Poll Shows Unemployment #1 Concern for America: And we needed a poll to tell us this?

New Gallup poll shows Unemployment is most important to Americans.

Somehow this is news. We still need polls and surveys to tell us this. I haven’t seen a worthwhile poll in years that doesn’t tell us the exact same information.

Funny how when Democrats ran Congress they said other issues needed to be dealt with first, such as HealthCare. Poll after poll, but our political officials remained deaf. We screamed that unemployment and the economy ranked highest on our to-do list, but it continued to rank at the bottom of theirs.

Now we have new leadership in the House and I am beginning to hear the Democrats grumble about the economy. One even went so far as to suggest a resolution of our current situation has been blocked by Boehner (you know, with his reign of a little over one month).

So what can Congress truly do to make an impact on the issue of jobs? Not a whole lot, to be honest. The economy is hardly based on measurable results; it tends to stem from problems out of control of the government, such as perception. When people believe in a bad economy they refuse to let go of what little money they have. The more they hold on to their money, the more the economy slows, so the more people clutch their purses in fear and on and on. Businesses do the same thing, it costs money to hire someone and if you don’t know you’ll get paid this month… This cycle of spending and fear perpetuates a bad economy. And all Congress can do is encourage people to release the death grip on their cash.

When Obama did try to bolster the economy he tried with stimulus spending. His logic worked about the same. If we spend more that should ease the financial fear. The difference here is that the government’s money and private sector’s money are two different things. The government has debt, obligations and creates jobs without demand. The private sector spends money based on need and desire. People need food so they spend at their grocery store. They desire a new gadget, they spend money on that. Where the public spends money creates demand which will in turn create job positions. The government sets up a new project and says, hire some people; but the cost is on them, it is not a cost upheld by private sector spending.

And let’s be honest. Spending doesn’t work. A recent release from The House Committee on Small Business shows that the Obama administration predicted a drop in unemployment by 2% in January 2011, instead we have increased almost 1%.  Jobs continue to be on the mind of America.

Our head in the sand doesn’t work either. Ignoring the problem (such as Obama’s congress focusing on other things) hasn’t made it go away. So what will work? Two things. Congress should focus on giving the jobless more opportunity to be employed and making sure that small and medium business have the best laws available to them.

Instead of continuing to give out unemployment money to cover over-promising states, we should help place people without training into job programs. Those with training should be counseled into either taking a job beneath them (it sucks, but better than no job at all) or perhaps placed in another field. Those with lots of experience and management skills would be best suited for one of those neat programs that help charities, by giving them an out-of-work CEO to run their program, while they look for work (so they can be in the community, keep their skills sharp and still get paid… and the charity gets a business-tried CEO helping them expand). These are just ideas, of course. But instead of spending all that money on benefits to people who may or may not be deserving, we should be spending much less on job placement programs.

The other thing congress can do is loosen restrictions on employers. The easier the government makes the employment process, the more people can get involved. If you have ever started a business you know the hoops you have to jump through. How hard it can be to get loans, equipment, the right people, not to mention, paperwork, benefits and needing a lawyer just to keep your books straight. And that’s just for small businesses. Now with the additional regulations in Obama’s healthcare bill and the constant shifting of the FEC, it becomes even more complicated. Congress needs to focus on simplifying or even removing some of these laws. Then just getting out of the way.

If Congress was willing to focus its energy on job placement and simplifying government interaction with business, we’d be a lot closer to a resolution of the unemployment plague in America. But even then, we need to remember that the government shouldn’t and often, can’t solve all of our problems. Especially things like our personal development and the economy at large. I’d love to see Gallup do a poll on how many people have prospered despite the economic slump, give us some hope instead of shoving economic fear down our throat.

Confessions of a CPAC Virgin

Vignettes from my first CPAC experience.


Campaign for Liberty Rules the Floor with an Iron Heart:


I’ve been to big conferences before, National Young Republicans, FreedomWorks, Republican Party of Texas and of course plenty of other conferences of a less political nature. But never have I experienced such tactless and infantile whining the moment I checked in.


While I’m registering at the counter, a man, about 40-ish with a prominent Campaign for Liberty sticker starts demanding that the girl helping me should turn up the television. The young volunteer (college-aged) quietly explains that she doesn’t know how and thinks its at the highest volume, already. He replies angrily that he wants to hear Rand Paul and starts berating her about how this is the worst run conference he’s every been to, and she needs to get on the ball, etc. Before she can even respond, he storms off in a huff.  Not only did he rudely interrupt my check-in, berate a girl half his age and ask to have the sound cranked on a TV that’s behind the one desk where people need to hear each other speak, he then does a two-year old tantrum dance before he leaves. Because that’s what grown-ups do to get their way.


Plenty of other, better bloggers have expressed accurate criticism of the inappropriateness of Campaign for Liberty supporters to speakers, organizations and the the final straw for Ron Paul himself. The point here is that Ron Paul supporters tended to be over-the-top, irreverent, and completely lacking any respect for office or basic decorum. What this says about Ron Paul personally, I will leave that open to discussion.


Strawpoll Strangle Strategy:


Its no secret that the straw polls at any convention tend to be rigged. The big contenders subsidize the entrance fee for people to attend the conference and in exchange those people are encouraged to vote for them. (Read: They pay your ticket, bus you to DC and you better vote for Paul.) Luring in college students with edgy views on government paranoia and legalization of drugs isn’t hard to do. Note: these kids are not likely to actually vote during a primary or even get to be a delegate. They are the least accurate representation of who will actually pick the Republican president nomination.


But we all act surprised, like this is something new. Straw polls mean nothing. And if Ron Paul wins it, it means even less. (Read: straw polls are like political masturbation.)

Social Line in the Sand:






CPAC tested the big tent theory this year, in the most fundamental way possible. GOProud paid good capitalist money to become a major sponsor of the event. But many Republicans and other conservative organizations took this opportunity to further fragment our party. They refused to stand on the same stage with conservative gays. While I cannot begin to express my disappointment in those who chose to retract their support of CPAC, I became further disappointed in those who decided to attend purely out of spite. A number of booths prominently displayed their less than gay-friendly messages. They had counseling for “ex-gays” just one row over from GOProud’s booth, but even worse was the circulation of anti-gay propaganda at GOProud sponsored events. If anything, CPAC has brought to the surface a hazy hatred that the Republican party must confront if we plan to move forward as a political force. Those who decided to shun or at least remain silent (ahem, Heritage Foundation) will be feeling the consequences of these decisions in the next few years, for certain.


The Freshmen GOP (presented by your local fraternity):


Something that did surprise me at CPAC was how many young conservatives attended. Interns and aides (or people who wish they were) over ran the main hall and most of the events.  In fact, I was invited to a “Cigars and Scotch” event to honor Freshmen GOP. I won’t lie, I was pretty excited to meet some of our newly elected Tea-Party candidates. The reception was full of Freshmen, all right, college freshmen. I didn’t see a single elected official present. However, I now know where to go if I ever want to be a cougar.


Allen West, Leadership Without Compromise:


Allen West stole the spotlight at CPAC. His speech was more quoted and retweeted than any other. He spoke from the heart on abortion, gay rights, Israel, the economy and where this country is headed. He unabashedly shared his ideals with the crowd. I suspect West’s upfront honesty will continue to win him respect within the GOP. His speech, below.





And Then There’s Meghan McCain:


I couldn’t end this post without making a comment about Meghan McCain. She tweeted with ill-chosen words about CPAC, implying all the women who attended were whores.


I’ve never been incredibly impressed with Meghan McCain. She showed up on the political scene when her father won the Republican nomination, which isn’t in itself a problem, but she then proceeded to name her self a spokesman for Generation Y conservatives. My question was, “Um… when did that happen?” She had never been involved in any Republican or conservative youth organizations. She only started speaking after her father gave her a national platform, and when she does speak, it’s rarely about her generation, their political needs or desires. Nor did she try to help Republicans better understand youth culture. She just happened to be a youth herself, with some political spotlight.


I held my tongue though. But I won’t anymore. And I hope this new statement makes people seriously reconsider her political expertise on a national scale.

14

02 2011

You Know You Wanna Be a Paul Ryan Fanboy

Paul Ryan’s name entered conservative hall of fame when he gave the Republican response to the State of the Union last month. I’ll admit, he’s not someone who was really on my radar until recently either, but I’m seriously impressed now. Last night, Representative Paul Ryan held a strategy conference call for his PAC, the Prosperity Project. This PAC focuses on fiscal conservatism, holding current elected officials accountable and helping elect representative who are conservative.

Representative Ryan called the conference call a town hall meeting. And it certainly had the feel of one. (You know, rambling questions, going off topic, and plenty of soap boxes.) But the call did bring to my attention two major points:

  1. The callers seemed more concerned than angry. A conservative conference call this time last year, or worse, the year before, would end in yelling. So there seems to be more trust in our new House of Representatives.
  2. Representative Paul Ryan proved he is incredibly knowledgeable about economics in America (a perfect pick for our budget committee chair, certainly)


The Fight for Heart and Soul

“I wanna get people engaged in the fight for the heart and soul of our country,” Ryan said. He went on to discuss that he had hoped for a more moderated response from our President during the State of the Union after what took place during the 2010 election. “Obviously, that didn’t happen,” Ryan lamented. He predicted a budget standoff with the White House and repeated multiple times that we would probably not agree with the President over many of these issues. Obama would want to keep spending the same as last year, where the House would push to roll back spending to where it was over two years ago. As Ryan continued to discuss the difference between the Republican agenda and that of the White House he finally expressed his real concern, “I strongly believe it’s in the best interest in of our country that we have a new president in 2012.”

