscathed.

The best plan so far to combat this comes from a recent post at Booman Tribune. It points out that Democrats cannot give up on white voters, and just sit back and wait for demographics to bring them back to political relevance in the South. They must actively begin working to bring about a new form of populism, Deep South Dems Need a New Model.  (Wherever it says “Alabama” just substitute “Texas”).

In my humble Yankee opinion, the only way for Alabama Democrats to overcome the racial/Christianized/anti-Washington rhetoric of Fox News, talk radio, and the GOP is to adopt a competing form of populism. Effective populism in Alabama probably has to be presented in a scriptural context. One of Jesus’s favorite words was “hypocrites,” and it’s a word that should used liberally to describe how the Republicans operate as the party of big business and corporate interests while pretending to represent core American values. It’s easy for people to understand hypocrisy when they see someone like David Vitter espousing family values while he frequents brothels behind his wife’s back. But is Sen. Richard Shelby any less of a whore-monger the way he serves the banking industry? If Republicans make bashing Washington DC their mantra, the Democrats should do the same with Wall Street. The mantra is “they’re ripping you off, and the Republicans are in bed with them.”

Alabama Democrats should be promising to go after the mortgage industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance industry, the too-big-to-fail fat cats that game the system so that they make money when we lose it.

There is no point in playing defense on God, gays, guns, and immigration. All of that is a distraction so people won’t realize they’re being ripped off. That is all Fox News and hate radio is, too. Don’t get played for a sucker. Don’t be a dupe of The Man.

But being anti-corporate doesn’t mean being anti-business. Democrats need to be the party of youth. Young adults want brew pubs, and they want to be able to buy a six-pack or a growler and take it home with them. They want college loans and grants. They’re not as conservative about race or gays. Democrats need to aggressively fight for a youth agenda, and brand the GOP as the party of old folks. Republicans are uptight. They’re stuck in the mud. They’re not cool. They’re always trying to tell you what to do, but they do what they want when no one is looking.

I think there is an opportunity for strands of progressivism in the Deep South, too. Certainly, getting Wall Street money out of elections is an acceptable rhetorical position to take down there.

What I am confident about is that the Democrats will continue to lose in Alabama, and lose badly, if they don’t adopt an alternative form of populism. The Blue Dog model is good for attracting campaign financing, but that’s the problem. If the Democrats are the party of not only Washington but Wall Street as well, then the GOP is actually a little better. And, since the GOP’s positions on social issues comport better with Alabama’s sensibilities, it’s really not a contest.

Populism is the only answer for Democrats in the Deep South.

What needs to happen is the lower classes in Texas need to transform racism, and do what Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was trying to do when he was assassinated.  Bring the poor, the lower classes together to fight for a more economically fair, just, and equal society.

Somewhere along the line Democracy and Capitalism, in the minds of many, became the same thing, but they are not. Democracy is a political system and Capitalism is an economic system.  And they are oftentimes at odds with each other.  Democracy is a rule by many.  Capitalism allows wealth, and therefore power, to accumulate in hands of the few.

While racism may not be what drives Republican policies, they don’t mind being thought racist, if it allows them to obscure their pro-rich, pro-corporate, policy initiatives.  The only way to combat this is by adopting a new form of populism in Texas.

05.17.11

The vouchers are coming – more Koch money in Texas

Posted in 82nd Legislature, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Education, Had Enough Yet?, Public Schools, Right Wing Lies, Take Action, The Lege at 9:47 pm by wcnews

It’s not surprising that this the wing nuts are breaking out their voucher scheme to defund public education at the last minute.   They even have a fancy Orwellian name for them, see if you can pick it out.  Via Texas AFT’s Legislative Hotline, Battle Stations! Private-School Vouchers Plus Attacks on Class-Size Caps, Pay Standards, and Contract Safeguards Are on House Agenda Tomorrow—Call Your State Rep!

