03.31.12

Teachers affect eternity

Posted in Around The State, Teachers at 8:31 am by wcnews

We all have at least one teacher that profoundly affected our lives. They were likely like the ones in this video from the Texas Retired Teachers Association.

We owe so much to our current and former teachers. More than just money, our thanks, respect, and support.  They sacrificed so much to do the work that they love.  Work that is so vital to our communities and our democracy.

Check out the Texas Retired Teachers Association and the Foundation.

03.29.12

What’s happening with equity, accountability, and public school finance in Texas

Posted in Around The State, Education, Public Schools at 10:19 pm by wcnews

There is a lot going on right now with regard to public education finance in Texas right now.  The Texas GOP is trying to hide behind Lt. Gov. David Dewhursts lies about public education funding cuts, Dewhurst using Enron math on school finance issue.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a successful Houston businessman, prides himself on his fluency with numbers. When it comes to Texas public schools, however, Dewhurst mangles the one question that should come effortlessly to a good CEO: What’s the bottom line?

In Houston recently to campaign for the U.S. Senate, Dewhurst claimed the state of Texas this year appropriated more money for public education than ever before in its history. It’s technically true, in the way that Enron was technically a viable company. So here’s the real bottom line, summing up the entire financial picture: Texas public schools now have less money than ever to educate our school­children. Saying otherwise is just “balderdash,” says Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston.

Yesterday was the first formal hearing for the upcoming school finance trial, Judge, litigants getting set for complex school finance trial.

This case has become the largest of its kind in Texas’ decades-long history of school finance litigation. The school districts that have signed on serve about 70 percent of the 5 million students who attend Texas public schools.

“There are many long, complex cases, but in terms of the impact, I think these cases are unique,” said lawyer David Thompson, who represents the largest group of students.

As expected, Dietz agreed to consolidate into one the four school finance lawsuits that were filed late last year. A separate group of charter school supporters that petitioned to intervene in the case is also part of the litigation.

Dietz said he is aiming for the six-week trial to begin in early October, though a start date was not set at Wednesday’s hearing.

That schedule would give Dietz time to rule before the Legislature returns to Austin in January, even though lawmakers are not expected to act until after an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.

The school districts argue that the state has run afoul of the Texas Constitution by failing to provide adequate resources to meet the higher academic standards established by the Legislature.

At the same time, districts say they lack “meaningful discretion” to set their own tax rates, as the courts have said is required.

Finally, the system for divvying up the limited state dollars among the districts is inequitable and arbitrary, they argue.

Although Dietz presided over the 2004 case, the judge readily acknowledged that he would probably need an expert of his own to decipher the complicated formulas for distributing money to the school districts.

“With all due respect to the Legislature, who writes this stuff?” Dietz said in jest.

Also yesterday a new group called the Texas Education Accountability Project released a report titled “No Financial Accountability”.  This from the AAS, Report: More transparency needed on school spending.

There are plenty of questions about whether Texas schools spend their money wisely.

But there is a dearth of useful and accessible financial data to help taxpayers answer that question, the Texas Education Accountability Project, a new effort aimed at improving financial transparency in school districts, said in a report on Tuesday.

“We have no chance of improving our education system until we know how we’re currently spending the money and what outputs we’re getting for it,” said Mark Hurley, a private equity investor from Dallas who launched the project with two colleagues.

School budget experts, however, dispute the contention that school districts do not know where the dollars are going.

Gwen Santiago, executive director of the Texas Association of School Business Officials, said information that Hurley’s group said is missing from the school districts’ financial reports is readily available.

“They didn’t do their research very well,” said Santiago, who reviewed the report at the request of the Statesman.

Hurley and his partners set out to apply their private-sector expertise to demystifying the complex web of public school finances. They found the data on school spending to be unnecessarily opaque and useless to anyone outside the school district.

“It’s almost the antithesis of transparency,” Hurley said.

[...]

Criticism of how Texas school districts spend their state and local tax dollars was commonplace during last year’s legislative session and will only increase as the school finance trial nears next fall.

Hurley said his analysis does not advance either side of the school spending argument and said the state’s rules, and not the school districts, are at fault for the deficiencies in the data. He is calling on legislators to change the reporting rules so that the information is more accessible to taxpayers.

