A Tale of Two Cities

I remember exactly when I first noticed it: my first year in town, wandering around the heart of the city, unwittingly crossing through Red River and Sixth Street. It was an immediate shift. Property value sank, and the sidewalks were now populated entirely with black and brown faces. Casting my gaze back west and seeing all that pallid skin bumbling around in merry debauchery, participating in all those Austin promises, made me feel a little guilty. At that moment it was clear that Austin had some unfortunate secrets, because no matter how liberal or progressive your reputation might be, a history of segregation will always rear its ugly head.

Luke Winkie writing for Vice.com

A house fire destroyed a boarding house just before New Years here in Austin, leaving six people homeless in some of the harshest weather this area has seen in several years. If you look at the images of the house in this news article, it is clear that hoarding was more than a problem in the house before the fire. The structure itself violates several current building codes, or would have violated them if it had not been grandfathered in under the rules that were being enforced at the time of its construction and/or annexation into the city of Austin. A filled construction dumpster in the driveway is a clear sign of unresolved problems within the structure that a devastating fire probably only makes worse for the people involved.

Not satisfied with the fact that there will soon be new construction at this once poverty-stricken address in a nearby neighborhood, one of the recent purchasers of Austin real estate took exception to the state of the house as it currently sits smoldering. This is understandable to me. It is understandable because house prices in Austin are ridiculously inflated, and I’m sure this purchaser paid far too much for his property. There was no price correction in Austin after the real estate bubble burst in the rest of the U.S. There was the briefest of pauses in price inflation, and then the prices just continued to go up, rising to levels that frankly have me thinking seriously of renovating and flipping my home so that I can retire somewhere a little quieter. Somewhere with horses, so that the Wife will have something to do with her time since no one will pay her a wage to do work in Austin anymore.

The homeowner’s objections are also understandable because I have an issue with the rental house across the street from me. I’ve told a running joke about it over the decades that I’ve lived here, and the joke has only gotten darker over the years. Considering the downward spiral it has been in since starting as an owner-occupied dwelling in the early nineties, I suspect there will be cannibals living there soon. Cannibals, because there isn’t much lower for it to go on the occupant quality ladder. Cannibalism is bound to occur there at some point in the near future.

However, several of my neighbors on Nextdoor insist on calling the boarding house that burned to the ground a crack house. Repeatedly. I have to say, that’s just uncalled for. After all, it’s not the nineteen-eighties anymore. We’re well past Reagan and his cloaked racial references like crack houses. Perhaps these new property owners don’t know the history of East Austin, the history of Austin in general? As a long-time resident of the neighborhood, I’d like to offer a few pointers to these new Austin residents, in the spirit of the New Year.

Let’s start with a big picture, historically. Austin was officially racially segregated until 1963. There were specific redlined neighborhoods where people of color were allowed to buy property. Those neighborhoods are well South of the area of Austin that we live in, but if you add in the Great Wall that separates East Austin from West Austin, the distance South that the redlining occurs becomes almost inconsequential. East of Interstate 35 was long considered the dumping zone for housing projects and industrial uses, and any in-depth analysis of land use in Austin will reveal that East Austin carries the brunt of the load of poverty for the entire city to this day.

While you’re calculating, don’t forget to add in the depression on living standards that the Mueller airport noise levels inflicted on the surrounding areas until very recently. That is crucial to understanding the change that is occurring on the East side of Austin today. With the removal of the airport out to Bergstrom, and the removal all the airport’s associated industrial businesses, there was suddenly a wealth of under-utilized property right in central Austin. The re-purposing of this property continues even eighteen years later. The old boundaries of the airport are all but erased, but you can still see the blighting effects of landing and take-off zones near the airport if you look hard enough.

The historical racism that stifled central East Austin’s growth, now lifted, the industrial uses and noise pollution of a central airport, now lifted, the big picture of why the gentrification and the pushing out of old minority owners in East Austin should become obvious. The two cities that were Austin are being forced to become one city, and the new city of Austin doesn’t have room for people who don’t have more than a quarter million dollars to sink on a home. Especially not in central Austin neighborhoods that used to be beacons for the average American middle class lifestyle.

Just to the North of the old Mueller airport site sits some of what was the most overlooked, undervalued property in central Austin. It was overlooked and undervalued when I first started living in the area about thirty years ago but it has now been discovered and is probably overvalued. I look to see a market correction in the near future. Friends of mine in the construction industry bought into real estate at the peak of the last boom in the eighties. They lost half their investment in the subsequent S&L collapse. I expect there is another one of those nasty surprises just waiting around the corner for most of Texas somewhere in the future. We dodged that bullet in 2008, but the growth that Texas is experiencing can’t be maintained forever. Something has to give, eventually.

The house fire that started this article is in one of those quiet little neighborhoods that used to be havens from the bustling inner-city of Austin, protected by the vast bulk of Mueller from central East Austin’s old redlined districts. The closest of these neighborhoods to the Eastern edge of Mueller is Pecan Springs-Springdale. This is the neighborhood where the boarding house stood.

Pecan Springs-Springdale was two neighborhoods originally, ergo the name. There are pockets of very nice houses in this neighborhood, surrounded by marginal commercial ventures and apartment houses, especially along the main arterial boulevard of Manor Road that carries the bulk of the traffic North/South through the area, between the two neighborhoods of Windsor Park and Pecan Springs-Springdale. The intersection at Rogge and Manor, near where the fire occurred, has always been problematic. That intersection marks the boundaries between three distinct areas and uses, one corner of which is a vacant lot. That property is an investment opportunity, for anyone taking notes that still wants to live here.

We rented a house in Windsor Park for about seven years before buying our current home. We rented it for less than $500 a month if you can believe that. The houses in that neighborhood are generally smaller and sit on smaller lots than surrounding neighborhoods. They were built for and bought by people with even less money than the college professors that my current neighborhood catered to. Backed up to the original Austin shopping center, Capitol Plaza, and bordered originally on the South by the main runway of Mueller and Fifty-first Street, Windsor Park was a working-man’s neighborhood. It’s hard to see that now since most of the property there was snatched up and renovated first, before Mueller moved.

The wife and I realized that the time to buy a home was now or never as we watched the neighborhood change around us, so we gave up renting and purchased a home in University Hills, a smaller neighborhood further East, but not so close that you could see or smell the landfill still operated by the city further out highway 290. University Hills was built to appeal to the growing number of educational professionals that needed to live near the University of Texas and the price of its real estate has ballooned significantly since we moved here.

People looking for a real estate investment should be well acquainted with this fact, that housing prices are at an all-time high in Austin, since it would be part of proper due diligence to have looked at historical prices for the area before investing. Some of the original residents still live in our neighborhood, and I bought my house from one them twenty years ago. There aren’t too many left these days, but their investment of $40-60k when they bought their places back in the nineteen-sixties would not compare favorably with the investments people are laying down now to get in this neighborhood. Some of us still don’t have that kind of money and we are being forced out of our neighborhoods by a growing number of people who do.

not very neighborly

Which brings us full circle back to the transplant complaining about a boarding house he has to drive by on his way to work that burned down having once been purportedly used for drug sales. The question I want to ask people like him is, how do you live with yourself? How do you ignore the underpasses in Austin littered with homeless people, even in freezing weather? Let me put it this way; I apologize to you for your neighbors, neighbors who were clearly having a hard time paying to remain in a neighborhood that has left them behind. Now that they are homeless, I’m sure the weather will get on with killing them faster so that their property can be better utilized by the next owner and not be a drag on your property in the future. That way you can flip that property you sank every penny you had into and make a profit. How does that sound?

Don’t mind us long-term residents, the people who just lived and worked here over the course of a lifetime. We certainly won’t notice when you are gone, any more than we noticed the last five people who owned that property before you. If you think I’m being too harsh, then I suggest you get out and help the homeless in your area, right now. Now is the time when homelessness hurts the most, when we lose the most people to exposure. If you have the quarter-million dollars to blow on an investment, then you certainly have enough scratch to make the difference in a homeless person’s life. Maybe you should re-prioritize your to-do list and see if you can make the world a better place for someone else. They’ll probably thank you for it and it might even be more rewarding than that profit you are lamenting you won’t make.


This recent (04/11/2018) episode of Code Switch deals with the subject that I was talking about in this article, namely redlining, what redlining was, and what redlining did. The after effects of redlining are still felt here in Austin.

NPR, Let’s Talk, Why are cities still so segregated?

It’s hard for people who have never been poor to understand what poverty does to you. It’s even harder to understand what not being able to pass for white does to you. The barriers that are placed in your way. The things that keep you from being able to succeed, the things they blame you for? Those things are external, barriers to entry that allow those who have what you want to point at you and say “see you don’t deserve what I have.”

NPR – Code Switch – Housing Segregation In Everything

I wanted to post a link to this episode because this was the first episode of Code Switch that I could link directly. The first episode that had a specific page that I could find and link to with the content that I heard on the air present on the page. It was a nice change that I hope they keep up with. It’s hard to share insights like you get from podcasts like this if there isn’t a location on the internet to send people to so that they can hear that specific thing you are talking about. In this case, redlining. Forcing people into poverty for the sake of having poor people to look down on, to take advantage of. This structural racism and economic stratification? This bullshit has to stop, and it should have stopped a hundred years ago.

Why I Admit I am Poor

I admit I am poor because it is the truth. I admit I am poor because it places me in the group that shares the most to gain from the current reversal in political power. Watch this 10 minute video and try to understand the concepts presented in it.

Matthew CookeRACE BAITING 101 – Aug 1, 2015

The only thing that keeps me from being the preferred victim in this system is the color of my skin. This is why Black Lives Matter.

