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December 19, 2014      4:38 PM

Stanford: Point of schools is not more testing

From the left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Jason Stanford argues that standardized testing has only led to more standardized testing and not to better education for children

Imagine you’re a runner trying to beat your personal record in the mile. Is the point to get a better time or to actually run faster? Is the elapsed time the point of running, or is the real goal to run faster, to be stronger, to increase your endurance?

Don’t like sports metaphors? Fine. You’ve got a rib roast in the oven. Is it done because the meat thermometer reads 135 degrees? When your family chows down, does anyone congratulate the cook on the perfect thermometer reading or because the meat is tender, pink, juicy, and making me hungry as I write this?

So I put it to you again: What’s the point of data? We can treasure the marks on the door jam that inch up over the years, but the importance is in the growth of a child. You might think that in these cases the data and the actual result are the same, a difference without a distinction. And in that, you would fit right in with the data-driven education reformers these days who think test scores are the same thing as an education.

Let’s assume for the sake of the argument that the test scores are valid measures of classroom learning, something that the American Statistical Association has cautioned against. Last April, the ASA said “teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores” and that standardized testing should never be used as a tool to hold schools accountable. Basically, using test scores to gauge what happens in a classroom is like using that meat thermometer to measure how fast you ran a mile.

But no matter.

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By Jason Stanford

December 18, 2014      5:01 PM

Greenfield: The Revenue Estimate, The Prequel

Economist Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D., says that even though crude oil prices have steeply dropped, tax collections for this biennium should be higher than the FY12-13 biennium.

Prior to the 84th Legislative session the Comptroller of Public Accounts will present the Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE) for the 2015-2016 Biennium. With knowledge of FY14 revenue collections and revenue collections through the 1st quarter of FY15, one should have a basis to evaluate how Comptroller Combs/Hegar’s estimate for FY15 is tracking.

Should tax collection growth continue at its current growth rate, we should expect $54.0 billion in tax collections in FY15.  This compares to the current FY15 estimate of $49.8 billion.  This will result in total tax collections for the FY14-15 biennium of $105.0 billion, $6.2 billion more than in the current estimate.  Total state revenue in FY15 should be $2.6 billion more than in the current estimate.

Below is an analysis of tax collections for FY14 and for the first three months of fiscal year 2015.  Also shown is the current estimate for FY15 from the 2014-15 Certification Revenue Estimate (CRE). 

One should note that except for the cigarette tax, every state tax collected in FY14 exceeded their FY14 estimate. In fact, except for sales tax and cigarette tax, receipts in FY14 for all other taxes exceed the current estimate for FY15.  Tax collections in FY14 exceeded the estimate for FY14 by $2.1 billion, and exceed the FY15 estimate by $1.2 billion.

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By Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D.

December 16, 2014      3:37 PM

Bearse: Left-wing Ideologues Hiding in Plain Sight

From the Right: Quorum Report’s conservative columnist Eric Bearse argues that liberals hide their own extremism while flogging conservatives for not being pragmatic

Why do liberals get a pass on the label “dangerous ideologue”? When Senator Ted Cruz implemented his strategy to shut down the federal government over ObamaCare – and more recently his strategy to defund the president’s executive order on immigration – he was vilified in the press, and the subject of disdain in cocktail parties across Washington. His ideology was extremist because he actually carried out the promises he made on the campaign trail.

But what about Elizabeth Warren? Here is a senator from Massachusetts who doesn’t really believe in capitalism. She is the preferred choice of the Obama ideologues, operatives, Occupy Wall Street zealots and Seattle anarchists. She is a hard-left ideologue whose efforts to stop the bill to keep government funded was done out of principle, according to the media narrative. Because Cruz’s principles disagree with press sensibilities, he is a dangerous ideologue. Warren’s ideological principles just make her palatable for president.  

One of the tricks liberals like to play is to pretend they don’t have an ideology, but instead are just about solving problems. In fact, they scorn ideologues on the right while denying they even have an ideology. This is the tactic employed at the blog formerly known as Burkablog, where politicians are divided into two camps -- people driven by ideology, and people who want to solve problems. The conservatives are ideologues, the moderates and liberals just want to solve problems. It’s how many on the left claim they are centrists – they deny their solutions have an ideological bent.

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By Eric Bearse

December 13, 2014      12:03 PM

Stanford: Primary Colors are Fading

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Jason Stanford argues that the way the 2016 primary is already playing out – on both sides – is bad for America

The 2016 presidential campaign hasn’t even started yet and I’m already bored.

