Category Archives: News and Politics

Escape From Texas

The Republican-controlled legislature in Texas is ready to embark on a series of budget cuts that have not been seen in this state since World War II, according to this NY Times piece. Reading through the article and what the Republicans are wanting to do, I’m at a loss. Here’s a taste:

In a party-line vote, the House slaughtered dozens of sacred cows. The budget bill makes huge cuts to public education, nursing homes and health care for the poor. It slashes financing for highways, prisons and state parks. It eliminates full-day preschool, cuts teacher incentive pay and reduces scholarships for college students by two-thirds.

The House plan would give schools almost $8 billion less than current state law requires over the next two years. Medicaid would be about $4 billion short of what officials say is needed to meet the growth in caseloads. One group of budget analysts predicted that 97,000 teachers and school employees would be laid off. Other analysts said that the cuts to Medicaid would force hundreds of nursing homes out of business and would have a devastating effect on rural hospitals and doctors.

Stunning. And there are some within the party, Tea Party types of course, who woud go further still. Texas already ranks near the bottom in educating its students, we are last in high school graduation rates, and we are terrible at providing health care to our citizens. How do Republicans respond to these numbers? By making cuts to health and education their top priority, despite our growing population that is increasing school enrollment and the number of citizens in need of health care.

Apparently, Republicans are not only okay with this, but they seem to take pride in the possibility that we will rank last in these categories in the future, after their cuts have gone into effect. Maybe I am just pissed off right now, but if I could, I would move the family out of the state pronto. It is sad, really. I was born and raised here and I find myself wanting nothing more than to leave. Why should I want to stay in a place where its political leaders have nothing but contempt for the majority of its citizenry and the institutions that seek to make them healthier and more educated. It is so illogical and so blatantly anti-poor and anti-middle class. It goes against everything I stand for, and I know my credibility may be weakened by the fact that I am a teacher, but I assure you I would be equally repulsed if I were not.

With these Republicans in control of the Legislature and the Governor’s office, the future of Texas seems incredibly bleak at the moment. I hope I am out of here by the time the state implodes.


Obama and Libya

When I first read the news that Obama had ordered the U.S. to intervene in the Libyan rebellion, I was quite concerned. While I agreed with the humanitarian basis behind it, it did not make a lot of sense that we would choose to intervene at that time (why not sooner?) considering the other crises that the U.S. did not get involved in (see Darfur or Ivory Coast). In addition, the financial costs were a concern given our financial crisis and how close we are to a government shutdown due to conflicts about the budget. But I was most worried about this conflict being a long, drawn out affair in which the coalition wilted and the U.S. was compelled to take the lead in a situation that could quickly devolve into something like what we have experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan. We simply cannot afford (in every sense of the word) that right now.

I feel better about the situation now that I have read Obama’s speech on the subject, which he gave last night. He made a strong case for intervention and outlined his own view of foreign intervention that, true to form, seems very pragmatic and reasonable. That said, I am still concerned about the scope of the conflict and how our end game will be achieved. I understand the “long-term” end game to be having Qaddafi removed as President so that the Libyan people can go about reforming their government in a more democratic mode. The potential thorn in the plan, and it is a large thorn, is that Qaddafi has shown no interest in stepping aside and military intervention on the ground may be needed to oust him, which Obama had pledged the U.S. will not do.

How will Obama proceed if the coalition cannot remove Qaddafi simply through political means? Will he be able to stand firm with his plan and commitment in the face of pressure from hawks at home who will label him “weak” for not going all the way to Tripoli, with ground troops, to get rid of Qaddafi? Will he stand firm when his critics deride him for being powerless to achieve his goals in the event Qaddafi does not step down?

I now feel like his decision was quite reasonable and I like the means in which he has chosen to intervene. But I am deeply concerned the U.S. will be forced to carry this burden in the end, and will do so for years to come. And of course I worry about the political issues Obama may face if this conflict gets uglier and as feared, we do in fact need to get more involved. Adding another war to our plate wil


State of the Union

President Obama will give his second State of the Union address this Tuesday, and it seems like a good time to break my hiatus from this blog to comment ahead of his speech. The early indications are that he will focus on jobs and the economy, while calling for a more “united” citizenry and more responsible approach to government spending. Though he is not expected to endorse the deficit reduction plan proposed by the panel he created.