The Economy According to Ryan

At current spending rates we will hit our debt ceiling sometime in the spring of this year. Most of this debt comes from entitlement programs, in fact Medicare will be the single largest source of debt in the coming years. Ryan discussed the reasons why these entitlement programs continue to eat our financial lunch. The problems range from the growth of the Baby Boomer Generation to changes in life expectancy. But how do we recover?

Cuts for Everyone

Obviously, we have to stop spending, but even more so, we must cut budgets previously established. It’s always a challenge to cut costs in Congress, even Representative Ryan says  Congress spends but never investigates how the money is spent. A few cuts he promised were not on the table included anything currently affecting our senior citizens and pay for our armed soldiers. Right now, says Ryan, there are no cuts on the table for Social Security and Medicare (despite the fact that they take up the majority of our financial burden). The only bill proposed has to do with Social Security which will grandfather in any cuts and increase retirement age by one month every two years. In other words, no bills will hurt our seniors; the younger generations will shoulder the burden. Ryan also pointed to Eric Cantor’s YouCut website. Ryan explained that his staff has worked very hard to make regular submissions to this website. And in congress, one or two of these ideas come to the floor every week and pass. (That’s the great part about being the majority, Ryan added.)

On the Offense

One caller complimented Representative Ryan on how we’ve fought back defensively against the bills the Democrats pushed through Congress (such as healthcare) but asked about our offensive strategy: the alternatives Republicans are offering. Ryan immediately started to discuss some of his ideas. First, he brought up his Roadmap for America’s Future. On this site you can discover Ryan’s plans for fixing our budget including information on everything from health care to tax reform.  On Health Care, Ryan promises to push his previous Patient’s Choice Act that he proposed in 2009.

Ryan also promises changes in the overall congressional process. New House Speaker John Boehner is requiring every committee to do oversight reviews. This has never been a requirement before. Ryan is pushing for more oversight, all congressional spending should be taken care of the first year of session and dedicate the second year to oversight. In fact, Ryan plans to go as far as to actually change some of the laws regarding how Congress runs; specifically, rewrite Congress’s budget laws. He said in the past, he and Jeb Hensarling, of TX, looked for all the places that oversight and reform could take place and they will be pushing for those changes this legislative session.

Ryan’s own committee, the Budget Committee, is having oversight meetings 2-3 times per week. You can learn more about the changes he’s made (and see a whole lot of government transparency in action) on the website he put up the first week of the new year: Committee on the Budget.

Plus He’s Pretty

Ryan shared some great information on this conference call. He’s certainly a congressman to watch. He’s been proposing sound legislature for a few years now and is working very hard to get our government back on track. The informational websites he’s recently put together show not only a techy-savvy mindset but a true understanding of the transparency we now expect from our elected officials. He’s young (only 43) and working hard to push his message out of Wisconsin to a more national stage. Perhaps he’s gearing up for a Presidential bid in 2012? (We can only hope.)

Plus, he’s just so freaking pretty to look at. And on that note, see the song written in his honor “Roadmap to my Heart” (Fangirl/Fanboy awesomeness thanks to @brodigan and @DaciaNichol).

Spin in South Carolina

“It’s easy to be transparent when you’re not the one running the state,” a Democratic aide to a South Carolina State Senator said to me. We were watching the Democratic response to Governor Nikki Haley’s state of the state address. State Senator Brad Hutto expounded on how Democrats could bring accountability to South Carolina. All the while, I couldn’t agree more with the aide. It’s easy for the Senator to talk about keeping the government on course, he certainly doesn’t have to follow through on any of promises he makes.

Every sentence of Senator Hutto’s remarks stunk of spin. That’s the best part of becoming the minority party. You can just point your finger at those in charge, paint the argument whatever color suits you and never worry about making good. Wednesday night, Hutto spent his three minutes doing just that.

Let’s take a minute to examine a few of our Democratic spokesman’s points. He uses a fair amount of political spin to twist facts, construe his party belief system, and set up impossible lose-lose situations for his opponents. (You can read the entire transcript of his speech here.)

The first point Hutto made concerned keeping the government of South Carolina accountable. I think most voters agree, it’s important to keep the the leadership of the state on track. We need to know what politicians do with our money and their time. Of course, brand new Nikki Haley has done an incredible job keeping herself open in just the few short months she’s served as Governor-elect. She has released budget expectations along with actual expenditures. She keeps the first ever Governor’s blog and also chose to take public many of her new plans along with their costs. Haley has also offered the most detailed spending information of any South Carolina Governor, the link to these numbers can be found at her website. So far so good for someone in office not even a month.