On one hand, everyone’s ready for Hillary, but she doesn’t seem all that eager for everyone. She’s scheduled two paid speeches for early next year, which means she won’t be kicking off her campaign until the spring. This is seen in DC as alternately smart politics and evidence that she’s floundering.

Holding off is undoubtedly good tactics, but while Democrats are waiting for Hillary they’re not talking about America, and that’s a shame. There’s plenty of time for her to lay out a reason to run for president, but when the frontrunner doesn’t enter the race it leaves all the others stretching at the starting line, waiting for the starting gun. And voters learn nothing about how Democrats would lead this county.

On the other hand, approximately 17,000 Republicans are visiting Iowa and pretending that they’re not running for president yet either. And if you thought the clown car primary from 2012 was fun—we’ll always have Uzbekibekibekistanstan—then the 2016 Republican primary should be a rare case when the sequel is better than the original.

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By Jason Stanford

December 11, 2014      2:12 PM

Adams: Gov. Perry follows in Obama's footsteps with an immigration executive order of his own

Longtime GOP stalwart Norman Adams raises real world concerns of Texas business owners following Perry’s executive order on E-Verify

When President Obama could not get what he wanted from Congress on immigration, he simply issued an executive order that outraged many of my fellow Republicans. It seems Governor Rick Perry is following President Obama’s example.

The Legislature has on multiple occasions rejected mandatory E-Verify, a federal electronic system used to weed out foreign workers who are in the country without proper documents. Now Perry’s made an end run around them and mandated it on his own through an executive order. On December 3, Perry issued Executive Order RP80 requiring Texas State Agencies and private entities seeking state contracts to use E-verify, not only on new hires, but on current and prospective employees, including subcontractors.

Attorney General Greg Abbott is suing President Obama over his immigration executive order, so you have to wonder whether he will now sue Perry for bypassing the Texas Legislature. 

In 2011, the 82nd Texas Legislature defeated mandatory E-verify. They recognized that immigration reform at the national level must come first. Attempts to pass E-verify legislation in a special session were also unsuccessful. The 83rd Texas Legislature likewise refused to impose mandatory E-verify on Texas businesses.  

Why did Texas lawmakers refuse to adopt mandatory E-verify? Here just are a few reasons: 

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By Norman Adams

December 9, 2014      2:43 PM

Bearse: Passion, Perspective and Ideology

From the Right: Quorum Report’s conservative columnist Eric Bearse says the GOP must be “mature enough to welcome dissenting views even on the most difficult and passionate issues.”

All the passion in politics is on the ideological edges. Moderates are seldom viewed as passionate or ideological, but instead as temperate problem-solvers with no ideological soul. For this they receive the scorn of both political parties – especially among the grassroots – because they are seen as ideologically impure. I reject the notion moderates don’t have an ideology, they just don’t spend a lot of time articulating its defining characteristics.

But because elections in Texas are decided in the Republican Primary, and the most passionate primary voters are staunchly conservative, there is now a cottage industry of self-appointed conservative watchdogs who have made a living off agitating the rank-and-file conservative grassroots, and serving as ideological enforcers when legislators don’t walk a narrow line. If they were liberals, we might call these agitators community organizers. But that’s another column.  

While these groups have a surplus of passion, they have a deficit in people skills. They are often their own worst enemies, driving away their natural allies with tactics too focused on punishing apostates. As a southern lady might say, “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” But groups like AgendaWise are leaving a sour taste in the mouths of many of their ideological compatriots. And after five years of trying to drive members away from Speaker Joe Straus, they have driven more members toward him (disclosure: the Speaker is a client of mine).

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By Eric Bearse

December 5, 2014      3:36 PM

Stanford: Letter to the next generation

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Jason Stanford shares his thoughts on the protests here in Texas and around the nation following the deaths of unarmed blacks at the hands of police

Dear boys,

Dad here. I want to tell you about something that happened to me yesterday.

A friend of mine at the office, a black woman, asked me to join her at a protest about that unarmed 18-year-old getting shot by that police officer in Missouri. I felt a little funny about going, as if a white, 40-something dad had no place at a civil rights rally, but my friend asked, so I agreed to go, as did a bunch of us.

