The ABCs of the GOP: A is for….

AUSTERITY

Even if you haven’t followed the news lately, you know one thing for sure about our country… record job losses have left over 9 million Americans out of work, and our unemployment rate stands today above 8 percent. It has touched every one of our lives in some way. Chances are that you either lost your job or know someone that has. In short, things ain’t what they used to be. Somehow though, amongst all of the devastation, the facts of who lost these jobs, and why they were lost seem to be continually lost in the shuffle. In order to understand and hopefully avoid this cycle, we need to be reminded of what is going on.

This Recession was born from corruption, fraud and bad investments within the Private Sector. Remember the Collateralized Debt Obligations, Mortgage-Backed Securities and all of the other crazy, phony things that were being sold on Wall Street? Remember the mortgages that were being sold to unsuspecting families where their payments would TRIPLE overnight, and when they fell behind on their loans, they were thrown to the street in foreclosure? Remember the Bernie Madoff, R. Allen Stanford, robosigners and all of the other corporate giants that turned out to be nothing more than common crooks that were robbing Peter to pay Paul? Remember DHL, Circuit City, the Sharper Image and all the other companies that closed up shop and put their ENTIRE workforce on unemployment? Yeah, that was the Recession… 4 million jobs were lost in the private sector.

But what about the other 5 million jobs? Where did those come from?? State and local governments have slashed positions left and right since 2009. Teachers, firefighters, police, state and city parks systems… virturally every city in America also lost public workers due to this Recession. This of course was everywhere, and by no means can it be confined to the GOP.

Ok wait, that last part is only half-right. According to The Nation, Red states have seen the swiftest and deepest of these austere cuts… much more than their blue-state counterparts. Even as states like Texas continue to have increasing (and sometimes alarming) demand for more teachers and more public services, they are ignoring the needs of Texans and cutting government Employees at every opportunity. Even as private sector growth began to heal, these jobs didn’t (and can’t) come back until state government takes real action to CREATE them.

Public sector work continues to be slashed and burned even to this day, and hasn’t begun to recover. But Private sector jobs continue to rebound, and are now in the 14th month of continuous employment growth. In fact according to this chart from the Center for American Progress, Private sector employment hit a “milestone” last month. We have now gained 4 million jobs within the Private sector… that puts us back at 0. Exciting? No, of course not. But it’s very important to understand.

Government austerity continues to plague our state and local legislatures, and is now dragging on our hopes for national recovery. Some people think this is a good thing, but seeing as it’s teachers, police, firefighters and government workers that are getting cut, these job losses have a significant effect on our community. Larger class sizes means a tougher time educating our children. Fewer police means less people out there risking their lives to keep us safe. Austerity has consequences, and if the United States truly doesn’t want to end up like Europe, we need to stop the bleed while we have the chance.

So please… say no to GOP-led AUSTERITY.

(Today marks 26 weeks until the Presidential election. I intend to post each week until then.)

UPDATE: Even Catholic Bishops are opposed to the hyper-austerity within the Ryan Budget, calling the cuts “immoral”…

“The Catholic bishops of the United States recognize the serious deficits our country faces, and we acknowledge that Congress must make difficult decisions about how to allocate burdens and sacrifices and balance resources and needs,” Blaire wrote. “However, deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility efforts must protect and not undermine the needs of poor and vulnerable people. The proposed cuts to programs in the budget reconciliation fail this basic moral test.”

The bishop, speaking for the entire conference, the official body representing Vatican in the United States, urged politicians to “ensure all policies meet the moral criteria established by the Catholic bishops of the United States to create a circle of protection around programs that serve poor and vulnerable people and communities:”

As a nation with many faith believers, shouldn’t we take this seriously??

Europe’s Newest Monarch Is…

You thought I was going to say Duchess Kate right?? Nope, it’s actually Francois Hollande, the recent President-elect of France. He has defeated Nicolas Sarkozy by a 3% margin, and is the first Socialist President to take the reigns of France in over 20 years. But here’s an interesting little tidbit of history. The President of France is also the only “elected monarch” on earth. By becoming President, Hollande also becomes Co-Prince of the tiny country of Andorra. Granted, he wasn’t elected by the Andorran people… they don’t get to vote, but he didn’t inherit the throne from anyone either. So as he has to deal with public accountability, huge economic issues and turbulent European relations in La Repubublique, at least Hollande can find solace in the absolute rule of Andorra when needed. Must be nice.

So he is Co-Prince… that implies that there is another Prince out there somewhere?? Yes the other Co-Prince of Andorra is actually Bishop Joan Enric Vives i Sicília. The Spanish Bishop of Urgell rules the tiny Principality alongside the French President. It must be interesting to live in a country governed by two monarchs, but neither of them live in the country.

In any case, Monsieur Hollande has a lot more to do now than pour through interesting European trivia facts. Better leave that up to the bloggers.

Texas Senate Debate… Democrats included

Something quite unexpected and welcome occurred during last night’s Texas Senate debate. Titled “Conversation with the Candidates” it was produced and Co-Sponsored by Houston Public Media and the Texas Tribune.

For the first time since 2006, the state of Texas had a major political debate in which both Democrats and Republicans were present. Sure the Democrats were outnumbered 4 to 2, but at least both viewpoints were there and were voiced. This was a huge “win” for Texas Democrats even if one of their candidates doesn’t win the seat.

Now you may be thinking “2006? That can’t possibly be true. We had a Gubernatorial election in 2010… Rick Perry vs. Bill White.” Bill White and Rick Perry only participated in Primary debates, but there was never a debate in the General Election. Had Perry debated White, we may have been spared the abysmal performances he gave us in the 2012 Primary Election cycle. You know what they say… Practice makes perfect, right?

As divided as those viewpoints were at times, last night’s debate was quite respectful among the candidates. The presumed GOP front-runner David Dewhurst spent most of his time attacking The President saying that real economic improvement couldn’t occur until we “send Barack Obama back to Chicago, get a good, conservative Republican in the White House that will follow a stable, predictable course.”

Dewhurst also spent much of his time touting his accomplishments along side Rick Perry. Though, it’s fair to say that Texas is no longer under a surplus and education and health care costs for our state continue to surge out of control. He apparently thought it was a record worth sharing.

Ted Cruz spent most of the evening going after Dewhurst for harsh campaign ads, and name-dropping all of the Washington insight he’s built up as an Attrorney arguing before the Supreme Court. Not a whole host of solutions.

It was clear from the debate that former NFL-player Craig James had no prior political experiences. Between living off of mayo sandwiches, fear of “hurting our lizards” during natural gas fracking, and his invaluable life lessons on the goat ranch, his other pie-in-the-sky answers left this viewer non-plussed. He calls for lowering corporate tax rates to 0 percent, and then somehow jobs and business will simply flood our shores. He’s not ready for Prime Time yet.

Among the GOP contenders, the most capable candidate to handle real problems of everyday Texans was former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert. Even if you don’t agree with his positions, you have to respect him for presenting logical solutions to our state and our nation’s issues. He presented his views with a clarity and poise that wasn’t present in the other Republican candidates. That’s not an endorsement… just a recognition.

The best surprise of the debate was a 31 year-old Dallas business owner named Sean Hubbard. A clear, unapologetic Liberal who stands up for his values, but also presented the logic skills that are so desperately needed in Washington right now. When asked about the future possibility of drought in Texas, he say that “We should be investing now in Deselination plants.” A solution that no other candidate (and most in our state government) have even considered. Though mostly in agreement with his Democratic opponent Paul Sadler, Hubbard maintained a more concise, prominent and straight-forward presence among the group. When discussing Women’s Rights, Hubbard said that it’s “an embarrassment” and stated that “women are more than capable of making their own decisions about their bodies and their health.” He even revealed that for a time his wife used the services of Planned Parenthood “not for abortions, but for cancer screenings”.

After two long hours, my endorsement would have to go to Sean Hubbard for his clarity of thought, innovative solutions and strength of viewpoint. The Honorable Mention would go to Tom Leppert, because even if I didn’t agree with his positions, the willingness to search for real solutions instead of just saying no.

Here’s a link to the full debate. Watch for yourself and form your own opinion.

Houston’s new Downtown Hotel! and why we need it

So plans for the long-rumored Convention Center Hotel have finally taken lift-off. Just weeks away from the May 12th opening of BBVA Compass stadium, Downtown Houston is about to be buzzing again with some big news. Houston First Corp. is in the final stages of selecting a Development team for a new Convention Center Hotel. The new hotel would be at least 1,000 rooms with a climate-controlled connection to the George R. Brown Convention Center. According to Houston First, this planned hotel project isn’t the last either with a clear intention to have 4 hotels surround the Convention Center.

So some would ask… why do we need another Downtown Hotel?? More rooms close to the Convention Center means bigger conventions can come to downtown. It also means more conventions overall, as it decreases the wait time for attendees to have to wait on hotel rooms (checking in/checking out). Downtown Houston is still at a massive lack for hotels rooms in downtown when compared to other cities. At present, Houston is about 2,000 hotels rooms shy of what is expected near a major Convention Center, when compared to other cites.

