September 3, 2014

Court Exposes Abbott’s Contempt for Public Schools

Statement on School Finance Court Ruling


Court Exposes Abbott’s Contempt for Public Schools

Statement from Lone Star Project Director Matt Angle

The term “deadbeat” is used to describe adults who don’t fulfill their obligation to kids. Greg Abbott’s failure to fulfill his responsibility to help provide a good public education to Texas kids makes him the state’s biggest deadbeat.
It’s been clear for a long time that real insight into Greg Abbott’s views and principles is gained only at the courthouse. Today’s decision that the Texas school financing system is unconstitutional is a clear judgment on the false priorities and values of Greg Abbott and throws a harsh light on his contempt for our public schools.
Greg Abbott has spent millions of dollars in taxpayer money to protect a broken system and fight against – instead of for –Texas kids and parents.
The decision that Texas’ public school financing system is so broken that it no longer meets basic constitutional requirements comes as no surprise. More than 600 school districts representing kids, parents, teachers and administrators laid out a compelling case that Texas kids are being denied the educational opportunities they deserve.
The extent to which Greg Abbott has fought against Texas public school parents and kids in order to protect a broken system is appalling.
Again and again, Abbott has sided with voucher boosters and private school profiteers over the best interests of all Texans.
This ruling offers Texas voters yet another chance to see clearly where Greg Abbott’s priorities really are – not with the people, but with his insider friends.

State Sen. Jose Rodriguez: Ted Cruz’s big lie about the border


State Sen. Jose Rodriguez for Trib Talk

POSTED: 12:36 PM MDT Aug 22, 2014 UPDATED: 12:43 PM MDT Aug 22, 2014

Ted Cruz


While Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz compete for the conservative tough talker award, they share something in common other than their apparent ambitions to be the 45th president — they’re among the leading proponents of the Big Lie about immigration and border security.

The Big Lie is a political technique in which misrepresentations, omissions and sometimes outright falsities are repeated so many times that they become conventional wisdom.

In a recent Texas Tribune opinion piece, for instance, Cruz weaves a tapestry of small lies and half-truths into a full-cloth fabrication about immigration and the border.

Cruz claims the president and his supporters are not willing to debate the issue. Yet he conveniently ignores the fact that the U.S. Senate, with bipartisan support, passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill last year.

Cruz then turns to the term that far-right politicians and anti-immigrant groups like NumbersUSA use to stifle debate: amnesty. He also argues that the president and Democrats are willingly damaging our country’s safety and security.

Cruz inaccurately conflates immigration with national security and characterizes border communities as a looming threat. This is the heart of the Big Lie. Nothing could be further from the truth, and it ultimately hurts border communities like the ones I represent.

As a representative of Texas, which does more business with Mexico than any other state, Cruz should, and probably does, know better. But he is committed to stifling debate, going so far as to hold the economic livelihood of our Texas border communities hostage to do so.

What we should be discussing is improving the infrastructure that facilitates billions of dollars in trade and travel, and reforming an immigration system that is not up to the task of handling the complex realities of 21st century migration.

But instead of constructive solutions, Cruz resorts to rhetorical tactics that harm the communities he represents as a U.S. senator. 

He further distorts the truth when he blames the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program for luring refugees on a dangerous journey north. This is a convenient partisan dodge, but a U.N. refugee agency survey, the most comprehensive review available, overwhelmingly found that children are fleeing the chaos of rape and murder, not seeking benefits under U.S. immigration policies.

It’s outrageous that Cruz would claim concern for these children while advocating for a change in the law that would make it harder for them to access the political asylum process and make it easier to send them back to the horrors from which they fled. That’s not what we should be doing. Just last week, the Los Angeles Timesreported that five to 10 of the 42 dead children at one Honduran morgue had been deported back to that country from the U.S.

Meanwhile, Cruz has the unmitigated gall to say that “immigrants deserve a system in which they will be welcomed to the United States safely and with dignity.” I couldn’t agree more, but it’s hard to believe his sincerity when every attempt to do so — including the bipartisan Senate bill, which included unprecedented "border security" provisions — has been thwarted by Cruz and his allies, too many of whom demonize the very immigrants whom Cruz claims to welcome.

