Does Texas Need a Debacle?

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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Two experiences over the weekend have given me hope. One was watching a documentary on the catastrophic 1911 Triangle Waist Factory Fire in New York, and the other was a seminar I attended on the state budget crisis.

Debacles can be good for us.

The documentary made an argument that the sheer horror of the Triangle Fire, in which 146 human beings perished in 18 minutes, may have been the spark that eventually gave us labor reform and the New Deal.

The lecture I attended was given by F. Scott McCown, executive director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin. I wasn't taking notes, so I don't want to attribute anything too specific to McCown. But in broad terms he painted a picture of potential catastrophe if the Rick Perry Republicans get their way on the state budget.

Only one aspect of it -- Medicaid -- has the potential to create scenes of suffering and despair this country hasn't seen since the Great Depression. McCown pointed out that the cuts in Medicaid under discussion in Austin will shut down a substantial portion of the nursing home industry, meaning nursing homes will put people out on the street and close their doors.

F-Scott-McCown.jpg
F. Scott McCown, executive director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin.
Many of those people are helpless -- chair-bound, deep in dementia, incontinent and unable to feed themselves. As McCown pointed out, many have outlived their families and have no homes to return to.

And Medicaid is only a part of the picture. Many other forms of support and sustenance for the least among us are on the chopping block.

McCown hopes Texans will rally somehow before it's too late and stop this cataclysm from engulfing us. I do too. Of course.

But I can also see that there are moments in history when only a cataclysm can turn the tide. This may be one. Maybe when public education is ruined and we see wheelchairs behind the Dumpsters, maybe then the tide will turn. And turn hard.

Short of that, I don't know what it would take to get the message across. Maybe social conscience will only rise again when it gets some help from horror and wrath.

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105 comments
Fdmccarty3
Fdmccarty3

A deficit can only mean lousy, sorry taxpayers aren't paying their fair share. Please let all Dem. candidates run on this platform in 2012.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

DO OLD PEOPLE NEED AN EXPIRATION DATE ?

And Is keeping them alive with drugs treatments and operations the same as ABORTING the date of their natural Death ?

Just Kidding.

mightcan
mightcan

I didn't know Texas has so many atheists! For me, the argument is settled. To wit,"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

What do I know
What do I know

Lewis Black said it best, Republicans have bad ideas, Democrats have no idea. That being said, let me rail on my Republican compadres. First, we're all in this together, and we are only as strong as our weakest link. Put more and more of our "weakest link" on the streets, w/o resources, we will see way worse repurcussions than "debt ceilings", deficits, etc etc. 2nd, I am Independent (of course, right?!), but would lean left of center undoubtably. But, I consider myself Pro-Life...I also believe that abortion (and gay marriage for that matter) are personal issues the people involved have to take up w/ God. so why our Right-minded politicians feel they have to interfere w/ people's private lives is confusing, considering they want smaller government and judgment is left to God. And let's be brutally honest, other than rapes and health of the mother, the majority of abortion candidates are lower middle class to poor single moms (yes, there are a chunk of the coed college girls too). They are taught they will go to Hell if they abort their child, so they give birth even when they're not sure they want it. They either give the child up (now it's on the state's tab) or they raise it on their own (and it goes on the state's tab). Maybe our saviors in Red could just butt out of that issue, and there's some money.

Now, someone else had the VERY valid point that nursing home administrators and home health company owners are the real beneficiaries of the Medicaid crisis. In my little North TX town, one home health care company, who's business is 80%+ gov't funded, was giving away JAGUARS to their nurses. Jaguars were their company cars!! Another home healthcare co owner bought a $5million home recently. And, having had 3 grandparents in nursing homes, the grandparents who actually had quite a nest egg of money and long-term planning in place, was charged substaintially LESS for their care, versus the other grandparent who spent the last month of his life in a nursing home on Medicare's tab...but for twice the money in a lower-standard facility. Why? B/c they can. Once again, if our Republican friends would stop saying "we need responsible government", and actually practice it themselves, then perhaps some of their plans would make sense. And if our Blue brothers would grow vertabrae, perhaps they could intervene w/ policy that makes sense. If only.......

