Big Texas Issues Requiring Big Texas Solutions
Politicians of both parties in Texas and elsewhere are clueless relative the critical issues that impact ordinary Texans on a daily basis. Below is a list of what I consider 10 hot button issues that impact Texans on a daily basis. Texans want “real solutions for real problems”. With the economy heading south, Texas has a real opportunity to grow its economy and escape most of the carnage at the national level if it acts wisely and builds a business friendly low tax state. The Texas Legislature is especially held in disdain because it’s nothing more than a “good old boys club” where the dirty deals of crony capitalism are cut that rob the taxpayers and erode liberty.
1. Healthcare is a nightmare everywhere. The root of our healthcare nightmare is the federal 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act that effectively abolished the commerce clause in the Constitution when it comes to healthcare. Consequently, health insurers aggressively lobby state legislatures to legislate mandates that drive up the cost of healthcare. David Gratzer MD and Senior Fellow of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research is an expert on this issue and he states that a family of 4 can be covered for $170 a month in Kansas but the same coverage cost $750 or more a month in Massachusetts. The Gratzer article was several years old and the situation has considerably worsened in Massachusetts as the average annual healthcare premium as gone from $9,000 annually to $13,788 under Romneycare which is the model for Obamacare. Besides the issue of expensive mandates, tort reform is another critical component of healthcare reform. Holding Americans hostage to vampire trial lawyers substantially drives up the cost of healthcare everywhere.
At the state level, health insurers lobby state legislatures to secure more and more mandates to drive up healthcare costs. Currently, about 25% of 24 million Texans are without health insurance. Texas is one of the top states with the most mandates and this means that a lot of Texas legislators have their campaign coffers filled with special interest health insurer dough. The Texas Public Policy Foundation reports:
Quote: With 55 mandated benefits, Texas is one of the five most heavily regulated health insurance markets in the country. Texas law requires health insurance policies to cover services ranging from in vitro fertilization to marriage and occupational therapists, and it also includes a mental health parity mandate that requires insurers to pay as much toward mental healthcare as they do for traditional health care. It has been estimated that mental health parity mandates increase premiums by as much as 10 percent….According to a report by the Hoover Institution health insurance regulations cost $330 billion a year… Researchers suggest that the combined impact of health insurance mandates can drive up the cost of a basic health plan by close to 50 percent.5 Other estimates suggest that as many as one in four uninsured individuals has been priced out of health insurance by the inflated costs resulting from mandated benefits….. Presently, a 25-year-old male in Texas would pay $248.79 for a health insurance plan that he could get in Alabama for only $77.65 a month. Perhaps these price differences are responsible for the stark contrasts in the uninsured rates in these states.
Finally, healthcare reform needs to shift responsibility to individuals because lifestyle diseases eat up a lot of healthcare resources. Health insurance was never intended to cover every doctor visit, diagnostic test or prescription drug. It needs to be restored to its function as insurance for a major medical or catastrophic event which would encourage greater personal responsibility. Health insurance needs to be modeled after auto insurance – everybody has to have it and individuals choose how much they want to pay according to the deductible they choose. Like auto insurance, high risk health insurance candidates would be put into a pool to distribute the risk among insurers.
There is nothing in the federal McCarran-Ferguson Act that prevents Texas from abolishing its draconian healthcare mandates and enacting tort reform. Texas has an opportunity to be a model of free market healthcare reform that works. Moreover, the economic benefits are incalculable as business will want to flock to Texas where they won’t be bankrupted by mandates or Obamacare. Employees will be happier with low cost consumer driven choices, employers will welcome free market solutions and the ranks of the uninsured will decrease substantially.
2. Transportation is a huge issue in TX. I oppose CDA’s and privatizing TX highways because these PPP’s are nothing more than private profits at public expense; they are the fascist marriage of big business and big government. The unaccountable and corrupt TXDOT must be fully and independently audited. Moreover, any transportation bill must contain provisions to end the dumping of gas tax revenues into other agencies. It’s my understanding that the CDA’s and PPP’s will be funded with general obligation bonds that bear the full faith and credit of the State of TX. If the worst crooks on Wall Street won’t underwrite a revenue bond for these projects, then why should 24 million Texans underwrite such a risk? I don’t want Texans to be financially responsible for paying off bond holders in the event of default of a privatized road. Also, transportation commissioners must be elected and TXDOT and its contractors must be banned from funding any political campaigns as well as taxpayer funded lobbying. Because the State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) appears to a TXDOT money laundering operation, abolishing this unaccountable beast is necessary. No one really knows what’s going on with the secretive State Infrastructure Bank.
