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October 13, 2017      2:53 PM

Smith: The Dark Carnivals Our Elections Have Become

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that there are several reasons our democratic elections are out of control

Consider a hypothetical. A business broker has been carrying messages for an alleged party to a criminal conspiracy. The broker is only providing a venue for the delivery of the information. As a federal investigation into the conspiracy widens, the broker, already part of the investigation, decides to destroy this customer’s communications, normally archived as a regular part of its business practices.

It’s not hard to imagine that the proprietors of such a business in that circumstance might worry that maybe the destruction of evidence wasn’t the brightest of moves.  Visions of the pokey, the hoosegow, the joint, the calaboose, that is, prison, might float menacingly through their minds.

Now, for the non-hypothetical.

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By Glenn W. Smith

October 9, 2017      4:36 PM

Greenfield: Raising returns and reducing costs at ERS is achievable

Economist Dr. Stuart Greenfield argues that if ERS had invested in a market index fund, its total return would have been 3.6 percent greater over five years

While attending college and taking a class in economics, my major, a professor after listening to my response to a question asked:Are you stupid or just from Jersey.” With my usual wit I replied, “both.” I hope the analysis that follows isn’t a repeat performance.

After attending the recent Employee Retirement System’s Trustee meeting, the change in investment policy appears to violate the fundamental rule of finance; higher risk should be compensated by earning higher returns. The adopted changes will reduce investments in fixed income securities and domestic stocks and redirect these reductions to alternative investments, i.e., real estate, hedge funds. This reallocation intends to improve the rate of return on the ERS portfolio.

According to the Pew Trusts, the ranking of ERS is not world-class. In fact, it is not even TRS-class. As the Table One shows between 2005 and 2015, the performance of ERS relative to other public retirement systems has deteriorated.

In other words, the ERS ranking has gotten worse over time.

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

October 2, 2017      11:38 AM

Orr: Texas Acts to Prevent Elder Financial Abuse

President of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, Texas says financial advisors are happy to now be a first line of defense when scammers target the elderly

We think it will never happen to our parents or us. Yet, it happens every single day.

Financial sharks and scammers prey on the elderly to the tune of about $36.5 billion a year.

Fortunately, with the leadership of Rep. Tan Parker (Flower Mound) and Sen. Kelly Hancock (North Richland Hills), the Elder Financial Protection Law effect on September 1. It provides new teeth for combatting financial scams and abuse. It enables others, including financial advisors, to step forward to protect seniors when they see something is amiss.

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By Joseph Orr, II

September 29, 2017      5:20 PM

Smith You’ve Got a Friend in Me

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith wonders whether a political storm over Hurricane Harvey recovery has been calmed. But is it still political hurricane season?

Was it just a tempest in a teapot, this brewing storm between Gov. Greg Abbott and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner? You be the judge. Their joint press conference in Houston today sounded something like this.

Abbott brought Houston $50 million worth of love to Turner, an amount that helps the city avoid a temporary tax increase for recovery efforts.

That’s enough to make anyone sing like Randy Newman sings in “You’ve Got a Friend,” from the film, Toy Story:

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By Glenn W. Smith

September 22, 2017      1:23 PM

Smith: North to the Future, It All Comes Down to Alaska

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith travels among the carnies otherwise known as leaders of today’s Republican Party

In a better world, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un are not actually leaders of nuclear-armed nations but are instead just marginal pro wrestling personalities posing as bitter foes in a World Wrestling Entertainment undercard.

Does fake wrestling have undercards? No matter.

The above is not the real world, of course. It’s just a harmless fantasy designed to relieve a bit of the stress caused by the Odd-Haired Couple’s nuclear game of the Dozens, a name for a street game involving an escalating “pattern of interactive name-calling” (thank you, Wikipedia).

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By Glenn W. Smith

September 15, 2017      12:45 PM

Smith: Is Politics Today A Content-free Shirts & Skins Sandlot Football Game?

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith wonders whether tribal loyalty has replaced individual responsibility and engagement in today’s politics

I’ve been critical of complaints about so-called “polarization” in American politics. It can look like an easy out that allows pundits to pretend “neutrality” using false equivalencies.

Against this, I’ve suggested we consider two people in a room. One of them goes crazy. The other doesn’t. We don’t say the room is polarized, do we? Where’s Donald Trump’s opposite pole? See what I mean?

But some recent studies and events in the political sphere have me second-guessing my skepticism.

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By Glenn W. Smith

September 8, 2017      2:42 PM

Smith: Catch a Falling Lone Star

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith sees rays of hope in the government response to Hurricane Harvey

Paul Vance, the guy who wrote the lyrics, “Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day,” has been living in South Florida. As Hurricane Irma approaches, here’s hoping Mr. Vance took the advice of Perry Como’s 1957 hit song.

 “When your troubles start multiplying,” the song says, your pocketful of starlight will help you overcome them.

The good news is the state of Texas has in its pocket a lot of starlight in its Rainy Day Fund, $10.3 billion to be exact. And, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, our troubles are multiplying. The not-so-good news is that in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, some are reluctant to use it for the recovery.

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By Glenn W. Smith

September 1, 2017      2:56 PM

Smith: After the Flood

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith on pre-flood and post-flood Texas

Before engaging in a bit of dryland analysis of where Texas was before Hurricane Harvey and where it might be post-flood (it’s not over), the major part of our attention should remain on recovery efforts.

Hundreds of thousands of Texans face uncertain futures.  

We would also benefit by spending more time contemplating the heroism we witnessed, the automatic, empathy-fueled solidarity that had everyone who could help others risking their own safety to help others.  

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By Glenn W. Smith

August 24, 2017      4:19 PM

Pauken: Abbott’s blame game avoids responsibility for property taxes and school finance

Former RPT Chair says the GOP will likely never again have the large majorities in the House and the Senate they have now… too bad that they squandered the opportunity to address key issues

Governor Greg Abbott has lashed out at Speaker Joe Straus for the failure of the Republican majority to provide property tax relief and address school finance reform in the recently completed special session of the Texas legislature.

Yet, almost simultaneously, the Governor quickly announced that there would be no second special session to finish the job. One would think the Governor would have enough votes in both houses to at least get some kind of limited property tax relief passed if he were truly committed to it. 

At the end of the first special session, the Senate and the House were not that far apart in their respective positions on providing taxpayer protection to prevent local governments from raising property taxes excessively without voter approval. Surely, a sensible compromise could have been crafted at Governor Abbott’s urging on that piece of legislation.

Apparently, the Governor likes to have it both ways.

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By Tom Pauken