Whether it’s Cruz’s latest comments or Perry continuing to mislead about the facts on which he’s basing his decision to spend $17 million a month of Texas taxpayer dollars on the border that could instead be going to our schools or roads, it all adds up to one thing: When it comes to immigration policy and telling the truth about the border, all they have is a Big Lie.

Texans deserve better.

Read more from TribTalk at

The NRA Pissed Off the Wrong Nerd Genius




Billionaire Michael Bloomberg already had the gun lobby in his sights. Now Bill Gates is donating $1 million for universal background checks—and there’s more where that came from.

Somewhere in a large glass tower in Northern Virginia, there’s a guy who runs guns with a French name having a bad day. With good reason.

It was reported Monday that Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder and incredibly wealthy guy, and with his wife, Melinda, have given $1 million to Initiative 594 in Washington state. The ballot initiative, if passed by voters on November 4 (and it currently enjoys overwhelming support), will require universal background checks for all firearm purchases in the state.

Gates is only the latest Washington billionaire to give to the effort, with original Amazon investor Nick Hanauer providing crucial early funding, and more recently upping his overall donation to $1.4 million. Additionally, Gates’s Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, has provided $500,000 for the cause.

But Gates’s fame brings more attention and further legitimizes the initiative in a way that almost nobody else could. Once the Gates Foundation made it a priority to combat malaria around the world in 2000, it brought down deaths due to the insect-borne disease by 20 percent in 11 years, saving the lives of 1 million African children in the process.

Gates has the ability to grab headlines and make an issue go viral with the constant media coverage he receives, and the financial ability, if he wins, to fund similar efforts around the country. His involvement could be the answer to the public health crisis that makes American children 93 percent of those murdered in the 26 high-income countries around the world.

Meanwhile, the NRA has…Chuck Norris, doing its “Trigger The Vote” Campaign. An actor, in the sense that he showed up in films, who was last seen round-housing Vietnamese extras in B-movies in the ’80s, back when he was only pushing 50. In more recent times, the more Methuselah-esque-appearing Norris has spent his time warning us of 1,000 years of darkness if President Obama is reelected. (He was. Boo!)

That, in short, is why the guy with the French-sounding name, National Rifle Association head honcho Wayne LaPierre, is probably somewhere drowning his sorrows in his Pernod. Because Gates’ involvement in this issue is just about the last thing LaPierre needs.

Already, the NRA has shown its disdain for anyone with the guts and resources to take on its political cartel of legally bribed legislators around the country. It was used to having the field to itself financially in the 2000s, until along came New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. After seeing his constituents and police force victimized by lax gun laws out of state, lobbied for by the NRA, he decided it was time to do something.

The now former mayor’s activism had led to the ire of LaPierre & Company, who’ve just released a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign blasting Bloomberg, replete with his supposed sneering at “flyover country” in between the coasts. Which LaPierre clearly doesn’t do while receiving his million-dollar-plus compensation in the wealthy Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Ironically, it was in Virginia where Bloomberg’s organization, Everytown for Gun Safety, had one of its biggest victories, when it elected a governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in 2013. None of whom thought a 12-year old should be able to open-carry an Uzi in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, because of, you know, freedom. Suddenly those who agree with the 90 percent of the country who support universal background checks had access to similar, if not greater, financial resources than those who pledged their allegiance to an arms dealer-funded front group.

Bloomberg is worth $33 billion, but if that’s not enough, Gates is worth well over two times that amount. Who knows, with that kind of dough, maybe even measures that “only” enjoy 56 percent support like bans on assault weapons and/or high-capacity magazines could pass via direct voting by uncorrupted American citizens. Or perhaps state legislators and members of Congress who bend easily to the will of these Lords of War could be swapped out for those who live in a closer neighborhood to the best interests of the American populace.

Likely the NRA will try to do to Gates what it has attempted to do to Bloomberg for a few years now, and seek to make this fight about him and not its right-wing radicalism in the service of avarice. He’s a billionaire trying to influence our political process, after all, unlike Manhattan resident David Koch, who along with his brother Charles has polluted our political process to no end, including funding the NRA.

Sure, in an ideal world big money wouldn’t play such an outsize role in our elections, such as this hugely important ballot initiative in Washington state. But that’s not what the NRA wants. It just wants its big money still to be all that decides the outcome, and it isn’t. Which is why Wayne LaPierre’s having a bad day.