According to the NYT article linked to above, Obama will focus on innovation, education, infrastructure, deficit reduction and reforming government as the keys to ensuring America’s future prosperity. I am guessing he will make a push yet again for increased light rail construction and building more energy-efficient homes, cars and buildings, which cover some aspects of the innovation and infrastructure points. But I am more interested in what he will have to say regarding education, deficit reduction and reforming government.

While I am okay with Obama not giving a full endorsement of the Bipartisan Deficit Reduction Plan, I do hope he spends some time talking about the difficult choices represented in that proposal and the need to take them seriously.  He needs to get out in front of the Republicans as being more serious about the deficit before the usual “tax-and-spend liberal” narrative ratchets up and he’s playing catch-up, as has been much of the case throughout his presidency (in regards to the media narrative). To do this, he must lend credence (to some degree) to that bipartisan plan, even if some of the cuts and provisions outlined in it are not popular amongst liberals.

If Obama couples deficit reduction with reforming government to make it more efficient and effective, he will have a winner. The argument about “big” vs. “limited” government is irrelevant: government is already big and Republicans have done more than their fair share to make it so. The real issue is how well the government works for us and what its priorities are.

For decades economic policy has centered around lowering taxes to spur economic growth, which both parties have been complicit in but has undoubtedly been the preferred policy of the Republicans. But all that policy has done is create a huge disparity in wealth and income and helped increase our budget deficit to an astonishing $14 trillion. The notion that lowering taxes on the wealthy benefits the rest of us cannot be true if we’ve continued to lower taxes and yet more people find themselves living in poverty, more wealth is concentrated at the top, and wages have remained stagnant (Slate has a great series on this issue which you can find here).  Obama should call for a simplified tax code that eliminates needless loopholes and an end to the Bush-era tax cuts once they expire in 2012  (I am disappointed he helped extend the cuts to the wealthy; goes back to an inability to dominate the narrative).

And while I would like to see Obama “call-out” the Republicans for their intransigence the past two years, I suspect he will portray himself as the “moderate” in the room, which the blogosphere is claiming to be a return to Clinton’s triangulation strategy in 1994. Politically it makes sense, but if the serious issues we face are going to be addressed in an equally serious way, he may need to eschew the political game and fight to take the role of government in a new direction. He needs to defend the need for health care and education reform, he needs to question the role our military plays in foreign affairs, he needs to address why income inequality can ultimately doom us, he needs to question why Republicans are more interested in taking laws off the book then drafting new and better ones (see health care repeal and coming soon to a political theater near you, repeal of the Clean Air Act), and he needs to question almost any major government spending that does not produce results (ahem, drug war).

He will not do these things, at least not in this speech. Probably not the time to do so. But I hope he starts to discuss these things if for no other reason than to mobilize the left ahead of 2012. Time will tell if he is actually serious about reshaping this country’s future and how much he is willing to risk to get it done. Mr. President, you are on the clock.

 


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Race to the Bottom, Cont’d

Here is our latest salvo.

And while I’m at it, how about a Race to the Bottom: Countries entry. This one will work.


Got Republican?

If your main concern in this year’s election is the economy and you feel the Obama administration has not done enough to help the economy and the Republicans have the answer, consider this (for some reason I could not embed the video here).

Your choice seems pretty obvious to me.


Race to the Bottom

The State of Texas decided back in August not to apply for federal aid that would go towards establishing comprehensive sex education classes in public schools. Of course “we” did. It is not like having the third worst teen pregnancy rate in the country is worth addressing.

I love how the Governor’s Office attempted to distance itself from the decision by saying the final decision was made by the Health & Human Services Commission. Yeah right. More petty politics from Rick Perry.  I hope you all registered to vote; we need to get him out of Austin pronto.