The Sid Miller voucher amendment, labeled “The Taxpayers’ Savings Grant Program,” would drain dollars from the Foundation School Program for public schools under the cynical pretense of saving taxpayers money, by handing out vouchers to transfer to private school instead of educating schoolchildren in our neighborhood public schools. The false pretense of savings is based on the idea that the voucher amount would be less than the full cost of educating each student in our public schools.

Among other things, here’s what’s wrong with this scheme:

–How can lawmakers even think of creating a VOUCHER ENTITLEMENT PROGRAM at a time when public school budgets are being cut?
–Vouchers don’t save money or help public schools. They divert scarce dollars and drain resources from our already-underfunded public schools. Public schools would be left with fixed costs for required personnel, programs, and infrastructure but with even fewer dollars to fund them.
–These vouchers would not cover the full cost of private tuition and would chiefly serve as tuition subsidies for high-income families.
–Either you’re for accountability or you’re not. The Sid Miller voucher scheme would subsidize with taxpayer dollars private schools that are unaccountable to taxpayers for their financial integrity or for academic quality. The Sid Miller amendment includes zero accountability—zip, nada, no standards, no regulations—for the schools that would receive these taxpayer-funded vouchers. These schools would not face state-approved academic standards, would not have to make their budgets public, would not have to adhere to open-meetings or open-records laws, would not have to publicly report on student achievement, and would not face the public accountability requirements contained in state and federal law, including special-education laws for students with disabilities. These schools also would not have to accept all students—unlike public schools, which must accept all comers.

And the usual list of so-called “free market” wing nuts, with the Koch-fund group a the top of the list, are lining up to support and bankroll this scheme.  More from Texas Freedom Network, Voucher Lobby Targets Texas Public Schools.

Backing the measure is a virtual “who’s who” of anti-public education activists, including the Texas Home School Coalition, Liberty Institute and Tea Party activists. They and their legislative allies are shamelessly claiming that this voucher scheme will save the state money. That’s absurd. The state would be on the hook for the costs of students transferring to private schools as well as students who weren’t even enrolled in public schools to begin with. Moreover, public school districts face costs — such as maintenance and debt — that aren’t determined solely by enrollment numbers. So supposed cost savings from students leaving public schools are exaggerated at best.

In short, this huge loss in funding — on top of deep and painful budget cuts already in the works — would be catastrophic for neighborhood public schools and the students who remain in those classrooms. Who will those students be? Likely low- and middle-income families that can’t afford to cover the gap between the value of a voucher and the actual cost of private school tuition. And how big a hit to public schools are we talking about? Analysts estimated that a proposed voucher scheme in 2005 that was limited to just eight urban school districts could have drained about $600 million from public schools. This new and unlimited voucher scheme could siphon tax dollars from public schools in every district  — rural, suburban and urban — across Texas. The numbers will add up fast.

Legislators in 2007 and 2009 voted overwhelmingly to bar spending any taxpayer dollars on vouchers for private and religious schools. But anti-public education forces regrouped after the November 2010 elections and now are moving to defund the very public schools that educate the vast majority of Texas kids. Even worse, this voucher scheme would send public tax dollars to private and religious schools that are unaccountable to taxpayers. In fact, the proposed amendment includes no standards or regulations at all for schools that take these publicly funded vouchers – it’s simply a tax-dollar giveaway.

Make no mistake — the future of public education in Texas is on the line. Call your representative in the Texas House and insist that he or she vote against this irresponsible voucher scheme. You can find the name of your representative and contact information here.

Again this shouldn’t surprise anyone. This is something the Texas GOP tried to ram through in 2003, the last time that had a large majority in the House. They know they won’t have this big of a majority two years form now, and they’ve already broke tradition in both chambers so they might as well go all the way.

Save Texas Schools Rally – Saturday May 21st

Posted in 82nd Legislature, Around The State, Education, Good Stuff, Public Schools, The Budget, The Lege at 8:56 am by wcnews

This one is different then the rally that was held in March.  This one will be more personal to each member of, and the Legislature as a whole.  Here are the details from Save Texas Schools:

Join us at the State Capitol on May 21!

