Going Home

The long awaited return of Eye On Williamson to it’s old location is upon us.  Temporary posting at this site has come to an end.  Please refer back to eyeonwilliamson.org for all future postings.

TPA Blog Round Up (February 10, 2014)

The Texas Progressive Alliance is still learning the rules of team figure skating as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff published interviews with US Senate candidates Mike Fjetland and Maxey Scherr.

Horwitz at Texpatriate expresses shock and anger over Wendy Davis’ new positions on guns.

This week, House Republican leadership finally announced that the chances for Comprehensive Immigration Reform are “in serious jeopardy.” But thanks to the great people at Houston Matters, Texas Leftist was able to discover that there was never a real chance to pass it in the first place. The only way it’s going to happen is if Democrats take control the House and the Senate.

The news of the week was Wendy Davis coming out in favor of open carry, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs fears that might be a fatal error.

Eye On Williamson on the group Texas Left Me Out (TLMO). Texans and their families that are purposefully being left without health care because of a cruel right wing ideology, Perry and the Texas GOP Left Me Out.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants everyone to know that Greg Abbott insulted the entire Rio Grande Valley. Way to reach out, Bucko!+

Neil at All People Have Value said Wendy Davis announcing support for open carry of guns like back in Wyatt Earp times recalls for us all yet again that the work of freedom is up to each of us and not politicians. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Feminist Justice League does the math on the declining abortion rate nationally and in Texas.

The TSTA blog laments that self-styled education reformers are often part of the problem.

BOR highlights another example of the Texas Medical Association endorsing candidates that work against their own stated interests.

Texas Redistricting examines the components of Texas’ population growth.

Grits for Breakfast cheers a report showing that Texas led the nation in exonerations in 2013.

Molly Cox details how the Affordable Care Act would have saved her a lot of trouble and worry if it had been the law when she first got sick.

Texas Vox notes the House interim charges to watch.

PTA Mom Kim Burkett informs teachers they’ve received a wake up call.

Cody Pogue gives his perspective on Wendy Davis and open carry.

Justifying Cruelty

As yesterday’s post pointed out, Perry and the Texas GOP Left Me Out, there are many hard working Texans who are being denied Medicaid because of ideology. GOP state Sen. Charles Schwertner’s recent Op-Ed is an attempt to try and justify the cruel decision of the GOP to deny expanding Medicaid in Texas.

Schwertner focuses mainly on one aspect of the study relating to emergency room visits.

Earlier this month, Science magazine published the results of a randomized, peer-reviewed study detailing Oregon’s experience in expanding Medicaid to the same population of independent, able-bodied adults that Texas is now asked to consider. Despite showing no improvement in measurable health outcomes over the study’s two-year timeframe, those enrolled in Medicaid were actually shown to use their local emergency room 40 percent more frequently than a control group of the uninsured. The factors driving this result are twofold — convenience and a lack of access to alternative primary care.

An uncomfortable truth of American health care is that, while most people only use the emergency room for legitimate medical emergencies, many also use it for the same reason they use fast food drive-thrus and video-on-demand — it’s convenient. Despite their considerable expense, emergency rooms will treat anyone who walks through the door, require no appointments, and are open 24 hours a day, something of great importance to those who are either unwilling or unable to seek primary care during normal business hours. Since Medicaid enrollees share no cost burden for their medical care, they also have no incentive to seek that care in a less costly setting.

While that’s true, it’s not a surprise, More emergency room use isn’t necessarily bad.

I’ve written about the OHIE so many times, I’m not wasting time praising it. Let me say that I have no problem believing these results. Unlike many others, I’ve never really believed that increasing insurance coverage leads to less ED use.  There are tons of reasons people use the ED over primary care. (See a 2010 post here http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/when-the-emergency-room-is-your-only-option/).

Improved access will lead to, well, increased access. Emergency room care was never free, no matter what people heard in the media. Telling people that they can NOW go to the emergency room with coverage should lead to MORE people going to the emergency room. Increased access does not always mean decreased spending and more primary care.

