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.

Payday lending becoming an issue in Texas for 2014

The El Paso Times has recently brought the issue of payday lending in Texas to light, Payday-lending official: Borrowers responsible for their decisions.

The official who oversees Texas’ consumer watchdog says payday-loan customers — not the lenders — are responsible when the loans trap them in a cycle of debt.

William J. White says it’s out of line to even question an industry that has had its practices called exploitative by many critics, including the Catholic Church.

White was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to chair the state agency that oversees the Office of the Consumer Credit Commissioner, which is responsible for protecting consumers from predatory lending practices.

White also is vice president of Cash America, a major payday lender that the new U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last month socked with its first sanctions for abusive practices.

White didn’t return calls earlier this month for a story about his dual roles as payday lender and consumer defender. But, on Dec. 12, as the Finance Commission wrapped up its monthly meeting in Austin, he agreed to answer a few questions.

“What you’re doing is totally out of line,” White said, as the interview wound down. “This fox-in-the-henhouse stuff is totally political.”

His company and others in the industry have been accused of making payday loans to desperate people in amounts they can’t afford to repay. Customers become trapped in a cycle in which all of their disposable income — and some non-disposable income — goes to payday lenders, critics say.

[…]

As the name implies, payday borrowers take out loans against their next paycheck or some other regular payment, such as a Social Security check, said Ann Baddour, a senior policy analyst with Texas Appleseed, an Austin-based non-profit that seeks to defend the rights of vulnerable populations.

She said the average fee on such loans is 25 percent. So if a borrower takes out a two-week loan for $400, he or she owes $500.

If, at the end of the first two weeks, the borrower can’t pay, the loan is rolled over and two weeks later, if the borrower pays $100, he or she still owes $500. In that scenario, the borrower could pay $100 every two weeks and not scratch the principal amount of the loan.

“You keep paying and what you owe never changes,” Baddour said.

As the article goes on to show the payday loan industry has ties, to both parties, in The Lege.

Proponents of regulations to ensure borrowers don’t get stuck in debt seem to have failed to get the Legislature to pass a law and getting Perry, who appointed White to the finance commission, to sign it.

A report by Texans for Public Justice shows that between 2009 and 2012, prominent Republicans such as Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus were the biggest recipients of campaign funds from the payday lending industry. But it also showed that more liberal-leaning officials and groups such as state Sen. Letitia Van de Putte and the Texas Legislative Black Caucus also received five-digit contributions.

The Democratic candidate for governor, state Sen. Wendy Davis, is a major proponent of increased regulations and is not on the list of big recipients.

Advocates have focused their efforts on Texas cities. Last week, Houston joined Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and El Paso as major cities to pass ordinances.

There are concerns that El Paso’s ordinance might be eliminated even before it takes effect.

City Attorney Sylvia Borunda Firth last week said that El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz has visited City Hall personally to lobby in favor of the ordinance, which limits the percentage of income that can be borrowed and the number of times the loan can be rolled over.

Seitz could not be reached for this story, but a statement by the Texas Catholic Conference sets out the church’s position.

“In the teachings of our faith we have many warnings about usury and the exploitation of people,” it says. “Lending practices that, intentionally or unintentionally, take unfair advantage of one’s desperate circumstances are unjust.”

Whether one thinks of payday lending whether it’s immoral, unjust, or just plain wrong, it’s hard to argue that one of the main players in the industry should be overseeing the consumer watchdog for payday lending.

Which is why Wendy Davis is starting the New Year with a bang.  Highlighting Gov. Rick Perry and the GOP’s closeness to the immoral Pay Day loan industry is a perfect issue.  It shows how the GOP favors the powerful over the people and works well with Davis’ campaign theme of giving voice to the voiceless.  Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis calls for official’s removal over payday lending views.

he finance commission, which White chairs, oversees the state agency that is supposed to protect Texans from predatory lenders, but White is also a vice president of Cash America, a payday lending company that was sanctioned by the federal government last month for violating the law and obstructing the investigation.

White claimed that Cash America voluntarily reported its violations and suggested ways to fix them.

He also said, in essence, that borrowers are to blame if they find themselves unable to repay Cash America payday loans that carry an annual interest rate of 533 percent.

In a statement, Davis said White’s comments were beyond the pale.

“Texans are tired of back-room deals and dishonesty in Austin,” Davis said.

“William White can’t protect Texas consumers while he represents a predatory lending company on the side. Mr. White should resign from his post — and if he won’t, Governor Perry should remove him.”

The campaign of Davis’ likely Republican opponent. Attorney General Greg Abbott, did not immediately respond Monday when asked if Abbott thinks White’s presence on the finance commission is appropriate.

Perry’s office earlier this month reiterated its support for White, but it also did not immediately respond Monday.

Here’s more from the El Paso Times, Texas finance panel’s actions attacked. Again this fits perfectly with the GOP’s long-held strategy of protecting the interests of business and corporations at the expense of working Texans and consumers. This is one of those issues that almost everyone agrees on, except for those who need campaign contributions to win their next election.

Further Reading:
Fast Cash: How Taking Out a Payday Loan Could Land You in Jail.

Fear and the Texas GOP

The problem for the GOP in Texas is that the wish list that they’ve been running on is pretty much implemented.  They’ve taken everything away and we were all supposed to be better off now that the “free market” has taken over.  There are many poor, working, and middle class Texans who trusted that their plan, aka trickle-down/lower taxes on the wealthy, would one day bring them prosperity too.

Instead it’s just been another GOP scheme to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.  But this time they tried to be a little less blatant about it.  They hid behind what too many accepted as a real economic theory for far too long.  Now Texans see public education in trouble, tuition for higher eduction skyrocketing since it was deregulated, a health care bargain being left on the table, and toll roads going bankrupt as traffic congestion continues to increase.  All the while inequality and poverty increase, as wages stagnate.  They have nothing to offer but more of the same, and fear of anything different.

Or as Brains and Eggs puts it:

“The problem is that they’re using the same old tried and true scare tactics to motivate the paranoid-enough-already base.”

In his post he points to two articles. The first, GOP rules Texas, but talking like they’re on ropes, the GOP’s plans is to act like they’re already losing elections.

In a sharp pivot from a decade of Republican swagger in Texas — a bravado that comes with controlling every statewide office — conservatives are muffling mocking tones about Democrats and now openly calling them formidable. The worries come through in political ads that urge donors to “Keep Texas Red” and rallies like one in Houston that vowed to “Take Back Harris County.”

[…]

The dread over a Democratic resurgence discomfits with an opponent that hasn’t won a statewide office since 1994. Conservatives’ grip on Texas has tightened every year since, and peaked only two years ago when Republicans won a rare supermajority in the Legislature and rammed through pet measures such as new voter ID laws.

But Republicans insist the fear is real despite their dominance…

And, as this excerpt points out, the future is ripe the picking.

A table outside the entrance hawked $20 T-shirts emblazoned with red-meat messages such as, “God, Guns and Guts Made America — Let’s Keep All Three!” On every chair inside the ballroom, a petition on yellow paper called on lawmakers to defend the Texas Constitution’s definition of marriage and rued the rise of domestic partner benefits in the workplace.

It wasn’t a packed house — and the rank-and-file who came weren’t the younger and Hispanic voters that Republicans acknowledge they need to stay in power. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, who said he thinks Davis’ filibuster riled up Democrats enough to cost Republicans seats as soon as next November, reminded the audience that the party’s average age of delegates is 58.

Lauren Martinez, 26, noticed with disappointment that there weren’t many others her age around. She said she’s been surprised to see friends lining up behind Davis.

“As a young person, I see a lot of my friends supporting her,” Martinez said. “People that I would have thought were more conservative.”

Of course it will take a awful lot of hard work to actually get the younger and more diverse voters to the polls to change election outcomes. And, of course another way to speed that along is with the second article. It again points out the cruel conservatism of the Texas GOP, As GOP states flip, where’s the Texas answer on Medicaid?

Last spring, Republicans in the Legislature trounced Medicaid expansion, despite support from hospitals and business. There’s also been no state effort to drum up enrollment in the exchange.