On the face of it this seems like a worthwhile endeavor. But looking at who was involved with this report – private equity, Goldman Sachs, Perry appointees, and charter school proponents – doesn’t necessarily instill confidence.  While hoping for the best, this could an attempt to get at public education from a different angle.  It’s also easy to understand why school officials may be a little testy on an issue like this.  The report did, at least, lay the blame for the lack of accountability at the feet of our elected officials in the legislature.

Further Reading:
In seeking results, the rally is the easy part.
Tens of thousands in overcrowded classrooms.
John Kuhn Roars Back: Texans Rebel Against Testing.
Electing educators.

03.27.12

Voter ID has always been a fix for a problem that doesn’t exist

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Elections, Right Wing Lies at 2:09 pm by wcnews

(Tip to AmericanProgress.org)

This picture goes along with this post from Kuff, Examining the voter ID lie.  It’s his take on a recent HChron article, that doesn’t go far enough, is too “fair and balanced”, if you know what I mean.

The story makes a decent effort to air the anti-voter ID perspective, but it still comes off as a dispute between partisans. It would have been nice to quote a few people who are not actively engaged in the litigation. And while I appreciate the effort to point out that the state of Texas has failed miserably to demonstrate that there are any crimes that might be deterred by its voter ID law, it’s still being said too politely. The fact is that voter ID proponents have been telling a lot of lies about the vote fraud they claim exists but can never find, and that can’t be said often enough. I come back once again to Daniel Davies’ classic post The D-Squared Digest One Minute MBA – Avoiding Projects Pursued By Morons 101, which is unfortunately now not publicly visible but which can still be seen here, in which he notes that “Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance.”

Maybe it’s too much to ask for a newspaper to call a lie a lie. If so, I guess I should be happy with what this story gives. But look, the Republican proponents of voter ID have said many ludicrously implausible and provably false things about why this legislation is supposedly needed, yet the issue is treated as a matter of partisan dispute rather than a factual one. It’s one thing to say “If you adopt policy X, then Y will happen”. It’s another to say “Because X has already happened, policy Y is needed”, especially when you cannot show any evidence that X has in fact happened. The Republicans may succeed at getting voter ID implemented, and they may succeed at their bigger goal of gutting or overturning the Voting Rights Act. But they’ll never succeed at finding an objective non-partisan justification for voter ID because there isn’t any for them to find. Ed Kilgore has more.

Here’s a little bit from the HChron article.

To sell the voter ID law, however, supporters conjured up images of “busloads of illegal immigrants being transported up from Mexico to vote straight-ticket Democratic in an election near you,” said Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas. “That was the fantasy, the scary narrative.”

No one disputes some level of voting abuse, said Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston. “However, what every investigation has proven is that the kind of fraud voter ID laws would address – voter impersonation – doesn’t really exist,” Ellis said. “In fact, there are more UFO and Bigfoot sightings than documented cases of voter impersonation.”

[...]

“This is just a bad deal,” said Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston. Driver’s license offices in Houston’s inner-city communities are few and far between without convenient access, said Coleman, who counted only four such offices scattered in far-flung locations serving only some inner-city residents.

More than a half-million Houston residents have no nearby DPS driver license office in the southern part of Houston, Coleman said.

Folks who need a DPS ID card face at least a two-hour bus ride and “unconscionably long waiting lines” at driver’s license offices, Coleman said: “People who are paid by the hour lose pay standing in line to access the voter identification card. They will not do it. And that’s the reason the whole bill disenfranchises voters based on income and based on age and based on ethnicity as it combines with income.

“Unfortunately, the people who are in charge in our state have never lived a life without mobility or access,” Coleman said. [Emphasis added]

The busloads of “illegal immigrants” argument was always unbelievable, especially in this day and age, when everyone has a camera and/or camcorder on their phone. Certainly if it was true we’d have an image or video of that by now. And another part that’s never made sense is that if there’s so much voter fraud in Texas that it must be the Republicans doing it, since they’re the ones that keep winning and control our state government.  And certainly, as Rep. Colemen says, those that voted for this law certainly won’t be the ones inconvenienced or disenfranchised by it.

That’s why it’s easy to see this for what it really is, intentional voter suppression.  Which is why the DOJ had to strike it down.

A few thoughts on the 2012 Primary in Williamson County

Posted in 2012 Primary, District Attorney, Williamson County at 1:17 pm by wcnews

As in 2010 most of the action in the 2012 Primary in Williamson County will be on the Republican side.  The main reason is because on the Democratic side there are few contested races.  The main contested race on the Democratic side is the US Senate race.  [See the full Williamson County Democratic Primary ballot in the extended entry or click here].