On the way over I ended up talking with a couple black men I work with. They’re in their twenties, which might seem old to you, but to me they seem close to your age, just kids really. And because we were already thinking about what happened to that boy in Missouri, they started talking about the times that police officers had pulled guns on them.

Times. Plural.

Like the time one of them was playing basketball with his white friend in a public park. No sooner did his friend go home to get them some Gatorade than a patrol car pulls up. A cop shouted questions about what he was doing in a park in a neighborhood where white people lived, then more cars showed up, and a gun was pointed at him. Then his friend returned, and eventually the cops left them alone.

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By Jason Stanford

December 2, 2014      3:22 PM

Bearse: Legislative Transparency

From the Right: Quorum Report’s conservative columnist Eric Bearse argues there should be a real “record of how important bills pass or die.”

We are in the midst of that great democratic tradition known as the transition of power, which in Texas only occurs among Republicans. The incoming governor, Attorney General Greg Abbott, has to make a number of important decisions, starting with selecting staff. In his case, he must choose which talented people to bring along from both his campaign and state office, while ensuring there is enough institutional memory within the office to carry out important functions.

This is harder when the transition involves a change in parties. I am told the legislative process for Governor Ann Richards was in such disarray her first session that dozens of bills were simply lost, and became law without her signature. Having a bill clerk who knows what he or she is doing may seem like a small thing until it is not.

The Texas Senate, which has been the body most immune to change until recently, not only welcomes a new lieutenant governor, but a number of new senators on top of the inordinate number of new senators elected two years ago. There is a lot of discussion about the two-thirds rule, and whether Lieutenant Governor-elect Dan Patrick will try to scrap it or modify it. I am less concerned about that debate than other traditions I don’t like in the Senate and Texas House that fly in the face of transparency, and harm our democratic process.

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November 28, 2014      1:17 PM

Stanford: We are the world

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Jason Stanford argues that Americans shouldn't pick and choose when to be global citizens

If there is a geo-political equivalent of white privilege, it’s got to be American exceptionalism. It’s not that we don’t think the rules apply to us. It’s that we think we’re playing a completely different game and that the rules are for “the world” and have nada to do with our Empire-that-shall-not-be-named. Cosseted by the most polite people on the north and buffeted by our supply of drugs and cheap labor to the south, we think the world can be divided into US and them.

We are so married this unspoken idea that the United States can deal with the world as if the world is some separate entity that it took a president to point out our interconnectedness. It’s more than exporting jobs or importing electronics and cars. Americans still think in terms of “exporting” and “importing” when religion, disease, and money think our borders are charming relics.

We think we can engage periodically in the world, choosing not to address the Ebola crisis in Africa and then act completely bumfuzzled when someone imports the infection to Texas. And then we demand that all direct flights be ceased immediately from “Ebola countries” without betraying the slightest awareness either that there were no direct flights or that we now have become an Ebola country.

We arm the Afghan rebels to beat the Soviets and then leave, only to see the Taliban fill the vacuum and provide safe haven for a disaffected scion for Al Qaeda, except we didn’t see because we were disengaged.

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By Jason Stanford

November 26, 2014      1:26 PM

Darby: Proposal will extend and expand border surge

Rep. Drew Darby lays out the facts of the proposal to keep the border surge going into the New Year

As a member of the Legislative Budget Board, I’m looking forward to voting on Monday to extend and expand the state’s law enforcement surge in the border region. The proposal agreed to by the state’s leadership continues this state’s strong commitment to border security.

The proposal from Governor Perry, Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst and Speaker Straus significantly increases the presence of Department of Public Safety troopers along the Texas-Mexico border.

This plan provides $65 million to continue increased DPS activity through August 31, the vast majority of which will provide needed overtime pay for state troopers. Using those resources for overtime provides the equivalent coverage of hiring an additional 650 troopers to patrol the border region – but at about half the cost. This is a smart investment of our resources that will build on the success of Operation Strong Safety II that was launched this past fall.

In addition to allowing more patrol hours, it will also fund additional equipment and technology, as well as more aircraft flight time. Each of these is an important component of our fight against criminal elements along the border.

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By Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo

November 21, 2014      11:54 AM

Stanford: Will the GOP hold it together?

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Jason Stanford argues Republicans can save themselves by embracing immigration reform, rather than fighting the President on it

Nothing is less important in Washington these days than how Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration will affect millions of unauthorized immigrants. Obama has turned a population roughly equal to Alabama into taxpayers who can live in America without fear of deportation, and this town yawns. All anyone really wants to talk about is whether the Republicans will completely freak out or manage to hold it together long enough for the government to function. 