3. Property taxes are a disaster. If Texas residential property taxes were re-calculated as an income tax, Texas would be a very high income tax state. Many Texans, especially fixed income folks, are forced to sell their homes because their property taxes have risen so sharply and dramatically that they can no long afford their homes. It’s insanely criminal that property taxes are so high that owners are forced to sell. A primary reason for tax inequity in Texas is that commercial property owners do not pay their fair share because TX is one of only a handful of states that does not disclose the sales price in its public records. It’s not unusual in Texas for a commercial property worth tens of millions to be assessed at only several million. This causes the appraisal districts to plunder residential homeowners and constantly raise assessments because nearly 100% of residential transactions flow through the MLS system that CAD’s access. It’s a simple fix to change a nasty law and would result in a much more equitable property tax system. It’s not about gouging commercial property owners; it’s about getting them fairly assessed so the property tax burden doesn’t fall disproportionately upon residential homeowners. Also, Texas should strive to reduce property taxes by 50% and replace the revenue with a sales tax and a modest transfer tax. No one should lose their home because of property taxes. Finally, taxpayers should be allowed to vote on property tax increases; under the current system they are arbitrarily assessed.
Even tax and spend governor Perry admits the crushing nature of Texas property taxes.
Quote: Since 1999, total statewide property tax levies have increased an average of 10.4 percent each year, more than twice the combined annual rate of growth for inflation and our population. Texans have not only seen their property tax rates rise, they have been victimized by a property appraisal system that too often seems arbitrary, cumbersome, unfair and unaccountable.
4. Strong Property Protections for Texans The fact that Texas has not enacted strong property protections to counteract Kelo borders on the criminal. Rick Perry vetoed a reasonably sound property protection bill in 2007. Texas needs strong eminent domain protections to prevent the Kelo styled seizure of private property for private use and profits. A strong property protection bill is an absolute must. The constitutional amendment that recently passed is full of loopholes; in fact, it’s got more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese.
5. Abolish the Business Margins Tax This draconian tax taxes gross receipts and a business could lose money and still owe the State of Texas. Besides, a business tax is nothing more than an indirect consumer tax because ultimately consumers pay it in the form of higher prices on goods and services. Moreover, the political insiders of crony capitalism managed to carve out huge exemptions for themselves, exemptions that were bought by filling campaign coffers.
6. HHS and Education Texas has a nightmare brewing with HHS and Education because they consume something like 75% of the budget. Our welfare rolls are growing because businesses just send their low wage folks to the local welfare office to get them signed up for Medicaid, food stamps, etc. If Texas doesn’t drastically tighten eligibility for entitlements, it will soon become California. HHS cannot reduce its growing entitlement rolls without effective healthcare reform and the right healthcare reforms will dramatically boost our economy by making Texas a magnet for businesses seeking a business friendly state who isn’t taxing them out of business.
Education in Texas is such a nightmare that resolving the issue of schools that fail to educate and graduate students is a huge problem because the unaccountable education rat hole costs Texas taxpayers a bloody fortune. Moreover, the Education Mafia will launch a monster assault on any candidate who threatens their raw, absolute and unaccountable dictatorship. One of the biggest problems in the education system is that only about 50% or less of our education dollars actually goes into the classroom and at least half of all education dollars spent goes to bloated bureaucracies.
7. Taxpayer Funded Lobbying is destroying democracy at the federal and state level. Texas must ban the practice of lobbying with tax dollars – no exceptions. It’s unconscionable that grassroots get their butts kicked because they are outgunned with their own tax dollars that are used to lobby against taxpayer interests. Furthermore, state agencies must be banned from hiring lobbyists.
8. Corporate Welfare Voters despise the fact that the more than cozy relationship that exists between business and government results in elected officials being owned by special interests. Ending political slush funds like the Enterprise Fund makes sense. Texas must be fair to all businesses and not succumb to the practice of rewarding political contributions with corporate welfare and lucrative contracts. Crony capitalism is what destroyed the federal government.
9. Civil liberties are a huge issue among Paulites, Libertarians, Texans for Accountable Government and other groups who are duly horrified by the many measures to churn America and Texas into a virtual federally mandated police state. Recently, they have become incensed over the “vampire cop” issue where Texas cities are planning roadblocks to forcibly extract the blood of a driver for a national DNA data bank. Since when did Texas become Nazi Germany? Texans are also opposed to state collaboration with the Feds on the draconian Fusion Centers and other police state initiatives that merge local law enforcement with the federal government.
10. Sovereignty and State Rights The Tenth Amendment and nullification movements are hot, hot issue. Any initiatives that assert state rights over the federal monster (Fedzilla) that is eating us alive and sucking the life and liberty right out of America will be welcomed by fiercely independent Texans. When it comes to Fedzilla, JUST SAY NO, be defiant and REFUSE its tyranny.