Study Shows the Madness of States Refusing to Expand Medicaid


August 14, 2014

by Joshua Holland

Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during The Family Leadership Summit, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during the Family Leadership Summit, Aug. 9, 2014, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

This week, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institutereleased a study showing that the 24 states that have refused to expand theirMedicaid programs under theAffordable Care Act will miss out on $423 billion in federal health care dollars through 2022.

Under the law, the federal government picks up all of the costs of the expansion through the first three years, and then its share gradually drops to 90 percent.

At The New Republic, Jonathan Cohn has put together an interactive map that shows how much each state is set to lose. For example, Texas, which leads the nation in its rate of uninsured (at 24 percent in 2012), and has faced draconian cuts to health care spending, will lose almost $66 billion. Florida, tied for the country’s third highest rate of uninsured, will lose a similar amount. Georgia, sixth in uninsured, will lose almost $34 billion, and North Carolina stands to miss out on around $40 billion.

The citizens of these states are paying for the Affordable Care Act — with the wealthiest paying a surcharge on both high incomes and investments. Yet the politicians who represent them are steadfast in their refusal to expand coverage for their constituents.

The economic and human costs of conservatives’ ideological crusade against the Affordable Care Act is difficult to overstate. These states aren’t just rejecting an opportunity to expand coverage; Obamacare assumed that expanding Medicaid would dramatically reduce the number of uninsured patients showing up at emergency rooms for treatment they couldn’t afford, so it cut funding for hospitals that treat large numbers of these patients. Without those federal dollars coming in, a number of hospitals that serve low-income populations in refusing states have already been shuttered. According to the Urban Institutestudy, “these 24 states are also slated to lose a $167.8 billion (31 percent) boost in Medicaid funding that was originally intended to offset major cuts to theirMedicare and Medicaid reimbursement.”

Other studies suggest that refusing to expand Medicaid will drive up premiums for private insurance, and result in somewhere between 5,700 and 17,000 preventable deaths each year in those states that hold out.

What’s more, as we pointed out back in April, an unintended consequence of the Supreme Court’s decision to allow states to opt-out of the expansion is that it’s widening the gap between “red” and “blue” states. It’s long been the case that state budgets reflect very different priorities — blue states tend to spend far more, on average, on health care, education and antipoverty programs than red states — and those differences are becoming sharper at a time when an unprecedented number of statehouses are entirely under the control of one party or another. Federal grants for Medicaid, food stamps and a host of otherprograms smooth out those differences to a degree. The Medicaid expansion would have done a lot to harmonize health policies for the poor — in many states, single people without children are ineligible for Medicaid no matter how low their incomes — but that divide will only grow wider if those 24 states continue to hold out.

The question is whether they will. Soon after the Supreme Court allowed states to opt out, the conventional wisdom held that with the amounts of money at stake, even the reddest of red states would eventually expand their Medicaid programs. That’s been true in some cases — Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a stalwart conservative, has been engaged in a vicious fight with members of her own party over the issue — and so far has come out on top. But many of the states that need those federal dollars the most continue to resist.

Forbes reports that “pressure is building on states to go along with the expansion of Medicaid benefits under the Affordable Care Act as new studies and financial reports from health care companies point out stark differences between states treating more poor Americans and those that aren’t.” Hospitals and other providers are lobbying lawmakers hard. But it remains to be seen if those efforts result in common sense prevailing over “small government” ideology.

Grand Jury Indicts Perry Over Integrity Unit Veto


Gov. Rick Perry, flanked by State Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, and Texas Adjutant General John Nichols, announces the deployment of National Guard troops to the Texas border on July 21, 2014.

photo by: Bob Daemmrich

Gov. Rick Perry, flanked by State Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, and Texas Adjutant General John Nichols, announces the deployment of National Guard troops to the Texas border on July 21, 2014.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated throughout.

A grand jury indicted Gov. Rick Perry on Friday on two felony counts, alleging he abused his power by threatening to veto funding for the state’s anti-corruption prosecutors unless Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who had pleaded guilty to drunk driving, stepped down from office.

The first count, abuse of official capacity, is a first-degree felony with a potential penalty of five to 99 years in prison. The second count, coercion of a public servant, is a third-degree felony with a penalty of two to 10 years.