On the GOP side the main event is the race for District Attorney.  Between incumbent John Bradley and challenger, and current County Attorney, Jana Duty.  Just Google their names together and you’ll find posts and articles galore.  The way that the race is playing out in the media is over Bradley’s handling of the Michael Morton case and Duty’s critique of his handling of it.  (Burka breaks down the race here).

But that is unlikely to be the issue that decides who will run against Democrat Ken Crain in November.  What will determine it is if enough voters in Williamson County, unhappy with the current DA, will show up to vote in the primary. Any Democratic candidate that’s run county wide, in the recent past, knows there is a huge hurdle to get over.  It’s called Sun City.  It’s an area of the county that turns out at at over 90% and votes overwhelmingly Republican.

Therefore to begin to evaluate whether or not Duty has a chance in this race we would need to know how Duty is doing getting votes in Sun City.  And after that is how is she doing in identifying her voters and making sure they’ll be to the polls on primary day.  If she can’t get close to breaking even in Sun City her task becomes much harder.  She will certainly get the anti-incumbent/anti-establishment vote, but that hasn’t been enough in the past to pull anyone through.  Whether Democrat in the general election or Republican in the primary.

Maybe this race will be different.  And that’s likely what everyone is waiting to see in this race, and possibly in the Precinct 1 County Commissioners race).   Are there enough Republicans in Williamson County tired of their current political leadership willing to vote for new leadership.  Many in Williamson County would like to see change, and this would be a start.   I won’t be surprised either way, but the challengers, as is almost always the case, are fighting a tough uphill battle.

There’s much more information about the primary and the upcoming Williamson County Democratic county convention, (which is April 21st, before the primary this year), at WilcoDemocrats.org.

Because of the numerous court proceedings involving the boundaries set by the Texas State Legislature for the Texas House Districts, Texas Senate Districts, and the U.S. House Districts in Texas, the Texas primary elections that are normally held in March have been rescheduled twice.

The current date set for the primary elections (May 29) makes it impossible for both parties to follow their normal procedures for holding their precinct and county conventions in time for delegates to be selected to represent the county at the parties’ state conventions, both of which will be held June 7-9, 2012.

The Democratic Party’s state convention will be held in Houston on June 7th, 8th and 9th. Delegates for the state convention will be selected at the county convention on April 21st.

Click extended entry to see the ballot for the Democratic Primary.

Read the rest of this entry �

03.26.12

“Revenge isn’t the issue here” – Michael Morton on 60 Minutes

Posted in Around The State, Good Stuff, Williamson County at 12:08 pm by wcnews

I’ve always been amazed and inspired by Michael Morton’s humility and his upbeat attitude when he is interviewed since his release from prison. Under the same circumstances I’m not so sure I would be able to act like that.  And of the victims I’ve heard that are able to get past a wrong done to them, the only ones that do are the ones that forgive those who did it to them.

Here’s the end of the interview (via transcript):

Michael Morton: If you did those things, if you did the sort of stuff where you were hiding evidence from a homicide investigation, they’d lock you up in a minute.

Lara Logan: That’s the first time I’ve sensed any kind of anger in you.

Michael Morton: I try to be very forgiving. But I’ll be honest, not only the actual murderer responsible for this, but the people who put me there, I wanted to get back at ‘em. And when I finally let that go and put it away, it’s like I dropped 25 pounds. I just felt ahhh.

Michael Morton was recently reunited with his son. He’s received nearly $2 million under a Texas law that provides compensation for people who are wrongfully convicted.

Michael Morton: I don’t have a lotta things really driving me. But one of the things is, I don’t want this to happen to anybody else. Revenge isn’t the issue here. Revenge, I know, doesn’t work. But accountability works. It’s what balances out. It’s the equilibrium. It’s the social glue in a way. Because if you’re not count– accountable, then you can do anything.

Because when he describes what this did to his relationship with his son, it’s heartbreaking. It was very good to hear that he has since been been reunited with his son since being released. All I can say is thank you Michael Morton.

Here’s the interview.

And here’s more of the interview where they talk more about Morton being reunited with his son:

Just give me normal.

TPA Blog Round Up (March 26, 2012)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 8:51 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliane is wearing a hoodie this week as it brings you the blog roundup.

Many groups and organizations provide guides telling you who to vote for. This year, Off the Kuff has a guide of who not to vote for in the 2012 Harris County Democratic primary.

