Don’t get me wrong, these are all important issues to the Catholic faithful, Annual Catholic rally welcomed by the Senate.
The annual rally seeks to remind state leaders of Catholics’ interest in issues ranging from school choice tax credit scholarships and payday lending to Medicaid expansion and abortion facilities regulation, according to a press release from the Texas Catholic Conference. The policy voice for Texas bishops at the legislature reports it is tracking more than 500 bills pertaining to Catholic moral and social teachings.
But being Catholic, it seems to me that this cozy and warm relationship the Bishop’s seem to have with our political leaders in this state is not what’s needed right now. Especially with so many Texans still suffering, As Texas economy grows, so does poverty rate.
The number of Texans living in poverty rose for a third consecutive year in 2011, adding more than 214,000 people to total 4.6 million. That’s 18.5 percent of the population, 3 percent higher than the nation as a whole, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By comparison, New Hampshire had the lowest proportion of people living in poverty, with 8.8 percent, and Mississippi the highest, 22.6 percent.
That’s a despicable number and from the medica reports I’ve seen it doesn’t appear that the word “poverty” was mentioned at the rally. Catholic Leaders, Faithful Rally at Capitol. My hope is that our Catholic leaders don’t turn out like our elected leaders. While certainly the unborn are a priority for Catholics, those that are already on this earth must be a priority as well. They should have spent more time yesterday afflicting the comfortable, so as to help bring some comfort to the afflicted. They lack the smell of sheep.
A solution in search of a problem – GOP controlled Texas Senate is wasting precious time on Voter ID
Were so many Republicans elected in 2010 because there was so much voter fraud going? That’s seems to be what the Texas GOP is saying. Voter ID is a solution in search of a problem, always has been, and always will be. It’s always been a ploy by Republicans further restrict access to voting. Instead of this, we should be making registration easier, and trying to make it easier for those registered to vote. It is the job of the local voter registrar to verify that a voter is eligible to vote before registered and sent a registration card.
There is no problem of in person voting election day voter fraud. To the extent that voter fraud exists in Texas it’s largely through mail-in ballots which a new Voter ID law would do nothing to prevent. Just like in 2009, the bill this year state’s only that there is a “potential for fraud” in the current system. See the Author’s statement on SB 14.
Under current law, to vote a regular ballot, voters are only required to present a voter registration certificate to a poll worker. While this practice attempts to ensure that only registered voters receive a regular ballot on Election Day, it leaves a potential loophole for fraud. With the current process, no statutory standards exist to verify the identity of individuals at the polling place when they present a voter registration certificate. On Election Day, an election judge must accept a voter if a voter registration certificate is valid, even if the judge suspects that the voter is not the person listed on the certificate.
Even if the bill passes there will still be a potential for fraud. Ever heard of a fake ID? Anyone who has worked the polls on election day understands that this just does not happen. The GOP is also, for political reasons in this time of tight budgets, extremely underestimating how much this will cost the taxpayers of Texas to implement.
(As an aside there are many, more important, issues that should be raised regarding making voting easier. In addition to what was mentioned above, there should be same day registration. Also the need or reasoning behind having precincts should be rethought. Do we really need them anymore? They are essentially a party organizing unit, and now that we are a more mobile people, we could certainly look into whether we can make do without them. Having more “commuter friendly” voting meg-centers along commuter routes that would function like an early voting location, should be looked at. Also making election day a holiday, would spur turnout and make it easier to find workers on that day. I sure there a more fixes to our election process but that’s what comes to mind right now. If you have any leave them in the comments).
More articles on today’s GOP Voter ID shenanigans:
Governor Pushes Poll Tax, Distracts from Real Problems Facing Texans.
After kicking around the budget “issue” with some family this weekend I’ve come to the determination that the Texas GOP’s opening gambit is to try and make things look as bad as possible. Then, eventually, they will come up with a finished product that won’t look as bad as it does now. It will still be horrible, but will be looked at not as bad, or more likely even good, as compared to what Rep. Jim “throw ’em out in the streets” Pitts (R-Waxahachie) proposed last week.
HB 1 is only a starting point. The budget will go through many changes before it passes the Legislature at the end of the 82nd session in May; some of the empty line items almost certainly will be filled. But the breadth of the opening round of cuts can been seen in a by-no-means comprehensive A to Z primer of state programs whose new bottom line now stands at $0.
