Tag Archives: Texas Minimum Wage

Questions From a Houston Conservative

This was a real occurrence from the week, but it seemed worthy of being published.  Basically this person and I got into a rather heated discussion on Twitter, and he demanded that I answer this group of questions.  It’s quite apparent that he is something of a hard-line Conservative, but even still I gave the questions my best attempt.

The Twitter battle originated from the City of Houston’s decision to invest in cycling infrastructure through a variety of sources, so that is what these first few questions address.


  1. How do you justify spending money towards bike trails before repairing our city streets, many of which are in horrible shape?

At no point have I ever suggested such a thing.  I simply stated that choosing between cycling and automobile transportation in a growing, changing city like Houston is a false choice.  The city is already spending money to re-build our road infrastructure through dedicated funds.  It would be a bad business decision for them to NOT consider the growing cycling community as they rebuild these roads.  A great example is the bike lane being constructed on Lamar street in downtown.  This lane is needed because of popular trails that already exist on the eastern and western sides of the CBD.  Currently, cyclists have no clear path to cut across downtown, but this plan will fix that issue.  Houston already has lots of street collectors and partial bike trails, so it makes sense to connect them into existing but currently disjunct network.

Just so we’re clear, the city is not spending money dedicated for roads on bike paths.  Much of the off-street bike network (trails) is being funded through grants, a $166 million dollar voter-approved bond measure, and a massive public/private partnership that is already underway to reconstruct the bayou network.  This serves as both an enhancement of the community parks system, and much needed repairs for our primary flood control plan.


  1. Why do you not support a plan that first secures funding and contracts to fix the roads, and then use any surplus to add bike lanes and trails?

Because such a plan represents a fallacy which suggests that Houston builds roads are exclusively for automobile usage.  The only roads which can claim such a distinction would be freeways and toll roads, whose construction has little to do with city funds in either building or maintenance.  City streets are meant to be used by all forms of transit, which include pedestrians, cyclists, persons with disabilities and animal-powered transit.  As such, it is the responsibility of our municipal government to consider all possible forms of transportation when building and maintaining public roads.


  1. How many people in Houston rely on vehicles versus how many rely on bike transportation?

It’s a good question… according to the American Community Survey from 2012, 0.4 percent of Houstonians commute to work by bicycle, which is roughly 40 to 50,000 residents.  As to whether they rely solely on cycling as their primary transportation option is tough to tell.  For most people living in the city proper, they have access to public transportation even if they don’t have a car.  The use of bikes on buses has grown significantly in the past few years according to METRO.


  1. On your blog post you claim that this group called ‘Battle Ground Texas’ is responsible for all the newly registered voters in Texas. How accurate is that and what proof do you have? I am pretty sure that is as far from truth as can be, and that there were numerous reasons and groups who had a hand in the increased voter registration.

Nowhere on my blog have I explicitly stated that BGTX is responsible for ALL newly registered voters in Texas.  But they did lead a significant voter registration effort, as did the Texas Organizing Project, Mi Familia Vota and several other groups.  As it stands, there are a record number of voters registered today in Texas, even if they didn’t end up voting.  2014 is also the first year in recent history that voter registration hasn’t decreased from the previous presidential year, and we topped a record 14 million registered voters. Population has grown every single year in Texas, so these groups must be the ones making the difference.


  1. In regards to raising the minimum wage, which mostly affects low-skill level jobs, jobs that are not meant to sustain an independent adult, much less a family, do you understand what will happen if the minimum wage is raised?

You say this in ideal, but not in fact.  The reality is that there are more adults working for minimum wage than there are teenagers… far more.  The average age of a minimum wage worker is 35, and 88 percent of all minimum wage workers are over the age of 20.  Nearly 1/3rd of all minimum wage workers are the primary income earners for their family.  But since they don’t make enough in their wages to feed that entire family on the minimum wage, the cost burden is shared by tax payers through SNAP (food stamps), WIC, housing assistance and other government programs.

      a. If I am a business owner, such as fast food restaurant owner, why would I not just automate as many of those jobs that I can?

I suppose you could, but as many grocers have discovered, it leaves a negative impression from a customer service standpoint, and the business owner risks losing business from such a move.  Most consumers expect to interact with employees when they pay for a service or business.

     b. If I am a business owner, why would I not make as many of those employees as part-time employees, thus having no obligation to provide insurance?