Moreover, until someone proves to me that the increased ED use was unnecessary, I don’t know why anyone would assume it’s a bad thing. If our goal is to increase people’s access to the health care system, getting more people insurance (like Medicaid) is a good tool for that. If our goal is to help people make more effective use of the healthcare system, increasing coverage isn’t necessarily going to be as good a tool.

The goal of Obamacare is to help people, and that’s what’s always scared the right wing ideologues.  If people again see that the government can actually help people they’re ideology is doomed.

There was also good news in the study which Paul Krugman pointed out, Medicaid Nonsense.

Busy day, no additional blogging until much later. But you should be reading The Incidental Economist on the Oregon Medicaid study that’s creating a lot of fuss today. Basically, budget woes forced Oregon to allocate Medicaid access by lottery, giving a rare randomized experiment. Those who got Medicaid suffered much less financial distress and less depression; they received more preventive care; but on some (not all dimensions) their health wasn’t significantly better than those who lost out in the lottery.

Somehow, conservatives think this is a big win for their opposition to universal health insurance. Why? What it suggests is that the health benefits of ANY kind of health insurance are somewhat hard to identify over a two year period; so, are you about to give up your own insurance, or is your best bet that having that insurance is still a very good idea? And the financial benefits are a big part of that! Since you are going to treat your illnesses, better not to bankrupt yourself in the process, right?

Oh, and until now the claim of right-wingers has been that Medicaid actually makes you sicker; serious researchers have always said that this was a case of selection bias, because sicker people got Medicaid — and now we have confirmation: those who got Medicaid were at least somewhat healthier than those who didn’t.

Above all, you should bear in mind that if health insurance is a good idea — and you are nuts if you let this study persuade you otherwise — Medicaid is cheaper than private insurance. So where is the downside?

And Ezra Klein had this to say about the study, Here’s what the Oregon Medicaid study really said.

Here’s what we can say with certainty: Medicaid works as health insurance.

That might seem obvious. It’s actually not. A big criticism of Medicaid is that it pays doctors so little that it’s essentially worthless because no doctor will see you. But the Oregon residents who won the Medicaid lottery got much more health care — including preventive health care — than the residents who lost it. They also saw catastrophic health costs basically vanish.


The problem with the Oregon study is that it doesn’t help us figure out how to make health care or health insurance better. We don’t know if the results speak to the health care you get through all health insurance or just Medicaid or if they’re just an artifact of the study’s timeframe and sample size. We don’t know if different ways of designing insurance programs would lead to radically different care outcomes (we actually tried a randomized study on that question in the 70s, and the answer, at least then, was “not really”). And so we don’t know whether we’re seeing a problem in Medicaid, an inconvenient truth about medical care, or something else. Worse, we don’t know what to do next.

But we could find out. Studies like this one don’t need to be so rare. The government could put a very small amount of money — say, one percent of the federal budget — toward designing and conducting them across all areas of public policy and the results would help us spend the rest of our dollars much more wisely. There’s no reason the Oregon experiment has to be a unicorn.

I think that’s a great point, we need more studies to see how things are actually working.  No one thinks Obamacare is perfect, and as most government programs, will be changed going forward.  All the ideologues have been calling it a failure since it passed. That Schwertner and the like would discount the good news in the study – of how people are actually being helped – and overly focus on the negative is not surprising. That’s what they do when they’re trying to justify cruelty.

Perry and the Texas GOP Left Me Out

Movements are what bring keep hope alive and bring about change.  That’s why what Texas Left Me Out (TLMO) is doing is so important.  Highlighting Texans and their families that are purposefully being left without health care because of a cruel right wing ideology.

Via the CPPP’s press release yesterday announcing that More Than 40 Health and Community Organizations Launch Campaign to Collect Stories and Engage with Uninsured Texans Left in the Coverage.

