Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Not Paying All Taxes Due—Just Disloyalty Or Treason As Well?

It’s simple enough, even for people who think Texas is an independent nation; —-Not paying all your taxes at a time of war, or at anytime, is an act of disloyalty. To some, including myself, it might even be a kind of treason.

With the tax filing deadline this weekend, tax cheating and tax avoidance is rampant. Estimates run at $ 300 billion lost to our government from the underreporting of income and other tax avoidance schemes. This is money that legally and ethically belongs to all people. Real wealth is about the commonwealth.

A victory for the American people was the recent demise of the Jenkins & Gilchrest law firm of Dallas. That firm specialized in helping wealthy clients use sham shelters to avoid taxes.

Of course, the obligation to pay taxes goes all the way down the income scale. The underreporting of tips and other under the table income also weakens our country. It chips away at the sense of shared obligation that is an important measure of national strength.

A way to encourage all people to pay taxes would be to repeal the Bush tax cuts that shifted the tax burden downwards and to step up enforcement of tax law violations. People will respond better to a system they see as fair to all.

It’s easy to say you love America. It is, it seems, a bit more difficult for some to back up that claim with something more tangible than empty words.

April 13, 2007 Posted by | Taxes---Yes! | 36 Comments

Houston Garbage Fee Is A Good Proposal As Government Must Collect The Money It Needs To Provide Services

The City of Houston is considering a monthly $3.50 fee for trash pick-up. This proposed fee, reported in the Houston Chronicle, would run $42 a year.

This is a good idea.

It’s a good idea because the money would be used for recycling and conservation efforts and for illegal dumping enforcement. It’s a good idea because it conveys the needed message that we don’t raise enough tax revenue in Houston.

The only cause for regret is that the fee can not somehow be made more progressive. While not likely to take place, I would support that the fee be based on the assessed value of the home receiving the service. Flat fees are regressive and Houston is a poor city.

Today, I will call my district councilmember and each of my at-large councilmembers to indicate my support for this new fee.    

April 3, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Taxes---Yes! | 4 Comments

Collecting Enough Taxes Would Mean Your Kid Would Not Have To Sell Wrapping Paper To Fund Schools

A recent Wall Street Journal article discussed parents rebelling against school fundraisers. They are tired of being hit up for money. In Houston and elsewhere, school kids go out and sell wrapping paper and candy to raise money for schools. Often only about 50% of the money collected really goes to the schools.

The parents profiled discussed solutions to the problem. Most of the solutions involve giving money directly to schools and teachers. 

A few years ago my sister-in-law in the Chicago area asked me to buy wrapping paper for her son’s school. This fundraiser was being run by the local PTA. I told her I would join the PTA but I would not buy the rip-off wrapping paper. That is how I became a member of the Illinois PTA.

The solution to all this, of course, is to collect sufficient taxes to run our schools. People will pay for what they value. It’s clear enough the value our society places on education. 

March 30, 2007 Posted by | Politics, Taxes---Yes!, Ways We Hate Children | 13 Comments

Citizen In A Democracy Is The Highest & Best Title Any Person Can Have

My friend Kate, who lives in California, and who once lived in Texas, is on jury duty. She has a trial that will last many weeks. She is at the same time working her regular job.

Kate is up front about this not being ideal situation. It is hard work. Yet the bottom line is that Kate showed up for jury duty when summoned and that she is meeting her obligations as a citizen. Kate knows that the highest title and most complex job anyone can have is citizenship in a democracy.

The great honor of our citizenship is that it is shared with many millions of people. It is the things that are jointly held that matter the most.

The complexity of our citizenship is found in the difficulty of balancing our private interests with the public good. Finding this balance requires the discipline of critical thinking and personal effort.

What is excellent about this complexity is that any person of average intelligence–Kate is very smart– can find a reasonable enough solution if they are only willing to try. Again—The best things in life are the things that are open to all.