Perry’s legal counsel, Mary Ann Wiley, said Perry would vigorously fight the charges.

“The veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded to every governor under the Texas Constitution," she said. "We will continue to aggressively defend the governor’s lawful and constitutional action, and believe we will ultimately prevail.”

The inquiry began last summer after an ethics complaint was filed alleging that Perry had improperly used a veto to deny funding for the unit, which is housed in the Travis County district attorney’s office and focuses on government corruption and tax fraud.

The indictment throws a major wrench in Perry’s possible presidential ambitions; he was in Iowa last week and was expected in both New Hampshire and South Carolina in coming weeks. Perry is the first Texas governor to be indicted in almost a century. His office did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Perry had been riding high and making national headlines in recent weeks, railing against the Obama administration for a perceived lack of response to the humanitarian crisis on the Texas-Mexico border, then reallocating funds to send National Guard troops there himself. 

Now, he’ll be playing defense.

Michael McCrum, the special investigator in the case, said he interviewed more than 40 people and reviewed hundreds of documents in the case. Perry never testified and McCrum said he didn’t subpoena the Texas governor.

"The grand jury’s spoken that at least there’s probable cause to believe that he committed two crimes, two felony crimes," he said.

He said that a time would be set up for Perry to come to court, be arraigned and be given official notice of his charges.

After Lehmberg pleaded guilty to drunken driving last year, Perry threatened to withhold $7.5 million in funding over two years for the integrity unit if Lehmberg did not resign.

Lehmberg, a Democrat, served a jail sentence but did not resign. Perry made good on his pledge and vetoed the state budget’s funding line item for the unit. Though Perry has the authority to veto items in the budget, his critics said that this was done expressly for political purposes and is a crime.

That was the rationale used by Texans for Public Justice, a left-leaning money-in-politics watchdog group that filed the initial complaint last June. The complaint said Perry was guilty of coercion of a public servant, official oppression and abuse of official capacity.

Perry’s office has repeatedly said that his veto was appropriate and that he violated no laws.

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa called on the governor to step down. Perry has "brought dishonor to his office, his family and the state of Texas," Hinojosa said in a statement.

Republican Party chairman Steve Munisteri said it was ironic that opponents are calling for Perry to resign, given that his indictment stems from trying to get Lehmberg to resign.

"I think most reasonable-minded people are going to be scratching their heads wondering what in the world is wrong with a governor who has veto power on appropriations saying he thinks it’s inappropriate to fund a unit where the head of that unit admitted that they had committed a criminal act and then compounded it by being on a video acting in an abusive way," Munisteri said.

The Austin-American Statesman reported in June that Perry would probably not testify before the grand jury, which has been meeting periodically for months, though several staffers from his office and from Travis County testified.

Last August, the Travis County Commissioners Court voted to provide some of the funding to the public integrity unit.

Lehmberg declined to comment on the indictments.

Making America Great Again: Cleaning Up Our Politics and Laws

Niko Letsos



August 11, 2014   | Press Release

HOUSTON, TX-Since day one, Niko Letsos’s Congressional campaign has been about the most important question a country can ask itself: do the actions we take today build on what we were given and make success more likely in the future? We know the answer to this question. Our politicians squander the many advantages previous generations gave us and give our youth and future generations only debt and nostalgia for an America that worked. It is self-destructive to continue down this road. Niko is running for Congress in Texas’s 2nd District to bring commonsense to our national legislature and a rude awakening to incumbent politicians who put self-interest above the common good.

As the youngest Congressional candidate in the country and a high school teacher, Niko has a unique perspective on the complete failure of our politics. For young people today, it is harder than ever to get ahead by working hard and playing by the rules. The generation coming of age now is projected to be the first one in American history that was not better off than all the ones that came before. From George Washington to someone born in 1970, there was a generational progress that has come to a sudden end. Niko has seen too many of his peers and students get a rotten deal in our broken system.

DC politics are at the heart of the problem. The Peterson Foundation estimates that political gridlock and instability since 2010, which came to a head last year in the government shutdown, has slowed economic growth by one per cent and likely prevented the creation of two million jobs in our country. That is the difference between continuing to improve, as we have always done in our history, and the cold-hard reality we face today of rapidly declining opportunity.