Today more than 40 Texas health care advocacy organizations, faith and community groups, including the Center for Public Policy Priorities, launched Texas Left Me Out, a campaign in English and Spanish to collect stories from uninsured Texans left in the coverage gap and connect them with available health care options and advocacy efforts.

While thousands of Texans living above the poverty line are successfully purchasing health plans on the Marketplace and getting help to pay for them, more than one million of Texas’ poorest adults are still being left out due to Texas’ choice to refuse billions of federal dollars to extend coverage to them.

“All of us know the people being left out of coverage; they are the working poor and we work with them every day,” said Sister JT Dwyer of Seton Healthcare Family. “It’s the veteran and his wife, the construction worker who helped build your neighborhood, the person that takes care of your child at the nursery and the health attendant that helps you care for your aging parents.”

Irma Aguilar is just one of more than one million Texans left with nowhere to turn for affordable health coverage. A 28-year-old mother of four from San Antonio, Aguilar is an assistant manager at Pizza Hut but still does not make enough money to qualify for financial assistance in the Marketplace. She has damaged disks in her neck and suffers from high blood pressure that makes her dizzy, but she’s unable to afford treatment.

“I need to be able to keep working and providing for my family, but every single day I worry about what would happen if I had to stop working because of my health conditions,” she said.

Health care navigators and certified application counselors at in-person enrollment sites all over the state are turning away hardworking Texans hoping to get health insurance because they make too little to qualify for financial assistance. Elizabeth Colvin with Insure Central Texas and her staff are having those tough conversations every day.

“We have been left with an awkward situation—a single parent of two earning $17,000 a year will receive no financial assistance for health coverage, while a second uninsured parent of two earning $20,000 a year will qualify for full health coverage for $33-per-month or less,” Colvin said. “We have to tell people that they have no options and there is no worse feeling when you know someone desperately needs a surgery or medical attention. We have to deliver the news that our society has left them out.”

That’s cruel, wrong, and if the Perry and the Texas GOP would have expanded Medicaid in Texas it wouldn’t be happening.

Here’s more from a letter TLMO sent to Texas legislators.

Dear State Legislator,

We are writing as members of Cover Texas Now – a coalition of consumer and faith – based organizations – and other supportive partners that desire to see the state of Texas implement a sustainable health care system and provide quality affordable health coverage to its citizens.

W e are writing to announce the launch of our latest campaign , Texas Left Me Out.

Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the United States – over six million Texans are uninsured. And consistent with the nation’s new health law ’ s purposes to improve health outcomes and reduce costs , every person is to have a way to access affordable and quality health care. But Texas’ decision that resulted in the loss of billions of federal dollars that could have expanded health coverage left more than one million Texans in a coverage gap . Texas adults above the poverty line will get publicly funded financial assistance for their health coverage, while those Texans below the poverty line will qualify for nothing.

The letter also has the list of 40 plus organizations involved.  These Texans need help, it’s available, but their elected leaders won’t allow it.  The group should be more aptly named – Perry and the Texas GOP Left Me Out.

Further Reading:
Inequality is un-American, Why Thomas Jefferson Favored Profit Sharing.

Electing Democrats Is The Only Way To Moderate The Texas GOP

Several recent articles point out the power of the extreme right wing in Texas, while highlighting the futility of everyone else.  Patricia Kilday Hart at the HChron broke it down this way, GOP primary voters rule Texas simply by showing up.

With only 1.4 million voters participating in the GOP primary, that means as few as half the participants – some roughly 700,000 voters – have selected all statewide officials serving Texas’ 26 million residents in recent years.

“It is a tiny fraction of the population who sets the agenda,” says Steve Munisteri, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas. “It is amazing how much influence you can have if you get involved in politics.”

While it’s extremely troubling for Texas that a measly 700K wing nuts decide our fate, there’s an even more troubling part for Democrats.

Democrats also have to show up on the ballot: This year, no Democrat has filed for election to a county government position in 86 of Texas’ 254 counties. In 168 Texas counties, no Democrat is running for the office of county judge.

