Sanke Oil & Slime Is All The GOP Has Left

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, Commentary, Around The Nation at 11:07 am by wcnews

David Sirota’s latest column details the “conservative” tax cut snake oil i no longer selling, Confronting the Hollow Men.

T.S. Eliot’s 1925 poem, The Hollow Men, says “the way the world ends” is “not with a bang, but a whimper.” If Eliot were writing today, the hollow men might be America’s conservative ideologues, the world that of the national anti-tax movement, and the whimper the one barely heard on September 12, 2007.

That day, Roll Call, the tiny-circulation Washington newspaper, reported that Republican senators were fretting about “new polling data showing tax cuts are no longer priority No. 1″ with voters. One senior GOP aide admitted that when it comes to tax cuts, “We’ve worn out the message.”

That Republicans’ 30-year anti-tax revolution could ebb with such little fanfare is a testament to how fast public attitudes about taxes are evolving.

Next up Paul Krugman on the GOP’s sliming of a 12 year old, Sliming Graeme Frost.

All in all, the Graeme Frost case is a perfect illustration of the modern right-wing political machine at work, and in particular its routine reliance on character assassination in place of honest debate. If service members oppose a Republican war, they’re “phony soldiers”; if Michael J. Fox opposes Bush policy on stem cells, he’s faking his Parkinson’s symptoms; if an injured 12-year-old child makes the case for a government health insurance program, he’s a fraud.

Meanwhile, leading conservative politicians, far from trying to distance themselves from these smears, rush to embrace them. And some people in the news media are still willing to be used as patsies.

Politics aside, the Graeme Frost case demonstrates the true depth of the health care crisis: every other advanced country has universal health insurance, but in America, insurance is now out of reach for many hard-working families, even if they have incomes some might call middle-class.

And there’s one more point that should not be forgotten: ultimately, this isn’t about the Frost parents. It’s about Graeme Frost and his sister.

I don’t know about you, but I think American children who need medical care should get it, period. Even if you think adults have made bad choices — a baseless smear in the case of the Frosts, but put that on one side — only a truly vicious political movement would respond by punishing their injured children.

Only those on the extreme right sill buy the snake oil they’re selling and believe their slime.

Is Selby Carrying Cornyn’s Water?

Posted in US Senate Race, Election 2008, Health Care, Commentary, Around The State at 9:38 am by wcnews

Gardener Selby’s at it again. This post at Postcards, Two Texans not quite spelling out CHIP deal, but…, taken in combination with his column from yesterday, gives the appearance, at least to EOW, that he’s trying a little too hard - carrying Cornyn’s water, so to speak - to make the case for Cornyn that the Senator’s stance on SCHIP isn’t as bad as most people think it is.

While Cornyn’s new found middle ground position, that the CPPP says still “hurts Texas”, would be better than the sustenance money the president proposed, the best option is still the BIPARTISAN compromise that’s already been worked out. What Cornyn’s attempt at a “compromise” on SCHIP shows is that he’s worried about his position on this regarding his upcoming reelection campaign, and is desperately in search of cover on this issue.

While it’s hard to believe that Cornyn and the CPPP would be the driving forces behind any SCHIP compromise, anything is possible. Selby must have mentioned the CPPP too much in his post because he had to give a “shout-out” to the leading Texas “wing-nut” think tank at the end of his post. Maybe EOW’s reading too much into this but it sure seems that Selby’s trying a little too hard to help Cornyn on SCHIP.


Carona Saying The Right Things On Transportation, Again

Posted in Privatization, Road Issues, Around The State at 11:43 pm by wcnews

Sen. John Carona (D-Dallas) spoke with the SAEN artilce about transportation while stumping for Prop 12, Senator urging funding for roads.

State lawmakers don’t seem to have a clue when it comes to gauging public tolerance for higher gasoline taxes or hearing demands to scale back toll-road plans, a ranking Texas Senate member said Thursday.

“We need leadership on these issues,” said John Carona, R-Dallas, chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security. “I’m very frustrated from the governor of Texas on down.”