The legislature will be in session on Saturday to work on the funding bills. Our goal is to have 1,000 or more STS supporters flood the Capitol throughout the day to remind leaders of our priorities.

Our message is, “The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You! We’re watching, we’ll remember and we VOTE!

Volunteers can choose the morning shift (10 am to 1 pm) or afternoon shift (1 to 4 pm).

Here’s what to do to take part:

1. E-mail us at info@savetxschools.org to let us know you’re coming. If you’re bringing a group, give us the approximate number. Also, include which shift you prefer, or whether you will come for the full day.

2. When you arrive, go to the Family Life Center of First United Methodist Church (Family Life Center), 1300 Lavaca St., on the west side of the Capitol. We’ll have t-shirts, printed materials and group assignments. If you have Save Texas Schools shirts already, please bring them!

3. Volunteers will go in groups to approximately 6 offices for 20 minute visits with staff. Our goal is to have each office visited by 8-10 groups. All volunteers will also have the chance to sit in the House or Senate galleries and be a silent witness (though your t-shirt will speak loud and clear). We will also be able to be more vocal in the lobby by the entrance to the House Chamber.

4. We’ll have snacks and drinks at FUMC. The Capitol Grille (cafeteria) will also be open. Parking is plentiful at the State Capitol Visitors parking garage.

5. More questions? Call us at 512-653-4935 or e-mail info@savetxschools.org

There is also a component to this one where anyone can help out from home.

IF YOU CAN”T COME TO THE CAPITOL, YOU CAN STILL TAKE PART!

We need several hundred folks to be calling throughout the day on May 21! Our goal is that these offices spend the day either answering Save Texas Schools calls or meeting with our volunteers. This will be a HUGE encouragement to those who have stood for education, and a frightening reminder to those who haven’t of the strength of our voice!

If you want to be on the phone team on May 21, e-mail info@savetxschools.org. Tell us where you are from, times you can work and who your representative and senator are.

Be sure and help out.

05.16.11

Held hostage

Posted in 82nd Legislature, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Commentary, Public Schools, The Budget, The Lege at 11:00 am by wcnews

Many Texans are not clear as to why so many in the Texas GOP don’t want to spend the Economic Stabilization Fund, aka the Rainy Day Fund, to keep up funding of education and Medicare.  Since the Fund was created for the exact budget circumstance Texas is in right now.  It just doesn’t make sense.  Especially since most, if not all, Texas elected officials, regardless of party, talk about how important education is to the future of our state. And most, if not all, Medicare recipients don’t want to lost their health care.

The only way to make sense of this is to understand that the fight no longer has to do with what is best for Texas.  It has devolved into an ideological battle inside the Texas GOP.  Which is why the 18-month budget that will keep current funding levels is likely not palatable for the GOP ideologues.  Late last week Gov. Perry – who knows quite a bit about revenue schemes – had this to say in a “robo call” targeting GOP Seante and House members.

“The legislators that we elect, whether they serve in the House or the Senate, need to keep our state living within its means by cutting spending, protecting the rainy day fund and saying no to any new taxes or revenue schemes.”

This didn’t sit well with state Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan).

Several senators angrily denounced Perry’s interference on behalf of the group this morning, saying the calls are slowing the progress of budget talks.

Among them was Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, who said his wife received one of the calls two night ago.

“I don’t appreciate it. It’s not helping,” said Ogden. “To have them calling my wife trashing me does not make me happy, no.”

Ogden said he was unclear whether the calls were pre-recorded by Perry, or whether it was from “a town meeting that was going on.”

Calls for comment to Perry’s office and to Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of Empower Texans and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, were not immediately returned.

Ogden and other senators were unamused.

“What’s happening is this is dividing the Republican Party,” he said. “I can’t imagine how that will help.”

It’s clear that Perry/wing-nut side of the GOP wants no part of a budget that keeps current funding levels. They want cuts, now! If current funding levels are kept, and sales tax receipts keep climbing, then in 2013, or sooner, there will likely be enough money to keep current funding levels. While that is likely good news to most Texans, that is bad news to those on the extreme right of the ideoloical spectrum.