Both parties have offered nothing when it comes to fixing our broken political system and thereby restoring social mobility. We need clear commitments to pass legislation addressing the deep challenges we face, such as tax reform, the inexcusable amount of regulations some businesses face and the loopholes other businesses receive, immigration, and entitlement costs. Politicians focus on black and white interpretations of the issues and use them to rile up the base. Running on emotion will not accomplish a thing. We need people focused on substance that will allow us to rein in bloated bureaucracies, eliminate antiquated or overly detailed laws, and allow the government to do its job efficiently.

On his website, Niko has laid out his extensive plans for the sort of legislation he will fight for in Congress to get the country moving forward. Niko’s proposals emphasize accountability and transparency as to limit the powers of special interests and reconnect representatives to their communities. His legislative commitments include allowing people to track every single one of their tax dollars and having access to politicians’ detailed, daily schedules. Niko is committed to cleaning up our politics by eliminating gerrymandering and achieving campaign finance reform through full and detailed disclosure. Niko will practice strict oversight to make sure no one, from a military contractor to Walgreens, fleeces the government.

A democracy where only 13% of people trust the government to do the right thing all or most of the time is unsustainable. Empowering everyday Americans to be involved in the daily activity of government will revitalize our government by bringing it out into the open. Restoring trust is therefore the dominant theme in Niko’s campaign.

The 2nd District’s incumbent, Tea-Partier Ted Poe, says nothing about the real problems we face and does not offer a single idea to get our democracy working again. Poe has had ten years in Congress and has no record of fighting for common sense or acting creatively to overcome DC gridlock. Ted is a cartoon politician that talks more than anyone else in Congress. Ted is a weather vane that goes whichever way the polls do. He has switched positions on immigration many times—being for and against the DREAM Act depending on the audience. Ted has lined his pockets with millions of dollars of corporate money that dictates how he votes. For example, Ted did not get involved in the METRO light rail expansion until this year, when that issue became tied to our city’s preparation for Super Bowl LI. It does not seem to be a coincidence that the Houston Texans have long been a top donor of his. Politicians like Poe are why so few people have faith in government. Ted is cowardly when it comes to going against what’s popular and helpless when it comes to getting things done.

Doing nothing as Poe has done is in practice an endorsement of the status quo, a low point in our nation’s history. We need candidates willing to stand up to their own party and associated special interests, and offer legislation to reform government. Niko is a Democrat but not a friend of trial lawyers or willing to placate special interests, corporations, or unions. Niko is a Democrat because he believes government should play its part in creating a level playing field. We need to take every action necessary to get our democracy working again—that is, fighting for the common good above all else.

From students who deserve a fair shot to the retired who deserve stability in their old age, everyone in the 2nd district will benefit from someone up to the task of addressing the challenges we face in DC. We need less talking and more doing. We need candidates made to go, not for show. With less than three months until the election, Texans must back candidates who offer specific plans to fix the problems that hold our country back. Niko has such plans. Morally and economically, we cannot afford to elect the same people and play politics as usual. All Americans who care about the common good must rally to clean up our politics and laws.

The Time for Boldness is Now


Armed Right-Wing Militias Amassing Along Texas Border With State Lawmaker’s Blessing



A militiaman staged at a Texas ranch in 2006

A militiaman at a Texas ranch in 2006


For much of the summer, right-wing militiamen have gathered near the Texas-Mexico border, many of them claiming that they are there as part of something called “Operation Secure Our Border.” They include members of a movement that President George W. Bush denounced as “vigilantes,” and they also include members of even more radical groups that promote wild conspiracy theoriesand that explicitly threaten violence against the government.

And now, they have the blessing of a sitting Texas lawmaker. After touring the Rio Grande Valley near the border, Republican state Rep. Doug Miller claimed that the militias “have a right to be there” and that they “are not currently a problem.” According to Miller, he was told that the militias “are on private property, helping ranchers and owners to keep illegals coming onto or through their property … and there haven’t been any problems.”

Miller is not the highest-ranking Texas official who has dismissed criticism of armed vigilantes patrolling the Texas border. Late last month, the 12 Democratic members of Texas’ congressional delegation penned a letter to Greg Abbott, the state’s attorney general and the Republican candidate to be Texas’ next governor. In it, the 12 lawmakers quote a militia leader who said that “You see an illegal. You point your gun dead at him, right between the eyes, and you say, ‘Get back across the border or you will be shot.’” They also ask Abbott to “denounce the actions of these militia groups and clarify the jurisdiction these militia groups have to patrol alongside local law enforcement and Border Patrol agents.”