That’s already happening with wages at current levels as is.  Business owners are hiring employees under the guise of a job that will become full-time, and then working them as little as 5 or 6 hours per week.  I’m sure if the minimum wage is increased, it will still happen.  But there are plenty of good business owners that wouldn’t be affected at all because they already pay much higher than the minimum wage, and give their employees access to enough hours where they can make ends meet.  Ever been to Buc-ee’s??  They’re business is booming across Texas right now, and a big part of that success is the fact that they have great employees.  Starting pay for Buc-ee’s?  $11.00/hr.


  1. Instead of raising the minimum wage and raising someone earning floor, why not advocate for more free education so we can equip people with skills to raise their earning ceiling?

We need both!!  Education is essential for people of all ages that want to move to the next step in their careers, and it’s more critical today than ever.  People also need to understand that industry has experienced seismic shifts since the start of the 21st century, many of which were simply revealed by the 2008-2009 Great Recession, but were already coming.  As you rightly mentioned, many business owners now have access to digital technology that they have never had before.  So many gadgets and knick-knacks that we used to use in common life have now either been replaced by an app on our phones, or we just have less need for them.  And of course on the production side, factories are completely different than they were 25 years ago.  A part that was once manufactured by an assembly line of 50 workers is now done at the push of a button by 3-D printers.

As a community, it’s important for us to recognize that there are simply fewer “entry-level jobs” that are going to pay the types of wages that they used to.  The only way to give our workers a chance at higher earning potential is through increased access to education.  Which is precisely why it makes no sense that federal and state leaders have cut our education budgets so severely in the past few years.  As tax payers, we all should place more value in education and training, because the success of our society depends on the success of our educated workforce.


  1. Do you understand that less jobs, and less full-time jobs, that the tax base shrinks, and thus all your programs that fund things like bike trails dries up?

I suppose this is still related to the minimum wage question?  If so, I understand that by raising the minimum wage, you actually create jobs.  When workers have more money, they spend more at area businesses, which creates higher sales and demand for everyone.  That’s why raising the minimum wage works.  All of this said, I do believe in common sense policies.  If Texas’ current minimum wage is $7.25/hr, it would be foolish to raise wages to $15/hr overnight.  But an incremental increase is needed as soon as possible.


  1. Lastly, please explain to me how Texas is a swing state when the Republicans won just about every state seat up for grabs, and increased their margin of victory over the Democrats?

Republicans won the 2014 elections with 34 percent of the state’s voting-age population showing up at the polls.  66 percent of voters (an overwhelming majority) didn’t make their voices heard at all, so we honestly don’t know how they would have voted.  Though it’s true that Republican turnout increased above 2010 numbers, total voter turnout was significantly lower than 2010.  Republicans won in part because overall voter participation was at an historic low for the state of Texas, which in my opinion isn’t exactly something to be proud of.  Until we have an election where a majority of the actual voting-age population shows up to vote, it’s going to be tough to say exactly what Texans believe one way or the other.  All we know from 2014 is that among the Texans that cared enough to vote, a clear majority of them were Conservative Republicans.  But that does not mean that a clear majority of Texas shares the same views.


So there you have it… some basic answers by a Texas Liberal.  Tough to find us sometimes, but we’re out there.



Texoblogosphere: Week of November 10th

The Texas Progressive Alliance believes that it’s not whether you stumble that matters but whether you get up and keep going as it brings you this week’s roundup.

As the Fifth Circuit gets set to hear arguments over Texas’ ban on same sex marriage, Off the Kuff reminds us that public opinion is much more favorable towards same sex marriage in Texas now.

Libby Shaw writing for Daily Kos and Texas Kaos believes that although we lost this election, big time, giving up is not an option. We Lost the Election but We Are Not Giving Up.

The first beatings in the Republican takeover in Harris County were administered at their election night watch party, as the media that dared to speak during a prayer experienced first-hand the love of Christ and his believers. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs wonders if assaulting a reporter on camera, physically or verbally, is really what Jesus would do.

Despite the ugly results from last Tuesday, CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme refuses to be discouraged. We learn from our mistakes. PS: The Valley went for Davis.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. Less than 30% of eligible voters turned out to vote in the 2014 mid-terms in Texas. Needless to say, 2014 Turnout Was Horrible.