BossKitty at TruthHugger is angry that Republicans are all about manipulating personal liberties and imposing their specific religious rules on America, while allowing a real crisis to get worse. GOP Candidates Ignore Water Crisis, Prefer Religious Culture Crisis. On top of imposing their narrow religious interpretations to the general public, Republicans want a dumber America. Corporate Religion, Corporate Education and the Mental Devolution of America.

BlueBloggin sees that Trashing Texas Is BIG Money For Republican Donors and Rick Perry.

We’ve moved so far to the right, as a state and a country, it’s hard to see how we move back. WCNews at Eye On Williamson points out that A Budget for All is the place to start.

At TexasKaos, Libby Shaw explains the Texas version of the Republican assualt on women. Check out Rick Perry’s and the Texas GOP Unrelenting War on Women.

Annise Parker is quite possibly the best mayor Houstonians could have ever hoped for, if you consider her actions from a moderate Republican point of view. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs breaks it down.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme knows Republicans just pretend to like the troops. Words are cheap, just like them.

Neil at Texas Liberal continued to focus on the fact that the Texas forced sonogram law is state-mandated rape. In the week ahead Neil will post at Texas Liberal a letter he co-authored asking Amnesty International to come to Texas to investigate this human rights abuse.

Bay Area Houston comments on the GOPs’ new Re-Nig bumper sticker.

03.25.12

News from the Save Texas Schools Rally

Posted in Around The State, Education, Good Stuff, Public Schools, School Finance, Teachers at 2:20 pm by wcnews

Start at YNN Austin, Thousands gather at State Capitol to protest education cuts.

For the second year in a row, a statewide group dedicated to saving public schools took their calls for action to the State Capitol Building.

Hundreds of teachers, students and administrators marched Saturday demanding that lawmakers make school funding a priority.

[...]

In addition to speaking out against budget cuts and school funding, the group is also opposed to the emphasis lawmakers put on standardized testing. Good video from WFAA in Dallas, Teachers rally at Texas Capitol.

Hundreds of teachers, students and leaders from school districts around Texas are rallying at the state Capitol to decry $5.4 billion in education cuts approved by the Legislature last summer.

Here’s the Statesman’s article, Education cuts protested at Capitol rally, and what a concerned citizen had to say.

Sherry Dana’s reason for joining a rally protesting cuts in public education spending was summed up by a quote from the Italian poet Dante on a cloth bag slung over her shoulder:

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

As far as the retired Austin teacher is concerned, this is no time for neutrality.

“We want kids to be educated,” she said. “It makes this a better country.”

The Texas Tribune has a slideshow from yesterday.

Via the FWST, At rally in Austin, demonstrators slam state education cuts.

More than 1,000 teachers, students and administrators from schools across Texas rallied Saturday at the state Capitol to decry $5.4 billion in cuts to public education and demand that lawmakers restore some of that funding — or at least not impose another round of cuts next year.

The demonstrators, who also included parents and a number of Democratic lawmakers, including state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, marched through downtown, then gathered under the Capitol dome for nearly three hours. They chanted “Save Texas Schools!” and held up signs that read: “Cuts hurt kids,” “You get what you vote for” and “If you can’t read this, thank your congressman.”

Another sign implied that Republican Gov. Rick Perry would receive a failing grade for his role in the cuts. It read “Perry F-.” A student band from McNeil High School in Round Rock, just north of Austin, pounded drums, giving the rally a football-game feel as the booming sounds echoed off nearby buildings.

And from the AusChron, Save Texas Schools Gets Back in the Game.

Teachers, students, families and politicians gathered at the capitol today as part of the second Save Texas Schools rally. Many spoke to the crowd, but it may have been John Kuhn, superintendent of Perrin-Whitt Consolidated Independent School District, who finally found the perfect metaphor for Texas school funding: Football.
Kuhn was one of a list list of speakers that covered the panoply of public school advocates. Democrats like Congressman Lloyd DoggettReps. Donna HowardMark StramaEddie Rodriguezand Elliot Naishtat shared a stage with Republicans like State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff, union leaders, school administrators and students who addressed a large crowd on the south steps.

And last from the HChron, Educators and students rally against school cuts in Austin.

Sarah Mussleman is a teacher who could not find a full-time job in the Houston area for two years after graduation. State budget cuts, she said, have squeezed public school teachers – especially those with extended educations – out of the market.