DoubleOJoe
DoubleOJoe

"Democrats are the party that think that government should be able to make you richer, taller, stronger, smarter, and get all the chickweed out of your lawn.

"Republicans are the party that says that government doesn't work, and then they get elected and prove it."

-P. J. O'Rourke

Montemalone
Montemalone

Those health care company owners are republicans.

Montemalone
Montemalone

They make donations to the politicians that rail against government spending, then hold out their hands for that government money.

What do I know
What do I know

Very true. Another example of Dems having no back bone...they are standing and watching as Republicans piece by piece continue to rig elections by eliminating the Democratic voter (overturning corp donation policies, etc). And beyond that, the true issue is the line we, as citizens, are being required to pick a side of by our current "representative" system.

DallasCoAtty
DallasCoAtty

There once was a time in the country when families took care of their own elderly parents and relatives. But through the miracles of modern medicine and entitlement health care, our elderly are kept alive much longer, although too often with little or no quality of life, and in a medically fragile state that family support alone can not maintain.

I'm not a genius with all the answers, like many who seem to post here, but something is wrong when our entitlement programs promote spending massive amounts on health care to maintain the elderly in near comatose states in nursing facilities. I hope to God someone care enough about me in 30 years or so to prevent that particular brand of government enabled elderly abuse.

BTW, as an attorney, I'm often asked to draft documents to convey mom or dads house to one of their children, so mom or dad can get into a Medicaid paid nursing home, and the kids can keep the house instead of the government. Of course I refuse. But it is a very common request.

JimS
JimS

Everybody says it won't happen to them because, "I've always got my old friend, Smith and Wesson, to see it don't happen to me." But when the time comes, you think, "I've got my old friend, Smith, and ... uh .. Smith and ... Winston? Watson?" Next thing you know you're strapped in a high chair blowing bubbles with your lunch. So let me ask this, DallasCoAtty: are you saying you want the Smith & Wesson duty? If not you, who? Hey, I know. Let's leave it up to the Dallas city council to decide when people need to talk Mssrs Smith & Wesson. You either keep folks alive no matter what, or somebody's got to to kill them.

Anonymous
Anonymous

The healthcare crisis in this country is way too serious for really dumb comments like this one. You keep people alive no matter what or someone will kill them? It's idiotic to even contemplate that idea taken to its logical conclusion. We spend every dime of our money keeping increasingly fragile and sick people alive. I didn't say old people. I said sick people. Do some basic research into the economics of healthcare and get back to me before I take you seriously. This is not about the rich paying more taxes (which they need to) - it's about a society that cannot afford to carry out the mission of "keeping alive at all costs". Realistically, if you are asking the public at large to finance that mission, the government is going to be the entity that makes the decision of which treatments are cost effective and which ones simply aren't. That means some people will die from lack of treatment. Guess what? Everyone dies.People are bent out of shape in this country about healthcare being a "right" that should not be doled out based on ability to pay, and I agree to a point. But frivolous surgeries carried out on terminal patients for the sole purpose of prolonging length of life and not quality are something that are great when you're paying your own bill. But they simply aren't good public policy. Look to any country that socializes healthcare delivery systems and you will see some sort of rationing system.

Spieler66
Spieler66

False dichotomy, Jim. The choice isn't only between "death panels" and what is tantamount to the "animatronicizing" of the elderly. Then again, you've never met a fallacy you didn't like.

DallasCoAtty
DallasCoAtty

Like I said, I'm not a genius with all the answers. And I'm not advocating that the elderly eat a bullet.

I do however have a Physicians Directive which I expect my relatives and doctors to follow. Under certain defined conditions, I expect my family to demand that treatment ends, except for pain management. End of life discussions should be part of everyone's health care plans. Too bad the issue was politicized.

Its good that you can see these issues in such black and white terms.

