The 2012 Texas Republican Party Platform, adopted June 9 at the state convention in Forth Worth, seems to take a stand against, well, the teaching of critical thinking skills. Read it for yourself:
We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.
As a top commenter on a Reddit thread wrote about the language, “I was absolutely sure this had to be an elaborate fake … .” It’s not.
We at Teacher think this may be a kind of first. While the push for accountability via standardized testing—which the current Democratic administration has stood behind—has frequently been characterized as potentially undermining instruction in critical thinking, blatant opposition to teaching students to think deeply has not often (ever?) been a part of the policy conversation.
But it’s been the implicit goal of authoritarians forever.
Today the US Supreme Court upheld President Barack Obama’s signature accomplishment of his first term, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as “Obamacare”. Supreme Court Upholds ‘Obamacare’.
The Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 that the Affordable Care Act meets constitutional muster and can be allowed to continue its slow process of transforming the nation’s health care system.
Thursday’s historic decision, authored by Chief Justice Roberts, was by no means a fait accompli. Though the consensus among constitutional scholars has always been that the law’s insurance mandate did not exceed Congress’ Commerce Clause powers, its opponents erected a counterargument that quickly became an article of faith on the right. In the end, Roberts’ decision upheld the mandate as an exercise of Congress’ taxing power.
There’s a way to view Supreme Court decision in our day and age. I can’t remember who said it, but it wasn’t me, that the Supreme Court – who gets on and each decision – is always done in favor of corporations and big money. There were a lot of “tea party” wing nut critics of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but the insurance corporations have not said a bad word about it. And I think that was the ace in the hole.
It had become apparent in the last few days that if this attempt to fix health care went down, all that was left was a single-payer, Medicare for all type of fix. That would have cut the insurance corporations out of health care and that’s likely why this decision happened. Like last week’s immigration decision, which was all about cheap labor for certain corporations – think Bob Perry, owner of Perry Homes.
I hate to by so cynical on such a “big” day. But that’s likely what’s really going on here.
Additionally, and this is very important in predicting where this lands, states that newly cover these low-income, uninsured folks initially get fully reimbursed for the costs by the Feds (by 2020, that match falls to 90%). Also, under the original law, states risked losing their federal Medicaid contribution if they failed to implement the expansion. (See here for more details.)
But SCOTUS reversed that part. They said states could reject the extension and Congress could not take away their existing Medicaid funding.
So, what does this mean? It has some potentially pretty weird implications.
For example, one’s first thought is that hard-core conservative governors—the type that rejected fully paid-for Recovery Act bucks when their citizens needed jobs—will surely reject the expansion, despite the fact that it’s fully funded through 2017. Lefties and advocates for the poor will squawk, but so what, right?
But the thing is, they’re not the only ones who will be pushing back on their governors. Hospitals, doctors, community health care providers, their lobbyists, and anyone else who deals with low-income, sick people will be pushing very hard to take the money.
Obviously, ideology may triumph but the coalition in support of the expansion, even in the reddest state, will be decidedly purple.
Next, because the law was written assuming that the uninsured poor would be covered by Medicaid, subsidies to purchase health insurance in the exchanges don’t kick in until higher income levels. The poor won’t have to pay the tax penalty formerly known as the mandate because of a hardship exemption in the law, but neither will they get the subsidy until their incomes go up enough.
It’s a very weird reversal of the usual means-test for government benefits. Typically, as your income rises you become ineligible for benefits. Here, you become eligible.
The debate was stunning. Stunning in how little of any consequence was debated. Stunning how little was said by the candidates, and questions the panelists asked, that would make a difference in anyone’s life. The wing nut panelist who asked the question, why shouldn’t we abolish the Department of Education? WTF? Are they paying attention to education in Texas? If it was for the federal government public education would be dead already in Texas.
On economics I found both of them lacking. Paul Sadler’s harping on the deficit was sad, barely mentioning jobs, treating unemployment insurance like leprosy – when it’s the best “bang for you buck” stimulus, etc.. Neither one of them mentioned the simple fix for Social Security – lift the cap. Grady Yarbrough was a little better wanting, at least, to end tax subsidies for big oil, and extend unemployment insurance.
There was nothing either one of these guys said that would fire up a Democratic voter to work for, or vote for them, much less donate to their campaign.