“Fire Rick Perry, not school teachers,” her sign read at a rally Saturday protesting school funding reductions. Hers is one of a choir of complaints made at the Capitol, where more than a thousand people organized in hopes of turning up the heat on lawmakers to increase funding.

03.23.12

A Clear Contrast

Posted in 2012 Primary, Around The State, Election 2012, The Lege, US Senate Race at 10:41 am by wcnews

In a post yesterday it was pointed out how far to the right the conversation has moved in our country on economics.  Kuff does a great job of pointing out how ludicrous the whole idea that both sides have become more polarized is, What radicals?

Oh, for Pete’s sake. Please, Professor Jones, tell me who these people are that have radicalized the Democratic Party. I mean, I don’t know who you talk to, but I know an awful lot of folks who will laugh in your face if you suggest the Democratic Party has moved appreciably to the left in recent years. Tell me also what positions the Democratic Party has taken that are noticeably more extreme than they used to be, and what legislation they have been pushing to further those radical ends.

These questions are easy to answer for the Republican Party. For who the radicals are, start with Dan Patrick, Debbie Riddle, Wayne Christian, and most of the people that got elected in the 2010 wave. Oh, and Rick Perry, David Dewhurst, Greg Abbott, and now Susan Combs, too. Just compare the David Dewhurst who is running for US Senate to the one who presided over the Texas Senate in 2003, as a for-instance. The GOP as a whole has gone from a position of generally opposing abortion to a full-fledged attack on birth control and family planning, and from a position of generally supporting lower taxes and fewer regulations to opposing any tax increase on anything for any purpose, pushing huge tax cuts for the wealthy, cutting public education, and seeking to end Medicare. There’s quite a bit of polling data to suggest that they are sprinting towards a cliff by embracing these more radicalized stances, but even Republicans with a mostly moderate history are doing so because it’s what their base is demanding and they fear their primaries more than they fear their Novembers.

My point is there’s just no comparison. The Democratic Party has moved left on some things, most notably marriage equality, but it’s been a gradual shift that’s in line with previously held views on civil rights, and more to the point it’s consistent with national polling. The Republicans have moved way, way more to the right, and it’s happened almost entirely in the last two years, despite a plethora of polling evidence that should warn them against it. The “both sides do it” trope is ludicrous on its face. Why is this so hard to recognize?

To further highilight this here’s a DMN write up on Democratic candidate Paul Sadler talking the the Texas Tribune, Roll the dice: Sadler backs Planned Parenthood, gay marriage, Obama.  First of all, if it’s really a “dice roll” for a Democrat to embrace issues that the Democratic Party and it’s voters endorse, that’s another indication of how far the center has shifted.  Here’s what Sadler said:

Taken as a whole, however, Sadler amply demonstrated during his 50-minute interview with Tribune editor in chief Evan Smith that when it comes to hot-button issues, he is NOT running away from controversy or being branded as a national Democrat. To wit:

On Texas GOP leaders’ moves to de-fund Planned Parenthood: He’s against it. “Worst thing ever,” he said. “Planned Parenthood does a valuable service in this country, it provides health care for women. We’ve got to fund Planned Parenthood and this whole debate is kind of silly.”

On gay marriage: Even as someone from socially traditional East Texas, Sadler said he’s “willing to stand up” and call current marriage laws discriminatory. “Don’t talk to me about whether it’s sinful or not,” he said of homosexuality. “That’s a judgment that God’s going to make” but the state shouldn’t.

President Barack Obama: He should be re-elected for making tough calls, and good ones, after inheriting an economy teetering on the abyss, Sadler said. While some of the passionate opposition to Obama springs from ideology, some of it is race-based, he said. “If he had an ‘R’ behind his name — and unfortunately, in some parts of this state, if his skin color was different — they would hail him as one of the greatest presidents of this country,” he said. “I’ve seen the emails” about Obama, Sadler said, calling those who deny that racism motivates a good many Obama foes “incredibly naive.”

Sadler said of the four main Republicans who like him are seeking U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat, only David Dewhurst and Tom Leppert are qualified. Of Ted Cruz and Craig James, he said: “You don’t run for U.S. Senate without any prior experience. This is the highest legislative office in the land.”

There’s nothing radical in there and certainly what he said is well reasoned and would be endorsed by Democrats, a decent amount of Independents, and even a few of what used to be called moderate Republicans.  There are only two excerpts from the conversation so far but they’re both worth watching.