A spokesperson for Abbott dismissed the letter as a “partisan political stunt.”

The militias Abbott would not denounce include a volatile mix of paranoid anti-government groups and potentially violent gun activists. According to the Dallas Morning News, the earliest wave of militiamen coming to Texas included members of the Oathkeepers, a group which describes itself as an “association of currently serving military, reserves, National Guard, peace officers, fire-fighters, and veterans who swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic … and meant it.” Their website warns of government officials “disarm[ing] the American people,” “confiscat[ing] the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies,” and “blockad[ing] American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.”

The militiamen also reportedly include members of the “Three Percenter’s Club,” a group which claims that its “mission is give our members the capabilities and resources necessary to execute Military Strategies to defend against foreign and domestic enemies.” The Three Percenter movement takes its name from the “3% of the colonist [sic]” who allegedly “refused orders by the British Crown to surrender their firearms in the American Revolution,” and it was founded by a conservative activist named Mike Vanderboegh. On his personal blog, Vanderboegh explained that one of the Three Percenter movement’s core beliefs is a willingness to offer violent resistance to the government:

We intend to maintain our God-given natural rights to liberty and property, and that means most especially the right to keep and bear arms. Thus, we are committed to the restoration of the Founders’ Republic, and are willing to fight, die and, if forced by any would-be oppressor, to kill in the defense of ourselves and the Constitution that we all took an oath to uphold against enemies foreign and domestic.

We are the people that the collectivists who now control the government should leave alone if they wish to continue unfettered oxygen consumption. We are the Three Percent. Attempt to further oppress us at your peril.

To put it bluntly, leave us the hell alone.

Or, if you feel froggy, go ahead AND WATCH WHAT HAPPENS.

Last April, a similar collection of militia organizations, including members of the Oath Keepers, gathered near the home of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy to offer armed resistance to federal officials seeking to enforce a court order preventing Bundy from illegally grazing his cattle on federal land. Bundy briefly became a hero among conservative media figures such as Fox News’ Sean Hannity, andSen. Dean Heller (R-NV) labeled Bundy and his supporters “patriots.” Bundy’s moment as a Republican folk hero ended fairly abruptly, however, after hemade racist remarks about “the Negro.”

What sets Bundy’s armed supporters apart from the militia members gathering in Texas, however, is that Bundy’s militia squared off against trained federal law enforcement officials. The militiamen in Texas, by contrast, have threatened to point their guns at desperate and often helpless people crossing the border.

The true source of the immigration crisis


By Niko Letsos
Candidate, U.S. Rep., Dist. 2 |

The failure of our political system to deliver on immigration reform is stupefying. President Bush made immigration reform a priority 10 years ago and President Obama entered office hoping to sign an overhaul into law. A growing majority of Americans want comprehensive immigration reform passed. And yet, there is no prospect for such a reform because Congress cannot get its act together. Our national lawmakers are clueless when it comes to the facts surrounding immigration and understanding that their indecisiveness has made the problem worse.

Our southern neighbors have always been behind us in economic development and for that reason Latin Americans have had an incentive to get here. Before the 1970s, however, illegal immigration was mostly a non-issue throughout our history. Why has the problem of massive illegal immigration arisen only in recent decades? The Republican claim that the main issue is an insecure border is ahistorical and wrong. In the 1960s, was there a Great Wall of America on the southern border that has since fallen into disrepair? Today, the border is the most secure it has ever been and it has not solved the problem. Our immigrant crisis does not begin or end at the border. Rather, the change is to be found in international relations and domestic law enforcement.

Mexican cooperation was essential when our immigration system worked. For example, a 1954 operation that deported over one million undocumented laborers was carried out at the behest of the Mexican government and saw significant cross-border coordination. Mexico has recently progressed enormously and should be doing much more to regulate migration flows: it is one of the top 15 wealthiest countries in the world. Mexico’s economy is thriving and exports are growing.