Hence the importance of the Republican Primary voter. While 6 million to 8 million Texans vote in November elections, Republicans have dominated that contest for two decades. Put bluntly, the only real competition in Texas politics occurs in the Republican Primary.

“How many Texans really understand how many elections are determined in the primaries?” asked University of Texas professor Regina Lawrence, co-author of a study on civic participation in Texas. “When two-thirds of Texans are sitting on the sidelines, it raises the question of how representative our elections end up being.”


Democrats have fielded candidates in only 12 of 15 statewide offices this year, and things get worse down the ballot. For the 150-member Texas House, only 40 percent of the seats have Democratic candidates. Fifteen of the Texas Senate’s 31 seats are up for re-election this year, but only about 40 percent of those races have Democratic candidates.

Granted some of those counties are small and may not matter much, many are not. And having no Democratic presence (or choice) at all, means many Texans in these counties see little or no reason to vote.  Having candidates in these places would get voters used to seeing and hopefully voting for Democrats on a regular basis.  No easy task, but one that’s needed.

And that’s what the recent report shows is that in Texas “civic duty” is being bred out of citizens, Texas Ranks Among Lowest in Nation for Political Participation and Civic Involvement.

“This report should be a wake-up call for all Texans who care about the future of our state,” said Annette Strauss Institute Director and Journalism Professor Regina Lawrence. “By not being civically engaged, too many Texans are ceding control over the direction of our state to an active few. We hope the findings in the Texas Civic Health Index will spur conversation and debate, and inspire people to become more actively engaged.”


The report also includes suggestions for reshaping the state’s civic environment. Large-scale recommendations include improving civic literacy through schools, increasing access to higher education, increasing the supply of and demand for public affairs information and engaging citizens through digital and social media platforms. Ideas for individuals include creatively engaging legislators and reaching out to friends and neighbors to join in election-related activities.

So the next time politicians attack public and higher education, we know why. Those currently in power see them as a threat to their political survival.

Another article was by Mark Jones a political professor, who seems to be trying to goad all Texans to vote in the GOP primary this year. He sees that as the way to bring back some sanity to GOP politics in Texas, GOP primary deserves more attention from voters. He does frame the issue in much starker terms.

The direction and scope of public policy in Texas for the remainder of this decade will be profoundly affected by the outcome of this spring’s Republican primaries. In all 15 statewide contests and in three-fifths of the state legislative races, the November general election will, barring an egregious misstep by a Republican candidate, merely ratify the decision made by GOP primary voters in March and May.

And yet, if recent history is any guide, only between 5 percent and 7 percent of voting age Texans will turn out to vote in the March 4 Republican primary. Those who participate will, however, enjoy a privileged influence on the direction of state policy in the critical areas of education, health care, infrastructure, moral values issues and taxes. In contrast, many Texans who opt not to cast a ballot in the GOP primary may find themselves regretting their choice this time next year when the Republicans elected this spring are running the show in Austin.

If all goes as he’s predicting, 2021 is the earliest date things will start to change.  But the lack of participation led to this statement from Texas Democratic Party spokesman Manny Garcia, “Texas isn’t a red state. Texas is a nonvoting state”.  And that is what must change.  Jones goes on in his article to try and make the case that there are sane Republicans in Texas, “..trying to pull the party back to the center-right”.  But Kuff shreds that argument and many more that Jones is trying to make, Pay no attention to Mark Jones.

1. To say that “some Texas Republicans are now trying to pull the party back to the center-right” is a giant copout. Who are they, what are they doing, and what influence do they have? The fact that Jones doesn’t cite even a single name or organization is telling. Sure, there is some pushback going on in some local races – see, for example, the primary challenge to first term teabagger extraordinaire Rep. Jonathan Stickland in HD92, or the fight for Harris County GOP Chair – but if there’s something like this happening at the statewide level, it’s not apparent to me.

