Posted: Oct 8, 2013 11:01 AM
Updated: Oct 8, 2013 11:01 AM
Galveston County Daily News. Oct. 2, 2013.
ObamaCare: Fix it, don't fight it
Here's a suggestion to the Texas congressional delegation on ObamaCare: Fix it. Don't fight it.
A national health care system is not popular in Texas. Congressional representatives have little to lose by supporting the quixotic effort to shut down the federal government. But the Texas delegation could lead, as opposed to just being popular.
If the repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act were up to voters in Texas, this would be easy. But it's not. And it would be better for everyone if the Texas delegation conceded sooner, rather than later, that this is a fight that they can't win.
Texas, like the rest of the country, is being hurt by the shutdown. That's especially obvious for those of us who live on the doorsteps of NASA. A lot of paychecks have suddenly disappeared from the area economy.
It would help if our representatives in Congress would make another run at fixing the problems with this legislation, rather than fighting it to the bitter end.
Fiscal conservatives in Europe have worked on national health care systems with one view in mind: controlling costs.
American conservatives could learn from that experience. Taxpayers here are paying outrageous amounts because we don't have a real system of controlling public expenditures.
The Affordable Health Care Act, for all its problems, could be a vehicle for limiting what the public spends. That's the fight to be fighting.
The Brownsville Herald. Oct. 6, 2013.
It's about lives
Officially, immigration laws are civil in nature and enforcement is then considered a civil issue.
Tell that to the millions of people who are arrested and jailed and have to rely on the capricious nature of our immigration court system.
Federal officials were right to announce that they will continue hearing immigration cases for people who are being detained, even as civil cases are curtailed because the new fiscal year has started and Congress has not passed federal budget bills to fund government operations.
Immigration courts have been closed along with other non-essential offices and agencies. Justice Department officials have said the federal courts will continue hearing criminal cases but set aside civil issues. Immigrant smuggling cases will continue to be prosecuted.
Immigration advocates have long complained about the disparities in prosecution of immigration cases. Those who are charged with the criminal offense of immigrant smuggling are charged, post bond and are released; many of them are bringing new groups of immigrants across that same night. Meanwhile, the immigrants who are detained with them often languish in jail, sometimes for months or even years. They are considered flight risks and aren't charged with any state or local crime so they can't secure legal help, post bail and be released, even though the smugglers often plead out and are never brought to court.
People detained are deprived of one of the "self-evident" rights that our founding fathers recognized in our Declaration of Independence: the right to freedom. As such, they should be entitled to the due process guaranteed in the Fifth Amendment of our Constitution, and the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a fair and speedy trial.
That is why it is so important that those detained as material witnesses are promptly delivered to federal custody so they can be charged and processed under immigration law.
It's also why it is important to continue providing due process for those detainees, even if the laws they are accused of violating officially are considered civil in nature. If their treatment detention and incarceration is the same as that for criminal offenders, then that consistency should carry through every phase of their case, including the protections promised all people under our Constitution.
The Dallas Morning News. Oct. 6, 2013.
The droughts will win without passage of Proposition 6
Texans are divided by political party. They differ by race and income. They separate themselves on Saturday afternoons by their allegiances to the Texas Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Baylor Bears or one of our other proud college football teams.
They also are united by a common, piercing reality: Droughts keep plaguing every corner of this broad-shouldered state.
From Dalhart to Brownsville, El Paso to Dallas-Fort Worth and Marshall to San Antonio, rolling droughts have upended each part of Texas since the early 1990s.
These unrelenting conditions are now forcing a choice. Texans can stand pat, wait and hope we have enough water to survive the next killer drought and the one after that. Or we Texans can get ahead of these conditions and provide the supplies the state will need alongside a fast-growing population.
In essence, that is what Proposition 6 on the November ballot is all about. The state has a thoughtful, far-reaching water plan. The document contains 562 unique water projects. They include creative water conservation plans, state-of-the-art desalination projects and needed new lakes. Together, they would help each region of the state find enough water for their communities.
The plan will mean nothing if the state can't implement its strategies. That requires money $53 billion to be exact. The state doesn't have to bite that amount off all at once, but it does need to start paying for these projects.
Proposition 6 would make that possible. If approved, it would ratify the decision legislators made during their 2013 session to use $2 billion from the state's rainy day fund, put that money in a new water funding bank, and use the investment to help communities finance their projects.
Local taxpayers in North Texas and elsewhere should like this arrangement. The state would help their communities issue bonds at an affordable interest rate. This enables them to get a better deal than if the communities tried to raise funds on their own.
Some opponents think they smell big government in the making. But Proposition 6 is a smart investment for Texas. That's why Gov. Rick Perry is campaigning for its passage; last time we looked, he hardly qualified as a big-spending left-winger.
Republicans such as Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus also are championing this amendment. Lawmakers across both parties overwhelmingly favored devoting money to our water needs.
Now, Texans need to do their part and ratify this proposition. A Texas Lyceum poll shows 49 percent favor its passage. That's a start, but it needs 50-plus-one to pass. So, Texans need to be sure to turn out and pass this amendment. Without it, the droughts will win.
San Angelo Standard-Times. Oct. Oct. 7, 2013.
Washington fails, but voters share blame for shutdown
The Lincoln Memorial is swathed in police-line tape, national parks are closed from the Everglades in Florida to Mount Denali in Alaska, and an estimated 800,000 federal employees have packed up potted plants and gone home indefinitely.
So who's to blame? Is it the group of roughly two dozen hard-line conservative Republican House members that Speaker John Boehner is afraid to cross, who are passionate to repeal a health care law they're trying to make unpopular? Or is it simply "Washington"?
A recent Gallup poll suggests Americans have lost confidence in the federal government's ability to handle domestic problems, with a historically low 42 percent saying they have "a great deal or a fair amount" of trust in it.
The pollster noted there is always a partisan split on the question, depending on perceptions of the party holding the presidency.
A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday, the first day of the shutdown, found 72 percent of its respondents opposed to shutting down the government in an effort to stop the Affordable Care Act from moving forward, even though almost half don't like the reforms many call "Obamacare."
David Wasserman, House editor of the Cook Political Report, said that "while most voters are blaming Washington, Washington should blame voters" for clustering in like-minded areas and failing to nominate consensus-minded candidates in party primaries. He said the situation in the past 20 years has created safe districts where the incentive has been to play to a primary, rather than a general election audience. "That's created the crisis we have now."
"Of course people blame Washington," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money's influence on public policy. "Who else would they logically blame but the people who have the power to make this decision?" But, she added, "they should also realize that their own votes on Election Day are collectively what brought us here."
Political analyst Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said that most people took note of the shutdown only after it began.
"Now that Washington has their attention, Americans will focus a bit on this contrived crisis," Sabato added. "Already, people disproportionately blame the GOP in Congress. ... Having made their point about Obamacare, and having assured it will again be a major issue in 2014, the Republicans would be wise to stop the highly unpopular shutdown before it goes on so long that voters will remember in 2014."
Partisans will always blame their opponents for failures. But the legislators who've made extending funding for the new fiscal year contingent upon defunding or delaying Obamacare a law already on the books and ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court aren't just a dysfunctional "Washington." They have names, and they are up for re-election next year.
Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Oct. 2, 2013.
If only Texas would aim as high as its students
A new Texas ethnic milestone was duly noted in news reports last week: For the first time, more Hispanic than non-Hispanic white students in public high schools took the SAT college entrance exam.
Hispanics also now account for 50.2 percent of enrollment. And that, Amigos, is a majority. It also means that the SAT milestone should be considered an expectation a milestone that had darned well better be achieved or else something's wrong.
The Texas Education Agency gleaned some interesting indicators about Texas students from the annual report by the College Board, the group that administers the SAT, such as:
More than half of the test-takers were female. College-bound or college-aspiring females outnumbering males is not new. But now the percentage is pushing 54 percent.
Among the test-takers who responded to an optional question about their parents' education levels, 45 percent said their parents never advanced past high school. This is progress. If all 45 percent proceed to college, they will brighten the future of Texas and of their families' unfolding histories. They also could help their parents fulfill good parents' No. 1 wish that their children outdo them.
Texas SAT test-takers are ambitious, according to answers to another optional question. A bachelor's degree is good enough for only 33 percent of them. Fifty-two percent are planning to go for a master's or a doctorate.
Lofty aspirations are all well and good, but SAT scores remained flat and below the national average.
There's no excusing this. Texas is home to some of the world's greatest universities, medical institutions, cities and multinational corporations. It is the economic miracle state. It's in the midst of an energy boom a DIVERSE energy boom. Its oil and gas reserves alone are leading the United States toward energy independence. It also has significant uranium and coal reserves and is a leader in development of wind energy.
And that's minus all the hot air flowing from the Legislature and the Governor's Mansion, which brings us to another important statistic:
Texas ranks 48th in per-student public school spending.
Now, in the interest of being open-minded, we're willing to entertain for the sake of argument that 48th is excellent and 50th should be the goal. The rationale would be that Texas is a penny-wise state that doesn't take kindly to wasteful spending by spoiled, inefficient public school bureaucrats. We've heard this, and it's not just a rationale. It's what the governor and Legislature have established as standard operating procedure.
From a taxpayer standpoint, it's what we all want to hear. But what do the parents of Texas' 4.9 million public school students want to hear even the fiscally conservative ones who don't like taxes (who does?)? Where would THEY want Texas to rank? We're betting it's not 48th.
This is a state that doesn't seem to mind the cost of busing high school football teams distances that, if this were New England, would involve crossing whole states. (For the record, we are NOT in ANY WAY suggesting that this activity should stop.) So, apparently not all public school spending is wasteful.
Texas should do more to match its students' ambition.