The second issue raised by the State Senator rings strangely of fiscal conservatism.  Governor Haley released her administration budget clearly showing raises for all of her staff. A great point to bring up, Hutto. He even mentions the financial crisis South Carolina continues to endure and how the Governor should set an example. The release of these numbers certainly got a rise out of Tea Party advocates, who immediately wondered where the strong conservative they elected to run their state went. However, the Senator did omit a few useful details. Governor Haley released her administration budget at around $1.8 million. She spent under budget, allotting herself and her staff at little less than $1.2 million. Compare this to $2.1 million budget set by Mark Standford, and the most recent Democrat Governor, Jim Hodges. Haley has also chosen to employ less staff. She gave her current staff raises instead of hiring more people. She wanted to keep the best and pay them what them their worth. She released a statement to that effect, as well. So, for all Hutto’s trying to out conservative the conservative and divide the party, a little digging will bring out the actual facts.

Hutto then points to education. He states, keeping teachers should be South Carolina’s first priority. He says the “legislation should retain teachers” in the same breath as “tough budget times”. Yet, more spin from the Left. In any economic crisis, cuts will be made. Some of those cuts may result in jobs lost. The Senator sets up the conservative legislation for automatic failure. A jobless teacher will look like a dismissal of the education system. Not enough budget saved for public schools can be used as fuel for further rhetoric. While acknowledging the limitations of the budget, Hutto still manages to prepare a 2 tons weight of blame, ready at any moment to fall on South Carolina Republicans.

The final point Senator Hutto makes concerns the “historic budget gap” of South Carolina. A gap, it should be noted, not created by Governor Haley. He innocently suggests that state budget hearings should take place across the state so voters can give their thoughts.  While town hall style meetings always helps elected officials stay better in touch with their constituents, based on previous spin, I suspect the Senators intentions are not completely altruistic. First of all, I hail from a much larger state, so lamenting the drive to Columbia doesn’t strike me as that devastating. Oh, and let’s not forget the use of technology to garner thoughts and responses. Pressuring the legislature into budget hearings may only tie up the process of making cuts. A more appropriate approach, at this point, would be to have policy institutes suggest cuts or strategies (in Texas, we let the Texas Public Policy Foundation suggest a  zero budget plan) and then gather responses to the different plans from voters.

Of course, it’s easy for Senator Hutto to lightly suggest to and admonish his Republican counterpoints. As our aide so succinctly mentioned, he’s got the easy job. Funny though, how all his points seem to suggest being more conservative… a thought which can only be answered by our helpful aide himself, “How else do you get elected in South Carolina?”

24

01 2011

Accountablility is the last shot for Republicans

So it begins, the swearing in is over, the new blood of the Republican party has entered office. They are the supermen of the party, the saving grace and the true change this country needs. They have to be. If they aren’t, the Republican party as we know it may dissolve completely. Worse yet, we may lose essential freedoms and rights as Americans.

This prediction isn’t meant as sensationalism. The Republican Party must take a stand or it will lose all meaning. It will dissolve like artificial sweetener, leaving just a mildly unpleasant acidic aftertaste. At best, Republicans will trudge on like a limping dog just waiting for the mercy kill.

Our elected officials must take up a mantle of transparency. They must be accountable to their word no matter what. Even the die-hard right-wingers can only put up with so many lies. The 2010 election was the biggest house cleaning of my life time. However, if this so-called new breed of Republicans doesn’t follow through, we will lose so much more than a few elections. We’ll be more than just the political underdog, we’ll be a castrated political party. Even the deepest believers will be forced to throw up their hands and walk away. If our elected officials don’t listen to the will of the people, the will that put them into office, they’ll ruin hope all of us. They will prove a fundamental fear so many conservatives want to desperately prove wrong: all politicians are the same (read same as: liars).

One or two courageous congressmen won’t be enough to pull us out of the swiftly converging quick sand. We’re inches away from going under, and the freshman class of Republicans is the last scrap of rope that might pull us to safety. The ideals of the party must be carried through to congress.

That’s why elected Republicans must embrace an era of transparency. Every move they make on the House floor, must be visible to their constituents. Their votes and committee discourse should be easily available to everyone. And the new congressmen should happily step into the public eye. They must realize that the party, the people of America deserve to know that their elected congress will do exactly as they promised.

I realize situations in politics change rapidly. Federal issues rarely come in black and white. But if the new Republicans can’t vote in a way that stays true to the values they espoused on the campaign trail, they should choose not to vote at all. The promises to stop spending, stop big government, stop federal expansion, mean more than ever before. They must be carried through into 2011.

Elected freshmen, you are the last hope. On your accountability teeters the entire Republican party.