2. I’ll stipulate that there are candidates for Lite Guv and Attorney General – one in each race – that have a track record of mostly pragmatic, non-crazy governance. Both of them are running as fast as they can away from those records, since they correctly recognize that their records are obstacles to overcome in their current races. Note also that Jones did not name the candidates he had in mind. I’ll venture a guess that one reason he didn’t name names is because he knows what would happen if he did: Every other candidate in those races would pounce on his proclamation that so-and-so is secretly a moderate and would govern as one if elected, and the candidates themselves would then be forced to respond by making statements along the lines of “I am not a moderate! I eat moderates for breakfast and gnaw on their bones for a late night snack!” As for the Comptroller’s race, I have no idea who he thinks the undercover moderate is. The three main contenders are a Senator best known for sponsoring the draconian anti-abortion bill HB2, a member of the House that Jones’ own metrics identified as one of the more conservative members last session, and a gadfly whose main claim to fame is running to the right of Rick Perry in the 2010 GOP primary for Governor. Boy, I can just feel the center-right goodness emanating from these races.

He’s got five points so be sure and check out the rest of them.

What’s become clears to anyone with a brain, regarding November 2014 and the Democrats chances in Texas, is that if good things happen it won’t be because a bunch of regular GOP voters come to their senses. The only way Democrats win is if enough of the nonvoters in Texas finally get sick and tired of the crappy government the GOP is running in Texas.

Burka even wrote a decent post on this, Primary Experience.

The evolution of the Republican primary into a race to the far right is a sad moment in Texas politics. There is nothing left of the party of George W. Bush, or even the party of Rick Perry. The press has done little to hold up its side of the equation; they can’t get away from the Wendy Davis saga. We should be talking about how Republicans have allowed creationism to creep into the schools, about the myopia of the media when it comes to setting the agenda for a political race, about the failure of the business community to shoulder its share of responsibility for educating Texans about the things our citizens need: better schools, better roads, better health care.

The lieutenant governor debates ought to embarrass ordinary Texans, so far have they strayed from addressing the real problems facing the state. Each of the four candidates took the hardest of hard-right positions at every opportunity. They couldn’t risk even the slightest hint of moderation. What is missing is mainstream Republicans, local business and education leaders who care about their communities instead of ideological crusades. How did this happen? The simple answer is: Ted Cruz. He has remade the state GOP in the image of the tea party.

Texas politics has fallen into a situation where 1 million or so people completely control the politics of a state of 26 million folks, and I don’t see any escape. Until mainstream Republican voters figure out that the only way to return Texas politics to sanity is to find a middle ground, that they need to make their voices heard in the primaries because that is where major races are settled, nothing is going to change. Even if we had a few candidates who wanted to change the direction of the state, I don’t think it is possible. We have gone too far over the cliff to look back over our shoulders. It’s pretty obvious that the electorate is interested only in issues that are created to drum up a controversy with the federal government: immigration, guns, and anything involving Barack Obama. Until the antipathy for Obama loses some of its force, I don’t see any change in sight regarding Texas politics. I do think that the primary will, in due course, feature a war between the mainstream and establishment factions of the Republican party. [Emphasis added]

He’s right. And that’s why the electorate must change, before anything in Texas can change.  Texas has the feel of a state that’s run by our crazy right wing uncle for a reason, it’s not a coincidence.  The Texas GOP is so far off the cliff, the only way to bring them back is to elect Democrats.

Further Reading:
McBlogger has more media criticism, Wendy Davis… THE DISASTER!
PDiddie hits many different issues, Reconnoitering.
Jason Stanford on what’s changing, behind the scenes, in Texas politics, Yes, there is good news for the Democrats in 2014.

TPA Blog Round Up (February 3, 2014)

The Texas Progressive Alliance still has a dozen or so Republican responses to the SOTU it needs to get through as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff takes a look at campaign finance reports for Harris County legislative and countywide candidates.

Horwitz at Texpatriate laments the loss of Algebra II as a High school graduation requirement.

In light of some of the more ridiculous back-and-forth between Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott and their campaigns — not to mention James O’Keefe and his clandestine, altered video — PDiddie at Brains and Eggs asks: “Is it insensitive to say that Abbott is ‘running’ for governor?”