Election night may have been tough for Democrats, but it was a big win for the Minimum Wage. This got Texas Leftist wondering… If poorer states like Arkansas and Nebraska can raise wages for their citizens, why can’t Texas’ major cities like Houston, Dallas Austin, San Antonio and El Paso do the same? With skyrocketing costs of living, our citizens definitely can’t survive on $7.25.


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

Hair Balls informs us that the Fifth Circuit wasn’t always a judicial wingnut backwater.

John Wright updates us on Connie Wilson’s efforts to get a drivers license that properly uses her wife’s surname.

The Lunch Tray divines what the elections mean for school food.

Nonsequiteuse has a message for those who would dump on Battleground Texas.

Texas Vox says that just because air is better doesn’t mean it’s good.


(feature photo is of the Caldwell County Courthouse in Lockhart, Texas. Credit:  Tom’s Texas County Courthouses)

Caldwell County Courthouse

A Tough Night. A New Day

From a musician’s standpoint, it is very easy to see the parallels between musical theater and political theater.

Both take months of meticulous planning and rehearsal.  While everyone in a production certainly has individual responsibilities… learning their music to note-perfect accuracy, and rehearsing lines until they are off-book… the real work comes when you start putting everything together.  Suddenly, each cast member goes from the individual work of their part into a flurry of information offered from everyone else.  The time when we combine in dress rehearsals is really the “make or break” moment.  The whole show has to come together, and sometimes we’re not always sure if it will get done in time.  Yet you push on, trust everyone else, get to opening night, and anxiously wait as the curtain is lifted.

In political theater, many of these same things happen.  We work hard… often much harder than seems possible.  We suspend disbelief that any way other than our way is going to be the final result.  Whether you’re on the ground floor as a volunteer, or a top-of-the-ticket candidate, you buy in to the theory, no matter how unrealistic it seems.

But for the big show of politics, there is no true group rehearsal… only an often inaccurate set of predictions which are trying desperately to read people’s minds.  There is no true rehearsal for election night.  The choir meets for the first time ever, and we’re supposed to sing perfectly in time and in tune.  The lines get said, and we hope everything makes sense.

For Democrats in Texas and across the nation, it’s clear that their lines didn’t resonate with the audience.  There’s no denying it.  2014 was a victory for Republican candidates on an historic scale.  The party improved greatly on many of the gains made from 2010, and left many Democrats wondering why their message was rejected at so many levels.  All the door knocks and phone calls in the world were not enough to defeat this country massive dissatisfaction with government.  It was a tough night.

But even if the theater of 2014 is closed, the work done to give voice to our state’s most pressing issues remains.  Texas families are still in need of healthcare options. In a state so prosperous for a privileged few, we still have too many people that can’t survive on a $7.25 per hour wage.  The ramifications of hurtful cuts to education from 2011 linger as our schools are still under-funded.  The knowledge that so many are still facing discrimination simply because they are minorities, women or LGBT.

So the production didn’t turn out the way we wanted.  But even in defeat, we learn… we grow.  On this new day, it’s important to say thank you to Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte, and all of the Texas Democrats that sacrificed months of their life to present a choice for the state.  Congratulations to Governor Elect Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Elect Dan Patrick, and all those that won their races last night.  They now have great power, and an even greater responsibility to lead our state.

As Senator Ted Kennedy always said,

The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

Words that are just as true for Texas as anywhere else.

Plenty of analysis will be done in the coming days, and of course for the city of Houston, municipal contests are just around the corner in 2015.  Last night was a tough night, but today is a new day.

The practice room awaits.


Working Poor Left Behind In Houston’s Booming Economy

If you listen to conversations across the US, there seems to be one city at the forefront of the news lately… everyone is talking about Houston.  With massive construction projects sprouting up in every direction and a flood of “Newstonians”– yes we had to come up with a term for them– moving to the area daily, it’s easy to see why the Bayou City is getting increased national attention.

But the good times aren’t being had by all in Houston.  As Lomi Kriel of the Houston Chronicle points out, the city’s working poor are seeing a very different side to the economic prosperity…

As a full-time cleaner at the George R. Brown convention center for the past six years, Ana Franco has no benefits, sick pay or vacation, and has seen her salary grow only 18 cents to $8.85 an hour.

“The money isn’t enough,” the 40-year-old mother of three said. “Everything is very expensive. Food, clothes, and the rent rises almost every month.”

Despite the region’s booming economy and lowest unemployment in years, many Houstonians are, like Franco, essentially earning the same as they were a year after the Great Recession ended, what experts say is part of a nationwide trend of growing income disparity, according to new U.S. Census data released Thursday.