13

01 2011

Why Voting "Straight Ticket" Won't Save Republicans

After all the losses on the Right in Dallas County, I hear a lot of Republican bemoan the fact that more people didn’t vote straight ticket R. While I think that is extremely important to vote the entire way down the ballot, the endless mantra of “Vote Straight ticket!” isn’t going to foster more votes. If anything its going to tick off some Republicans.

I spent time volunteering and being paid to phonebank for the Dallas County Republican Party this past election. I spent a lot of my time calling during early voting, where the party pushed a “get-out-the-vote” effort. One of the questions we asked identified Republicans was “Do you plan to vote straight ticket?” Over half the respondents I spoke with said no. They said they planned to support most of the Republicans, except for Perry, or Sessions or Tammy Barnes. They planned to vote the entire ballot, but not blindly vote R.

Republicans don’t like being told how to vote. We want to make decisions. We want to be informed about our candidates and then make choices that we think best support our views and values. This is not a downside. Mindless voters are not what we need. I believe whole-heartedly that straight-ticket voting breeds stupid voters. Even many Republicans prefer to check each candidate’s name instead of pulling the “R” lever because it makes each decision more valuable.

We can encourage people to vote all the way down the ballot, but that’s what we need to call it: voting all the way down. This is a messaging issue. Our constituents are turned off by the term straight-ticket. So we need to use language they will more readily accept. Vote all the way down. Vote for your local government. Straight ticket is nonsense, and its a prop we’re using to make ourselves feel better in Dallas County about how bitterly we lost.

04

11 2010

Dallas Falls from Conservative Grace

Across the county, Republicans took the midterms by storm, scoring seat after seat in national, state and local elections. But deep in the heart of Bible Belt, the bastion of conservatism, the leader of Red state initiatives, the city of Dallas fell from Grace in no uncertain terms. Texas has led the charge on redefining Republicanism. Other conservative states look to the Big T as a place where those on the Right live safely and even thrive, carrying on our fiscal and moral values in a kind of mini utopia of Republican values.

But that dream is now shattered in Dallas County. Some conservatives in Texas had expressed concerned over the growing Democratic strongholds in the state, as each metropolitan area turned to blue. Big Blue cities is nothing new in the political landscape, and in Texas, these rogue Blue areas were shrugged off by most Republicans. And why not? These cities aren’t the majority. Texas still bleeds red.

However, last night’s dismal results for conservatives in Dallas should send up a warning flag, not just to Texas but to Republicans everywhere. We are no longer safe. We cannot trust that the tide will carry us. We have to fight for our values all the way to the bottom of the ballot or we could lose everything.

It seemed like the perfect set-up for a victory. The political momentum of the entire country pointed to wins for Republicans. Dallas County had a slew of truly great candidates, candidates who had experience, did the work and connected with voters. Volunteers came out of the wood-work, voters showed up angry. How could we lose? But instead of the expected upset, Republicans in Dallas county lost seats. In fact, no wins for new candidates below the State Representative position. We lost judges, a county Commissioner and failed to win the hard-fought District Attorney race.

How did this happen? Voters and officials took a Dallas win for granted. Leadership wasn’t strong enough. Even some voter fraud occurred in South Dallas. Overall: we just weren’t vigilant enough. If we ever want to win again, we need to focus.

There are certainly a few areas that could stand obvious improvement. In the future, we need more interaction between top and bottom candidates. There has to be mutual support. Communication across the board could use some tweaking. And there has to be a new emphasis on reaching independents. Die-hard Republicans will turn out to vote in an angry election like this one, but it’s the newly political and middle of the road voters that need someone to hold their hand. Dallas also needed to emphasize better messaging (including social media), Democrats still managed to push more blogging than we did. Finally, Republicans needed to provide more “reward” for volunteers. It doesn’t need to be monetary, but recognition and a position of authority can go along way for someone giving their free time.

Dallas isn’t totally alone. Other Republican cities show similar symptoms. Right now, while our Party’s in power, we have a chance to change it. But we can’t become arrogant, we can’t overlook the real needs; if we do we will watch other Republican strongholds turn Blue just like Dallas. And if Dallas County doesn’t get a hold of its situation, we could be lost to the liberal agenda and begin a chain reaction in Texas; the kind Republicans have nightmares about.

 

(Also see Denise McNamara, former Texas National Committeewoman’s response to last night’s loses.)

04

11 2010

10 Reasons Why This Republican Thinks Perry Should Debate White

Make no mistake, I’m voting for Perry. To me, there’s no other choice for Governor, despite that I did not support him in the primary and would have preferred a different Republican nominee. But when it comes down to my moment in the box I will happily check R for my state.

However, I think that current Governor Rick Perry is making a huge mistake by refusing to debate his Democratic opponent or even speak to the news media. I have expressed my concern over Perry’s media phobia both publicly and directly to his staff and/or supporters. Responses have been everything from shrugs to outright accusations that I have been “duped by the liberal media”. The most rational response has been “Why debate when you’re winning?” So here are my top then conservative reasons for wanting to see Rick Perry debate Bill White.