The first one he defends the Affordable Care Act.

And here he describes the “Dewhurst Disaster”.

That running as a middle-of-the-road/mainstream Democrat in Texas is considered radical by a Rice professor, and a roll of the dice by the traditional media, only goes to prove how far to the right the “political” center has moved.  A 2010 Lyceum poll shows that what Sadler said, even on same-sex unions and health care, is agreed upon by many people in Texas. It’s just that far too many of those people don’t vote on election day.

Sadler is not the nominee, and he admitted that his fundraising is not going well thus far. There are several other candidates in the race. The most notable challenger is Sean Hubbard. Sadler is able to draw more traditional media attention because he’s a former legislator and has better name ID. Not sure if the TT is going to interview any other contenders on the Democratic side.

Running and embracing what Democrats believe is one of the things that’s been missing from the campaigns at the top of the Democratic ticket over recent years. Does this mean that Sadler is likely to beat the eventual GOP nominee for US Senate? Well, realistically, probably not. But a candidate that runs on Democratic principles give s voters an clear alternative to the radical GOP agenda in Texas.  A candidacy that stirs up the Democratic base in a Presidential year, where the GOP candidate may not be “conservative” enough for Texas, could certainly do a whole lot of good fro down ballot races.  And even for the future of the Democratic Party in Texas.

03.22.12

State Sen. Wendy Davis’ office was firebombed on Tuesday

Posted in Around The State at 1:56 pm by wcnews

On Tuesday state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) had a couple of molotov cocktails thrown at her office, Davis: ‘Homemade explosive device’ sparked fire outside Fort Worth office.

A “homemade explosive device” was used to spark a small fire outside the Fort Worth office of state Sen. Wendy Davis, the senator said in a late-night news conference Tuesday.

Davis, D-Fort Worth, was not in the office at the time of the fire, and no one was injured. A maintenance worker chased a suspect from the building at 2123 W. Seventh St. but was unable to catch him, authorities said.

Capt. Tom Crow of the Fort Worth Fire Department said firefighters responded to an automatic alarm from the building at 4:03 p.m. Tuesday. He said that the fire was relatively small and that it did not reach inside the office.

Crow said he did not have a description of the suspect and could not confirm reports that the attacker tossed a Molotov cocktail.

Members of the bomb squad were called to the scene, he said, but investigators “have not made a determination as to the cause and nature of the fire.”

Anthony Spangler, Davis’ communications director, said a staff member heard a large thud at the door and opened it to find flames about waist high. That staff member grabbed a fire extinguisher and put out the small fire, which charred the door, Spangler said.

Another staff member “jumped over the flames that were blocking the doorway” to escape the office, Spangler said.

She was on The Rachel Maddow show last night talking about the incident, Rachel Maddow Interviews State Senator Wendy Davis After Attack On Her Office.

While briefly summarizing the details of the attack, Maddow noted that Davis was not at her office but was put on lock down for four hours in case the threat on her life was serious. Two staffers were at the office but none were hurt.

Maddow asks Davis if she believed there was more of a threat on her life because she had been in the spotlight recently, to which Davis answered that there was a heightened risk for lawmakers who are in the public eye, regardless of political beliefs. Notably, one issue that has put Wendy Davis front and center in Texas politics – and which has subsequently raised her profile – is her stance on women’s healthcare.

The funding in the state for women’s healthcare has been cut from $111 million dollars to just $37 million, meaning that before the cuts 244,000 women could receive healthcare, whereas now only 60,000 can.

Davis has been open about the fact that as an indigent, teenage, single mother, all of her healthcare needs were taken care of by Planned Parenthood. Explaining the result of the loss of funds, Davis says:

Over 300,000 women in Texas, as a consequence of the last legislative session, have lost their health care.

A 40 year old homeless man has been arrested for the attack. Motivations are unclear but details emerging appear to paint the suspect as having mental health issues.

Here’s what Rachel said at the end of the segment.

Senator Davis, I have to say — she`s a remarkable politician. She was a single mom, teenage mother, got herself through high school, junior college, first in her class at Texas Christian, went to Harvard Law School, was on the Ft. Worth City Council. “Texas Monthly”
called her rookie of the year in the state senate.

She`s singlehandedly filibustered the senate into a special session over funding the schools. She seems to drive Governor Perry nuts.

You look at someone like Senator Davis in Texas and seem to think, maybe Texas Democrats are not an endangered species.