He’s got three initiatives, (has he been reading EOW?), for the 2009 session, if he’s reelected, that is.

“I’m not opposed to all the toll roads,” he said. “I just think they need to be part of the mix, not all of the solution.”

But that means other options are needed, he said. Between now and the 2009 legislative session, the senator will rally support for three initiatives:

Raising the state’s 20-cent-a-gallon gas tax by a nickel or a dime.

Indexing the gas tax to construction costs but capping increases to 3 percent a year.

Asking voters to consider a constitutional amendment to ban diversions of highway funds for other uses — including a fourth of the gas-tax pie going to schools, but only if all of that funding can be replaced from other sources.

Carona believes he can push some version of all three measures through the Senate.

“It’ll depend wholly on what’s going on in the House,” he said. “The time to go after this is right now, while there’s heightened legislative awareness.”


Toll critic Terri Hall of San Antonio Toll Party said she can’t support a higher gas tax until TxDOT’s finances are probed and the agency chucks a policy to toll new highway lanes whenever feasible.

“However, we appreciate a lawmaker courageously stepping forward to start the discussion of real solutions other than tolls,” she said.

Yes we do appreciate it. Be warned though, Carona is up for reelection, and he’s said the right things before, and his actions didn’t back them up.

Cornyn Will Chance It On SCHIP

Posted in US Senate Race, Election 2008, Health Care, Around The State at 10:37 am by wcnews

Selby’s column in today’s AAS features the opinion of two political consultants that say, Cornyn[’s] vote on kids’ health insurance might not hurt him.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, assured himself of being peppered when he voted against bolstering the Children’s Health Insurance Plan serving children of the working poor.

Even so, two political consultants insist that his position — rating a Democrat-steered approach too expensive and too expansive — won’t hurt him.

Todd Smith of Austin and Craig Murphy of Arlington should know. They coached then-state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth in her unsuccessful 2004 challenge to U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas.

There’s always a chance, I guess, that it may not, but it more than likely will. Tip to PinkDome who EOW agrees with 100%, this will hurt Cornyn. Of course whether it hurts him bad enough that he loses the election, only time will tell. But it appears Cornyn is willing to take that chance.

Wohlgemuth scrambled, Murphy suggested, because she wasn’t widely known before Edwards popped her. Cornyn shouldn’t have an identity problem, nor will he lack resources to deliver his message.

There definitely won’t be an identity problem for Cornyn. Trying to throw out the comparison with the Edwards/Wohlgemuth 2004 Congressional race, with the 2008 US Senate race, where health care will be one one of the top two or three issues, doesn’t wash. These consultants and Cornyn should be aware of the main lesson learned from the Wohlgemuth race - she is no longer an elected representative. Cornyn is already very unpopular, especially for an incumbent Senator, in what has been a GOP friendly state. It’s doubtful this will help those numbers.

If Cornyn wants to continue with this radical stance on children’s health care, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison voted for this plan, that the ever-shrinking base of the GOP loves, then more power to him. His reelect problem is not a problem of shoring up the GOP base. His problem is with Independents and moderates and this will do nothing to help with them. If his consultants tell him that his stance on this issue won’t hurt his race for reelection, that will be just fine with Democrats in Texas.

The CPPP has the latest analysis on how the SCHIP reauthorization will help Texas, as well as Cornyn’s latest folly.


Hutto/Carmel Creek Tax Incentives Bigger Than Austin/The Domain

Posted in Taxes, Commentary, Williamson County at 3:46 pm by wcnews

Via the AAS:

Hutto city leaders have agreed to give a developer incentives worth about $52 million for a 466-acre mixed-use development, the largest in city history and possibly more than what Austin awarded in its controversial package for the Domain.


Hutto’s deal could end up being richer than the City of Austin’s incentives package for the Domain shopping center, which total $37 million to $57 million over 20 years. That agreement has been controversial among groups that oppose giving certain retail competitors a financial advantage.