The main problem for working and middle class Texans is that both the major parties in Texas appear to be against raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations, (which are currently getting of easy), to fund our state’s government at a reasonable level in this horrible time. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since the Democrats candidate for governor last fall said that, “”No tax increases; you reduce spending,”…”We don’t have a revenue problem in this state”. We most certainly do. The Democrats have been getting shellacked in Texas for damn near 20 years and, and for whatever reason, seem to believe using the same failed campaign strategy of competing with Republicans for corporate cash is a good way to go. If they keep that up they will continue losing as they have been.
Working and middle class Texans need politicians that will work for them, not politicians that will continue losing while vying for campaign contributions from wealthy and corporate donors. The only way back for Demcorats is to help the people of Texas who are struggling. Outside of that, Texas voters will continue electing Republicans.
As stated below, what needs to be done is that the cuts, no matter how much less horrible they wind up being, must be blamed on Texas Republicans and their greedy and selfish campaign donors. Use the rainy day fund, close the corporate loopholes, and make everyone pay their fair share in taxes, then the budget shortfall will become much more manageable, and sensible cuts should be the last step. Until then what the GOP is doing must be called out the callous, heartless, selfish act that it is.
Two links for more information:
The Texas GOP, now that the election is over, sees nothing wrong with growing the size of government. Spending tax payer money on non-problems, creating fake emergencies, while cutting education, health care, etc… (Information via TDP email).
- 9,600 state jobs eliminated that could cause the loss of 14,400 more jobs. Economist Ray Perryman explained that every lost public sector job creates a “multiplier effect”, resulting in an additional 1.5 jobs lost.
- $1.15 BILLION reduction in Closing the Gap programs, designed to attract students to study in fields that help Texas’ economy. These cuts will negate over one million new jobs and $122 billion in personal income that economist Perryman calculated these programs would create by 2030.
- $9.8 BILLION in cuts from our public schools
- Elimination of Pre-K Early Start and Early Childhood School Ready program funding, meaning that nearly 200,000 kids will be kicked off these important school-readiness programs.
- $1.57 BILLION cut in nursing home payments
The first item of business for the Texas Seante, and likely US Senate candidate Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, is a sham issue – a fix in search of a problem – Voter ID. This from the Brennan Center for Justice tells anyone all they need to know about the issue, Voter ID a Misguided Effort.
The Brennan Center has researched the impact of voter identification legislation and the frequency of the only type of voter fraud that voter ID bills have the potential to address: the impersonation of registered voters at the polls. Our research has established that impersonation fraud rarely occurs. Indeed, more Americans are struck by lightning each year. But while there is no credible evidence that impersonation fraud occurs, reliable evidence proves that photo ID and proof of citizenship bills erect hurdles that prevent real citizens from voting. The citizens affected are predominantly elderly and indigent voters, and citizens from minority communities.
Still, the legislative fixation on voter ID remains.
But as long some remain fixated on voter ID, they must be prepared demonstrate the requirements are worth the harms they cause—a tough task given the lack of evidence of fraud, as Colorado Common Cause Executive Director Jenny Flanagan to wrote the Denver Post on November 25. Legislators should also be prepared to carry the financial burdens of implementing voter identifications laws that meet constitutional requirements. For if voter ID is to be implemented, states will have to provide ID cards free of charge to those who cannot afford them, to make sure that those cards are widely available, to undertake mass outreach and public education programs on the new requirements, and to include fail-safes and exceptions for certain categories of voters. This adds up to a lot of money—at a time when state budgets are strained.
This will be the first issue this legislative session where Texans will get to see what they really voted for, or more likely didn’t come out to vote for, and instead endorsed by indifference (the consequences of not voting).
The story that isn’t being told is the the story of why Texas has a $27 billion budget shortfall. It is not being told by the media in Texas or Texas Democrats. The people must be told who has caused them so much pay, and will inflict more upon them in the future. The only way that Democrats can change the current media theme – “that the GOP is so sorry for what they are about to do but they have no choice” – is to show the people of Texas that this has been their plan all along.
Historian Rick Perlstein pointed this out in a 2009 talk, excerpted here, Rules of Liberal Political Success.
- (Taken from his talk “Whatever Happened to Hope: Why Barack Obama Cannot Become a Transformational President”)
- Got to make people feel good.
- No liberal regime has ever succeeded in American History without successfully stigmatizing the conservatism that preceded it as a failure that ruined ordinary people’s lives.
