All posts by L. Wayne Ashley

Thanks for visiting!! My name is Wayne, and I live in Houston, Texas. I wouldn’t consider myself a “diehard” liberal activist, but I definitely have a Progressive view on most issues. I’m a proud Millennial, and I feel like the voice of my generation in Texas gets overshadowed by the older, more established groups. This is my effort to change that. Please come back and read when you can.

Texoblogosphere: Week of 11/27-12-3

Happy December everyone!  The Texas Progressive Alliance is stocked up on leftovers as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff notes that the odds are in favor of at least a couple of Democratic Congressional pickups in Texas.

SocraticGadfly takes a look at Cooperstown this week with a trio of posts. First he offers his thoughts on the new Hall of Fame ballot, with who he thinks will make it, should make it, and should not make it. Second, he salutes Joe Morgan’s comments on steroids users. And third, he offers his thoughts on the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee ballot.

With Gene Green’s retirement, Congressional District 29 has an opportunity to move left. How far to the left is the question, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has an answer.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Rivard Report offers some tips on avoiding cybercrime.

The TSTA Blog wants us to stop taking educators’ votes for granted.

Scott Braddock ponders Greg Abbott’s attack on Sarah Davis.

Nonsequiteuse says the way to fight gentrification is to buy local.

Juanita has the bumper stickers you’re looking for.

The Lunch Tray has some suggestions for helping kids in need.

 

 

 

Done In The Dark: GOP’s Disastrous “Tax” Bill Racing Through Congress

Look, I get it.

It’s been a raucous year for American “Politics”.  Or maybe we’re better off just calling it “Political Theater” in the era of Trump.  Every single day there is a new outrage, a new something to be mad about, scared of, or perpetually annoyed.  Seriously, I get it… 2017 has been a traumatic experience for us all.

But here’s the deal folks… it ain’t over yet.  After a whole year of drama, the Republican-dominated Congress is now feeling the pressure to pass some sort of “Tax Cut/ Tax Reform” bill so that they will have a legislative accomplishment to tout on the 2018 campaign trail.  And let’s just say, the desperation is palpable. They are willing to pass ANY bill that they can, even if it doesn’t help simplify the tax code, even if it doesn’t pay for itself, and even if it’s a disaster.  Beyond cutting taxes and ballooning the deficit, the Senate version of the “Tax Bill” will also have wide-ranging consequences for the nation’s healthcare system. Here’s more from Sarah Kliff of Vox

The Senate tax bill is really a health care bill with major implications for more than 100 million Americans who rely on the federal government for their health insurance.

The bill reaches into every major American health care program: Medicaid, Medicare, and the Obamacare marketplaces.

These are expected outcomes based on two significant policy changes in the bill. First, the bill repeals the individual mandate, a key piece of Obamacare that requires most Americans get covered. Economists expect its elimination to reduce enrollment in both the Affordable Care Act’s private marketplaces and Medicaid by millions. The money saved will be pumped into tax cuts for the very wealthy.

For those wondering, yes it is true that this bill does not explicitly say that Medicare will be cut, but those cuts are implied by the bills sequestration– across-the-board cuts that would be triggered by deficit spending (thanks to the aggressive tax cuts).  Here’s more on that from Niv Elis of The Hill

The GOP tax bill could trigger automatic cuts worth $136 billion from mandatory spending in 2018, including $25 billion in Medicare cuts, if Congress doesn’t find another way to offset its deficit increases, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
The tax bill would add an estimated $1.5 trillion to the deficit over a decade. Congressional “pay-as-you-go” rules, called pay-go, require that the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) automatically cut mandatory spending if legislation increases the deficit beyond a certain point.
“Without enacting subsequent legislation to either offset that deficit increase, waive the recordation of the bill’s impact on the scorecard, or otherwise mitigate or eliminate the requirements of the [pay-go] law, OMB would be required to issue a sequestration order within 15 days of the end of the session of Congress to reduce spending in fiscal year 2018 by the resultant total of $136 billion,” CBO wrote on Tuesday.
Medicare can only be cut by a maximum of 4 percent through the pay-go rules, however, which amounts to $25 billion in cuts.
And of course the cuts to critical healthcare services are just one side of the sequester.  Across-the-board cuts would likely devastate funding for education, infrastructure, the arts and a whole host government programs.
2009 and 2010 may seem like a lifetime ago, but it was basically the last time a singular piece of legislation this significant was passed in Congress. While FAR from a perfect process, the Affordable Care Act was debated for months, Congress members held town halls with constituents, the President gave a Prime Time speech to inform Americans of what was going on (sadly best remembered by the “You Lie” incident), and Republican members at the time had well over a year to scrutinize the legislation being shepherded by Democrats.
Remember when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell himself lambasted Democrats for “jamming this massive health spending bill [the ACA] through Congress against the clear wishes of an unsuspecting public”? Yet in 2017, he and Republicans appear to be doing much worse, with an omnibus bill that could affect not only the healthcare system, but every corner of the American government.
While it is certainly up for debate whether some of these worst-case scenarios could materialize, what is absolutely clear is that the entire process for this massive legislation is being done in the dark.  The only reason for such a ridiculous rush-job?  Because if the American People knew the many dangers being debated right now, they would not support this bill (Not sure about you, but I am struggling to think of any actual “fiscal Conservatives” that would support adding $1 Trillion dollars to the deficit).
So yes, many of us may be traumatized by the President’s antics.  But with a precious few days left until the next election year, Congress is done delaying, and now racing towards a huge disaster of a bill.  Even for those who may support “tax reform” or “tax cuts” in theory, Tell YOUR elected officials that you do not support any massive legislation without multiple hearings and a fair, open process that is presented to the public.
If this disaster of a bill goes through, Republicans should fully expect a disaster at the ballot box next November.

 

Logic’s ‘1-800-273-8255’ Shows the Power of Music With a Message

In the fickle world of contemporary pop music, lots of artists are working hard to either get noticed, to reach the top, or to stay there.  It’s a fast-paced, calculated, and highly competitive environment where people are constantly tempted to compromise and sacrifice their artistry to reach the top.  In an era where sound physical record sales have given away to digital streaming and piracy, it’s no surprise that artists are under extreme pressure to stay away from controversial topics, or anything that is not a ‘safe bet’ to generate revenue.

But on rare occasion, an artist turns down the industry noise, follows their instincts and gathers the courage to tackle a taboo subject in the pop sphere.  For artist Logic (and his songwriting collaborators Alessia Cara, Khalid, 6ix and Drew Taggart), the decision to write a song about suicide prevention has yielded ground-breaking results.  The song ‘1-800-273-8255’ takes its title from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Not only has this incredible work become a huge hit, but the song has made a real impact.  Here’s more on that from Zack O’Malley Greenburg of Forbes.com

On April 28, 2017—the day 30 Under 30 alum Logic released the song “1-800-273-8255,” named for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline—the organization received 4,573 calls, a 27% surge. It was the second-highest total in the organization’s history behind the day Robin Williams died; the only other event that generated a comparable influx was the election of Donald Trump.

“[It’s about] being able to be a part of something that’s truly bigger than yourself,” says Logic’s manager, Chris Zarou, 28. “Getting the data, to actually see the people it’s helping, is just a special thing.”

Via Twitter, the rapper shared further statistics from the NSPL showing a similar impact after the song’s performance on the MTV Video Music Awards.  There’s no doubt that this song is helping to save lives.

Thankfully for us, ‘1-800-273-8255’ appears to be just the start to Logic’s success.  After the breakout success of the single, the rapper’s new album Everybody debuted at Number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, becoming his biggest success to date.  Tackling a variety of issues from equality to domestic violence, the pop pantheon hasn’t seen a such a diversity of socially conscious music since Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814.  And much like that iconic work, Logic has found a public hungry for music and art that tackles serious issues, and ready to hear what he has to say.  Despite the pervasive fears of industry leaders, music with an important message is once again creating space, and reaching the people that need to hear it.

If you haven’t heard ‘1-800-273-8255’, check it out below.

 

 

It’s Been A While, But…

Greetings everyone,

So you may have noticed that Texas Leftist has taken quite the substantial break throughout 2017.  This was due to a number of factors, including some that were personal, and some professional.  As it turns out, being an Academic Advisor, part-time musician, teacher, blogger and community activist is quite a lot going on.  So I’m taking some time to get sorted, and reevalute what I feel are my best contributions to the political conversation.

I’m also gathering up the courage to start something new.  In the next few weeks, you’ll hear more about the new venture, but for today, it’s important to know that I’m still around, I still care very much about Texas politics, and I am looking forward to 2018.  I will be sending out Candidate Questionnaires during the Texas Democratic Primaries, and I plan to also do so for the General Election as well.  TLCQ 2018 will soon be in full effect.

Thanks to everyone for your emails and inquiries.

ICYMI: President Trump Also Tossed Out His Infrastructure Council This Week

For someone so “new” to politics, our nation’s 45th President sure seems to know what he’s doing when it comes to creating distractions and burying scandals.  As leader of the modern Republican Party, this is one lesson he’s taken well to heart.

So goes the latest example.  As our nation is consumed by a the racial firestorm set off by a White Supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the President’s response to it, with his other hand Donald Trump is steadily ripping up his overly ambitious agenda, hoping Americans will quickly forget the frequent promises he made on the campaign trail.  Just one day after Trump gave his “big speech” to address our nation’s failing infrastructure, he turns right around and undermines that same agenda.

Here’s more, via Mark Niquette of Bloomberg News

President Donald Trump will not move forward with a planned Advisory Council on Infrastructure, a person familiar with the matter said Thursday.

The council, which was still being formed, would have advised Trump on his plan to spend as much as $1 trillion upgrading roads, bridges and other public works.

The action follows Trump announcing on Wednesday that he was disbanding two other business advisory councils. Corporate chief executive officers had started to quit the panels in protest over Trump’s remarks that appeared to confer legitimacy on white supremacists following a violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12.

Our Commander-In-Chief signed an Executive Order on July 19th to establish the Infrastructure Council.  But in true Trump form, he’s now proven that he can’t even Command himself to his own rules.

So how are all of those lofty goals on infrastructure going to be accomplished with no buy in from the Congress, and no advice from the outside world?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Yet another promise we can toss down the Trump Abyss Broken and Ignored Promises.

Wait… how did pop star Katy Perry‘s song go??

Swish Swish Bish— Another one in the Basket. 

 

 

Ashley Smith Makes THE Point About “Bathroom Bill” Debate

So there’s politics, and then there’s policy, both of which can be easily become lightning rods if infused with the right social issues.

For many in the Republican party, such a calculus has been made about many issues today.  They know that for many of their voters, there is either a serious lack of understanding about LGBT issues, or just a blatant attempt to ignore them altogether.  They also know that fearful, long disproven stereotypes are still enough to motivate a large part of their base to go and vote.  It also allows an “easy way out” of actually having to debate substantive issues, or come up with policy solutions.  Basically, inflame the base, keep them scared and they’ll pay attention to the actual job that they’re doing.

Special Session?  Did someone say BATHROOM BILL??

Sadly, it is Transgender Texans that continue to be cast as the political scapegoats of the day.  Who knows how much state leaders like Governor Abbott or Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick actually believe of all the falsehoods they spout, but it is unlikely that they care about that.  As long as their voters stay scared and uninformed, they stay in office.

With all of this in the atmosphere of the Special Session, one brave Texan set out to prove a point at the capitol, with none other than the Governor as her assistant.  Here’s more on that from Kylie Madry of the Dallas Morning News…

A transgender San Antonio woman went to Gov. Greg Abbott’s re-election campaign announcement last week with one mission: to pose for a photo with him.

Ashley Smith, 45, accomplished that and then shared the image on social media with the caption: “How will the Potty Police know I’m transgender if the Governor doesn’t?”

Soon, the post, which Smith said was intended to raise awareness about opposition to a proposed “bathroom ban,” took off and went viral.

[…]

Smith said she hoped the photo helps educate others about the transgender community. “We’re just regular folks,” she said Monday. “We’re teachers, doctors and police officers in the community.”

Her photo with the governor shows “how ridiculous this legislation is and how it can’t be enforced,” Smith said.

 

 

Ridiculous as these Bathroom Bills may be, they can still cause real harm to the Transgender community, and the overall Texas economy. Anyone that has followed similar sagas from other states would know that this is a hugely expensive mistake.