Kate is an excellent citizen. I can’t think of a better thing to say about a person.   

March 25, 2007 Posted by | Good People, Politics, Taxes---Yes! | 4 Comments

Texas Should Build Casino On Submerged Ice Age Coast In Effort To Evolve Hybrid Human/Fish Blackjack Dealers

Houston State Senator Rodney Ellis is a leading supporter of bringing casino gambling to Texas. I’m disappointed by this because I normally regard Senator Ellis well and because gambling brings misery. Senator Ellis should be advocating a progressive income tax for Texas that would raise the money Texas needs to fully join the civilized world.

However, if we are to have casinos, I propose one be built on the ancient submerged ice age era coast 100 miles south of Galveston. This lost coast is being now explored by sonar and submarine.

We’re always told that a big reason for casinos is to create jobs. Think of how labor intensive constructing an underwater casino would be. Also, by submerging the casino in advance of hurricanes and global warming, we would be avoiding trouble and expense down the line.

It’s possible that employees in the underwater casino might in time develop fins and gills and become hybrid human fish. These hybrids would be a great drawing card and could be trained to sing and dance for stage shows. 

An underwater casino is clearly the way to go for any expanded gambling in Texas.

March 11, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Politics, Taxes---Yes!, Texas | 1 Comment

Poor Children Should Die To Ease Strain On Public Resources

The Texas Legislature is debating what to do about the Children’s Health Insurance Program. In 2005 the program was cut and many Texas kids were kicked off health insurance.

Some Republicans favor fully barbaric solutions while some Democrats favor less barbaric solutions. The solution that is never discussed is raising enough tax revenue for all Texans to live as human beings.

None of this is a surprise. Many Texas children serve no economic value. In fact, they are an economic drag if the state must provide them an education and health insurance.

There is nothing more a real Texan dislikes than somebody who can’t pull his or her own weight.

Prosperous Texans and their representatives in the legislature know that healthy and educated kids are potential rivals against their own children for college admission spots and the shrinking pool of good jobs.

What we see in Texas is simply a mirror of the American hatred of children. Children, like soldiers who can’t afford to purchase their own body armor for Iraq, are people who cost us money. It’s best that enough of them die so our public budgets not be strained.

March 1, 2007 Posted by | Politics, Taxes---Yes!, Texas, Ways We Hate Children | 13 Comments

People Of Texas City & All People Must Realize That Taxes Are Needed For A Decent And Safe Society

Residents of Texas City, Texas have begun early voting on a property tax rollback. Texas City is located between Houston and Galveston and has a population of just under 50,000 people.

The Texas City fire department and police department oppose the rollback. These public safety forces realize that providing city services costs money. And they understand that this money must come from taxes. 

A group calling itself Citizens for Progress has been formed in Texas City to fight the rollback. It’s good to see an organized effort in support of the taxes that we all must pay to live in a good society.

Just recently, a person was killed in a fire in unincorporated Fresno, Texas. Fresno is just outside of Houston. Without municipal taxes, Fresno has inadequate fire service and this was a factor in the fatal fire.

The bottom line is that if you want a decent community and a decent society than you must pay taxes. The unending national anti-tax propaganda of recent years has undermined our basic quality of life and our national and personal security.

Let’s hope the people of Texas City stand up for their community and vote to maintain adequate levels of taxation.  

February 27, 2007 Posted by | Politics, Taxes---Yes!, Texas | 1 Comment

Earmarks Are Excellent–They Help Texas & Help All People

U.S House Democrats are moving to temporarily restrict so-called earmarks. This is a mistake. The Houston Chronicle reports today that curtailing earmarks would, among many other things, impact a project at the Houston Zoo and would cut funding for much needed improvements in Downtown Beaumont, Texas.

Most earmarks are good. They help communities across the nation and create jobs. They also help expand the reach of government and provide sound reasons to maintain taxes at a rate adequate to meet the needs of the public.