In fact, Mexico has exported one thing to us this year we all know about: tens of thousands of young and desperate Central Americans. These children had to go through at least 1,200 miles of Mexican territory. The many human rights abuses migrants face in Mexico are well documented. Governments are usually punished for allowing such human rights abuse. Mexico today has the means to tackle the problem and we must pressure it to do so. Congress has not explored this issue at all. Stopping immigrants before they get here is common sense and the Mexican government can do that.

More important than international relations is the lack of law enforcement at home. After the bipartisan 1986 effort to bring legal integrity to our immigration system, a generation of lawmakers dropped the ball. Up until 2005, immigration was scarcely talked about although illegal immigration greatly increased beginning in the 1990s as laws defining employment were neglected. It has long been an open secret that in construction, agriculture, restaurants, maintenance and domestic services undocumented workers are widely employed. Congress did nothing to end this practice. Congress’s dithering has resulted in a legal and civil rights limbo for 11 million undocumented residents residing in our country today. These millions immigrated and set roots in America because Congress allowed them to be easily and illegally employed. There is a staggering incongruity between spending billions to catch immigrants crossing our borders and allowing them to work openly once in our country.

What options do we have to solve our immigration problems? Deporting over 11 million people is logistically impossible and would gut our economy, never mind being morally contemptible. Getting the border to be impassable would be hugely expensive and would do nothing to solve the problem of having 11 million people who live here outside of the law. The only option we have is comprehensive immigration legislation from Congress.

The legislation must include mechanisms for legal residence and guest worker passes for agriculture. For immigrants who arrived here as adults, the law must have provisions to collect back-taxes without any deductibles — distinguishing it from amnesty as there would be a legal fine incurred in the form of paying taxes so constructed. Legal residence will be conferred once payments on those taxes begin, and such residents could apply for citizenship once all taxes are paid. The goal of this effort is to not have a single worker in America outside of the law. Such legislation will not be perfect. It is the price to pay for 30 years of laws being ignored and Congress not doing anything about it. It is a price worth paying: it will make us a nation of laws once again.

The reform we undertake must be guided by an attitude of “never again.” Never again will we ignore the international dimensions of immigration. Never again will our immigration and labor laws go unenforced and break down. And never again will we allow Congress to run away from doing its job.


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Why You Don’t Know Obama Has Created 4.5 Million Jobs

by Michael Tomaskey of The Daily Beast

Why You Don’t Know Obama Has Created 4.5 Million Jobs


Do you have any idea how many more jobs Obama has created than Bush did? You don’t, because liberals are less likely than conservatives to cheerlead.

The terrific June jobs report may be the signal we’ve been waiting for that we’re finally turning the psychic corner. The overall jobs number was great at 288,000, and the unemployment rate was down to 6.1 percent. But the most important number was that the employment-to-population ratio, which many economists think of as the truest measure of the jobs market, was up a bit to 59 percent, a high for the recovery, indicating that maybe more people are finally out looking for work than staying home.

A lot of liberals puzzle over why the Obama administration isn’t getting more credit, or doesn’t do a better job of making sure it gets credit, for such good economic news. There are a lot of theories, and most of them hold varying amounts of water. But the main reason to me is fairly obvious: Liberals don’t speak as one big fat propagandistic voice on this subject in remotely the same way conservatives do when a Republican president is in power.

Before I get into all that, I want to review some numbers with you, because unless you’re a hyper-informed political junkie, I doubt you know them. How many net jobs has the economy created during Barack Obama’s presidency, and how many did it create during George W. Bush’s tenure? Notice first that I wrote “has the economy created” rather than “did Obama create/did Bush create.” I think it’s a better description of reality.

I also should note that I just measured the numbers under each president—I gave Bush the numbers from January 2001 to December 2008, and Obama the numbers from January 2009 to the present, with the following asterisk. January 2009 was when Obama became president, but he didn’t start until the 20th, of course. That was a particularly awful month, with 798,000 jobs lost. So I think it’s reasonable to give Bush, whose policies helped cause the meltdown anyway, two-thirds of that 798,000. (January 2001, by the way, was a tiny number, 30,000 jobs lost, but just to be consistent, I assigned only 10,000 of those to Bush.)

Imagine that a Republican president produced 45 straight months of job growth coming off the worst financial crisis since the Depression. Lord, we’d never hear the end of it.