Convention visitors is just one main piece of the puzzle though. With the addition of BBVA Compass Stdium this month (set to open May 12th), Downtown Houston will gain a 3rd major venue for sports events, large-scale concerts and private functions. The city is getting to a point where for some event weekends, downtown hotel space becomes crucially crowded.

Kudos to Houston First Corp. for seeing this growing need.

Gay is Ok… whether you like it or not.

Let’s just say, it’s been a tough year for the Anti-Gay movement in the United States. So far this year, Washington state and Maryland have both joined the states of New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia that officially recognize same sex marriage. Those states represent 50 million Americans… almost one sixth of our country. In just 4 short years since Prop 8 was defeated in California, same-sex marriage is legal and rapidly becoming more common among significant segments of our population.

LEGAL. As in REAL. Real husbands, real wives, real children.

As we recall from last year, a majority of Americans now support legal gay marriage, and try as they may, the Anti-Gay marriage movement is losing traction at every turn. Perhaps one of the toughest jabs at the Anti-Gay movement comes from a shocking reversal of science itself. For many years, it was believed that being gay is a “choice” and that gay people can simply choose to change themselves into straight people. This belief was held together by the work of one respected scientist, Dr. Robert Spitzer. He has now disavowed his study, and even goes so far to offer a full-scale apology to the gay community. What was now a central citation of all Ex-gay therapy, religious evidence, and even argued at the Supreme Court to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act is now no longer a credible study against the equality movement. Shocking indeed.

So the naysayers will have to come to a conclusion that they are WRONG. The future of our country will be one where men marry men, and women marry women. Where homosexual couples raise children, attend soccer games and PTA events, change diapers and do all of the things that heterosexual parents do. As gay marriage and families led by gay couples becomes a normal occurrence in our lives, eventually we are going to have to stand up and let our children know that it is ok to be gay. A gifted young musician named Adair Lion is taking the lead in the rap world (BTW I strongly suggest you check out his music). How can YOU contribute?

Houston’s High Flying Hobby

So just to catch up the populace, one of the hot debates in Houston is over William P. Hobby Airport (HOU). Southwest Airlines is offerring the city something of a “sweet action” deal… create 10,000 jobs and make Hobby into an International Airport, while Houston enjoys the benefits of increased revenue and visitors. They’ve promised a $100 million dollar investment up front.
So far, so good, right?? Well it’s good for everyone except United Airlines, who vehemently opposes the deal. They say that it will cost jobs at Bush Intercontinental Airport and will hurt travel times due to additional strain on Customs employees. As one who can attest to this, Customs at IAH is already staffed down to the bitter bone. But frankly, Houstonians all know that there is still no love for United after the takeover of Continental in 2010. We lost thousands of jobs, a Houston Fortune 500 company and one of the best major Airlines in the US. Houstonians are nice people indeed, but on this decision, they have not forgiven, nor forgotten. Even Mayor Annise Parker herself finds no political danger in openly criticizing United as can be evidenced from this recent tweet…

Not to downplay what positives United has brought and will continue to bring to Houston. They honored their promise to make IAH the main hub of the Airline, and our city has certainly benefitted in that process. They have continued be a local “team player” by providing Corporate Sponsorship for organizations from the Houston Grand Opera to our annual Houston Pride Parade. They remain a vital part of the Houston community.

But even the best neighborhood has a couple of Desperate Housewives, right? And they never shy away from a little competition.

And here’s the kicker… Hobby is already an International Airport. It was Houston’s first Airport after all, and is the site of treasured aviation history. Since IAH came along, it’s role has slightly diminished, but is never too far away from the heart of Houston (literally and figuratively). And since we as a city have lost our own hometown Airline, I think the last thing we’d want is to deny a fellow Texas business the opportunity to grow. So in my opinion, it’s time for Hobby to reclaim some of it’s old school prominence, and give Houstonians more travel options at a more competitive price point. Just like the high-flying Astros, this too is Game ON!!

March Jobs Numbers

Drumroll please…

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US unemployment rate for March ticked down to 8.2% with a net gain of 120,000 jobs. Leading the charge with the most prominent growth were manufacturing (+37,000) and leisure and hospitality (+37,000). Healthcare also continued it’s upward march, adding 26,000 jobs. Retail jobs declined by 34,000, mostly due to job layoffs by major retailers.

As has been discussed in an earlier blog post, growth in the manufacturing sector is a targeted initiative of the Obama Administration. This month’s report was by no means a “total knockout” but it show that we continue to move in the right direction.

A Voice for the Rest of Texas