And by “function,” no one is thinking that Congress will do anything so radical as pass laws or other things imagined as normal by the Founding Fathers. No, the nightmare scenario for Republicans is a mass of anger and confusion that could derail their plans to govern just as they got control of Congress. Put simply, the right hand doesn’t know what the far-right hand is doing.

The choice is coming down to suing the President, which no one thinks will work, defunding the President’s immigration executive order, which the Republican House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers says is impossible, and of course shutting down the government in some sort of a legislative tantrum. So far, Republican leaders have managed to keep impeachment off the table, but no one thinks the relative peace will last. That’s how angry they are.

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By Jason Stanford

November 20, 2014      2:38 PM

Greenfield: The Year That Was – State Expenditures in Fiscal Year 2014

Economist Stuart Greenfield on where the dollars really went

Along with the increase (6.0 percent) in total revenue, total expenditures also increased by a substantial amount (6.6 percent) in fiscal year 2014 (FY14).  Of the $6.2 billion increase in state expenditures in FY14, over half (50.6 percent) was accounted for by the increase in Public Assistance Payments, primarily Medicaid, while 20.5 percent of the increase was for public education.

As shown in Table 1, two items, public assistance payments (38.5 percent, an increase from FY13), and public education payments (24.7 percent, a decrease from FY13) accounted for almost 2/3rds of state expenditures. 

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By Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D.

November 19, 2014      3:56 PM

O’Donnell: 2014 Democratic butt-kicking calls for ruthless examination of that party’s future

QR's resident curmudgeon with his rundown of advise for Texas D's

Before Texas Democrats try exorcism, a collective mikvah or consultation with the spirit of Edgar Cayce to get a handle on the future of their party, they might resort to a cold-hearted inventory of the seemingly hopeless state of mind and body of their organization. Here’s a few items they might want to look at closely:

Stop whining about Obama. --- On election night I heard at least three bright young Democrat operatives blaming the President’s low approval rating for fueling the party’s epic fail. Get real. Obama was never a significant factor in this Texas debacle one way or the other. All this kvetching makes you sound like Republicans.

Whiz kid consultants from elsewhere don’t hunt here. --- When Wendy Davis brought in campaign consultants fresh from the Obama re-election she was doomed. Texas is like no other state politically, geographically, demographically, economically or spiritually. There are so many different “Texases” no cookie cutter campaign techniques will work. Battleground Texas? You win some. You lose some. But these people don’t even know where to buy tickets.

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By Edd O'Donnell

November 18, 2014      5:13 PM

Bearse: A Pocketful of Gruber

From the Right: QR’s conservative columnist argues there is a right way and a wrong way for the GOP to oppose President Obama’s promised executive action on immigration

Our constitutional law professor in chief will always seize a political opportunity, even if it creates a constitutional crisis. In theory a president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” After all, it’s in the Constitution. But President Obama is making a different calculation: that Republican objection over a constitutional separation of powers issue will be overshadowed by the political benefit resulting from his executive order on immigration.

Here is the trap he is trying to set for Republican candidates running for president: oppose his order on constitutional grounds, and then spend months answering whether alternatively you would deport those 4.5 million people. He wants Republican candidates to oppose the order in the primary, and have it come back to bite the nominee in the general.

This is a president who locked down war memorials from veterans to make a point about the government shut down. He will do anything to advance his political goals. He will even tell you if you like your doctor, you can keep him. He has proven he will say anything, and do anything to win a political victory. He has a pocketful of Gruber.

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By Eric Bearse

November 17, 2014      4:24 PM

Enriquez: Resounding Republican victory means it is time to get things done

Co-founder of Glasshouse Policy points to data that says even in a GOP dominated Legislature, bipartisan bills have the best chance of passage

As the dust settles from the recent election, it is clear that the 84th Texas Legislature will look a lot like the 83rd Legislative Session, including Republican dominance of the Texas House and Senate, and control of key leadership roles statewide. So, it would be wise for policy practitioners to learn from the successes of the previous session and try to repeat those successes this time around.

Glasshouse Policy crunched the numbers from the 83rd Session and the data confirms that the clearest path to getting things done begins with Republicans and Democrats working together. In fact, our research reveals that a bipartisan-authored bill filed in the Texas House of Representatives was nearly 6 times more likely to pass than a bill filed by same-party legislators.

We arrived at this conclusion after taking a close look at the political parties of the joint-authors of every bill filed in both the Texas House and Senate. For the purposes of our report, bills jointly authored by at least one member of each political party are considered to be “bipartisan.”

What did we find when our analysis was complete? Bills coauthored with bipartisan support, while rare, were more likely to become law than their single-party counterparts. And, interestingly, despite the success of collaborative bills, there were relatively few bipartisan bills filed.  

Here are some of our key findings:

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November 14, 2014      3:12 PM

Stanford: Make Election Day a Holiday

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Jason Stanford says designating Election Day a national day off from work just makes sense

Apparently, you’re pretty busy. I’m a little surprised that you have time to read the paper, frankly. And you’re not alone. Only 36% of our countrymen bothered to vote in the midterm elections. A lot of people were busy that day.

Unless we are prepared to admit that control of Congress will be determined largely by non-voters, we need to take a fresh look at reinvigorating the basic currency of democracy—voting. And that’s exactly why Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wants to make Election Day a national holiday.

Turnout in the midterm elections hasn’t been this low since 1942, and back then my grandmother was busy changing my now 72-year-old dad’s diaper. Grandpa Stanford was busy, too, fighting fascism in Europe. So if turnout was a little low in the middle of World War II, I’m willing to give the Greatest Generation a pass.

But a lot has happened since then. We lowered the voting age, passed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, and, with the Motor Voter Law, made it easier to register to vote. The United States has systematically welcomed more and more Americans into the fold, and now what? Voting? Eh, who has time?

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By Jason Stanford

November 11, 2014      3:52 PM

Bearse: Election Day Reaction

From the right: A thoughtful piece with some new insights about what happened and what is to come

We tend to over-react to election results in the days and weeks that follow. Two years ago President Obama earned re-election despite the worst economic recovery since World War II. Now he is a political plague upon his party, taking down anyone with a D by their name unless they live close to saltwater.

Has Obama forgotten how to do politics? I doubt it. He just never could do policy. His policies aren’t working, and the sample size was large enough to give Americans pause. He is left to claim a mandate from people who didn’t vote, ignoring the voice of the folks who did. But does that mean the Republican wave will continue for another two years? Maybe, but it’s no sure thing.

Republicans are faced with the reality that we have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, even when conditions were ripe to defeat the Democratic incumbent just two years ago. Instead, we lost every battleground state. Looking forward, Democrats have the task of awakening a demoralized base, and Republicans have the task of widening the tent.

In the president’s final two years, he is no longer inhibited by a Senate in Democratic hands. He can run against Congress without hesitation. The battle lines are clearer. He already seems primed to pick a fight with Republicans in Congress, on amnesty for illegal aliens. My belief is he thinks Republicans will over-react, and respond too angrily. He hopes to drive a wedge between the GOP and Hispanics on this issue, on the basis of tone. We will see.

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By Eric Bearse

November 7, 2014      4:50 PM

Stanford: When the herd is wrong

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Jason Stanford goes in-depth on how polls can get it all wrong in the same way

So, that was fun. One minute we’re promised a half dozen toss up races to determine control of the United States Senate, and the next Democrats are ducking under their desks as Massachusetts and Maryland elected Republican governors. Let the Very Important Pundits take turns on cable news assigning blame for the losses. I’m more interested in why the polls didn’t tell us the wave was coming.  

Most of the electoral forecasts that aggregated polls predicted a likely Republican takeover of the Senate, but each race was supposed to be close. Alaska and Iowa were supposed to be 1-point races. Only 2-3 percent separated the candidates in Colorado. New Hampshire and North Carolina were close, but Democrats were favored in those races. And that was just the public polls.

Privately, Democratic pollsters were not nearly as bearish. They spoke of the problems polling Hispanics in Colorado, the native population in Alaska, and the new African American influx into the Atlanta suburbs. There was complicated talk about the messed up statistical modeling in the public polls. We’ll be fine in North Carolina, they assured all who paid to listen to their advice.

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By Jason Stanford

November 4, 2014      3:02 PM

Bearse: My Program of Recovery

From the Right: QR’s conservative columnist with a much-needed dose of comedic relief as we get ready for what happens after the election.

This weekend, I escaped. I camped in the woods with my cub scout. I drank coffee with cub scout parents who wear lights on their heads. I slept in a sleeping bag on a 48 degree night. Not once did I think about the election. It was nice.

