Texas: A not-so-great state

As Perry eyes the presidency and Dewhurst makes a bid for the Senate, let’s look at the story the numbers really tell

Phyllis Guest | Taking NoteGuest.Phyllis.2

It seems that while David Dewhurst is running for the U.S. Senate, Rick Perry — otherwise known as Gov. Goodhair — is planning to run for president. I wonder what numbers they will use to show how well they have run Texas.

Could they cite $16 million? That’s the sum Perry distributed from our state’s Emerging Technology Fund to his campaign contributors.

Or maybe it is $4.1 billion. That’s the best estimate of the fees and taxes our state collects for dedicated purposes — but diverts to other uses.

Then again, it could be $28 billion. That’s the last published number for the state’s budget deficit, although Perry denied any deficit during his last campaign.

But let’s not get bogged down with dollar amounts. Let’s consider some of the state’s other numbers.

There’s the fact that Texas ranks worst in at least three key measures:

We are the most illiterate, with more than 10 percent of our state’s population unable to read a word. LIFT — Literacy Instruction for Texas — recently reported that half of Dallas residents cannot read a newspaper.

We also have the lowest percentage of persons covered by health insurance and the highest number of teenage repeat pregnancies.

Not to mention that 12,000 children have spent at least three years in the state welfare system, waiting for a foster parent. That’s the number reported in the Texas-loving Dallas Morning News.

Meanwhile, the Legislature has agreed to put several amendments to the Texas Constitution before the voters. HJR 63, HJR 109 plus SJR 4, SJR 16, and SJR 50 all appear to either authorize the shifting of discretionary funds or the issuance of bonds to cover expenses.

Duh. As if we did not know that bonds represent debt, and that we will be paying interest on those bonds long after Dewhurst and Perry leave office.

Further, this spring, the Lege decided that all voters — except, I believe, the elderly — must show proof of citizenship to obtain a state ID or to get or renew a driver’s license. As they did not provide any funds for the issuance of those ID cards or for updating computer systems to accommodate the new requirement, it seems those IDs will be far from free.

Also far from free is Perry’s travel. The Lege decided that the governor does not have to report what he and his entourage spend on travel, which is convenient for him because we taxpayers foot the bill for his security — even when he is making obviously political trips. Or taking along his wife and his golf clubs.

And surely neither Rick Perry nor David Dewhurst will mention the fact that a big portion of our state’s money comes from the federal government. One report I saw stated that our state received $17 billion in stimulus money, although the gov and his lieutenant berated the Democratic president for providing the stimulus.

And the gov turned down $6 billion in education funds, then accepted the funds but did not use them to educate Texans.

The whole thing — Dewhurst’s campaign and Perry’s possible campaign, the 2012-2013 budget, the recent biannual session of the Texas Legislature — seems like something Mark Twain might have written at his tongue-in-cheek best.

We have huge problems in public school education, higher education, health care, air pollution and water resources, to mention just a few of our more notable failures.

Yet our elected officials are defunding public education and thus punishing children, parents, and teachers. They are limiting women’s health care so drastically that our own Parkland Hospital will be unable to provide appropriate care to 30,000 women.

They are seeking a Medicaid “pilot program” that will pave the way for privatized medical services, which will erode health care for all but the wealthiest among us. They are fighting tooth and nail to keep the EPA from dealing with our polluted environment. They are doing absolutely nothing to ensure that Texas continues to have plenty of safe drinking water.

They are most certainly not creating good jobs.

So David Dewhurst and his wife Tricia prayed together and apparently learned that he should run for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat. Now Rick Perry is planning a huge prayer rally Saturday, Aug. 6, at Houston’s Reliant Stadium.

God help us.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

While U.S. Fumbles On DADT, Australia & Canada Accommodate Trans Servicemembers

One day Henny Penny was scratching in the farmyard looking for something good to eat when, suddenly, something hit her on the head. “My goodness me!” she said. “The sky must be falling down. I must go and tell the king.”

Henny Penny

Above is the opening paragraph to the traditional telling of the children’s story Henny Penny — Henny Penny being a hen who kept repeating the mistruth to all willing to listen that “The sky is falling!” Image: Australian FlagShe convinced her friends Cocky Locky, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey that the sky is falling along her way to the king — the king who never ended up hearing her message of doom — but the sky was never really falling.

As I watched the Family Research Council’s (FRC’s) November 30, 2010 Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) press conference, my mind kept wandering back to the signature line from Henny Penny: The sky is falling! As I’ve listened to the statements of Senator John McCain on DADT — as Senator McCain has rhetorically moved the goal posts on what it would take for him to vote for repeal of DADT — my mind keeps wandering back to the signature line from Henny Penny: The sky is falling!

We know, if only from the examples of other militaries in our allied countries who allow lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers to serve openly, that the sky won’t fall if DADT is repealed. The military will still be able to accomplish its missions if DADT should be repealed.

In fact, other allied countries are now figuring out how to accomplish the accommodation of transgender servicemembers. Image: Canadian FlagIn the Sydney Morning Herald‘s Sex-Change Soldier Forces Army To Scrap Transgender Policy, we learn that Australia is revamping their policy on transsexuals to clearly allow them to transition on active duty. And Pink News reported in their piece Canada’s Military Updates Uniform For Transgender Soldiers that Canada’s military has put together a new policy on how trans service members should be accommodated.

From the Pink News piece:

While debate continues in the US about openly gay troops, the Canadian military has been putting together a new policy on how trans soldiers should be treated, the National Post reports.

The policy says they should wear the uniform of their “target” gender but must be given privacy and respect. For example, no reason must be given when a person’s name is changed on military records.

The new policy does not allow military honours to be reassigned to new names, saying “there is no legal authority for rewriting history”.

Canada’s military first paid for gender treatment for a member in 1998 and deals with one or two trans troops every year.

So while the United States can’t seem to get past the stage of discussing whether or not lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers should be allowed to serve openly, some of our allies have moved on to accommodating the transitions of transsexual servicemembers.

I believe what Australia and Canada are at with their policies towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) servicemembers is where the United States should be in its discussions of LGBT servicemembers, but instead we’re still discussing whether or not LGB servicemembers should even be allowed to serve openly in the military services, let alone be accommodated in serving their country while in military uniforms.

The sky isn’t falling. We in the United States can allow lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers to serve openly in the military services, and still be extremely professional, and capable, of meeting mission requirements. The United States could go much further in accommodating lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender servicemembers than just a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell that would accommodate LGB servicemembers, and still be able to capably and professionally meet the country’s military mission requirements.

That the United States still is functioning with antiquated policy regarding LGBT servicemembers says something about my country, and what it says isn’t particularly good.

Hat Tip to Monica Helms and Robin McGeehee. Emoticon: Hat tip
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