My suspicion is that Sadler, if elected, would a “Gang of..” type Senator. Like Mark Warner and Kent Conrad, who are all too eager to compromise on issued like Social Security and Medicare, and tax cuts for the rich. He would certainly be better than Dewhusrst or Cruz.
It’s not about purity, so much as we at least need candidates that will talk about issues that matter to the people (99%). No one gives a crap about the deficit if they don’t have a job. The only people that care about the deficit are Republicans or people with money and a job. If you don’t have the latter two, a job is more important than anything, so you can have money to take care of yourself and famiely. I can’t figure out why that is so damn hard for Democratic politicians to figure out.
If Democrats would have gone Keyenesian and unemployment was down to 6 or 7 percent we’d be looking at a Democratic takeover. Instead we’re talking about the deficit and other stuff that doesn’t matter to people who need a job. Put people back to work and the deficit goes away. Yes, we can grow our way out of this depression!!
I’d much rather have Sean Hubbard in place of these dudes.Oh well, who’s running against Cornyn in 2014?
As a result of their mistaken ideas, many Western policy-makers are inflicting massive suffering on their peoples. But the ideas they espouse about how to handle recessions were rejected by nearly all economists after the disasters of the 1930s, and for the following forty years or so the West enjoyed an unparalleled period of economic stability and low unemployment. It is tragic that in recent years the old ideas have again taken root. But we can no longer accept a situation where mistaken fears of higher interest rates weigh more highly with policy-makers than the horrors of mass unemployment.
Better policies will differ between countries and need detailed debate. But they must be based on a correct analysis of the problem. We therefore urge all economists and others who agree with the broad thrust of this Manifesto to register their agreement at www.manifestoforeconomicsense.org, and to publically argue the case for a sounder approach. The whole world suffers when men and women are silent about what they know is wrong.
It takes a lot to put together a governing coalition. And it takes even more to keep it together. Whether anyone wants to admit it, or not, it takes a lot of compromise too. Right now the GOP in Texas has a winning coalition. And the Texas Democrats main aim should be to destroy that coalition, by building one of their own.
The best way to do that is to point out, whenever possible, the hypocrisy of the GOP’s positions. An easy issue that everyone can understand is one I like to call “Beer and Democracy”. It points directly to the issue of keeping inane and illogical laws on the books, because of wealthy powerful interests that make our politicians keep it that way. And why these laws won’t get changed has everything to do with the way our pay to play government works in Texas. But first a few questions.
Why can’t I go to my local brewery and buy a six pack of beer?
Why can’t I but beer direct from my local brewery?
And, as this HChron article points out, why can’t these guys, Brewers in Texas caught up in a Catch-22, who own a small brewery and a restaurant sell the beer from their brewery in their restaurant? (Hat tip to Kuff, Our stupid beer laws in action.)
Owners of the popular Eatsie Boys food truck will open their first stand-alone restaurant later this year on Montrose Boulevard, serving everything from breakfast items to sandwiches to house-made gelato.
Closer to downtown, and possibly around the same time, the young entrepreneurs will cut the ribbon on their 8th Wonder Brewery. They recently took possession of a brand-new brewhouse and three shiny tanks that will produce craft beers like Alternate Universe, Hopston and Intellectuale, “the beer that makes you think.”
But don’t expect to see any of those brews on tap at their restaurant. Texas law forbids it.
“What a joke is that?” asked Ryan Soroka, a founding partner of both operations. ” … It makes no sense that we’re doing things the way we have to do them.” [...]
Ted Duchesne, president of Open The Taps, a consumer group with more than 400 members, agreed that 8th Wonder is caught in a Catch-22 that should be fixed legislatively.
Duchesne said one of Open The Taps’ priorities will be to see the brewpub law amended so that Texas companies will have the option, available in some other states, to make and distribute beer and operate a brewpub simultaneously.
The main reason this won’t change is because of the money and influence the big brewers and the wholesale beer distributors have over the Texas Legislature. The attempt to change these inane laws last session died and it’s not hard to figure out why. From Kuff last year, RIP, HB602.
Texans won’t be buying liquor on Sunday and the state’s 29 brewpubs won’t be competing with their out-of-state rivals on local grocery shelves.
And Texas breweries or liquor distillers still can’t sell a 12-pack of beer or a souvenir bottle of bourbon to tourists, as the Legislature has killed all bills related to changes in state laws on beer and liquor retailing.