Today it ends. For some, mercifully (Democrats, I am looking at you). For others, joyfully. The winners will plan their ascent to office. The losers will engage in recriminations. Battleground Texas will blame Wendy Davis. Her camp will blame them for not sharing data. They will throw up on the front page of the newspaper, vomiting grievances. As for me, I won’t even read it. My long hibernation from politics begins.

This year, I am even entering a 12-step program for political operatives. I already took step one, admitting I am powerless over politics, and that my life has become unmanageable. Is that really hard to see? The other day I poured water into the toilet. I thought I was watering a plant. Not even my email is manageable, let alone my life. The addictive nature of this political disease is cunning, baffling, powerful.

Step two: came to believe that a power greater than myself could relieve me of my politicalism. I start with the first two words of that step: I “came to,” awaking from a six-month binge of fake twitter accounts, google alerts, and the conference call hell that is this disease. My head pounds, asking, “why did I do it again? I have sworn it off so many times before.” And then I swear it off again, vowing never to return. In my soul I know it’s not true, but with all the desperation of a drowning man I turn to that mystical power that can relieve me: reruns of Hank Moody.

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By Eric Bearse

November 1, 2014      12:20 PM

Stanford: Partisanship, for lack of a better word, is good

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Jason Stanford says both war and politics are expressions of the same truth – that some things are worth fighting about.

Partisanship, for lack of a better word, is good. You won’t find a more unexamined assumption in America today than a sneering contempt for partisanship. Yet partisanship persists, an evolutionary fact of life in our democracy because it is an ineffable expression of the American experiment. Partisanship isn’t just what we do instead of shooting each other but how we express our moral values.

It used to not be so. Being a partisan a generation or two ago meant trucking with many people you disagreed with. The Democratic Party was a coalition of people who couldn’t stand each other for ideological reasons. This is sometimes true today, but for personal reasons. Whatever our interpersonal gripes, and they are legion, we all largely agree on questions of right and wrong and what is important to us.  

Our partisanship is now not a marriage of convenience but an expression of our moral values. On the big issues of the day—marriage equality, economics, feminism—we agree. That’s why we’re all Democrats now. And the same goes for Republicans, more or less. This realignment of our two major parties along ideological lines has turned our politics from an endless series of moral compromises into a larger debate about right and wrong. Is that so wrong?

We were once divided along ideological lines before, and it led to the Civil War. Out of that national horror, the philosophy of pragmatism was born, and for more than a century we made concessions for the greater good. (I am, of course, oversimplifying things. This is a column, not a college seminar, and I must have left my Ph.D. in my other pants.) 

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By Jason Stanford

October 29, 2014      3:28 PM

Greenfield: Here We Go Again

Surging state revenues continue to be ignored by Comptroller; next Lege may have $20 billion more than Combs' office estimates

In 1967, Ray Charles released “Here We Go Again” lamenting the return of a girlfriend.  That song is quite appropriate following the release of September’s revenue collections by Comptroller Combs.  According to the Comptroller’s News Archive, there has been no mention of either the growth in state tax collections for FY14 (6.7 percent) or the increase (10.7 percent) for September, 2014, the first month of FY15.  So, “here we go again,” with a lack of the true fiscal situation of the state from the Comptroller.

Table 1 below shows the actual year-to-date percentage increase in monthly state tax collections for FY10 through FY15) and the current estimate growth rate (for FY14 and for FY15) from Comptroller Combs.

Over the last three fiscal years, the estimated growth in tax collections provided by Comptroller Combs has been significantly less than the growth realized by the state.  Unless there is a dramatic downturn in the Texas economy this fiscal year, something no economic forecaster, not even Comptroller Combs, is projecting, the growth in realized tax collections will be at least three times the rate (1.9 percent) in the current estimate.  This should result in the current Fiscal 2015 Ending Certification Balance increasing from $2.6 billion to a minimum $7.5 billion.  This nearly $5.0 billion increase is the minimum increase as the state should expect reduced public education outlays as local property tax collections continue to exceed the amount the state expected to be collected.  Given the continued growth in the Texas economy and immigration, we should expect local property tax collections to exceed the amount forecasted to support the Foundation School Program.