  1. Engage New Voter Blocks: Obama really did create change. With deficit spending, unemployment and healthcare we saw a new breed of conservatives step up and open their mouths. The Tea Party Rallies across the national brought out new blood. But not all these new activist subscribe to the die-hard Republican values. They need their candidates to prove their worth. Even though Perry has a long track record, many of these recently political voters want to hear from Perry’s own mouth what he plans to do to combat the growing fiscal liberalism in our country. While many Texas Republicans will pull the lever for R without even thinking, this new, vocal segment of the voting population (who call themselves moderates, independents or conservatives–but not Republicans) will read newspapers and carefully consider the merits of both candidates before casting their ballot. And who is pandering to those voters? Not Perry.
  2. You Know What They Say About Assumptions: While we’re on the subject of new, or at least more active voters, let’s not just assume that Republicans will fall-in behind Perry blindly. Perry’s overall approval is good but some voters, even Republican ones are concerned with a few of his decisions whether they be about tollroads or living quarters. Assuming that without effort he can win Republicans is presumptuous at best. During early voting I asked a number of Republicans if they planned to vote straight ticket. Not all said yes, and many confessed they planned to vote straight Republican except for Perry.
  3. Liberal Media is Still Media: I was told by those close to the Perry campaign that he has chosen to shun the media because they would be against him anyhow. I’m not going to argue that generic mainstream media has Perry’s best interests at heart, but they are still press. And right now, they only have one (real) candidate to talk to. So for every article that Bill White gives an opinion on, he’s getting more readership than Perry to the tune of hundreds of thousands. And now, instead of having Perry’s own words to misquote they can literally make things up as they go. I was also told that a debate would be acknowledging White and giving him a national platform for his message. But Perry could also have that platform in a debate. Let’s not forget that White is having publicized debates anyhow against the Green Party candidate, who pretty much exists to showcase White as more conservative. The media in Texas is still more conservative than many states, and some would have endorsed Perry. At this point, all of the large news sources have defaulted to endorsing White. Why? Perry won’t return their calls.
  4. White Should be Confronted: A mantra from Perry’s office is that White is a liar. That he and the media make up things about Perry and distort the truth. What better way to confront (and possibly humiliate) White than through a debate. Perry said he would not debate White unless he turned in his tax records. We all know he won’t so publicly call him on it! Be the bigger man. Decide to debate despite his refusal to turn over records. What a slap in the face that would be on national television. Perry could certainly hold his own with his experience. It would be the perfect opportunity to call out White on any number of issues, ones that White would have no follow-up argument for.
  5. Combat Liberal Messaging: Perry will win, its only a question of margin. However, White owns the media and has an army of bloggers spreading his liberal message with practically no opposition. Perry has not put together a volunteer network to post in response, or blog, or even create our own conservative message. While White will not win the election, his words and message will continue to exist unaltered on the internet for years to come. Remember those independent, free-thinking voters I mentioned earlier? Those are the people who could possibly be swayed by Democrat rhetoric blog posts. Especially when nothing exists in contrast. While its too late for Perry (despite repeated urgings by yours truly to multiple levels of his staff) to create an online army to combat the liberal message, he can personally take a stand by directly debating his opponent.
  6. Republicans should Trump with Transparency: Refusing a debate conjures up all kind of images for people less politically inclined and one of them is, you’re hiding something. What is it that you don’t want to talk about? Debate is a form of government transparency. Republicans should be championing all forms of transparency right now. We have a President who promised transparency and didn’t follow through. We have bills no one can comprehend. And we have spending that is less than available to the public. Republicans should be turning over that information to the public at ever possible opportunity. We have nothing to lose by shining a light on what Democrats spend money on and legislate behind closed doors. Being willing to step up and discuss positions is the first step to making transparency a Republican platform.
  7. We’re Past Politics As Usual: Political consultants have told me in my naivety that you never debate when you’re winning in the polls. It can only hurt you if you say something stupid. If you’re losing, however, you should push for debate to hopefully catch your opponent with their guard down. While this makes decent political sense, I feel this is retiring to politics as usual. This election alone should prove that the American population does not want politics as usual. Doing it just because “that’s the way its always been done” just isn’t good enough anymore. The people want their candidates to own up to their positions, not hide behind decent polling numbers.
  8. We All Know You’re a Consideration for President…: Despite how much Perry denies wanting to run for President, his name is on the short list, with or without his approval. Refusing to publicly debate his opponent does not bode well for Presidential greatness. Lead by example, Perry, and you are a national leader, like it or not. Obama got serious flack from both sides of the aisle when he refuse a “Douglas-style” debate with McCain. Americans just won’t accept that kind of position from a Presidential candidate. Don’t set the standard so low this election.
  9. Debate is Democracy: I truly believe open and honest or (as honest as politics can be) debate is a true tenet of democracy. Perry’s staff reports that he has made numerous public appearance to make up for his refusal to debate or interview. But even those appearances don’t allow everyone in Texas to meet their governor. Even I don’t feel like I got to really know Perry even though I sat next to him at a lunch with less than ten people present. Its just impossible to get all your answers in a photo-opportunity. Debate allows everyone to “meet” a candidate and hear their thoughts on the issues. But let’s not mince words, when you won’t debate you look like a wimp. Which brings me to my last point…
  10. Don’t be a Coward: This is Texas, man up and debate. Its the last state of the wild west and we want to see the rodeo. Put on your big boy boots and send that Democrat home with his tail between his legs.