Here are Bush’s numbers: It’s 8.657 million jobs gained, and 7.121 million jobs lost, for a net job-creation number of 1.536 million. Pathetic. It’s interesting to look back over the numbers from 2001. The economy stank. The month of 9/11, we lost 242,000 jobs. Want to ascribe that just to the attacks? In August, we’d lost 158,000. The decent Bush years were 2004, 2005, 2006, and part of 2007, but even then the numbers were hoppy and inconsistent: 307,000 jobs added in May 2004 and just 74,000 in June, for instance.

And what about Obama’s numbers? I’d betting that even if you’re an Obama partisan, you think they’re not all that different from Bush’s. After all, 2009 was miserable: minus 798,000, minus 701,000, minus 826,000, and so on. The numbers went into the black in early 2010, but dipped back into the red in the summer. But remember, since October 2010, every report has been positive—the now 45 straight months of job growth that the president and his team, to little avail, crow about.

But they’ve added up, because under Obama, the economy has added 9.425 million jobs and lost 4.887, for a net gain of 4.538 million jobs. That’s a 3 million advantage over Bush. Now, 6.5 million jobs doesn’t put Obama up there in Clinton (22 million) and Reagan (around 16 million) territory. But remember—he has 30 months to go yet. Let’s say we average a gain of 250,000 a month the rest of the way. That’s another 7.5 million. And that would edge him up toward Reagan territory. And that seems conservative, if anything. If the recovery gets genuinely humming, we could start seeing months between 300,000 and 400,000 next year. It seems unlikely to happen, but God would it be hilarious if Obama, with everything the Republicans in Congress have done to keep the economy in a state of contraction, ended up surpassing Reagan.

[UPDATE: I rechecked my math this morning, and it's a good thing I did. I had originally given Obama nearly 2 million more jobs created than the actual numbers reflect. Obviously, I want to be accurate here. I added and re-added these three times.]

But all that’s speculative. After all, there could be a recession coming, too, though most experts don’t seem to fear that much. So let’s just talk about the up to now, the 6.5 million net jobs. As I said before, I bet you didn’t know that. Why?

Two main reasons. One, the administration doesn’t go a great job of trumpeting it, and I think for good reason. Officials may feel constrained from doing too much boasting because a lot of people’s perception and experience is still worse than that. A lot of these aren’t great jobs, and the economy is still only doing real well for the top 5 or 10 percent.

The second reason is that figures on the broad left simply aren’t superficial cheerleaders. The two men who are probably the most influential economic voices on the left, Paul Krugman and Robert Reich, have both been pretty harsh critics of the administration’s economic policies, as have other liberal economists. They, and less well-known but still prominent people such as Dean Baker, look at the numbers and report the truth as they see it. Democratic politicians are cheerleaders in varying degree—there’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz on the rah-rah end, but most Democrats don’t brag too much for the same reason the White House doesn’t.

And the media voices on the left—the folks on MSNBC, say—try to accentuate the positive in political terms, but they don’t ignore the bad news by any stretch of the imagination. MSNBC talks a lot about obstreperous Republicans, a theme to which I certainly contribute on air, but the network also offers a consistent diet of news features on and interviews with people stuck in the dead-end economy and having a hard time of it, segments that usually demand the government do more.

Now, imagine that a Republican president produced 45 straight months of job growth coming off the worst financial crisis since the Depression. Lord, we’d never hear the end of it from Fox and Limbaugh and even from CNBC. They wouldn’t care about the reality that a lot of the jobs are low wage. They’d just trumpet the bottom-line numbers as evidence of their president’s Churchillian greatness.

That’s how they are, and nothing’s going to change them. The important question now, as I said up top, is whether we’re really turning the psychic corner. Corporations have been hoarding record profits, banks still aren’t lending they way they should be, businesses have been skittish about large-scale hiring. It’s a big game of economic chicken, and it certainly has a political element. Most of these corporate titans and bankers and business leaders are Republicans. I don’t think most of them would intentionally hold the economy back because they don’t like the president, but I do think they take their cues from elected Republicans more than from Obama. When the Republicans stand up and say repeatedly that the president’s policies are failing, failing, failing, these private-sector titans hear them, and it influences what they do.

It may be that we’re finally working our way through all that. Happy days aren’t yet here again, but, once again, Democrats, the alleged socialists, are saving capitalism from the supposed lovers of capitalism who almost destroyed it.