We certainly need more elected officials like Wendy Davis in Texas.

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

A Budget for All

Posted in Around The Nation, Commentary, Right Wing Lies, Taxes, The Budget at 1:06 pm by wcnews

My biggest frustration in recent years is, for whatever reason and there are many, that our history has been forgotten.  We are not trying everything – especially things that worked in the past – to fix the economic situation we are in.  What I mean is that we had a Great Depression 80 years ago, and it took us over a decade to get out of it.  What finally go us out of it was massive deficit spending by the government, aka World War II.

The reason we aren’t’ discussing that is because the parameters of our economic conversation has moved so far to the right that what worked last time is not even allowed into the conversation.  To highlight how bad ti’s gotten, calling the policies of Barack Obama socialism, means that Ronald Reagan was a communist.  Via conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan,Obama’s Spending Record: More Conservative Than Reagan’s.

This is the kind of reality that makes Sean Hannity’s head explodes. So far, the GOP candidates have been running against a fictional president with a fictional record. Obama didn’t campaign to increase government spending, but inheriting what was in the final quarter of 2008 an annualized contraction of 9 percent of GDP, he opted for a stimulus. That accounts for much of the spending.

I know we are supposed – along with Fox News – to have total amnesia about the spending record of George W. Bush, who had nothing like the recession Obama inherited to counter. But there it is. Along with the fact that of the last seven presidents, the top three spenders are all Republicans.

From that it’s easy to see that with Obama governing more “conservatve” than so-called “conservatives”, it’s not really a surprise that the economy is where it is. With the known remedy still waiting in the wings.  This excerpt from a radio conversation between economist Richard Wolffe and Sam Seder shows exactly how the conversation has changed over the last 80 years, Prof. Richard Wolff: We have a “failed economic system”—To fix it, we must tax the wealthy.

I’d like to expand Wolff’s answer to the seventh question, about deficits. It’s fascinating and contains two stories about Roosevelt I wasn’t aware of.

Here’s Wolff, paraphrased, at 24:20 in the clip:

[To your borrowing question], I’d say no. I’d take that page from FDR as well. He didn’t borrow. Roosevelt went to the business community and to the rich and [basically] said:

Look you have to help me. You have to give me the money to take care of the mass of the people. If you don’t, the CIO and the communists will come down the road and offer you a much worse deal than I’m offering you.

If you give me the money. I’ll go to the unions and give them a massive bailout, and in return they’ll agree not to interfere with your business. You’ll remain the shareholders and boards of directors and all the rest.

So basically he split the business community. Half of them became the sworn enemy of the New Deal. The other half agreed with him, the equivalent of people like Buffett today.

Between the support from the mass of the Dems below, and half of the wealthy at the top, you got the kind of support for FDR to enable the New Deal. He became a virtual saint to the American people.

In that same answer, Wolff tells this telling story about how Roosevelt financed the New Deal (26:18 in the clip; again, paraphrased):

Deficits and debts are real problems. The way to deal with them, at least to move part of the way back [to lower levels], is to raise taxes on the wealthy and on corporations.

Illustration: In 1942-43, FDR sent Congress a proposal for a 100% top income tax. This would create a maximum salary or wage or income. Like a minimum wage for the poor, it’s a maximum wage for the rich.

Congress went ballistic, led by republicans, of course. In the end, they compromised — on a 94% top tax bracket. [And that's how Roosevelt financed his programs.] In the 50s and 60s, the top marginal rate was 91%, endorsed by both parties. If we’re going through the 5th year of a crisis, the same logic ought to move us in the same direction.

I think most of the country would cheer if that actually happened. I’ve been in favor for years of rolling back the Reagan top marginal rate to Nixon-era levels — all the way back to 70% or 75%.

The point is how can we get back to say a 50% or 60% top rate when we can’t even repeal the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthy, (top tax rate of 39.6%)?    But, instead the discussion is about a “Randian” dream budget that would decimate everyone who is not already wealthy, Ryan Budget Slashes Safety Net on ‘Path to Prosperity’.

While Medicare and Medicaid get a trim, it’s not mainly about Medicare this time. This time it’s about cutting programs for the poor.

The Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein broke down the proposed spending cuts in a WonkBook blog post.