UPDATE: I argued my stance with my (very) Republican father last night. After he disagreed for an hour he finally said: “The thing is, debate is expected. There are still undecided voters out there. That alone is the best reason for debate. Period.”

26

10 2010

Dallas City Council Budget Amendments

8 members of Dallas’s City Council have proposed a tax hike to cover funding for city projects that would be slashed by city manager Mary K. Suhm’s 2011 budget.

The tax hike would be $.0491 tax increase to property taxes.

Tax Increase Amendment:

  • Expected revenue to be spent from tax increase = $39,479,091
  • While fire and police departments put in for salary cuts, the tax hike does not give any money back to the public safety sector.
  • Top 5 expenditures:  Street maintenance $15,200,000; Right-of-Way Maintenance $6,528,447; Cultural Programs (undefined) $2,500,000; Park Mowing (Every 7 Days) $2,450,000; Library Staffing $2,112,000
  • Some of the most discussed point of the budget in city council was Senior Dental Program ($100,000) and city swimming pools ($400,000)

Thoughts:

  • Councilmember Angela Hunt showed a number of graphs during her presentation. It showed an increase in public safety but downward trends for parks, libraries and infrastructure. However, Dallas has shown increased revenue for the past few years. Where has this money gone? (It is supposedly on the website, buried in the previous year budget proposals.)
  • Obvious cuts: Park Mowing. A 7 day cycle is not always necessary, increase to 9 or even 10 days would reduce that cost. Also is the City really opening those costs to competitive contracts? Have we made allowances or even looked into alternatives to reduce those costs?
  • Couldn’t some of these costs be alleviated by educating and contacting volunteers to fill in gaps?
  • The City Manager, Mary Suhm, gave recommendation on where money should go based on tax increase. She provided a spreadsheet for each different increase. The current amendment is 1.1 million higher than any of the city manager’s recommendations.
  • The current budget (without amendments) gives Dallas $40 million more in infrastructure than the highest point in the last 5 years
  • There is a good point that many of the areas of the city that need the money to finance these parks, recreational centers and libraries are the ones who will not be providing the tax revenue
  • Dallas taxes have increased in the last twenty years from 58.83 cents in 1990 to current 74.79 cents. Last increase was 1.87 cents in 2008, directly following a the decrease of 1.25 cents in 2007.
  • There is obviously an issue with efficiency in the city of Dallas. What are we doing to find and fix these problems?

Those against the tax hike put forward an alternative to the amendment, with the help of the City Manager.

Balanced Budget Amendment:

  • Expected Revenue and Expenditure = $8.91 million
  • The majority of information in the balanced budget amendment are revenue SOURCES not extra cuts to the current budget, excluding council office and travel expenses, “Green” energy preiums, and a move to 15 days cycles of median mowing
  • Revenue sources include private donation from Oncor, collecting debt from Irving, parking meter revenues, and a sanitation franchise fee
  • The balanced amendment deals with the same areas at the proposed tax hike: Parks/Rec, Libraries, Cultural, Streets
  • Top 5 expenditures: Increase in Park programming $2,800,000;  Basic park maintenance $2,800,000; Further program increases in parks $1,200,000;  Library funding $740,000; General increase in cultural funding $740,000
  • The balanced amendment would cut 3 low attendance/high coverage centers
  • The balanced budget would fund 4 additional pools through private partnerships (no cost)

Thoughts:

  • The current library funding would provide a 70% increase in materials and would only cut staff not programming (insert need for volunteers)
  • Mayor Leppert says he is continuing to seek private donations like the ones from Oncor and has already secured $1 million in private funding to help the city
  • There is not the same efficient break down in the balance budget amendment numbers, but it should be noted that every dollar in the balanced budget in an increase in the already balanced budget put forward by the City Manager
  • Why is the City funding a Veterans Day Parade? Isn’t that something easily connected with a charity or private foundation?
  • Opposition to this amendment stated not enough funds for roads, however many of the roads the opposition wants to see fixed are under the jurisdiction of TXDOT, and should be maintained by the State and not the City

Both of these budgets amendments only show a one page overall summary of costs, which reduces the ability for citizens to truly analyze the funds and if they are being spent properly.