Montemalone
Montemalone

See: Schiavo, T.repubs all up in that family decision.

MattL1
MattL1

Is it possible that a lot of the issues we have with spending on end-of-life care stem from a difficulty our culture has with discussing and dealing with issues of death and dying? It often seems like the one thing everybody has in common is the one thing nobody talks about.

GB
GB

I think that MattL1 has broached a subject that needs addressing ... probably not in this forum because mixing the topics of Medicaid funding and end of life issues is not a good idea. But having seen more than a fair share of people pass on from this life to the next as a hospice volunteer, I have seen the anguish in family discussions over loved ones lingering in a very bad state of health. Right now it seems that a lot of wisdom is being passed along in this forum based on anecdotal observations on financial or lack thereof preparations or the worst case scenario of poor life style choices. What IS needed is the know what put the bulk of people in nursing care and how to address this from a humane, economic perspective w/ feeling like we are kicking Grandma to the curb.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Grandpa went in hospice, it was a good way to go, thanks for your work.

JimS
JimS

MattL!: Matt, you ain't been around enough people about to die. They talk about it a lot. They say, "DON'T LET ME DIE!"

scottindallas
scottindallas

Jim, here's where the critics of your snark have a point. I don't know what you intend by your comment. All the old people in my life, those who passed and those who remain all want to go when it's their time. They don't want to be in a hospital. My grandfather died in hospice just over a year ago. He had become incontinent, was loosing his hearing and his sight. He kinda chose to die, by not eating. It wasn't sad. And he spent only a couple of days in the hospital over the last month of his life.

MattL1
MattL1

It shouldn't come as a galloping shock that I don't know what I'm talking about.

I did, however, write to the president expressing my interest in being a part of a "death squad." I was assured that no such thing existed.

JimS
JimS

Plus, you know if you do talk about it you're an Oabma death squad.

Augie
Augie

All of the comments so far fail to address what I think is the most important thing: how we got here. We are here because of legislative and Gubernatorial ineptitude bordering on criminally neglectful "leadership." The deficit was created by the Leg with the 2006 tax swap resulting in a $10B per year structural (i.e. planned) deficit. If we had left our tax system in place, we would have a minor to no budgetary issues. Instead, allowed to fester since 2006 with no attempt to address the revenue shortfall created by the tax swap, we now are arguing about whether to kill the elderly, throw the mentally ill on the street, fire the teachers or go for the hat trick of all 3. If the state were run like a business as Perry and company have you believe, virtually all in charge of the state since 2006 would be fired today, told the clear out their desk, escorted out of the capital and written up as completely incapable of accomplishing the minimal tasks required to run this state.

MattL1
MattL1

Sadly, the idea of the "social conscience" has fallen by the wayside.

Because those who are old and can't afford to live chose to end up that way due to their bad life decisions, and therefore don't deserve help from the rest of us who haven't had time to make their mistakes yet. Those who lack access basic medical services should just get better jobs, because a basic human right is only a basic human right if you can afford it. Children should be forced to go hungry and attend bad schools because their parents are lazy and unwilling to change.

I'm fairly convinced that the short-term costs of lessening these problems are far outweighed by the long-term cost of doing nothing and allowing them to grow out of control.

James Miller
James Miller

We're already sharing plenty. And it's never enough. Ever.

Time for change. Deal with it. The party is over.

scottindallas
scottindallas

"We're already sharing plenty. And it's never enough. Ever."

Our taxes as a share of the economy are at 100 yr lows. HOW does your claim bear any resemblance to reality? Judging from your avatar you don't earn enough to support the non-sense you're spouting. You should stop listening to people who take your for an idiot.

Feldnick
Feldnick

Where was all this conviction 6 years ago?

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

You know it's really easy to spout Tea Party lingo. But propose realistic ideas? That's harder.

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

JimS: Why are you insulting Wiccans? Social Darwinism isn't anything new, and the true test of the faith of a Social Darwinist comes when they have their first uninsured heart attack. Do they choose to die rather than going to the hospital on the public dole?

