President Bush has had a week for the ages - first his inspiring Inaugural Address with its philosophy of freedom and democracy for the world, followed by the Iraqi election (where turnout despite death threats was over 60%) and ending with the State of the Union address which outlined his legislative goals - including important reform in Social Security.
The President's Inaugural Address will be one for the ages. Among the highlights for TCR - the President ushering in a new era in foreign policy based on American history and principles to move the war on terror on to the larger one - the fight against tyranny. TCR particularly liked the policy statement, "it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements…in every nation and culture with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."
In regard to the Iraqi election - his steadfastness in the face of mostly media and Democratic naysaying who wanted to postpone the vote is both admirable and courageous.
As for the State of the Union - per David Frum of the National Review, "The conversion of the unreliable promises of a state pension system into the solid reality of assets in your own hands, protected by the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution. Bush directly challenged the Democrats' trust-fund myth - the idea that the system will be okay into the 2040s because the Congress has written a lot of IOUs to itself. And he framed the issue exactly correctly: as one of character and courage against self-delusion and cowardice."
"Abroad, the president sent a strong message to the axis of evil and its cadet member, Syria. He expanded the issue with Iran from its weapons to its oppressive theocracy - and returned to the promise he made in 2002 to stand with the Iranian people against the unelected few who oppress them in the name of religion."
Legislature 2005 - Will 2006 Politics
Get in the Way of the State's Business?
During the buildup to the 2005 session it seemed there was more talk about 2006 and the elections than the state's legislative priorities for this year.
With the Governor busy seeking re-election support and fending off potential rivals and with the beginnings of what has become a biennial game of musical chairs, it's fair to say we have had distractions.
Fortunately, with the session starting, things have settled down to some extent. Let's hope that this continues. As previously urged by TCR, we need to call a time out on 2006 politics at least through the end of the session.
Mayor White - Has He Lost His Way?
After setting a record of accomplishment that even "good government" conservatives like, Mayor White has careened off the road he was on.
Specifically, after instituting some reforms and supporting a small property tax reduction he is now ready to set up a new entitlement program, and he is wasting city money on outside counsel in the Proposition 1 and 2 dispute. TCR doesn't understand why the city with a multi-million dollar city attorney's budget can't handle the city's legal work. Nor does TCR understand why Mayor White opposes revenue caps when it's the only proven method of controlling spending. Regardless, a legal analysis of Proposition 1 and 2 shows they are in fact not incompatible.
The "Safe Clear" program to get traffic moving is a laudable goal but there are holes here - why are Metro buses exempt? Why is the mayor pushing for free tows for the poor? We don't need a new way to give away money given the city of Houston's financial woes. What's wrong with the county MAP program, can it expand? That's a question you should ask GOP aligned council members Pam Holm, Marc Goldberg, Michael Berry, Mark Ellis, Addie Wiseman, Toni Lawrence, MJ Khan and Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. They all can be reached at the City of Houston by calling (311) and asking for them.
Texas Senators Stand Up For Traditional Marriage
Good news from Washington - our two Senators have joined other conservatives in Washington in support of Senate Joint Resolution 1 - a constitutional amendment to preserve marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Special thanks to Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn and to their 19 other Senate colleagues. TCR asks where are the other 34 GOP Senators?
Florida Points The Way In Medicaid Reform -
Where Is Texas?
While Texas, along with other states, faces huge problems and spending on auto pilot with Medicaid gobbling up between 20 and 24% of the state budget and growing, conservatives wonder what to do.
In Florida, Governor Jeb Bush has taken the bull by the horns and is proposing to give the 2.1 million Medicaid recipients money to buy their own health care coverage from managed care groups and private medical networks. Governor Bush calls it "empowered care" where the private company determines what is covered, not the state government.
In essence, Bush is setting up a voucher program and lets individuals pick what is best for them with appropriate levels of funding for those with more acute needs. This plan should stop the uncontrolled growth in this area.
Texas conservatives are asking - what is Texas waiting for? Governor Perry in his State of the State speech recently didn't mention this innovative idea - let's hope he and other state leaders follow the other Bush.
Child Protective Services - Texas Has a Problem,
But is Throwing Money at it the Solution?
State leaders have correctly said we need emergency help with the Child Protective Services. But is more money the only answer? TCR says NO - typically when government faces problems our liberal friends say "more money, more money."
Conservatives, on the other hand, say eliminate fraud, waste and abuse, and be more efficient by limiting administrative overhead. CPS (Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services) as an agency has had problems and some scandals, the caseworkers are overworked and good ones underpaid.
The first answer for conservatives is not more money - though in the end funds might be needed. Let's first look at the CPS budget and see if the money is being spent with caseworkers and their training and not with the bureaucracy. Next, we need to look at the administrative oversight of caseworkers - is it too intrusive, is it over management? Next, can we more efficiently use our caseworker time so they can deal with children in crisis instead of paper shuffling and endless waiting in court?
To all these questions the answer is yes - the personnel allocation is not appropriate as administrative positions are too numerous. With proper training caseworkers should be able to make recommendations to judges without extensive administrative review and finally, caseworkers spend an inordinate amount of time waiting in court to testify or going to administrative meetings.
Here are three simple reforms: (1) Immediately transfer 20% of the administrative slots to caseworker slots. (2) Reduce the number of non-judicial reviews of caseworker efforts and (3) Have the courts set up caseworker court appearances based on the individual caseworker's schedules which should be no more than once a week. These simple reforms will reduce case load and increase efficiency (this idea is based on how police officers are scheduled in Municipal Court and will free up a significant amount of time for each caseworker.)
After reforming the agency - we would be in a position to review the budget and add funds if needed. More money without reform is just a fiscal band-aid, it's not the entire answer.
About Your Editor
Gary Polland is a long-time conservative and Republican spokesman, fund-raiser, and leader who recently completed three terms as the Harris County Republican Chairman. During his three terms, Gary was described as the most successful county Chairman in America by Human Events - The National Conservative Weekly. He is in his ninth year of editing a newsletter dealing with key conservative and Republican issues. The last three years he has edited Texas Conservative Review. Gary is a practicing attorney and strategic consultant and can be reached at (713) 621-6335.
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