Experts say the data shows the unevenness of the nation’s recovery from the recession. Since it ended more than five years ago, many of the gains in employment, income and wealth haven’t spread throughout the economy. A report last month by Sentier Research, a company led by former Census officials, found the median U.S. household income in June was actually $1,698 less than when the expansion began in June 2009.

“The recovery has certainly been very poorly balanced. We’ve known this now for a couple of years,” said Barton Smith, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Houston. “The upper-income levels has gained mostly at the sacrifice of little or no gains, or even losses, in lower and middle incomes.”

Those disparities between upper and lower-income earners are being felt quite severely in Houston.  As Ms. Franco points out, renters have seen dramatic increases in just a few short years thanks to exploding property taxes.  But if your income is not going up to meet the rising rent, it means that you have less money to live on at the end of the month.

The other issue that has a direct affect on wages in Texas?  The prevalence of low or no-benefits jobs.  Even if a low-wage worker can make enough to pay the bills from month to month, what are they supposed to do when they get sick??  Don’t forget that half of all working Texans were uninsured as of 2013, and considering that the state has refused to Expand Medicaid, those numbers have not improved nearly as much as they could when compared to other states.

But thankfully in 2014, the working poor of Greater Houston have a real choice in the upcoming state elections.  In the races for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, both Democratic candidates Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte support raising the minimum wage for the state of Texas, while their Republican opponents Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick remain staunchly opposed. Houstonians have the power to vote for higher wages this November.  If enough people show up at the polls, Houston and Texas won’t have to settle for being left behind anymore.


(photo credit:  SEIU Texas

Minimum Wage Misconceptions

Like most teenagers, I was not only excited to have my first full-time job, but proud to know that I had reached a significant milestone in my life. I didn’t have to rely on my parents for every want and need anymore. By having a job, and making my own money, I was able to contribute (in a very small way) to the household income, even if it was just by asking them for less spending cash directly. The minimum wage was a staggering $5.15 per hour back then, and I thought was really living the life by getting hired at $5.25. A full 10 cents higher!! I’ll never forget going to pick up my first paycheck of thirty-two dollars and fifteen cents. No great sum by any measure, but being my sum it was great to me.

I’ll also never forget the first time I worked the day shift at my job… a Sonic Drive-In in my hometown of Benton, Arkansas. Unlike the boisterous teenagers that ruled the store at night, Sonic’s day crew was very different. Most of them were older women who were at the store all day, working as many hours as they possibly could. I remember times when I would practically beg for extra hours, and asked my manager if I could work on Saturday mornings. She would always say “not unless you’re called in.” When I asked why, and was persistent, she would say “because they need the hours more.”

I didn’t understand it very well back then, but now those situations make a lot more sense. My managers weren’t being mean. They knew that the adult crew’s hours were truly a need, and not just a teenage want. As David Cooper and Dan Essrow of the Economic Policy Institute explain, the experience most Americans had with minimum wage work in their teens does not reflect the reality of those trying to survive on those wages. A full one-third of all persons working for minimum wage are over the age of 40. That means they aren’t just working to earn money for Friday night, but are struggling to support their families and put enough food on the table so that everyone can eat. They are trying to stem the tide of a constant stream of crises… hoping the car will run until payday, praying for their child to not get sick because they can’t afford to go to the doctor, praying that the lights will stay on until the end of the month. What seems to be petty annoyances to most in the middle class are a full-blown catastrophe to those making minimum wage.

No better place to witness these struggles than the Lone Star State. According to the Dallas Morning News, Texas is “king of the crop” for minimum wage earnings. Of the 3.6 million workers making the federal minimum, 452,000 of them are Texans. And though Texas is still one of the cheapest places to live in the United States, it may not be that way for long. The cost of living in cities like Austin has risen rapidly, with the state’s other big metros not far behind. Adding insult to injury is the fact that poor Texans continue to be denied vital assistance with healthcare, thanks to Governor Perry and Attorney General Abbott’s refusal to expand Medicaid. Despite what many say to the contrary, Texas’ working poor are struggling just like those in other states.

As we enter a new year, it’s time for the country to get out of that ‘teen mindset’ on the minimum wage, and start finding the reality around us. Sure, the minimum wage is probably higher than when most of us were in high school. The problem with that? Everything else is too.