But has that ever stopped Greg Abbott or Dan Patrick in the past? If Texans ever want to end this cycle, there’s one sure fire way to do it.

Let’s  hope for no results on this movement.  And either way, Democrats need to do all they can to try and make some progress in 2018.

 

 

Turner Tables Planned Revenue Cap Repeal Vote

After years of discussion and, failed attempts, and being a central focus of the last Mayoral election, Mayor Turner has likely decided that now is not the time to ask voters to repeal Houston’s self-imposed Revenue Cap.  As Rebecca Elliot of the Houston Chronicle reports, the surprise is a bit more complicated than your normal political flip-flop…

Mayor Sylvester Turner abruptly reversed course Wednesday on his plan to ask voters to repeal Houston’s revenue cap this fall, saying it now is “unlikely” he will ask for its removal.

The politically cautious move would leave the city fiscally shackled in the hope that a lighter November ballot improves the chances voters sign off on hundreds of millions in general improvement bonds and $1 billion in pension obligation bonds, a crucial piece of the mayor’s landmark pension reform package.

“Do I believe that the needs are as much there to remove it as they were when I came into office? Absolutely,” Turner said. “Do I want to run the risk of losing the reforms that we’ve made to our pension system? No.”

[…]

Turner’s about-face came during a City Council discussion of how the cap, which has cost the city an estimated $220 million in revenue since 2014, likely will force the city to scale back the street and drainage projects budgeted in its five-year Capital Improvement Plan, or CIP.

The decision came as a surprise in part because of Turner’s regular and consistent comments on why the repeal is needed.  Since before he took office, the Mayor has worked diligently to explain to Houstonians why the cap must be repealed.  In fact many would interpret the ballot initiative as ‘top of the agenda’ after the state legislature passed Houston’s Pension solution and it was signed into law by Governor Abbott in May.

But as we discussed on this week’s Houston Matters panel, the decision to spare voters this Fall likely has as much to do with politics as anything else.  Since January, the Republican political establishment have used the planned repeal as an organizing tool for the party, in hopes to defeat Turner in 2019.  Here’s an excerpt from the Big Jolly Politics site, written by Republican strategist Phillip Owens…

Many pundits are still trying to figure out what happened to the Republicans in Harris County in 2016. But 2017 creates opportunities for Republicans to grow the party and build for 2018 and beyond. I will focus on opportunities unique to Harris County in a series of articles, but for now let’s take a look at Mayor Turner’s promised efforts to repeal Houston’s Revenue Cap.

[…]

His statement could hold a few clues in how he might try to sway Houston’s voters to trust the City with more of your money. We’ve heard this all before when elected officials want to raise your taxes.  They make promises to “fix the flooding” and our streets, they offer better and more “public transportation,” and of course there’s the never-ending promise for more improvements to city parks.

But this gives Republicans a chance to mimic the Mayor’s claim that all these problems are going to be fixed with more revenue.  We should be asking a few questions, frequently, publicly and with lots of volume.  Wasn’t the so called “drainage fee” supposed to fix the flooding?  What is Metro doing with half of the City’s sales tax revenue?  Is Metro not providing quality transportation?  Do we need more empty double busses running all hours of the day?  Aren’t we already using $100 million of TIRZ revenues, that had had their revenue cap lifted years ago, to “fix” Memorial Park?

Well… it’s an interesting interpretation of what Houston municipal leaders are doing with the tax revenues they collect.  Perhaps Mr. Jones doesn’t ride METRO and hasn’t noticed that they appear to be putting our tax dollars to good use, especially in the wake of significant ridership increases after the system’s 2015 Reimagining. Those “half-empty buses” are steadily becoming a thing of the past.

Much of the same can be said for the City Houston, whose budgets during the Parker era saw some of the most innovative and cost effective budgets, in large part to stem the pain from the looming revenue cap.

But at the end of the day, the issue of Houston’s lost revenue may be delayed, but it’s not going away any time soon.  At some point, the question will have to be asked if a modest increase in taxes (an average of $12.27 per property owner) is worth keeping police on the streets and critical services for one of the nation’s fastest growing urban areas.