“We got railroaded,” said Dan Garrison with Garrison Brothers Distillery, a Hill Country distiller who wanted the ability to sell a souvenir bottle of his bourbon to tour groups.
Garrison’s comment could sum up the frustration of the smallest players in the state’s beer and liquor industry that is controlled by giants.
Rep. Mike Hamilton, R-Mauriceville, chairs the House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures, where most of the alcohol-related bills died this session.
He said it’s difficult to change decades-old laws without affecting someone’s financial interest.
Translation: It’s difficult to give small brewers and distillers an even break because doing so might put a tiny dent in the massive, oligarchic profits of the big distributors.
While beer laws in Texas are, by no means, the most important issue, this is a microcosm of what is wrong with our state government. A painfully obvious illogical law, whose time has come to be changed, is unable to be changed because of the influence of money in our political system.
This issue highlights the hypocrisy of those who run our state. They prattle on, over and over again, about “evil” regulations, keeping down small business and then, here they are, keeping a regulation in place that is overwhelmingly in favor of the big and powerful, and hurts small business. As has been written here many times before – money erodes trust.
But it’s issues like this, one at a time, where Texas Democrats have to start differentiating themselves from the GOP. Here’s an excerpt from a Booman post, circa 2011, where he mentions the new Alabama Democratic Party chair, who is George Wallace’s son in law, and brewing laws. And point out a new strategy, Deep South Dems Need a New Model. (Just everywhere you see Alabama 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.
Yes! The Democrats have to, in the minds of voters, turn Democrats back into the party of the people and the GOP back into the party of the rich and powerful. The winning won’t start again until that’s done, and that new governing coalition is built in Texas. “Beer and Democracy” is as good a place to start as any.
Texas Democrats believe that marijuana should be decriminalized — so strongly, in fact, that decriminalization made it onto their party platform this year.
Texas Democrats affirmed their commitment to sound drug policy while simultaneously denouncing the erroneously titled “War on Drugs,” which has led to high incarceration rates but very little in the way of reducing drug use. “Since the war on drugs began, 85% of the arrests for marijuana have been for possession only,” the platform says:
Marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. Recent polls show over 50% of Americans believe marijuana should be decriminalized. While arrests for marijuana since 1965 have been over 20 million citizens, marijuana is more prevalent than ever before.
There is no evidence that marijuana is a “gateway” drug leading to the use of more lethal drugs. 75% of citizens arrested for marijuana are under 30. Minorities account for a majority of those arrested for marijuana. Criminal conviction permanently scars a young citizen for life.
Texas Democrats urge the President, the Attorney General and the Congress to support the passage of legislation to decriminalize the possession of marijuana and regulate it’s use, production and sale as is done with tobacco and alcohol.
We further urge the immediate decriminalization of the possession and use of medical marijuana.
It also makes a whole lot of sense. Here’s an excerpt from TDP Chair Hinojosa’s email on the subject.
During our June 2012 state convention, the Texas Democratic Party adopted a platform that called for the decriminalization of marijuana. Make no mistake. This action was not meant to condone or promote drug use. It does however recognize that archaic laws that incarcerate thousands of Texans – disproportionately African Americans and Latinos – for the possession of marijuana must be changed. These arrests do nothing to promote public safety or fiscal responsibility. Instead they crowd our jails, ruin the futures of thousands of young Texans, and are a drain on our state budget. Estimates show that Texas could save more than $75 million per year by decriminalizing marijuana. Continuing to incarcerate people for possession of marijuana is a failed policy. The Texas Democratic Party understands that we need to look forward and end fiscally stupid policies that put a scarlet letter on thousands of young people.
Read Hinojosa’s full statement, and news links in the extended entry.
Ruining people’s lives, in most cases young people’s lives, who are overwhelmingly minorities, for possession of marijuana and putting them in jail is not only cruel, but fiscally irresponsible. This video from The Last Word earlier in the week sums it up pretty good.
There’s an almost universal belief in the myth that everyone’s taxes have been going up for the last 40 or so years. It’s simply not true. What is true is that taxes on the 99% have been going up, and their wages have been flat or going down. While for the wealthy the exact opposite has been happening, taxes down, income way up. And there’s always an elected GOP millionaire, whose taxes have been lowered over recent decades, squawking about how the government is spending like a drunken sailor, and running up a massive deficit. Of which they have played a role.