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to scream in horror over the Republican war on women. All Republican candidates for Lieutenant Governor are FOR keeping a brain dead woman with a severely abnormal fetus on life support against her family’s wishes.

This week, McBlogger has some advice for the Davis Campaign, the press and all the Democratic activists who are eager for a win this year.

Neil at All People Have Value wrote about the slate of Green Party candidates running in Texas in 2014. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Nonsequiteuse scoffs at the notion that Texas may turn into California.

Texas Redistricting updates us on the proposed fixes to the Voting Rights Act and other election law news.

John Coby names Randy Weber the frontrunner to replace Steve Stockman as the craziest Congressman from Southeast Texas.

Texas Clean Air Matters reports on the longrunning legal battle between Texas and the EPA over clean air regulations.

The Lunch Tray alerts us to potential changes to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Randy Bear examines the reasoning behind various LGBT groups’ non-endorsement of Wendy Davis in the Democratic primary for Governor.

Greg Wythe has the data to analyze the actual impact of Texas’ voter ID law in Harris County.

BOR asks why the Texas Medical Association supports candidates who oppose their own stated positions, and gets a non-responsive answer from them.

What’s Been Happening- Lt. Gov Debate, Davis Fights Back, SOTU

On Monday night the four GOP candidates for Lt. Gov of Texas got together for a debate.  The topics were – end of life issues, border security, Dan Patrick’s bankruptcy, Dewhurst’s phone call, double-dipping, abortion, marijuana, creationism, and term limits.  I guess that’s what the GOP base cares about?

PDiddie sums it up here, Four boobs on the tube.

All four want to force a woman to give birth to a child that is the product of rape or incest.  All four said that the judge who compelled the hospital to end life support for a brain-dead pregnant woman carrying a deformed fetus was wrong, and would support a bill in the next session to prevent another judge from doing so.

All four support the teaching of creationism in public schools.  All four are opposed to the decriminalization of marijuana.  (Only Patterson among them favors the use of medical pot.)  All except Patterson want a fifty-foot-high wall at the Rio Grande border armed with machine gun turrets and high voltage current running through the concertina wire at the top.  (That’s barely an exaggeration.)

Dan Patrick wouldn’t pay back the debts he went bankrupt on, even now that he has the money.  Jerry Patterson can say “tetrahydrocannabinol”, several times, without mangling it.  Todd Staples’ head is still too large for his body.  And Dewhurst is so confident of victory that he didn’t bother to work in any time for debate practice.

No questions about infrastructure, or water, or the environment, or the Texas economy, or education, or Medicaid expansion, or predatory payday lenders, or anything of substance to anyone outside the Tea Party base of the Texas Republican Party.

That’s why Texas Democrats declared Democratic candidate for Lt. Gov. Leticia Van de Putte the winner of the debate.

“Tonight the four candidates performed like they serve: Lt Governor Dewhurst deflected the blame to others, Sen. Patrick lacked reasonable solutions, Commissioner Staples blamed President Obama, and Commissioner Patterson talked down to voters.  Tea party extremists showed us once again that Republicans simply do not represent mainstream Texan values. Texas voters deserve better from their elected officials. Tonight’s clear winner was State Senator Leticia Van de Putte. She is the only candidate in the Lt. Governor race with the record, vision, and everyday Texan values to lead our state.”

Wendy Davis’ daughters cleared the air about the lies that have been told about their mother and their family.

Davis and Democratic candidate for Lt. Gov. Van De Putte each gave a speech in Austin last night. Watch them here.

President Obama gave his SOTU speech last night. It was good, but likely won’t change much, if anything. The President’s main issue is the one it’s been from the beginning of his presidency. He still won’t do what needs to be done, Rules of Liberal Political Success.  He’s never told the American people who is responsible for the economic mess, and held those who caused it responsible.  It’s just not something he’s capable of doing, for whatever reason, and it doesn’t make me mad anymore.