Grass-roots lobbyist Jeff Heckler opposes the Domain’s package and said he could also have an issue with Hutto’s incentives, depending on whether more than half the development is retail. In that case, a city would be giving the development a leg up on other retail outlets, he said.

Developers don’t have that percentage breakdown for the Crossings of Carmel Creek yet, spokeswoman Beth Woods said.

Hutto approves incentives to retail developments on a case-by-case basis, City Manager Ed Broussard said. The recently approved package provided the city leverage in reaching a separate agreement that gives it more control over landscaping, parks and other infrastructure on the site, he said.

Giving up a portion of the sales tax was necessary for Hutto, Love said.

“If the complex wasn’t there, what sales tax would we have?” he asked.

I hope mayor Love isn’t trying to say that if it wasn’t for tax incentives that land would never be developed. Because that’s flat wrong. These deals generally speaking do not pay off as promised. Local Austin Businesses have started a Stop Domain Subsidies petition drive to stop the tax subsidies promised to the Austin mall.

Quoting from the Executive Summary of this EPI publication, Rethinking Growth Strategies, a couple of excerpts. First to bust the myth of that tax incentives lure companies because cost reduction.

It is commonly thought that firms will migrate to a particular state for the purpose of reducing costs, since lower costs may result in higher profits for business owners. But state and local taxes are not typically a significant cost of doing business. All state and local taxes combined make up but a small share of business costs and reduce profits only to a limited extent. Indeed, the costs of taxes pale in comparison to many other location-specific costs, and numerous location factors—including qualified workers, proximity to customers, and quality public services—can be more critical than taxes. The availability of these vital location factors depends in large part on each state and locality’s commitment to public investment—and their ability to pay for it. Research, in fact, substantiates that public investment plays a positive role in helping lower costs for firms.

They’re nice, but that land was going to be developed anyway. Next.

It follows that, if taxes are not a decisive factor and public spending can be a positive force, then the use of tax cuts to create jobs can carry uneconomical “costs per job.” Even with optimistic assumptions, for each private-sector job created by state and local tax cuts, governments may lose between $39,000 and $78,000 or more in tax revenue annually. This substantial revenue loss forces governments to lay off public employees in numbers that probably exceed the number of jobs created in the private sector. The net effect of tax cuts is thus likely to be a loss of employment. In addition, the public would lose the value of the public services that would no longer be provided. So, while access to jobs is clearly a vital concern in today’s economy, public officials and voters should focus not solely on faith in tax cuts but on the best ways to get employment results. In the end, any jobs that might be gained by cutting taxes can be more than offset by the jobs lost as a result of cuts in public services.

State and local tax cuts and incentives are probably not the best use of public revenues, even when the object is to encourage business firms to put more people to work. This finding confirms that state and local officials should take into account public-service as well as tax effects on the economy when considering fiscal policy designed to promote optimal job growth. Tax increases used to enhance public services can be the best way to spur the economy. By stimulating growth, generating jobs, and providing direct benefits to residents, improvements in state and local public services can be one of the most effective strategies to advance the quality of life of citizens.

In other words trading all that that tax money for a road, some parks, and an amphitheater [.PDF], on land that would be developed without giving away that money, isn’t much of a deal.

Gattis And Birkman Speak On TDH

Posted in Commissioners Court, Criminal Justice, T. Don Hutto, Williamson County at 1:15 pm by wcnews

This News 8 article on yesterday’s court vote on TDH has a couple of great quotes in it from our elected representatives in Williamson County.

“This gets down to us really on a liability issue. That doesn’t mean all the human rights stuff goes past us. We’re really concerned about that, but this issue really boils down to the contract,” Judge Dan Gattis said.

“This is not about immigration policy. This is about the county and whether or not we chose to be in the middle of a situation between the federal government and a private corporation,” commissioner Lisa Birkman said.

You can almost feel the compassion in Judge Gattis’ voice. It makes EOW wonder which “human rights stuff” doesn’t get pas them? In answer to Mrs. Birkman’s question, yes, you did, that’s what the 15 grand each month is for.