It’s this myth, that’s kept many from seeing the truth behind the GOP’s class warfare since the Reagan-era began. The GOP tax plan has always been to shift the tax burden from the wealthy to the rest of us. And it continues, Soak The Middle Class.
This time around, Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee, with the help of data from the Tax Policy Center, take a look at the House GOP tax plan in Paul Ryan’s budget, and reach an important conclusion: If he honors his commitment to keeping his plan revenue neutral, middle class taxpayers will see their tax burden increase, while the wealthiest Americans will enjoy a huge tax cut.
The idea is pretty straightforward.
Republicans want to dramatically lower the top tax rate and eliminate brackets so there are only two — one at 25 percent, one at 10 percent. That would put a huge amount of cash in the pockets of high income earners. For middle class earners, it’d be a much more modest sum. To make the plan revenue neutral, Ryan claims Republicans would close myriad loopholes that disproportionately benefit the upper-middle and upper classes — he just won’t say which ones.
The rub is that Ryan’s tax cuts are expensive and to pay for them he’d likely have to clawback the biggest middle-class tax benefits — like the mortgage interest deduction, and the tax exclusion on employer health benefits — such that the net effect for people making less than $200,000 would be a higher annual tax burden. The plan redistributes wealth upwards.
Here’s how Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConell put it in an interview with CBS that aired Monday, “Almost 70 percent of the federal revenue is provided by the top 10 percent of taxpayers now. Between 45 percent and 50 percent of Americans pay no income tax at all. We have an extraordinarily progressive tax code already. It is a mess and needs to be revisited again.”
Those claims are wrong in important ways, but the implication is that the broad middle class should be paying more, and the top earners less.
Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, reviewed the Joint Economic Committee report. Although the numbers are rough, he said, the conclusions are largely accurate.
“Even with eliminating fairly major tax preferences, the Ryan tax plan remains regressive. That’s the bottom line,” he said. “Unless you go after the tax preferences that benefit the wealthy” — capital gains, dividends, tax-free interest on municipal bonds — “it’s really hard to undo the regressivity of the rate changes. You’ll be shifting the burden of the tax code toward the middle class.”
Houston janitors will strike for the third day in a row. Already this week, janitors have gone on strike against one employer at Greenway Plaza buildings, another at 363 North Belt and tonight the strike will expand to two buildings against the employers charged with cleaning at Four Oaks Place, Wells Fargo Tower and 1330 Post Oak. These contractors have responded to employees’ efforts by interfering with their rights to engage in union activity protected by federal law.
Despite cleaning the offices of some of the richest corporations in the world, including JP Morgan Chase, Chevron, and ExxonMobil, janitors in Houston are paid as little as $9,000 a year, and many work two to three jobs just to survive. A janitor would have to work more than 2,000 years in order to earn what the Exxon and Chevron CEOs make in just one year, and 2,500 years to earn just what JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon took home last year.
“I am paid so little that I have to work two jobs just to make sure my family has what they need. I’m only able to see my two kids about an hour a day,” says Cirilo Solo, a janitor who works for Pritchard. “We spoke up for a better life and now they’re violating our rights.”
This is the second time janitors in Houston have gone on strike—this time to protest unlawful conduct. In 2006, janitors in Houston went on strike and touched off a flurry of activity including multiple days of civil disobedience, marches and rallies that propelled the plight of Houston’s low wage workers into the national spotlight.
Since 2006, the growing gap between the 1% and the 99% has become a pressing political issue as the number of low wage jobs increases, the middle class shrinks and corporations refuse to pay their share of taxes, create good jobs, and reward the hard work of their employees.
The problem is particularly poignant in Houston. Named the nation’s “No. 1 Millionaire City” for annual growth in millionaires; 1 in 5 people working in Houston make less than $10 an hour, and Texas is tied with Mississippi for the highest proportion of minimum wage jobs in the nation.
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa recently released a statement in support of the janitors (via jobsanger).
“If corporations want to be considered people, then they need to accept the belief that we are our brother’s keepers,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, the newly elected chairman of the Texas Democratic Party. “Hard working people in America should not be shamed. Honest work should receive honest pay, but Republicans want to repeal the minimum wage to make people work for $2 an hour. Then Republicans want to whine about paying for heath care for children of American parents who have jobs. It is shameful.”
