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

What’s Brewing: Daniel Hernandez, bigoted N.C. lawmaker, Palm Springs gay sex sting fallout

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. President Barack Obama and Daniel Hernandez Jr. — the gay intern credited with saving the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords — disagree about whether Hernandez should be called a hero. Thus far, however, discourse between the two has remained civil. Hernandez, who sat next to Obama during Wednesday night’s memorial service in Tucson, also spoke to MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann after the event. In case you missed the service, Obama also announced that Giffords had opened her eyes for the first time in the hospital. And as Bill Maher put it, now it’s time for the rest of the nation to open its eyes. Watch Obama’s full speech here.

2. The government shouldn’t spend money to treat people with HIV/AIDS who “caused it by the way they live,” according to Instant Tea’s official Bigot of the Day, North Carolina State Rep. Larry Brown. “I’m not opposed to helping a child born with HIV or something, but I don’t condone spending taxpayers’ money to help people living in perverted lifestyles.” (Winston-Salem Journal)

3. When the Dallas Police Department conducts one of its gay sex stings, it’s business as usual. But when it happens in Palm Springs, Calif., all hell breaks loose.

—  John Wright

Alberta Taxpayers Funded 1,750 Treatments For Homosexuality

Some 1,750 "treatments" for homosexuality were conducted between 1995 and 2004 in Alberta according to an examination of doctors' classification codes, for which there is an official one for gayness because the Canadian province still lists it as a mental disorder — for which taxpayers foot the bill. Yesterday Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky promised to remove the classification, which is cute, because the government there has been promising to do that since 1998.

CONTINUED »


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Queerty

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Is DISD refusing to protect gay kids from bullying?

We’ve been told repeatedly in recent weeks that DISD’s board of trustees planned to put off a vote on a new bullying policy until officials could further discuss whether it should enumerate specific categories of students who would be protected, including those who are targeted based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

So it comes as quite a surprise that this Thursday’s board agenda includes an item calling for approval, on second reading, of the same non-inclusive bullying policy that was initially proposed by the DISD administration. If you’ll recall, the non-inclusive policy prompted objections from LGBT groups, and at least two DISD trustees responded by saying they’d propose a substitute that enumerates specific protections.

We’ve got calls in to district spokesman Jon Dahlander, as well as trustees Bernadette Nutall and Lew Blackburn, to find out what’s going on. But for the record, Rafael McDonnell at Resource Center Dallas is concerned:

“We’re disappointed,” he said. “Based on the conversations with several board members, this proposed policy doesn’t reflect the information we gave them and how they responded to us.”

McDonnell notes that the only apparent change in the proposed policy since it was first introduced is the addition of the following paragraph at the very top:

—  John Wright

Servicemembers United: Refund Taxpayers For Insulting DADT Survey

Servicemembers United wants the feds to get back the .4M they paid for the DADT survey.

The Department of Defense just paid the research firm Westat the outrageous sum of .4 million to design and administer an email-based survey about the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. While its development was shrouded in secrecy for weeks, leaked copies of the final version recently began circulating. To everyone’s surprise, the survey, which went out to 400,000 service members, turned out to be laced with bias, inaccuracies, and derogatory assumptions and insinuations about gay and lesbian Americans. Demand that Westat and the Pentagon repay the American Taxpayer for this outrageous waste of .4 million!

Their petition is here.

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright