The Trouble with Mitt: so many lies, so little time

The amazing team over at Buzzfeed has uncovered what is perhaps the most comprehensive (and potentially damaging) document on the GOP nominee yet… an entire record of Mitt Romney’s dealings. The 2008 Oppo File was compiled by the McCain campaign, and it leaves no stone unturned. It lists every controversial statement and questionable thing that has been said by, and could be used against Mr. Romney. This is really HUGE… every major story that is going to break about his past between now and November, this is likely to be a source.

It’s a 200 page document, but here are just a few tidbits that I’ve uncovered so far…

page 7— In October 2005, signed bill expanding family planning services, including abortion counseling and morning-after pill.

page 7— In December 2005, Romney abruptly reversed course and ordered Catholic hospitals to provide contraception emergency services to rape victims (That is even more strict than the national Affordable Care Act of 2010, which does not force Catholic hospitals to provide these services, but offers that the government will pay for them if they do).

page 8 Romney left his successor (as Governor of Massachusetts) to fill a budget deficit in excess of $1 Billion. That’s fiscal responsibility for you.

page 8— Romney refused to endorse the 2003 Bush tax cuts, saying he “wouldn’t be a cheerleader for the pain.”

page 11— Romney once called his state’s insurance law “a once in a generation achievement”. At least we agree on that.

page 11— At least two Bain Capital companies- Stream International and Modus Media– focused on outsourced technical support services, expanding facilities abroad while contracting operations in the United States.

page 133Romney proposed combining state Veterans Affairs with general welfare services. Apparently Veterans aren’t owed anything for fighting for our freedom??

And yes the current news of the day is in here.

page 136— Romney served as CEO of Bain Capital through August 2001, Even though he no longer ran daily operations.

This really is just the tip of the iceberg. Check it out for yourself. I’ll be doing some more in-depth research with this massive file soon.

Time to get real about Government

One thing that always puzzles me in the ongoing discussion about jobs… there’s hardly any mention about public-sector workers, except in reference to “wasteful governemnt spending” or “big government”. Thanks to the incessant drilling of the GOP, Americans have been conditioned to think that ALL taxes are bad, and ALL government spending is wasteful. Some people even question why we have a government. Instead, the President’s job is to somehow “free up” and encourage the Private Sector to give everyone a job. If he hasn’t done that yet, then he’s failed as President.

The truth of the situation is that there are many private market forces the government just can’t control, particularly when dealing with the European financial crises. It hits home when our exports numbers diminish, and that slumps demand for American businesses. As powerful as the President and Congress may be, they cannot control the rate of private hiring and investment. Those decisions are made by the corporate shareholders. If you’re not a shareholder, you don’t get a say.

But what does government have EXCLUSIVE control over?? PUBLIC INVESTMENT. Public-sector jobs are created by the government. Every teacher, fire-fighter, road repairman that you encounter is a public sector worker. These are the jobs that the Obama administration continues to try and create, only to get shot down by Republican forces in Congress. Democrats have tried time and time again to send much needed money to state governments, but as it has been blocked, those states started aggressive layoffs (Does ANYONE remember the American Jobs Act of 2011?). Our public sector has been literally in a free fall. And much of those cuts were led by Conservative States. With roads crumbling, and our kids’ class sizes ballooning as teachers are laid off, our states and cities are hurting. If we re-hired our state and local workers, it would not only help to restore our communities, but also add spending revenue that is shared with the private sector. Public investment ultimately leads to private investment… the two are inextricably linked.

But here’s the kicker… we are the shareholders in the government. We pay for those roads and bridges, we pay for our schools, our parks, our sidewalks. And as shareholders in government, we also have a say in how the money is spent, who controls it, and how it progresses. If we don’t like it, we vote our leaders out, and the results change. Government is much more than just waste and excess. Government is us.

For our nation to truly recover, we have to vote for politicians that understand the reality of the situation. If Congress were willing to act, we could create 1 million new jobs this year, and put people to work by making our whole country better. Just imagine our roads and bridges getting repaired, making schools better for all of our kids, and keeping our streets safe with consistent police patrols and firefighters that don’t have to be paid minimum wage. Government jobs are real jobs… and it’s high time someone stood up and started defending them.

The ABCs of the GOP… H is for

HYSTERIA

In the 2008 election, it was Jeremiah Wright. In 2009 and 2010 it was Death Panels. 2011 it was the debt ceiling. And so far in 2012, it’s been Keystone XL and Fast and Furious. Oh, and that little thing we call the election that’s happening in November. What do all of these things have in common? Carefully crafted and managed hysteria that was started by the GOP. Of course by now, we’re used to this. We expect Republicans to be the loudest voice in the room and to weave a cloud of confusion over our nation’s issues. We also expect them to reject all solutions put forth by Democrats, but not produce any alternatives. It really is the glue that holds their Game Plan together. As long as Republicans continue to throw flames on the fire, they will light their pitchforks and unite against a common cause.

But does one ever wonder why all of this hype and rage is necessary? If these people are looking for real solutions to our government’s issues, then why aren’t they offerring them? Why devote so much time (and a WHOLE LOT of money) creating distractions and stoking fear?

The answer is quite simple… to hold the party together at all costs. The Republican Party is experiencing absolute inner turmoil the likes of which haven’t been seen for generations. Though it seems long ago, the Republcan Primaries revealed some terrible disorder and chaos. The GOP’s fissures started with the Tea Party, but in 2012 have developed into all-out fault lines that could shift the political continent at any second. The two words Republicans fear the most are not “Barack Obama”, but RON PAUL.

With each state convention, Ron Paul adds to his impressive delegate total. And per the official RNC rules, if Mr. Paul wins a plurality of the delegates in just 5 states, he can legally challenge Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination. So far, Mr. Paul has officially won that plurality in 4 states… Iowa, Minnesota, Maine and Louisiana. Oh, wait… and then there’s Massachusetts, were Ron Paul technically won a majority of delegates at the state convention. At first, Massachusetts party officials honored the win, but later changed their stripes. They disqualified 16 of Massachusetts delegates to the GOP national convention, after they were elected by RNC rules. This is both immoral and illegal… the state party knows it. But right now, they’re fighting dirty to hold on to any party they can salvage. Take it from Evan Kenney, one young Paul supporter and the LEGAL delegate winner… the establishment is doing more harm than good in their abuse of this powerful movement.

Even in the midst of these shady dealings, the Paul team still has one more shot to win 5th state “free and clear”… this weekend’s convention in Nebraska. Left, right and center, all eyes will be watching to see how it turns out.

Despite what the Republican establishment wants us to believe, Ron Paul is still a very viable candidate for the GOP nomination. The establishment wing of the party is in a real bind right now. Any move that they make will alienate one major faction of their voters, but going against the Ron Paul movement could be dangerous for years to come by abolishing the youth vote. Believe it or not, the GOP the real hysteria has yet to begin. They can shut their eyes and ears all the want, but the real REVOLUTION is not ready to make nice.

Romney’s “endorsement” of the Obama jobs record

So welcome to a new month, and a new jobs report. In June the US economy added 80,000 jobs, and our national unemployment rate held steady at 8.2%. By all accounts, this is viewed as a weak report. Job growth simply isn’t “booming” the way it has in previous months. The RNC and the Romney campaign spared no seconds with their criticism…

But even without a boom, isn’t it still better than the alternative? We all know the situation that our country was in 3 and 1/2 years ago. When President Obama took office, “jobs were falling off of a cliff. They had been falling for 11 months. It takes a while to get things turned around after a recession.”

At least this was Mitt Romney’s philosophy about his own record in 2006. The Pro-Obama PAC American Bridge just unearthed a scathing new video showing Romney’s justifications for why Massachusetts jobs growth was less than stellar during his time as Governor.

Funny Gov… we’re “bright enough to look at the numbers too”. As you’d say in a most out-of-touch way, shouldn’t what’s sauce for the goose be sauce for the gander??

Texas Health Scare: What’s our alternative?

Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (you know… Obamacare), states are slowly coming to the inevitable conclusion. It is the LAW. The clock is now ticking for states like Texas to begin implementation of these new provisions of health care.

But don’t be fooled, that particular clock was ticking in Texas a long time ago. As evidenced in a previous post, Obamacare or not, state healthcare costs have been on a meteoric rise between 2005 and 2009, skyrocketing 36% during just those 4 years. Even as the costs for the state continue to mount, the number of Texans without insurance continues to rise as well.

Here are some sobering facts from the Texas Medical Association

1 in 4 Texans are uninsured. That’s over over 6.2 million people as of 2010.

-These uninsured people have no but choice to seek the emergency room. As a result they drive up Healthcare costs for everyone else. The average cost to treat a minor ailment in the Doctors office? $56.21. In the emergency room? $193.92 That’s almost 4 times the expense as it would be going to the doctor for a similar ailment (much less waiting until it becomes WORSE). Guess who absorbs those costs? And Texans wonder why our healthcare costs are soaring.

Only 50% of working Texans have health insurance… 49th in the country. The common misconception here is that employers are supposed to offer some form of a health insurance plan. That wasn’t actually a law until the passage of the Affordable Care Act. As a right-to-work state with a plethora of low-wage jobs, Texas companies have very little incentive to offer health insurance. So contrary to popular belief, it’s not just those on welfare in Texas that are struggling to find health care. It’s many of the employed public too.

In the face of these staggerring statistics, Governor Perry, Attorney General Greg Abbott and the Republican-led Texas legislature have vowed to fight the Affordable Care Act tooth and nail. It’s quite an odd stance too, as many Texas Hospitals are in full support of the Medicaid Expansion. Here is a statement from Dan Stults, President of the Texas Hospital Association

“Texas hospitals recognize there are concerns with expanding the Medicaid population, but given the state’s high number of uninsured, all options for gaining insurance coverage must be closely considered. Under PPACA, a significant number of low income individuals could gain insurance without any cost to the state of Texas for several years. Without the Medicaid expansion, many will remain uninsured, shifting costs to the insured and increasing uncompensated care to health care providers,” said Dan Stultz, M.D., FACP, FACHE, THA president/chief executive officer.

“The law was never meant to fix all the problems facing the health care system,” Stultz said. “Texas hospitals look forward to a continued discussion on how to improve the effects of the law for patients, families and communities.”

So Texas hospitals are all for the expansion of Medicaid, the state funding gap for healthcare is increasing at an alarming rate, and our uninsured continue to tax our emergency rooms, and pass ever-ballooning costs to us Texans that are lucky enough to actually have insurance. But Perry and the boys don’t want any government help from “Obamacare”.

Only one question remains to the Governor. What is your alternative?? You continue to reject implementation of the new law, but how would you propose that Texas solve these problems? Are our good Texas companies going to have a change of heart and start insuring all of their workers? Maybe they’ll be nice enough to donate directly to the hospitals so the uninsured can get treated at the ER “for free”? Maybe all of our aging Baby-Boomers will get fed-up and move to Florida??

All Texans should be asking Governor Perry and state lawmakers these questions. If our state really does decide to opt-out we need a real plan in place, and it needs to get implemented now. Mr. Perry… Time’s up.

My Megareview of Megabus: Houston to Dallas

As promised, over the weekend I took my inaugural trip on Megabus. Here’s how it went…

Round-trip ticket between Houston and Dallas was only $4.50 when I purchased it. Much MUCH cheaper than gas to move between the two cities. I purchased the ticket online through the Megabus website, and it was as simple as that. BTW there’s no physical “ticket”. Just print out the page (or have your reservation number handy on your phone. That’s how the operators will check your reservation before you board the bus.

I’m a public-transit rider already. Since the Megabus stop is located in downtown Houston, it was a very quick Metro ride to get there from my house, so no need for parking. But in Houston there is no overnight parking area. If you are traveling via Megabus, you’ll need to ride public transit, take a cab or have a friend drop you off. To my knowledge they don’t provide parking spaces in any of the Texas area cities.

The bus picks up in a surface parking lot. As anyone in Houston knows, this could be a recipe for disaster if your bus is running late, because the heat can get to some patrons very quickly if you’re just standing outside. The attendants set up a tent for us and it was much appreciated, but the heat and humidity were quite stifling that day so the tent didn’t help too much. There were no chairs to sit in, so you need to be prepared for a potentially long wait. One of the ladies waiting for San Antonio almost fainted, and we had to get her some water. Luckily she was ok by the time the Dallas bus pulled up. But seeing as Texas heat will only get worse through the end of August, it would behoove Megabus to work out some better accommadations now before a more serious incident occurs.

After about 20 minutes, the brand-new double decker bus pulls up. Great styling and a wonderful, unique new fixture to Texas auto culture. Boarding the bus I immediately took a seat at the top. A/C was going full blast so it was cool and comfortable (and I was DEFINITELY glad to be out of the heat of the waiting area). I checked the lights, plugs and A/C at my seat… everything worked perfectly. Wi-Fi took a min, but it worked ok for about half the trip. It was a smooth, easy ride with no further issues. And my phone was FULLY CHARGED when we arrived in D/FW.

3 1/2 hours later, we pull into Grand Prairie’s bus stop. Since the Megabus is direct between sites, the drive time was right on schedule without any hold-ups. But as I was trying for an all-transit trip, Grand Prairie turned out to be painfully inconvenient. It’s a $35 cab-ride to downtown Dallas from there. But even that aside, the total trip cost was still only $40 at that point.

The final verdict: I will probably be taking Megabus again. The actual ride was first-class in my opinion. It’s a great tool for those that like to explore cities, or need a quick low-cost way to visit friends and family without the hassle of a car trip. If they can find some better stop accommodations, then Megabus stands to become a new Texas tradition. I hope they work out those last remaining kinks soon.

DARTing Around Dallas: A Transit Trip

Over the weekend, I took a trip to investigate Dallas’ DART rail system, spending two days in the city without a car. I didn’t even drive up there. Thanks to the new Megabus service (and $60 cab fare to and from Grand Prairie), I was able to make the nearly 500-mile trip through mass-transit services.

I know what you’re thinking… two days in a strange city with Texas triple-digit heat while my car and it’s life-saving A/C sit idle in Houston? Insane, right?? It actually turned out to be quite the educational experience, and was a great examination of DART and how it’s important service impacts the North Texas region. Here’s what I learned…

At 72 miles and counting, the DART Rail system is the longest light-rail system in the United States. To be clear, by “light rail”, it is mainly referring to the type of vehicles used, as they are not capable of operating at faster speeds than heavy rail modes (such as the NYC subway). But DART is something of a hybrid system. Most of the rail miles are either at-grade (street level) or elevated, but one station is actually a subway which we’ll get to in just a bit. The primary function is as commuter rail between the city and it’s vast suburbs. The system is also expanding rapidly, with a connection to Irving opening this month, an extension into the suburb of Rowlett this December, and a full connection planned to D/FW Airport set for 2014. Either way, for an American city, 72 miles of rail transit is quite the accomplishment.

The light rail is definitely expansive, but still manages to be quite disconnected from some parts of the city. While it does connect downtown to key suburbs of Plano, Garland and Carrollton, the line misses many of the city’s major employment centers. For the ones that are served by the rail line, the stations are often planned in an inconvenient pattern. A good example of this is on the new Green Line. The Inwood station also services Dallas/ Love Field airport, but rather than build a direct terminal connection, DART rail had to settle for an approximate location and run a shuttle between the rail stop and the airport. However, one stop that works extremely well on the Red Line is the Downtown Plano station. It’s built right into the fabric of the city’s historic downtown, and puts you right in the middle of lively shops and scenery. The living area, employment center, and transit connection all converge in harmony at this stop. In other suburbs like Garland and Carrollton, the potential is definitely there for a similar situation. But these areas are mainly connecting a small group of people where they live. Connecting major employment centers would serve a larger number of the D/FW population.

Ah, Cityplace station. The only operating subway station between St. Louis and the West Coast. It is quite a feat of ingenuity and sheer determination on behalf of the people of Dallas, and something they “should” be proud of. As an avid transit enthusiast, It’s really a spectacular thing to behold.

The only problem?? Cityplace, 12 years after its opening, sits virtually empty. The handful of passengers I saw at the station barely justify a project worth hundreds of millions in taxpayer money. It is hurt greatly by the fact that there is very little encouragement to be used as a transit hub except for the bus stops and historic streetcar. But it’s just “far enough away” that it discourages Uptown residents from use, and only serves as a midway between more popular points on the Red and Blue lines, such as Mockingbird Staion or Downtown. The sad truth is, Dallas spent lots of time building a random Subway station, when those millions of hub investment should have been poured into downtown. Yet the downtown stations are at street-level, but easily have 3 times the number of people as Cityplace staion at any point of the day. Given the wary economic climate, it will definitely be an uphill battle if Dallas, and anywhere else in Texas, ever wants to have subway in the future. That fate rested on the rousing success of Cityplace and sadly it has not delivered.

Cityplace Station (friday evening)

Cityplace Station (Saturday)

Another serious issue with DART rail? Fare collection. Yet again another light rail that works on the “honor system” assuming that people will pay their fare to ride. This is true for most people, but a VERY significant number of citizens are riding the rail for free. Even when fare inspectors were present on the train, I didn’t see them write a single citation to fare dodgers. That sends a terrible message to observers by encouraging others to follow suit.

Why is fare collection so important? Because in states like Texas, where any notion public transit is an uphill battle, we need to know the truth about our ridership numbers so that people will understand that these systems are needed and utilized. Of course the obvious? DART is losing money! In my brief trip, I observed at least 40 dodgers in my section of the rail car. Those were just on the select trips that I took. On a daily basis, a conservative estimate on all lines would easily reach the hundreds. So a couple hundred people not paying fares every day?? You do the math.

Though DART Rail is far from perfect, it has given the citizens of D/FW one very important and special gift… true mobility. This is much farther than in the sense of just transit. Because the system covers such a wide area, many citizens who may not have a car are able to travel to places they may not have thought to by bus. Take all of those quaint shops in Downtown Plano for example. Unlike your high-skill employment sectors, jobs in the suburbs may be more easily adaptable to workers that don’t have specialty training. The Red Line and other DART Rail lines make it possible for someone who can’t afford a vehicle to have a safe and reliable way to work, even if they find a job that isn’t so close to their home. By connecting these key suburbs to the city population, Dallas also connects its citizens to more job opportunities. So in the truest sense of the word, DART is able to achieve mobility both from the transit perspective, but also improve quality of life for citizens of all economic classes.

So there’s still some definite work to be done with DART, but I applaud the efforts of the people of D/FW for working hard on transit. They are building the path to a better Dallas, and a better Texas for all.

A Voice for the Rest of Texas