“Grotesquely overpaid CEOs and upper management expect the men and women who work hard and play by the rules to be forced to beg for public assistance just to support themselves, much less a family. That is a disgrace not only to the America we love, but also to God,” Hinojosa stressed. “These striking workers are seeking a living wage for their work in cleaning the offices of Texas millionaires and one percenters, who not only refuse to pay a decent wage for honest work but are also enlisting Republican support to protect them from paying their fair share of taxes.”
“Democrats, along with labor unions, have been cleaning up corporate messes, both literally and figuratively, for far too long. Corporations are attempting to maximize profits at the expense of the taxpayers who must provide medical care and food assistance for workers’ families, even though the breadwinners are working full time. That is not the America we love,” Hinojosa continued, “and the workers and taxpayers in this country should be enraged about it.”
Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa and The Texas Democratic Party calls upon Texas Democrats and all Texans who support the right to a living wage to make a meaningful stand by helping on the picket line, signing the petition at http://1.seiu.org/page/s/houston-needs-a-raise.
I completely agree with what jobsanger writes:
I may have misjudged the new chairman of the Texas Democratic Party. I had thought he would continue the same old moderate to conservative policies of the last leadership. In the past, the state party leadership avoided any issue that might seem progressive and cost them conservative votes (votes they weren’t going to get anyway). A good example of that would be the union janitor strike in Houston (where the janitors are trying to get a livable wage).
But the new party chairman, Gilberto Hinojosa, has come down squarely on the side of the striking janitors, and he has done so publicly. This is a progressive stand, and one that I wholeheartedly support. I hope this is indicative of future actions Mr. Hinojosa will take. If so, the Texas Democratic Party might once again give Texas voters a real choice (instead of a parade of Republican-lite conservatives that have marked candidates in the recent past).
Texas taxpayer money is regularly given away to corporations that bring low paying jobs to the state of Texas. As Paul Krugman pointed out last year, The Texas Unmiracle. Texas is a cheap labor state, and corporations love that. It increases their profits, which they’re able to hoard because of the cheap taxes for corporations in Texas.
What Texas shows is that a state offering cheap labor and, less important, weak regulation can attract jobs from other states. I believe that the appropriate response to this insight is “Well, duh.” The point is that arguing from this experience that depressing wages and dismantling regulation in America as a whole would create more jobs — which is, whatever Mr. Perry may say, what Perrynomics amounts to in practice — involves a fallacy of composition: every state can’t lure jobs away from every other state.
Thankfully, the local debate over whether to grant Maruchan Inc. of Japan millions of dollars to pay people very little money to make noodles has transcended the mere question of how many workers it would employ.
And it’s heartening — in a depressing sort of way, of course — that some of us are actually worried.
We are worried because the people making the noodles would earn minimum wage: $7.25 an hour, less than a living wage.
At the risk of dampening anyone’s good cheer, here are a few more reasons for us to be worried.
Texas already ranks first in the nation for jobs at or below the minimum wage.
(Go Texas! We’re No. 1!)
In fact, 37 percent of all jobs added in Texas in 2010 paid minimum wage or less. Overall, about a third of all jobs in Texas fail to support a family of four.
Also, the gap between the rich and the poor in Texas is greater than the gap in 40 other states, and it’s increasing. Perhaps this is because Texas workers are more productive than the average American worker, yet they’re also less well-paid.
What are the consequences of a low-wage economy?
Here’s one: Texans carry more credit card debt, ranking among the highest in the nation in 2009 and 2010.
The American city saddled with the highest average credit card debt in 2010?
It was San Antonio, at $5,177
To be fair, Bexar County commissioners preparing to shell out $5.8 million in incentives to Maruchan Inc. are not purporting to lead a pep rally.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Paul Elizondo conceded the deal amounts to a “dilemma,” although he said, “A job is a job. We need to get as many of them as we can.”
And here’s where the American Dream — or the “Texas Miracle” — collides with reality.
“Everybody needs to work, particularly in Texas because the social safety net is so thin,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. “And one of the reasons it’s so thin is so when jobs like this become available, there’s a lot of competition for them because Texans have no choice but to work, and to work at whatever job’s available.”
In other words: Low taxes not only create jobs, but also result in low services and low wages.
But low wages, low taxes, (on the wealthy that is), and low services also keeps poor, working, and middle class Texans fighting amongst themselves for an ever-shrinking piece of the pie. Which is an old trick.
Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we’ve got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity. - “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.