- A transformational Democratic president must be a credible defender of the economic interests of ordinary Americans to a preponderance of those ordinary Americans sufficient to push through their distrust of cosmopolitan liberals as such. (Anti Big Business Populism).
- No liberal regime has ever succeeded in American History without successfully stigmatizing it’s opposition as extreme, as alien, as strange, as frightening to ordinary Americans who want order in their lives.
I like to shorten it. There can be no savior, or “saver” of the working people, unless there is a satan, or cause of their pain. And that is the story that the Democrats MUST start telling if they want to return to power in Texas. The Republicans in Texas are the cause of your pain, we are here to help you. Make them feel good, that they are not alone, and you will help them, and they will vote for you.
As this blog post shows, the Legislative Study Group (LSG) points out, that this shortfall was, purposefully and knowingly, caused by a GOP tax plan that was put in place in 2006.
The Legislative Study Group, chaired by Rep. Garnet Coleman, now has an analysis of the Pitts budget outline, which you can read here. The main point to remember:
How We Got Here: Built-In Budget Shortfall Comes from the 2006 Tax Package
The current $26.8 billion budget shortfall is partly the result of a built-in budget hole created in the 3rd Called Special Session of the 79th Texas Legislature, which has now created a structural shortfall in three successive legislative sessions. Unless the tax structure is changed, Texas lawmakers will begin every legislative session with the built-in budget shortfall.
In 2006, Governor Perry signed into law a tax package that changed the state’s business tax structure, redirecting billions each year away from public schools and into a newly created Property Tax Relief Fund. The tax package consisted of four major pieces of legislation:
- House Bill 2 (3rd Called Special Session of the 79th Texas Legislature), creating the “Property Tax Relief Fund” which collected money from the other three tax bills in the tax package
- House Bill 3 (3rd Called Special Session of the 79th Texas Legislature), the franchise tax or “margins tax” bill
- House Bill 4 (3rd Called Special Session of the 79th Texas Legislature), the motor vehicle sales and use tax
- House Bill 5 (3rd Called Special Session of the 79th Texas Legislature), the $1 cigarette tax
At the time the tax package was presented to the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Perry, the Comptroller estimated that the revenues generated from the new tax package would fall $14 billion short of the cost of the legislation in the first five years. The predicted shortfall has come true, leaving the state billions short of necessary funds to maintain basic state services.
They have charts to go along with the words for all you visual learners. No matter what we do this session, we will continue to have shortfalls until we plug this hole.
And as with any budget, it shows prirorities, or the lack thereof.
The old adage is you spend money on your priorities. If that is the case, then the Republican Party doesn’t give a damn about students, struggling families, teachers, the elderly, people struggling with medical bills, state employees and so many more.
The Texas GOP caused this. Their intention was to cause a shortfall and use it as an opportunity to cut government spending that benefits poor, elderly, needy, and working Texans. They will not ask for the wealthy and corporations to help in this time of need. They planned for this, they want this, this has been their dream for decades – to cut all of these things they don’t, and never have, believed that the government should be involved in. Despite their calm demeanor, they are smiling on the inside, (all the while lying to our faces, telling us we can have budget cuts and still have everything we want).
It’s not a hard story to tell – the Texas GOP is responsible for the budget shortfall in Texas – Texas Democrats and the media in Texas need to start telling it.
I alluded to it below but should probably expand on the point. Republicans like Perry like to make the case that taking away needed jobs and services of the poor and middle class is less severe then raising taxes on the wealthy. But that’s just not true. The worst thing to do is to cut education, health care, jobs, and infrastructure.
I sacrificed and read the inaugural speeches of Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. They can be read here and here. As I read over both speeches I was looking for what these two leaders did and didn’t say about sacrifice, and who should sacrifice. Both of them spoke of sacrifice in terms of our military and their families and, of course, we are all very thankful for their sacrifice. But I was more interested in what kind of sacrifice they were asking for, in terms of the looming budget fight in the legislature, from ALL Texans.
As for Perry the word was not spoken in any other context, and here’s essentially what he’s asking for when it comes to the budget:
“While our budget challenges are substantial, for the good of the 25 million pioneers we call Texans, for a people who work hard to get ahead – we must balance our budget without raising their taxes.
“Since the last legislative session ended, I have traversed this great state, meeting with Texans from every walk of life and I have listened.
“I heard their belief that tough economic times require strong leadership and tough choices for everyone.
“I have heard their calls for government that is smarter, leaner and more accountable.