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By Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D

October 28, 2014      5:08 PM

Bearse: Festivus for the Rest of us

From the Right: Quorum Report’s conservative columnist argues that Democrats are resorting to fear in the closing days of the campaign

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of the politics of grievance coming from Democrats. They live in a constant state of Festivus, airing a laundry list of grievances and identity attacks as if they have nothing else to talk about.

A Democrat in Congress calls North Carolina Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis, “Uncle Thom.” The Democrat running against South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said, “we are going to escort whore out the door.” DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said about the governor of Wisconsin, “Scott Walker has given women the back of his hand. I know that is stark. I know that is direct. But that is reality…What Republican tea party extremists like Scott Walker are doing is they are grabbing us by the hair and pulling us back.” Apparently not satisfied with assailing Republicans with images of domestic violence, DWS invoked ebola and terrorism to describe her friends on the other side of the aisle, saying, “So, it seems that the Democrats’ overall message is yes, ISIS is scary. Yes, Ebola is scary, but Republicans are a lot scarier.”

The heck with Ebola tents, let’s quarantine America from Republicans!

This is a tried and true technique of Democrats to rile up the base. They thrive off resentment. Even their loftier sentiments cloaked in fairness have an unspoken message: that you are entitled to better, and would be better off if the boogiemen oppressing you were made to heel. If only we took more from those who are financially successful we could make the world a better place. Not every Democrat speaks against the “evils” of capitalism, but every time someone does they are a Democrat. It’s about the only time they think Darwinian theory is not gospel.

To live in a state of grievance, you have to believe you are not responsible for your own fate, for your own happiness, for your own family. That is the responsibility of government, which rights social wrongs and redistributes to favored constituencies.

The Democratically-contrived “war on women” stokes the fires of gender resentment. This is how Senator Leticia Van de Putte can run an ad misleading all of Texas on the premise that Senator Dan Patrick thinks there are legitimate differences about rape, without nary a protest of outrage from the sleeping supplicants in the press. Patrick’s statement was really about whether abortion should be legal in the case of rape, but those are silly nuances for those playing the gender card. It is the most disgusting, disingenuous ad of the election cycle, which is saying a lot if you have been victimized by Wendy Davis’ ads.  

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By Eric Bearse

October 24, 2014      12:05 PM

Stanford: We reached Peak Gohmert

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Jason Stanford argues, among other things, that the Ebola scare has helped produce an epidemic of fear and ignorance

I wasn’t in favor of shutting off travel to Ebola countries until Rwanda and Tanzania started screening travelers from Texas. You never know what kind of crazy viruses could spread. The last thing developing nations need is an epidemic of Yee Haw conservatism from the likes of Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert.

People have gone a little nuts in Texas over Ebola, even though more people have played quarterback for the Washington Redskins this year than have died from Ebola in the United States. Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas refused to admit a Nigerian student over Ebola worries even though there is no Ebola in Nigeria, which is more than Texas could say. If this is an epidemic, it’s one of fear, and it presents as an aggressive strain of stupidity.

And when it comes to dumb in Texas, Louie Gohmert is Patient Zero.

The Texas congressman sounded the alarm that “undocumented Democrats”—AKA, Central American refugees—were bringing Ebola across the border. His reasoning is that President Obama wants all these refugees to come, so a bunch of terrorists are going to sneak in with them, and they had Ebola. Because Obama.

“And, gee, since they’re coming across our border, and you know, they don’t get checked, and most of them don’t get really thoroughly checked, they could be coming in with disease that we simply do not need,” Gohmert said. “It’s silly not to be more careful.”

Well, he’s not completely wrong about it being silly.

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By Jason Stanford

October 21, 2014      4:12 PM

Bearse: Trick-or-Treat

From the right--Last minute campaign antics and shenanigans sometime amuse and infuriate

It’s trick or treat season for campaign politics. Lots of tricks, few treats. I am reminded of this every time I drive by a campaign sign. In my first campaign in 1994, over-zealous supporters of our opponent didn’t steal our signs or lay them on the ground, they just cut a big hole in them with a box-cutter. They just stood there as a shameless monument to misdemeanor shenanigans.

I don’t blame Martin Frost or Matt Angle for this high crime. Sixteen years later, our campaign had nothing to do with black-toothing one of our opponent’s teeth on her sign. Stuff happens. Her teeth were too perfect anyway.

Psychological ops are in full force. By now, more than one campaign has dropped a racy flier at four or five houses that happen to be in their opponent’s neighborhood. They want the candidate to think it went district wide.

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By Eric Bearse