While other GOP-led states have reversed course, Gov. Rick Perry keeps slamming Medicaid.

“It’s like putting 1,000 more people on the Titanic,” Perry said at a recent meeting of Republican governors.

No other state stands to gain as much from the health care overhaul, because Texas has the highest share of uninsured and a large poor population.

More than 1 million residents fall into the state’s Medicaid gap; they earn too much for Medicaid and too little for federal subsidies on the exchange. Two million more are eligible for the subsidies, if they enroll and if HealthCare.gov can process the applications.

Texas leads all states in both categories, so it could expand coverage greatly starting next year. And the federal government pays nearly all the costs.

Funding for the health law comes from cuts in Medicare, hospital fees and prescriptions. There are also new taxes on high-earners, health plans, medical devices and more.

The bottom line is that Texans are paying for Obamacare whether 3 million residents sign up or a tiny fraction.

And now one of their biggest fear generators of all turns out to be an economic boon, Immigration helps boost the Texas economy.

Gone to Texas: Immigration and the Transformation of the Texas Economystates that immigrants make up 21 percent of Texas’ workforce, but account for a much greater share of its economic growth.

Hopefully Texans won’t turn out and vote for the GOP in 2014 our of fear. If Democrats in Texas need to give Texans an alternative to fear in 2014 they should do much better then they have in the recent past.

Further Reading:
Medicaid expansion becomes weapon against GOP governors.
Report: Child Poverty Increases in Texas.

There was a 47 percent increase in the rate of Texas children living in poverty from 2000 to 2011…

In-State tuition for undocumented immigtrants

Greg Abbott At Odds With GOP Lt. Gov. Hopefuls Over In-State Tuition For Undocumented Students.

We all know that the people running for office in the Texas GOP won’t vote for this. Most, if not all, Democrats running will. What’s clear is that if Texans want law like this they must vote for Democratic control of government in Texas. It’s just that simple. Re-elect Republicans and nothing will change.

Current Democratic state Sen.  Leticia van De Putte will certainly be an advocate for this if she runs and is elected Lt. Gov. of Texas.

The cowardice of Republican non-extremists

The title of this post is a phrase used in Paul Krugman’s latest Op-Ed in the NYTimes, The Dixiecrat Solution.

There is, however, another solution, and everyone knows what it is. Call it Dixiecrats in reverse.

Here’s the precedent: For a long time, starting as early as 1938, Democrats generally controlled Congress on paper, but actual control often rested with an alliance between Republicans and conservative Southerners who were Democrats in name only. You may not like what this alliance did — among other things, it killed universal health insurance, which we might otherwise have had 65 years ago. But at least America had a functioning government, untroubled by the kind of craziness that now afflicts us.

And right now we have all the necessary ingredients for a comparable alliance, with roles reversed. Despite denials from Republican leaders, everyone I talk to believes that it would be easy to pass both a continuing resolution, reopening the government, and an increase in the debt ceiling, averting default, if only such measures were brought to the House floor. How? The answer is, they would get support from just about all Democrats plus some Republicans, mainly relatively moderate non-Southerners. As I said, Dixiecrats in reverse.

The problem is that John Boehner, the speaker of the House, won’t allow such votes, because he’s afraid of the backlash from his party’s radicals. Which points to a broader conclusion: The biggest problem we as a nation face right now is not the extremism of Republican radicals, which is a given, but the cowardice of Republican non-extremists (it would be stretching to call them moderates). [Emphasis added]

The way I would put it is,  you’ll know the tea party, aka #wackobirds, are history when members of the GOP in Texas start running away from that label. Let’s hope that is soon. As Molly Ivins would say turn the tea party into A Rotting, Dead Chicken around the GOP’s neck.  And don’t forget Greg Abbott, all the Lt. Gov. candidates, and most every elected member of the Texas GOP have embraced the tea party. So the only way to get away from it is to elect Democrats.

Thankfully this is coming before the filing deadline. Let’s go Democrats, there are plenty of Republicans ripe for the picking in November 2014.