As your editor I have studied the Houston Chronicle endorsements and at times wonder what planet the editorial board is on. For example, around the day they endorsed Democrat Adrian Garcia for Sheriff they ran a front-page story detailing the sex scandal in "his" jail, which is only the latest example of mismanagement by his administration, which includes drug scandals, payoffs and extortion. Maybe they didn't read those stories.
Likewise, County Attorney Vince Ryan, who ran as an ethics watchdog but has acted like a lapdog protecting Democratic officeholders who deserved removal (which the County Attorney is allowed to), like Constable Trevino and Edwin Harrison. He also does business with law firm friends involved in the Harrison bribery scandal. Why? Because they are his political allies. And that's not all. He doesn't pay the bills he is responsible for because he diverted the funds to his cronies. Again, is anyone at the Chronicle reading, watching or listening to the truth?
As for judges, they endorse some Democrats and some Republicans. They also endorse some incumbents and challengers, probably because they support non-partisan judicial races. That is understandable and they believe all they endorsed are qualified, but as TCR sees it there is a difference and thats why we urge you to vote straight Republican in November. Of the big three, they got one right, Mike Anderson for DA, but that was a no-brainer. Even the Democratic Party rejected their candidate.
Crummy Employment Reality
Versus Fudge From Obama Administration
The brilliant Mort Zuckerman in the U.S. News & World Report lays out the story about the real state of employment in America. Forget 7.8% unemployment, it is fudge.
"... roughly 60 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. The negatives remain grim and glaringly so on jobs, jobs, jobs and income. As for jobs, some 25 million Americans are without full-time work. Over 5 million have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. The share of the unemployed who have been out of work for a year or more has soared from 12 percent three years ago to over 30 percent today. The share of the population actually in the labor force has shrunk to a post-World War II low. Almost 8.5 million people have given up looking for a job, so they are not counted in the unemployment rate because they have not searched for work in the prior month. The real unemployment rate is 15 percent, measured by what is called U-6, which includes people who are working part-time on an involuntary basis. We have 4.7 million fewer jobs than the peak reached at the end of 2007... Fewer Americans are at work today than in April 2000, although the population has grown by 31 million since then. A worker between the ages of 50 and 61 who has been unemployed for over a year has only a 9 percent chance of finding a job in the next three months. A worker who is 62 years or older and similarly unemployed has about a 6 percent chance. And 50 percent of this year's college graduates are without jobs or are underemployed. Underemployment is still in the range of 16 percent, and that does not count people who have a job for which they are overqualified or who are making much less money because they are aren't working in their chosen field. John Williams at Shadowstats, who uses the U.S. government methodology from 30 years ago, tells us that the U-6 unemployment rate is around 23 percent... The Feds keep changing the rules, and it should be no surprise that with each new rule the number of people officially counted as unemployed drops. If you can't find a job, whether officially employed or not, you are still out of work. Far too many workers have been idle for extended periods, and it is crucial to get them back into the labor force before their skills atrophy and their earning power shrinks permanently... In the debate, the president asked for patience, but he has become a prisoner of unfilled promises."
TCR Comment: The comments by Zuckerman demolish the administration's claim that the economy is improving. Time to say good-bye to President Obama, you had your chance and you have failed.
Those Harris County Bond Issues & Propositions
Houston Community College - $425 Million - Vote YES
They are doing a great job making up for HISD's inadequacies and getting our students ready for the job market. Enrollment is up 40% in the last five years. They cut taxes often and are a good steward of taxpayer money. They are the biggest bargain around when it comes to higher education. Don't believe the false negative campaign that the Qatar campus costs us money. It's not true. The fact is it makes money for HCC and helps reduce taxpayers' costs here in Texas and created 75 jobs for Texans. They need to serve the growing student population.
HISD - $1.89 Billion - Vote NO
The largest bond issue in Texas public school history is a huge overreach for a district with declining student population, a high dropout rate, 60% of the students requiring remedial work to go to college, and will require substantial additional tax revenue, so taxes will go up. The Chronicle recently detailed a growing time-off spending crisis, "Since 2008 HISD has racked up $24 million worth of extra vacation, sick and personal days..." And one of the top culprits is Superintendant Terry Grier who got $145,523 on top of his salary. One wonders, is $300,000 a year plus bonus, a car and 65 days off enough? And this new plan wrecks millions of dollars of work done in the 2007 bond issue, that still has hundreds of millions left to spend!
Conservative supporters of public education urged HISD to take a stair step approach and ask for the money in stages, take $500 million now and prove to be worthy of more. But they refused because they think they can ride President Obama's coattails with a big Democratic turnout. They are not deserving of this incredible amount of money. Vote NO and tell HISD to go back to the drawing board.
Metro Referendum - Vote YES
The issue here is simple. The General Mobility Program which funds (from Metro tax revenue) roads, sidewalks and related projects has run out and must be renewed. Over the past years, $2.1 billion in Metro sales tax money has gone to Houston, 14 small cities and Harris County.
A no vote ends that program. The opponents want to end the program to have more money for the rail. A yes vote continues the diversion of funds for roads & related projects.
City of Houston Bond - $410 Million - Vote NO
This request has five different propositions and the concern here is a tight city budget and reduced revenue due to the recession. A recent report on the city's long-range finances projects possible bankruptcy in 2014, "... general fund cash balances will be exhausted in FY 2014."
The projects may be meritorious, but when money is tight you don't double down and borrow more increasing your debt, do you?. TCR suggests the city get its fiscal house in order and then they can look for bond issues down the line.
The Republican Jewish Coalition presents "Perilous Times," a mini-documentary in which Israeli experts and everyday citizens candidly discuss their concerns about the U.S.-Israel relationship under President Obama.
Food Stamps - The Black Hole
You Enter and Never Exit
By Bruce Bialosky, Contributing Editor
Have you heard the rumor that the number of food stamp recipients has increased during President Obama's term from 28.2 million to 46.6 million? Have you heard that in only three years, the annual cost of the program, which was already astronomical at $35 billion, has soared to $76 billion? It certainly has been the talk of the town (if not the campaign), but does anyone really know how we got to this state of affairs? That is what I set out to discover.
Even the most basic details about the program seem surreal. Why in the world is this welfare program administered through the Agriculture Department? We have been arguing about agriculture subsidies since the beginning of time, yet a program that really has nothing to do with farming or ranching now swallows up most of the budget. Just the idea that the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is running a $75 billion welfare program gives you a perspective of how screwed up this situation has become.
I contacted the House Agriculture Committee spokesperson, Tamara Hinton, to get some answers. What is the amount of attrition for the program, I asked. Given that the program has grown by 18.4 million participants in the past three years, is there anyone who has stopped receiving benefits? She stated that the USDA claims that the average duration of benefits is 9 months. I pointed out that if that were true, then about 160 million people have been on the program in the last three years.
It turns out that Katherine Bradley of the Heritage Foundation describes a much more plausible scenario. She claims that people participating in the program - now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) - stay on it for an average of eight full years. When I challenged Ms. Hinton on the accuracy of the Heritage study, she informed me that the program is administered through the states, who only report the net change in the number of recipients, and not how many people have entered or left the program.
So nobody knows how many people - if any - are leaving the program. President Obama's campaign incessantly reminds us that he has created 4.5 million new jobs in his term - a truly dubious claim that is credible only if you don't count the 4.3 million jobs lost in the first 13 months of his term. But let's pretend that he's correct and that there are indeed 4.5 million new jobs. Then how come there are 18.4 million new people receiving SNAP benefits, and why has the yearly cost risen by an additional $37 billion? If people are finding jobs, then participation should be going down, and so it is only rational to come to the conclusion that this program has become a black hole where people keep signing up, but no one is signing off.
This occurs because the states, who administer SNAP, have every reason to maximize the number of people enrolled in their program. In simple terms, it brings more money into the state at no cost. There used to be a relatively stringent enrollment procedure to obtain SNAP benefits, but this was superseded by a provision in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act called "categorical eligibility." The idea was to cut down on administrative costs by eliminating duplicate financial tests in order to receive benefits from related programs. The problem is that the Clinton Administration left Bush another ticking time bomb (like the redo of the banking law and the infusion of $1 trillion in the home mortgage market with lower standards) when he changed the regulations in 2000 to make it easier for people to get SNAP without providing financial info. Today, it seems that to qualify for the programs, all you need to provide is a note from your mother.
Ms. Hinton told me about one consequence of this policy that is almost criminal. Apparently, if you qualify for benefits under the Low Home Energy Assistance Act of 1981 (LIHEAP), you automatically become eligible for SNAP. Because payments made to LIHEAP recipients can be of any amount - no matter how small - states have figured out that they can attract billions of dollars in federal SNAP funding at a cost of thousands of dollars in LIHEAP stipends. Sure enough, there are 16 states and the District of Columbia who pay people less than $5 under LIHEAP just to qualify them for SNAP. You could say no one is watching the store; but, in fact, someone is watching - and stealing the Federal government blind.
It gets even more stunning. You would think that the federal government would encourage the states to cleanse its rolls. You know those three favorite words of politicians - waste, fraud and abuse. Instead the Obama Administration has set up a bounty program. They have a $50 million bonus program to motivate states to get more people on SNAP. The funds the winners get are not restricted to be used on the state's SNAP, but can be used for any purpose deemed appropriate by state officials. Otherwise, get more residents signed up on SNAP and get money to fix up facilities at the state park or redo offices of the members of the state legislature.
As part of the new Agriculture bill, the House has approved a partial restructuring of the SNAP program. The problem is that the Obama Administration, along with the Democratic Senate, wants to make it even easier for people to get SNAP benefits under the categorical eligibility exemption. While the House and Senate bills will have to be reconciled during the lame duck session, the bigger picture is that the entire program desperately needs a wholesale restructuring.
What makes the situation even worse is that there are active attempts by left-wing bureaucrats to stimulate participation in the program. The information sheet from the USDA is headed Food Stamps Make America Stronger. Further down, there's a section entitled The Food Stamp Program is an investment in our future. And for those Americans who are a little light on their reading skills, USDA radio ads encourage listeners to sign up for the SNAP program so that "you will eat healthier."
It may sound quaint, but, when I was growing up, Americans thought that you used food stamps only if you were really, really poor. We wouldn't even shop at stores that took them as payments. Now you can just swipe a card indistinguishable from any other debit card and - voila! - you're just like any other shopper. Upscale stores accept SNAP payments without even blinking. With almost 45 million people receiving food stamps, a retailer would have to be crazy to pass up the income stream.
It's no wonder that there's such a deep divide in this election as to the future of this country and whether the current administration is heading us in the right direction. Yes, folks, we have a big decision in front of us. Do you want to become a food stamp nation?
Bruce Bialosky is the founder of the Republican Jewish Coalition of California and a former Presidential appointee.
TCR on the Air
Red, White & Blue featuring TCR Editor Gary Polland, liberal commentator David Jones and moderator Linda Lorelle on Fridays at 7:30 pm on PBS Houston Channel 8.1, replaying Sundays at 12:30 p.m. on Channel 8.1, Mondays at 11:30 pm on Channel 8.2 and on the web at www.houstonpbs.org.
10/12/12: "Foreign Policy and the Election" with Dr. Jim Granato and Dr. Richard Stoll.
For a fun feature go to www.houstonpbs.org and under Red White and Blue, you can see commentary about the show and its guests by Gary and David each week. The current show as well as past shows are also available on YouTube.
About Your Editor
Gary Polland is a long-time conservative and Republican spokesman, fund-raiser, and leader who completed three terms as the Harris County Republican Chairman. During his three terms, Gary was described as the most successful county Chairman in America by Human Events - The National Conservative Weekly. He is in his fourteenth year of editing a newsletter dealing with key conservative and Republican issues. The last eleven years he has edited Texas Conservative Review. As a public service for the last 8 years, Gary has published election guides for the GOP primary, general elections and city elections, all with the purpose of assisting conservative candidates. Gary is also in his tenth year of co-hosting Red, White and Blue on PBS Houston. Gary is a practicing attorney and strategic consultant. He can be reached at (713) 621-6335.