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September 15, 2017      12:45 PM

Smith: Is Politics Today A Content-free Shirts & Skins Sandlot Football Game?

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith wonders whether tribal loyalty has replaced individual responsibility and engagement in today’s politics

I’ve been critical of complaints about so-called “polarization” in American politics. It can look like an easy out that allows pundits to pretend “neutrality” using false equivalencies.

Against this, I’ve suggested we consider two people in a room. One of them goes crazy. The other doesn’t. We don’t say the room is polarized, do we? Where’s Donald Trump’s opposite pole? See what I mean?

But some recent studies and events in the political sphere have me second-guessing my skepticism.

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By Glenn W. Smith

September 8, 2017      2:42 PM

Smith: Catch a Falling Lone Star

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith sees rays of hope in the government response to Hurricane Harvey

Paul Vance, the guy who wrote the lyrics, “Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day,” has been living in South Florida. As Hurricane Irma approaches, here’s hoping Mr. Vance took the advice of Perry Como’s 1957 hit song.

 “When your troubles start multiplying,” the song says, your pocketful of starlight will help you overcome them.

The good news is the state of Texas has in its pocket a lot of starlight in its Rainy Day Fund, $10.3 billion to be exact. And, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, our troubles are multiplying. The not-so-good news is that in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, some are reluctant to use it for the recovery.

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By Glenn W. Smith

September 1, 2017      2:56 PM

Smith: After the Flood

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith on pre-flood and post-flood Texas

Before engaging in a bit of dryland analysis of where Texas was before Hurricane Harvey and where it might be post-flood (it’s not over), the major part of our attention should remain on recovery efforts.

Hundreds of thousands of Texans face uncertain futures.  

We would also benefit by spending more time contemplating the heroism we witnessed, the automatic, empathy-fueled solidarity that had everyone who could help others risking their own safety to help others.  

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By Glenn W. Smith

August 24, 2017      4:19 PM

Pauken: Abbott’s blame game avoids responsibility for property taxes and school finance

Former RPT Chair says the GOP will likely never again have the large majorities in the House and the Senate they have now… too bad that they squandered the opportunity to address key issues

Governor Greg Abbott has lashed out at Speaker Joe Straus for the failure of the Republican majority to provide property tax relief and address school finance reform in the recently completed special session of the Texas legislature.

Yet, almost simultaneously, the Governor quickly announced that there would be no second special session to finish the job. One would think the Governor would have enough votes in both houses to at least get some kind of limited property tax relief passed if he were truly committed to it. 

At the end of the first special session, the Senate and the House were not that far apart in their respective positions on providing taxpayer protection to prevent local governments from raising property taxes excessively without voter approval. Surely, a sensible compromise could have been crafted at Governor Abbott’s urging on that piece of legislation.

Apparently, the Governor likes to have it both ways.

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By Tom Pauken

August 11, 2017      12:46 PM

Smith: Democracy and Trees

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that for Texas’ GOP leaders, trees are like democratic rights. If they are in the way of their power, cut them down.

Maybe it’s time to remind Texas legislators of the fate of Easter Islanders. Some say their world collapsed because they blindly destroyed all the trees. A new theory has it that rats stowed away in immigrants’ canoes, multiplied rapidly in a land without predators, and ate all the trees.

Either way points to a rather significant leadership deficit.

These islanders were smart enough to engineer and leave behind giant carved heads, heads more swollen even than Texas’ current right-wing leadership.  But they couldn’t see the trees for the forest.

Or something.

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By Glenn W. Smith

August 9, 2017      2:44 PM

Greenfield: The revenue picture in the dog days of summer

Our resident number cruncher says there should be around $600 million in the ending certification balance for August 31, more than sufficient to address both health insurance for retired teachers and support for disabled children

While Comptroller Glenn Hegar did announce the improvement in state revenue for July 2017, there was no public comment on how this related to the revenue that is available to the Texas Legislature. 

Lawmakers in the special session have considered some issues, e.g., health insurance for retired teachers, a pay raise for active teachers, and most importantly, support for disabled children, that requires funding. 

While Article III, Section 49a doesn’t say “It shall be the duty of Stuart Greenfield to provide under oath to provide the Legislature a report on the fiscal condition of the state,” nowhere in the Constitution does it prohibit me from offering my view of the state’s fiscal condition.

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield

August 4, 2017      3:59 PM

Smith: Whatever Happened to Deliberative Democracy?

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that democracy withers while our ideologies dominate our identities

Back in the 1990s, it seemed like a noble cause. “Deliberative Democracy” it was called, and it just might save us, argued its champions, folks like Robert Luskin at the University of Texas and Stanford’s James Fishkin.

Over time, of course, Americans have shown little inclination to actually deliberate. Berate or eviscerate, maybe. But deliberate?

 That’s like something the Trump White House’s Stephen Miller would attack as “cosmopolitan,” a word often used by 20th Century tyrants to scapegoat targeted others.

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By Glenn W. Smith

July 21, 2017      2:36 PM

Smith: Political Dollars and Dangling Participles

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the enormous sums donors give state Republican officeholders raise especially disturbing questions in a one-party state like Texas.

Wealthy Texans are contributing extraordinary sums of money to Texas Republican officials these days. The sums are so large it’s a wonder that a candidate hasn’t surfaced with the message, “Elect me and I’ll grant your wishes for half the price.” Government favors at a discount.

It has a certain appeal.

Looking at Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s recent campaign finance report, former Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane gave Patrick $150,000 in June. Highway contractor James Pitcock matched McLane with another $150,000 to Patrick. Apparently not to be outdone, H. Ross Perot gave Patrick $150,000 on June 28 and another $75,000 on June 30.

It’s almost like pitiful little $50,000 contributors will have a hard time getting beneficiaries of their largess to return their phone calls these days.

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By Glenn W. Smith