BOR Interviews Noriega And Watts

Posted in US Senate Race, Good Stuff, Election 2008, 2008 Primary, Congress, Around The State at 11:55 am by wcnews

TX-Sen: BOR Interview with Mikal Watts & Rick Noriega. A great job by BOR. And I agree with Kuff’s comments regarding the traditional media and their inability to provide something like this thus far. Good questions and great answers by both candidates. My only comment is I didn’t see a specific question on health care, fully understanding that a decision had to be made on what and what not to ask. The TTC made the cut and here’s what the candidates had to say regarding it.

7. Where do you stand on the Trans-Texas Corridor? How do you intend to fund our transportation infrastructure needs? Do you support the current “toll everything” policy or would you instead consider raising/indexing the gas tax?

RN: I oppose the Trans-Texas Corridor because of the large price tag, as well as the land use, environmental, and eminent domain impacts of the project. It is an extraordinary price to pay for a project whose goals can be met through other more reasonably priced means. We must find ways to improve our infrastructure by considering feasible expansions of mass transit, but we cannot do so in a fiscally irresponsible way.

MW: I am against tolling existing roads, against confiscating personal property to help a foreign company’s bottom line, and against secret no-bid contracts to transfer public wealth into private hands. I am for any comprehensive plan that promotes mass transit, energy independence, and a reasonable solution to our traffic gridlock.

Go to BOR and read the whole thing.

CCA Makes Offer Regarding T. Don Hutto

Posted in Commissioners Court, Criminal Justice, T. Don Hutto, Commentary, Williamson County at 10:00 am by wcnews

Of course this never was about the commissioners having a problem with what they’ve allowed to occur at the T. Don Hutto prison, it’s always been about the money. From today’s AAS, Vote delayed on ending county contract with immigrant center.

Williamson County leaders put off plans Tuesday to potentially sever ties with the owner of a much-criticized immigrant detention center in Taylor.

The delay came after officials with Corrections Corp. of America, in an effort to sway county commissioners’ plans, offered free legal protection and $250,000 for the county should it ever face litigation for its involvement with the T. Don Hutto Residential Center.


The company is also offering the county $250,000 worth of credit in case it loses or has to settle a suit, said Steven Owen, a spokesman. Owen said negotiations are ongoing, so the amount could change.


No lawsuits have been filed against the county since it entered the contract a year ago, County Judge Dan A. Gattis said. Commissioners said it was too soon to comment on whether Corrections Corp.’s offers changed their opinion about leaving the contract early.

“I want to hear all the facts. I want to know what our true liability is,” Commissioner Valerie Covey said.

Assistant Williamson County Attorney Hal Hawes said he will probably report back to commissioners in two to three weeks.

If commissioners vote to end the contract early, federal rules require Corrections Corp. to find another government entity to partner with; otherwise the contract for housing detainees would be subject to competitive bidding.

Owen said the company would comply with those rules if the county ended the contract early or if it didn’t renew the contract after 2009. He said it was too soon to comment on what would happen to the center if Corrections Corp. didn’t win the bid or find a partner.

“I don’t want to speculate, but obviously we’ve invested a good deal of time and money,” he said. “Our hopes and our efforts will always be to keep that institution operational.”

We’ll just have to wait and see if that’s enough money to ease the burden the commissioners have been feeling regarding T. Don Hutto. Liability burden, not moral burden, of course.

AAS Editorial On CAMPO Vote, No Surprise

Posted in Privatization, Had Enough Yet?, Road Issues, Central Texas, Commentary at 9:49 am by wcnews

It’s mostly an editorial, (don’t forget to read the comments), trying once again to convince us that CAMPO had no other choice and trying to tell us what great leaders all that voted for this are because it takes guts to vote yes on a plan they know is bad, but we’ll thank them for it later.

Most members of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, or CAMPO, understood that, at bottom, they really didn’t have much choice but to accept tolls if the Austin area is to get significant stretches of its highway system rebuilt and expanded. Despite the protesters’ warnings of “political suicide” to CAMPO members, we think most voters will recognize that reality as well.