Hopefully all this earmark fuss is just for show. Democrats are the party that holds government can make a difference in people’s lives. We should be confident in our beliefs.

I am going to write my local congressperson and say that I am for earmarks. I urge all others do to the same.

January 31, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Politics, Taxes---Yes! | 1 Comment

Dead Houston City Worker Earned Near-Poverty Wage & My Letter To City Officials About This Issue

Last week, City of Houston road crew worker Jerry Hines, Jr, was killed while helping motorists during bad weather. The Houston Chronicle reported that Mr. Hines earned only $17,000 a year. I have e-mailed the following letter to my Houston elected officials. We will see what responses I get.——  

The Houston Chronicle reported that Jerry Hines, Jr., the city road crew worker killed on the job last week during the bad weather, earned only $17,000 a year.  Might you please tell me if this report was correct? Was this a salary for full-time work?

I calculate that an employee paid $17,000 a year for full-time work is making $8.17 an hour.  Do you believe $8.17 an hour is a living wage and that a city government should be paying such wages?

Might you also please inform me if other city workers make similar salaries? If so, how many and what kind of work do they do?

I was appalled when I read what Mr. Hines earned. I am hoping you have information that will put this report in a different light. If not, I am asking what steps you will take to help city workers earn a decent wage.

Thank you. 

9/18/07—Please click here for an update on the subject of low pay for City of Houston workers. 

January 25, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Taxes---Yes!, Things I've Done | 16 Comments

Democrats Rack-Up Votes In Big Cities And Sometimes Return The Favor With A Knife In The Back

Voters in big cities in the United States usually elect Democrats to govern. Sometimes they don’t get much in return for this loyal support. A good example can be found in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In Cincinnati, the Democratic majority on City Council is not able to govern effectively. Recently, over the objections of City Manager Milton Dohoney, Cincinnati City Council passed a city property tax cut that will save the average Cincinnati homeowner around $8 a year. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, the cut will save Duke Energy almost $65,000 and Cincinnati Bell around $17,000.

The city manager said the rollback will cost the city around $ 1.5 million. He said Cincinnati does not have the money for the cut. Three of the five Democrats on Council voted for it anyway and the rollback passed. One of the three voting yes was so-called Democrat John Cranley. Cranley was at the time of the vote in a tight race for the U.S. House. He lost despite his shameless vote.

Last Monday, City Manager Dohoney proposed a new city budget that closes a health clinic and 13 swimming pools and cuts funding for the arts, recycling and litter pick-up. If the five Democrats on the nine-member Council had voted no on the tax rollback, some of these budget cuts might be avoided. Why elect Democrats if what you get are silly little tax cuts at the expense of city services? You’d might as well elect a Republican Council and get the real thing.

Cities depend on maintaining a certain quality of life to retain population. The cuts being proposed in Cincinnati strike right at that necessary quality of life. Given the years of decline seen in so many of our once great cities– places like Cincinnati—I wonder sometimes if Democrats are up to the challenge of leading.

It may be that locally-elected Democrats can’t fight the global forces injuring our cities. What they can do, however, is at least try to govern responsibly.

November 15, 2006 Posted by | Cincinnati, Politics, Taxes---Yes! | 4 Comments

Houston Benefits From More Government Because Government Can Be Beautiful

Houston Mayor Bill White has in recent days taken two steps that will benefit the people of Houston. These two positive actions involve asserting and expanding the place of government in Houston.

Mayor White signed an agreement that will assist low and middle income persons in buying a house. This will impact one Houston community in particular that has seen property values go up in recent years. Here is a clear case where government works better than private for-profit developers. Residents in this one area had fought off the developers. 

Also, Mayor White approved five new operators for Houston’s 311 system. Houston residents can call 311 with questions about city responsibilities. I have used 311 to report street lights that are out. Not long after I’ve called the lights have been fixed.