Amendments to Budget Amendment

•Increase the proposed garage sale permit fee from $5 to $15 and use the estimated $100,000 in proceeds for a cultural arts program.

Action: Tabled for discussion on Wednesday

•Reduce the proposed council travel budget by $63,665 to the current level.

Action: Passed

•Reduce the proposed multifamily registration fee from $10 per unit to $6.51.

Action: Passed

•Appropriate $2.15 million for building inspection while a new fee schedule is studied.

Action: Passed

More research will be done for the final 2011 budget proposal.

For more information check out the General fund budget pie chart at Dallas Morning News. (Note: current budget $965,467,785)

14

09 2010

Civil War in the City of Dallas

The American Civil War ravaged our county unlike any other conflict the United States has participated in. This one internal war took more than 600,000 American lives. It boiled down to a direct conflict between the Northern and Southern states within the Union. While many factors, including economic, social, and representation can be said to contribute to the reasons for war, the overall the split came down to a difference in the beliefs of constituents; therefore differences in how Government should be run.

Unfortunately, our modern era has not escaped the conflicts of our forefathers. That truth became painfully apparent as I sat in on the Dallas City Council “budget workshop” meeting this morning. More than 40 citizens came into the open microphone session that started at 9am and lasted nearly three hours (which is when the debate between the actual councilmembers began).

The budget amendment on the floor was purposed by 8 of Dallas’s 15 city councilmembers. It purposes a $.0451 tax increase or nearly 5% (the largest single tax increase in the last 20 years). This specific meeting was to allow the average citizens to discuss and voice their views on the tax hike. Those who spoke at the microphone were split relatively evenly, a little over half of the speakers favoring the tax increase while the other half opposed. However, an underlying current of emotion charged the opinions. Each comment revealed that the real debate was between the North and South areas of Dallas; the tax increase debate was merely an offshoot of that core issue.

Multiple voters brought up the under-representation and therefore disenfranchisement of the South (and West) portions of Dallas. By the time the City Councilmembers began their statements on the subject, it became clear that the real issue was the war between the North and South parts of the city. The Southern councilmembers, those who proposed and agreed to the tax hike claimed that the Northern parts of Dallas did not understand the true problems going on in their part of the city. The Northern councilmembers argued back that their constituents would shoulder most of the tax burden while enjoying less of its benefits.

Councilmember Jerry Allen (District 10) claimed that the other side (the left side of the “horseshoe” is where all the southern/western councilmembers sit, Councilmen Allen sits on the right) was using the propaganda of fear to spread their message… fear that libraries would close, parks would sit empty and that our roads would become undrivable without a tax increase. He said this is the same tactic that “snakeoil salesmen” use. Probably not the best choice of words as the “other side” railed against him for being disrespectful, claiming the debate was about a difference of opinion and should not consist of name-calling.

But there was some name calling from their side as well. Councilmember Angela Hunt called both Councilmember Jerry Allen and Mayor Tom Leppert hypocrites. She pointed out that each has voted for tax increases in the past, and that is it “popular to be a fiscal conservative right now.” She seemed to feel that this change in opinion should negate their current stance and comments.

After particularly heated remarks from Councilmember Vonciel Jones Hill comparing those against the tax increase to those against the civil rights movement, she called for a straw vote. The final vote on the tax hike will happen on September 22nd, but the straw vote shows the split on the city council. The call for a vote brought about a number of amendments to the budget amendment itself. Some have been tabled for further discussion (including a reduction of travel expenses for councilmembers). The final numbers for the straw vote were 8 to 7 in favor of the tax increase. (Dallas morning news makes a point that these numbers were almost exclusively down racial lines except for Councilmember Hunt, siding with the minorities for tax increase.)

The 7 to 8 is an interesting ratio, as many news reports have already announced “Tax increase passed in Dallas!!” headlines. This is only a straw vote and not a conclusion. But the final vote in the 7 comes from Councilmember David Neumann. Councilmember Neuman spoke emphatically against both sides of the debate. He claimed that the tax increase was too burdensome on Dallas citizens, but that no tax increase would not keep the budget in check. He offered a compromise of a minimal tax increase which he said he would vote for, even if he was the sole vote. So up until the final votes were cast, Councilmen Neuman looked to be a vote of abstention. Obviously, his mind was changed at some point during the straw vote. It should be interesting to see if he holds to this position in the final vote or not.

This piece is more meant to show what took place during the meeting and to show the strong division between the North and South areas of Dallas. I will post a secondary piece showing the differences between the alternative balanced budget amendment and the tax increase amendment under discussion today. To see live streaming of this event check out my Twitter: @Veribatim.

14

09 2010