Over the next decade, Ryan plans to spend about 16 percent less than the White House on “income security” programs for the poor — that’s everything from food stamps to housing assistance to the earned-income tax credit. (Ryan’s budget would authorize $4.8 trillion between 2013 and 2022; the White House’s would spend $5.7 trillion.) Compared with Obama, Ryan would spend 25 percent less on transportation and 13 percent less on veterans. He’d spend 6 percent less on “General science, space, and basic technology.” And, compared with the White House’s proposal, he’d shell out 33 percent less for “Education, training, employment, and social services.”

Still, the spending cuts don’t go far enough for some. Tea Party Republicans said that they weren’t sure they would vote for it and the conservative Club for Growth rejected the budget yesterday, saying it takes too long to balance the budget (by 2040) and violates the Budget Control Act by ending automatic spending cuts. Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum told Glenn Beck that although he thought it was a “great blueprint,” he would prefer a plan that cut spending more quickly. Mitt Romney called it “a bold and exciting effort.”

While this proposal is getting panned by many, the idea that it’s even being seriously discussed in such bad economic times is the real tragedy. (Kuff has these links to cricism of the Ryan plan here – This is basically the Paul Ryan Budget Plan for Texas – in his post about something similar that what was proposed in Texas on Tuesday).

There has been a counter-proposal from the left which came from the Congressional Progressive Caucus. It’s called the Budget For All.

Here’s the list of what’s being proposed:

Our Budget Puts Americans Back to Work
Our budget attacks America’s persistently high unemployment levels with more than $2.4 trillion in job-creating investments.  This plan utilizes every tool at the government’s disposal to get our economy moving again, including:
• Direct hire programs that create a School Improvement Corps, a Park Improvement Corps, and a Student Jobs Corps, among others.
• Targeted tax incentives that spur clean energy, manufacturing, and cutting-edge technological investments in the private sector.
• Widespread domestic investments including an infrastructure bank, a $556 billion surface transportation bill, and approximately $1.7 trillion in widespread domestic investment.

Our Budget Exhibits Fiscal Discipline
• Unlike the Republican budget, the Budget for All substantially reduces the deficit, and does so in a way that does not devastate what Americans want preserved.
• We achieve these notable benchmarks by focusing on the true drivers of our deficit – unsustainable tax policies, the wars overseas, and policies that helped cause the recent recession – rather than putting the middle class’s  social safety net on the chopping block.

Our Budget Creates a Fairer America
• Ends tax cuts for the top 2% of Americans on schedule at year’s end
• Extends tax relief for middle class households and the vast  majority of Americans
• Creates new tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires, in line with the Buffett Rule principle
• Eliminates the tax code’s preferential treatment of capital gains and dividends
• Abolishes corporate welfare for oil, gas, and coal companies
• Eliminates loopholes that allow businesses to dodge their true tax liability
• Creates a publicly funded federal election system that gets corporate money out of politics for good

Our Budget Brings Our Troops Home
• Responsibly and expeditiously ends our military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving America more secure at home and abroad
• Adapts our military to address 21st century threats; through modernization, the Department of Defense will spend less and stop contributing to our deficit problems

Protects American Families
• Provides a Making Work Pay tax credit for families struggling with high gas and food cost 2013-2015
• Extends Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child and Dependent Care Credit
• Invests in programs to stave off further foreclosures to keep families in their homes
• Invests in our children’s education by increasing Education, Training, and Social Services

It’s a good plan and will help many. It’s no new “New Deal” that’s for sure. It might be what one would call Reaganesque.

Further Reading:
Comparing the Budget for All to the Budget for the 1%.

Paul Krugman on Paul Ryan,Flim-Flam Fever.

So actually two questions: are people finally willing to concede that Ryan is not now and has never been remotely serious? And — I know this is probably far too much to ask — are they going to do a bit of soul-searching over how they got snookered by this obvious charlatan?

Digby on the Budget for all.

Not that anyone in Washington will pay any attention because it doesn’t insist that average Americans feel pain and deprivation so the “producers” in society are free to pillage create jobs, but here is the one page outline of the new budget from the Progressive Caucus. Like last year, it actually reduces the deficit much more than Paul Ryan’s plan (if anyone actually cares about that.)And it also protects the safety net and stimulates the economy.

It does ask that the obscenely wealthy people kick in a fair piece of their ill-gotten gains and requires the government to stop fighting useless wars. But I have no problem with that. I would be surprised if most people do.

[...]

It’s really not that hard. If we lived in a sane country it would be passed by acclamation.

But we don’t …

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