They see this as their opportunity and they are bound and determined to see that their goals of defunding public education and Medicare become a reality.  There is a sensible way through this, but it is just not politically feasible in the current political environment.  A compromise between sensible members of the GOP and Democrats would likely bring about a budget compromise that a majroity of Texans could agree with.

This Jason Embry article, As session nears end, toughest issues remain unresolved, shows further proof of the GOP ideological extremists intransigence. Now that they’ve passed their “emeregency”/Primary protection legislation they just can’t get the budget passed.

The sizable Republican majorities in the House and Senate have made progress on a number of issues important to the GOP’s conservative base . Each has passed legislation requiring photo identification of voters and sonograms of women seeking abortions, and just last week the House passed bills that aim to restrict lawsuits and ensure that police officers can ask about the immigration status of the people they detain.

Yet each of those bills, because of its appeal to the Republican base, was relatively easy to pass, particularly in a House with few restraints on the GOP’s 2-to-1 majority.

Solving the state’s budget crisis has proved much trickier. The House and Senate each has passed its own budget plan, with the Senate spending $4 billion more state dollars than the House in order to mitigate proposed spending cuts to education, nursing homes and other priorities.

The Texas GOP likely doesn’t have the votes, in their own caucus, to pass the so-called fiscal matters bills needed to get the budget passed.

The stalemate goes beyond a simple disagreement about how much money to spend. For example, formulas in state law determine how much money the state gives each school district. Neither the House nor Senate budget provides enough money to give schools all the money they are owed under current formulas over the next two years.

So lawmakers must pass legislation that changes those formulas, which means they must pass a bill that specifically and directly cuts funding for schools. That’s a tough vote to cast, particularly for those who think the Legislature should do more to help schools. Democrats have blocked that legislation so far in the Senate, and the House has made little effort to pass it.

In addition, both chambers have been working on bills that seek to provide more money for the budget without making a direct increase in taxes. (The House has always anticipated spending more than the budget it passed earlier in the session, just not as much as the Senate budget.)

For example, they would speed up collection of the state’s business tax or delay payments to school districts by a few days, pushing the payments into the next budget cycle. Schools don’t lose any money under that scenario, but the check from the state comes a little later.

But such bills have been repeatedly delayed on the House floor. For one, they have been loaded down with a number of smaller issues that are of great interest to business lobbyists, such as the possibility of allowing liquor sales on Sunday or imposing a new fee on satellite television. When powerful lobbyists start fighting, lawmakers get nervous about choosing sides.

In addition, some conservatives in the House — particularly some who were helped into office by the tea party surge of 2010 — are unhappy with the push to use accounting tricks to add money back into the budget. Freshman Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, said he thinks deferring payments to the next budget cycle is deceptive, and he doesn’t want to make businesses pay their taxes sooner unless they get a discount or other incentive for doing so.

“We’ve got to live with what we have,” Isaac said. “I know it’s tough. Some people say, ‘We just can’t cut any more.’ I’m sure there are some things out there that we’re doing that we just don’t need to be doing, or are beyond the role of government in a lot of my colleagues’ opinions.”

But that compromise, and most others, will not be acceptable to Gov. Perry and the wing nut fringe.  These recent comments from state Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock show who is really in charge in the Texas House right now.

“I don’t think it rains until the governor says it rains,” said state Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, a Pitts lieutenant on the Appropriations Committee.

Before Pitts could get the 90 votes needed to tap the fund in March, he needed Perry to publicly give his blessing to the move.

Texas right now is being held hostage by the wing nut fringe of the Texas GOP.  This also shows that many in the GOP don’t agree with the extreme budget cuts.  If they did a budget would have been passed long ago.  This is all part of The Show, of course.

Further reading:
Nothing is dead, and nothing is certain.
Maintaining civility a growing challenge in Texas House.

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