Fortunately, here in Texas it isn't hot enogh to put our elderly on ice floes and send them out to sea. But unfortunately there will be an allocation of limted resources between the old and the young, and the old vote and the young don't. So nursing homes payments will be preserved and schools will suffer.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Obviously, there are more selfish, hateful, greedy people here than not. That's why Goodhair and his ilk keep getting elected. These types think their "success" is entirely of their own making. Cognitive dissonance I believe is the term. They take advantage of the system here, built and paid for on the backs of hard working people and their taxes, reap the outsized rewards, again, from the backs of working folks and their meager paychecks, to then claim that they are overburdened by taxes and screw the rest of the world cause they ain't gonna share.

Tom Nabors
Tom Nabors

Clearly there will have to be cuts. How they decide is tough, but there should be some easy ones. Did you know that medicaid pays for orthodontics???

scottindallas
scottindallas

Paying for orthodontics is probably a decent investment for the state to make, when you think about it. Just as investment in education. Ike supported national health-care. By the way, name ONE private medical school? There's little about health-care that bears ANY resemblance to the free-market--even more so, the emergency room and ICU at the hospital.

TimCov
TimCov

Did you know orthodontics is also known as false teeth. You know, so if someone has lost their teeth they can eat solid food.

Augustus Mulliner
Augustus Mulliner

Prosthodontics, TimCov. And where I live, the state just eliminated the Medicaid benefit for that, too.

Tom Nabors
Tom Nabors

Orthodontics is not false teeth, it is braces to straighten your teeth.

TimCov
TimCov

I stand corrected. Still, for some people, orthodontics are still needed to be able to eat properly. Straightening people's teeth isn't just about appearance.

TimCov
TimCov

I have a few questions:Where do you want the money to come from? Should we just shut our state parks down completely? How many colleges should be shut down because they no longer receive state funding? Or, do you want to raise taxes?If you want to raise taxes, how much more are you willing to pay out of your pocket? Will you hold the broken promises about not raising taxes against the politicians who would have to vote to raise them?

I know the problems with cutting Medicaid. My mother works in a nursing home. My mother-in-law is having to live with us because she has been denied social security (she was a teacher), spent all of her retirement savings on taking care of her mother and has been ordered by her doctors to not work. But, the money still has to come from somewhere. And, raising taxes on businesses does 2 things: it raises prices for everyone (so you are still paying the tax) and drives businesses to places that have a lower cost of doing business. So, you can complain about cuts all you want. But, I'm not listening unless you offer some solutions.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

Tim -- one good place to start would be for Perry, Dewhurst, Strauss and their Legislative allies to fix the HUGE budget deficit hole they created in 2005 when they cut property taxes and "substituted" a business margins tax in its place. As predicted by the Comptroller at the time it was enacted, that business margins tax has failed miserably. But so far, they are unwilling to show any leadership whatsoever to fix the mess they created. Instead, Perry, Dewhurst, Strauss and their Legislative allies are choosing to gut public education, throw old people out of nursing homes and raise the unemployment rate in Texas over 2% (as forecast by the Legislative Budget Board's dynamic revenue report issued last week). There's your solution.

TimCov
TimCov

I'm not able to answer that question, I'm not them. If they change the business tax to generate more revenue, it will result in higher prices and possibly lower or negative job growth. Businesses don't exist to pay taxes. Businesses exist to make a profit. If the cost of business goes up they have to reduce costs and/or raise prices. When businesses reduce costs they either lay-off people or move to where the cost of doing business is lower.Also, you did not answer my question. How much more out of YOUR pockets are you willing to pay to make up the Texas budget shortfall. No matter what the tax is, it ends up being paid by individuals.

Bob
Bob

EDM Said "Why does a business have to lay off workers, move, or raise prices? Couldn't the business reduce costs (and increase profits) by increasing efficiency?"

Wait a minute you want the business to absorb the takes and do what the government should do first since they create nothing and produce nothing.