You’ll thank them in the long run. Once they’ve been voted out of office and the tolls keep going up, and up, and up, you’ll thank them.

Then we get this.

Those most upset about tolls need to take their complaints to Gov. Rick Perry and a Republican-dominated Legislature bent on not raising the gasoline tax or any other tax. Yet the number of drivers continues to grow, older highways wear out and need to be expanded, and the real cost of construction continues to rise because of demand for building materials.

There are serious arguments to be made regarding the fairness of tolls, especially those charged on rebuilt expressways originally paid for with tax dollars.

But the majority of CAMPO board members Monday faced the fact that Austin could either keep arguing about tolls or pay them and get the highways built. The majority did right to vote to build.

Well of course it’s the current and previous governor and current and previous legislatures fault for the mess we’re in. But it would have been better to do nothing than to accept this long term lemon.


WCGOP Writes Letters - UPDATED

Posted in Take Action, Right Wing Lies, Health Care, Had Enough Yet?, Around The State, Around The Nation, Williamson County at 1:58 pm by wcnews

Imagine for a second that a newspaper in Williamson County would have printed a letter to the editor with this as the title:

Cruel Republicans and their Fascist nonsense

Imagine the outrage.

Well the Round Rock Leader (RRL) didn’t. Instead they printed the partisan ravings, and error infested talking points, of an officer of the Williamson County GOP. Go check it out. Whether the RRL knew the author was an officer of the party is not known.

The author spews the same ‘ol error-filled mantra we’ve been hearing since Bush and a few of his compassion-less minions decided insuring more children was a bad thing.

Here those claims will be debunked with excerpts form this post, GOP to Battle SCHIP Veto Override With Distortions. (There’s more debunking of GOP myths regarding SCHIP in the post and I recommend everyone read the whole thing).

  • It’s socialized medicine
  • SCHIP does nothing to advance socialized medicine. This is a block grant program, under which states opting to receive federal funds run their own programs in compliance with federal rules. There is no “single payer,” and the program is not run by the federal government. The caregivers who actually provide the health care are generally private rather than government employees.

  • “..redefines ‘children’ as individuals 25 years of age..”
  • This is a complete misnomer.

    the SCHIP program is aimed at children. Adults are generally not eligible. Some states have in the past obtained waivers from the federal government (yes, the Bush administration) to extend benefits to certain adults, usually adults who are disabled, pregnant, or parents of eligible children. New waivers to provide coverage of adults without children has been prohibited since passage of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2006. The Bush administration likes to portray this as a major dimension of the program by emphasizing that about 600,000 adults are receiving benefits under SCHIP, but that is only a tenth of the six million recipients overall. This is fundamentally a program for uninsured children.

  • Covers families that earn up to $83,000/year.
  • opponents of SHIP expansion insist that the program would extend to upper-middle class families. Yesterday, for example, President Bush said in Lancaster, Pennsylvania that the SCHIP bill “expands coverage, federal coverage, up to families earning $83,000 a year. That doesn’t sound poor to me.” However, that claim is patently misleading. The bill actually restricts SCHIP money to families earning no more than 300% of the federal poverty level, which means about $60,000 for a family of four. President Bush’s assertion is based on a waiver request by the State of New York that was in fact rejected by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Also needed mentioning is that we are all paying for these people’s health care already. In the form of higher insurance premiums. When they wind up going to the emergency room and using their current health care plan, as Bush calls it, that winds up costing us all more than if they would have had health insurance and gone to the doctor when it was just the sniffles.

While John Carter, (Don’t forget to contact him), and his minions in the WCGOP would like you to believe that anyone who is for expanding SCHIP is a communist that wants to give a bunch of 25 years old making $83,000 a year free health care, it just ain’t so.

[UPDATE]: Another big part of this that I forgot to mention is that this is a bipartisan bill/compromise.

First, there is no “Democratic” bill. The SCHIP bill that will be considered this week in the House and the Senate is a bipartisan conference report very similar to the Senate bill that received 68 votes.

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