“They reminded me that there is no such thing as government money; it’s the people’s money in government’s hands.
“Texas families have endured this long season of economic trouble by tightening their own budgets, and making tough choices.
“Texas employers have streamlined operations, becoming more innovative and efficient.
“Making their lives harder just to make our jobs easier would be a failure of leadership.
“As Texans, we always take care of the least among us.
“The frail, the young, the elderly on fixed incomes, those in situations of abuse and neglect, people whose needs are greater than the resources at their disposal – they can count on the people of Texas to be there for them.
“We will protect them, support them and empower them, but cannot risk the future of millions of taxpayers in the process. We must cut spending to keep our economic engine on track.
“As legislators do the hard work of trimming agency budgets, the headlines will be dominated by impacted constituencies, but these tough times dictate government doing more with less.
“That’s what we campaigned on, and that’s what we’ll deliver.
“We need to prioritize and justify every penny and validate every investment made.
“During this session, Texas will prove again that fiscal responsibility, sound policy making and a passion for individual liberty are essential to the success of employers, institutions and families.
Notice the twist that Perry makes in the three highlighted statements above:
- The “Texas families” that have done what he speaks of are the poor and middle class Texas families, not wealthy Texas families.
- “..employers have streamlined.” means that as workers have become more efficient, business needs fewer (layoffs), and their profits have risen as wages have stagnated.
- “Making their lives harder..” he is implicitly threatening poor and middle class Texans with tax cuts. The reality is the American people, and I would hazard to guess, Texans too would be just fine covering this budget shortfall by taxing the wealthy and corporations.
Here is what Dewhurst had to say on the subject.
“It was not just my father and the millions of servicemen who sacrificed; it was all of American society. It was the factory workers; it was the women who not only raised families without their husbands, but worked in plants to support the war; it was citizens who bought war bonds and prayed every night for the safe return of their loved ones. Each had a role to play, and virtually all rose to the challenge. We see that same spirit of sacrifice alive and well today in our fighting men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are freedom’s greatest ambassadors: warriors willing to sacrifice all, including their own safety, for a greater good. We must never become oblivious to their sacrifice or fail to remember the generations that came before them. We, too, as individual citizens and civilians must be willing to sacrifice for the good of our state and our country.
“Many in America have been trained to believe we can have all we want when we want it. But at the core of being a Texan and an American is not what we get from society, but what we give back. For most of us Texans, the question is not what government can do for us, but what we can do if government doesn’t stand in our way. Government cannot replace the role of parents in families, cannot legislate personal responsibility, cannot replace the private sector in creating jobs, and cannot govern an individual’s life better than his own conscience.
“Texas still offers the promise of a better tomorrow, where a little boy or girl can grow up with nothing, work hard, and have the storybook ending they would never dare to imagine as a child. I know because that’s my story. And it’s the story of millions of Texans who have lived the American Dream in this state so abundant with opportunity – those who sacrifice, those who persevere, those who dust off their boots and get back up every time they get knocked down. They are the ones who know the meaning of the American Dream, the Texas Dream.
“The promise of Texas is a light on the distant horizon piercing the darkness. It’s a promise available to any and all who are willing to work hard, sacrifice, and never give up. This has never been more true than today with thousands of new pilgrims settling here each day in this modern Promised Land we call Texas. We who have inherited that promise must preserve and protect it. We must never allow its light to lose its luster. We must be united in our quest for a better Texas – a Texas rich in values, abundant in opportunity, wealthy in spirit. One people, one star, one destiny.
To be fair Dewhurst, in the highlighted section above, left out some sets of people that sacrificed considerably during and after WW II, and the Great Depression. Those were the wealthy and corporations, (Don’t forget as far as the US Supreme Court is concerned corporations are people). They sacrificed much in tax revenue for the benefit of our nation during the war and for future generations. They no longer do, and are no longer asked to, by our supposed leaders to do so in tough times like these. Shouldn’t the wealthy and corporations pay as much in taxes as a school teacher or their secretaries?
It’s clear that if raising taxes was such a bad idea during an economic downturn, then we never would have gotten out of the Great Depression, or won WW II. Not only did we get out of the Great Depression, we won WW II, we then had the greatest economic expansion in World history as the wealthy and corporations continued to contribute tax money, and the middle class grew to heights never before seen.
While Perry and Dewhurst plan to call for sacrifice only from the poor and middle class, we must continue to shine a light on the class warfare they and their party in waging on this state.