What do I know
What do I know

The middle class make the rich richer. Name a corporation that doesn't pass the buck down the line to a product or service that is not consumed by the middle class, so TimCov's final point is somewhat true...that no matter what tax you put on a business, theoretically, the individual pays for it. However, there are very few times in history, when taxes were higher, that our national economy suffered. in the 90's, the rich were taxed 4% higher than they are now, businesses slightly more than that difference I believe, yet, we flourished. Reagan, while praised for lowering individual tax rates, actually removed many tax incentives to businesses, yet our economy eventually improved b/c of it. Lastly, isn't that the purpose of our free market. Let's say taxes are increased to the business...the one that effectively finds a way to not pass along to consumer, or soften the blow as much as possible, wins. So far in 2011, business are making record profits b/c they are hoarding their cash and dismantling staffs. Look at G.E., the story that came out Friday. $14BILLION in PROFITS (not revenue), and not only NO taxes on that, but they actually rec'd $3BILLION in tax incentives. And oh, by the way, I think the number was 3,000 people laid off in the past year. Sense make?

Montemalone
Montemalone

If you tax businesses, they will make campaign contributions to the other guy.That is how it works.

RS1963
RS1963

The old "if you tax businesses, they will just raise prices" idea is a sham. All kinds of other things come into play, including competition, efficiencies, dividends, etc. What is happening in Texas and across the country is that big business is successfully draining the middle class dry with the help of the Republican party. Every anti-union measure is a swipe at the middle class. Every Pell Grant cut and public high school cut is going to hurt the middle class.

Through some incredible marketing, business has convinced the voting public that they are "on our side", which is just plain laughable.

It's depressing what has become of so-called "Christians" and their allegiance to the "every man for himself" attitude that has taken over.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

One last thing -- Wick Allison wrote an editorial in this month's D Magazine called "The Welfare Queens of Texas." I suggest you check it out. By the way, Wick is about as conservative, pro-business as they come.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

The change will be to provide the revenue it was forecast to provide. And there's lots of data out there that strongly challenges your suppositions. And I would be willing to pay an indexed gasoline tax --- that's a start.

EDM
EDM

1) Why does a business have to lay off workers, move, or raise prices? Couldn't the business reduce costs (and increase profits) by increasing efficiency?

2) I am not convinced all taxes on business get passed on to the consumer. I can see how a tax on raw materials or transportation could be passed on as part of the cost of doing business but exactly how does a tax on a business's profits get passed to the consumer? If the business raises prices to offset the tax, their profits should increase (assuming constant sales) resulting in an even greater tax burden.

Thesoundofmuzak
Thesoundofmuzak

TimCov and Brenda Marks... Thanks to both of you for having a good old honest and charitable debate. Something that this site woefully lacks... and this is especially so when it comes to Mr. Schutze.

TimCov
TimCov

Brenda - The state constitution prohibits the state from collecting property tax. What they did was limit the property tax rates that school districts could impose and promised to make up the money with the business tax. Even if they lifted the restriction to the levels before the law was enacted, it is doubtful the schools could make up the losses due to the declining/flatlining of property values most of the state has seen. The only way they could not make these cuts is raise taxes and/or institute new taxes. So, how much more out of your pockets are you willing to pay to stop these cuts? Keep in mind that The Texas population is roughly 25 million. That means for every 1 billion dollars not cut from the budget, another $40 per person in the state must be raised in revenue.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

But you don't answer the question asked -- are they willing to fix the business margins tax so it accomplishes it's purpose? I understand that the state can't collect a statewide property tax -- but if you've followed the session that's exactly what the Republican leadership has been bouncing around under the radar and with murmured breath. Constitutional amendment giving them the legislative authority to implement one. And the cuts in education they are proposing in HB 1 will lower the state's contribution to such a degree that the courts will step in yet again. Face it, the school age population is growing much faster than the state education budget. That's not going to change. The revenue has to follow. And even the business-biased Texas Supreme Court will tell you that.

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