Government can be a beautiful word. A word that conveys shared responsibilities, fair distribution of resources and care for one another. Let’s work as loyal Americans to enhance our freedom and prosperity by supporting an active and decent government.

October 18, 2006 Posted by | Houston, Politics, Taxes---Yes! | Leave a comment

True Blue Americans Are Willing To Pay Needed Taxes

The following is a letter I sent to USA Today about a recent article. Click the title of the article to read the story. If people aren’t willing to pay taxes, we won’t be able to continue as a first world nation. 

A USA TODAY story about a report detailing the impact of the Bush tax cuts (Income tax cuts benefit all payers, Oct 2.) was heavily biased in favor of tax cut advocates.  The report was based on research by an outfit calling itself the Tax Foundation.

USA TODAY terms this group “non-partisan” while at the same time saying they favor lower taxes. How can a group be non-partisan when its’ only purpose is to advocate a specific political position?  No rebuttal or opposing view of the Tax Foundation’s data and viewpoint is offered. Surely there are advocacy groups that favor collecting sufficient taxes to help Americans in need or to help pay for the War in Iraq. 

The story suggests people who have seen their taxes lowered by the Bush cuts have “benefited” to some degree or another. Yet given the rising federal deficit and the unmet need to protect America’s ports, maybe the American people taken as a whole are in fact suffering from the Bush tax cuts.

Sometimes taxes need to go up. Given the external threats to America and the many unaddressed needs at home, this may well be a time in our history when federal taxes should be raised.

October 3, 2006 Posted by | Politics, Taxes---Yes!, Things I've Done | 4 Comments

Red Light Cameras Are Nifty & Cities Have A Right To Raise Revenue

Based on search-engine traffic to this blog, one thing that excites people are red light cameras. The City of Houston recently installed red light cameras and intends to add more.

I support red light cameras in Houston. I support them because people often drive badly here in Houston. I also support them because they raise revenue. 

We have no income tax in Texas. People can pay one way or another. Houston is strapped for cash all the time. People say the cameras are there to make money for Houston like it is some kind of secret or a bad thing. I say the more money the better. If we had more money maybe we could have more parks and more police.      

People often have a reflexive reaction to things like this. They want to drive like jerks and they don’t like traffic tickets. When a city tries to address bad driving, it is the city itself that gets the abuse instead of the bad drivers. 

I’m all for our new Houston red light cameras.      

September 27, 2006 Posted by | Houston, Taxes---Yes! | 5 Comments

One Path To Spinach That Won’t Make You Sick Is To Support Regulation & Pay All Your Taxes

The ongoing spinach scare is yet another reason to support government regulation of food. It’s also another reason to support paying all your taxes so the government can afford to enforce the regulations. 

Outbreaks of E.coli tainted spinach and lettuce from California have happened time and time again. How many times will be enough? Does anyone really believe private industry will protect the food supply to the detriment of their profits? 

76 million Americans are said to get a food-borne illness each year. 5,000 people die from such illnesses. How many people need to get sick before we get the regulation and oversight we need?  Not surprisingly, many top regulatory positions in Washington are currently unfilled. Food safety is not a big priority under George Bush and the Republican Congress.    

Want safer food? Then demand that government take the needed steps to ensure safer food.

September 21, 2006 Posted by | Taxes---Yes! | Leave a comment

Many Hurricane Katrina Victims Plan To Stay In Houston.

The Houston Chronicle reports that a majority of the poorest Hurricane Katrina evacuees from New Orleans plan to stay in Houston.  Some Houston residents are upset with the increased crime displaced Katrina people have brought. You can’t blame them for being upset.  

Yet it is also true that both Louisiana and Texas have long been indifferent to the poor.  Maybe what both states should do, in addition to telling hurricane victims that at some point they must get to work, is to raise the tax revenue required to treat all residents decently. It is time for Texas and Louisiana to finally become modern first-world societies.    

September 9, 2006 Posted by | Houston, Hurricane Katrina, Taxes---Yes! | Leave a comment