I don’t make racial arguments on this blog very often.  I don’t make racial arguments largely because of the points made by the host of the video.  I was virtually homeless for years. I have been poor all my life. The only things I’ve ever had going for me was the color of my skin, and my ability to think clearly and deeply. Only one of those is something I can do anything about.

Poverty is what we all share in common. Nearly half of the US is poor. Everyone around you is probably poor, unless you are one of the lucky few still in the middle class, and even then your neighbors are probably poor. The 1% would like nothing more than for us to forget just how good they’ve got it right now.

Politizane – Wealth Inequality in America – Nov 20, 2012

I don’t make racial arguments because they are divisive, and I am not proud of the history of race as my white skin would have that history be told. I support Black Lives Matter every time I hear the group derided, even when black people aren’t around to hear it. See it. I do this because I know we are fellow travelers. We share a common human bond.

The real separation, the real dispute, is between the haves and the have-nots. Just as it has always been down through history.  Make no mistake, there is a war on poverty in the US.  It just isn’t the war you think it is.

#MAGA = Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans

False.

I was doing my dead-level best to be non-confrontational when I replied to the poster of the image at right earlier today. Attempting to not be the freethinker that I am, but instead an unbiased observer answering the question presented.

You can see it, right? The problem in the sign? In the question? Allow me to spell it out for you.

Let’s assume that there is nothing wrong with putting god first. It’s a big assumption, but play along with me for a few minutes. Whose god shall we put first?  There are thousands of gods created by man down through history. Thor? Isis? Jupiter? Allah?

I know, I’m just teasing you.  Obviously it is the christian god that the sign wants us to put first. This is America, home of the Bible thumpers. Obviously the meme creator means the christian god. But there still is a question that needs answering, even then. Are we talking about the magic underpants Mormon god, or perhaps the Calvinist predestination god? Are we talking about the Catholic god or the Protestant god? Which one of the thousands of flavors of christian god gets to be the God that goes first before all things?

The problem is (this is the comment that got me blocked by the friend who posted the image) that Americans, specifically European Americas, largely immigrated to the Americas to escape religious persecution. I could produce any number of references backing up this historical truth.  The one I picked today was this one.

The religious persecution that drove settlers from Europe to the British North American colonies sprang from the conviction, held by Protestants and Catholics alike, that uniformity of religion must exist in any given society. This conviction rested on the belief that there was one true religion and that it was the duty of the civil authorities to impose it, forcibly if necessary, in the interest of saving the souls of all citizens. Nonconformists could expect no mercy and might be executed as heretics. The dominance of the concept, denounced by Roger Williams as “inforced uniformity of religion,” meant majority religious groups who controlled political power punished dissenters in their midst. In some areas Catholics persecuted Protestants, in others Protestants persecuted Catholics, and in still others Catholics and Protestants persecuted wayward coreligionists. Although England renounced religious persecution in 1689, it persisted on the European continent. Religious persecution, as observers in every century have commented, is often bloody and implacable and is remembered and resented for generations.

The Library of Congress

 It was this experience that lead the framers of the constitution to explicitly leave all references to religion out of the founding documents for the United States of America. It is why the first amendment to the constitution, the first right in the bill of rights is freedom of religion. The freedom to have any religion or no religion at all. That is what freedom of conscience means; the right to choose your own path based on your own private council.

The inherent mistake in the image is the shallow belief that your god must be affirmed in order for America to return to greatness, when in actuality no one follows your god except you. This understanding is built right into most flavors of the protestant christian religion. It was necessary for the protestants to be able to talk to god directly and not have to go through the intercessor of the Pope and his priests. To not have to ask any authority except your own conscience for forgiveness. To do away with the bureaucracy of religious authority and rely on the individual’s personal relationship with their own god to show the right and wrong of their own behavior.

Catholics risk going to hell for transgressing the Pope’s edicts. They alone of all christians have an authority that talks to god for them and lets them know whether their behavior is good or bad. The 90% of Catholic women who use contraception are breaking the rules of their church as defined by the Pope, but you don’t see too many of them worried about this sin that they engage in on a daily basis. Why? Probably because they don’t put god first. Who can blame them when the cost of raising a child tops a million dollars these days? If men could give birth, contraception would be a mandate funded by the federal government.

However, the Catholic god is the only christian god that can be mandated and have a code of ethics attached to it by right of the Pope’s edicts. All the other christian gods are held within the individual consciences of each person who calls themselves a christian, and mandating those gods be put first is simply a affirmation of one person one vote as the basis for the organization of government. Liberal democracy is the basis for empowering all protestant religions large or small.

American greatness, liberal democracy in general, resides in the right of the people to follow their own individual paths to greatness. The individual freedom to keep your own council, to act according to one’s own conscience, makes America as a whole greater than the sum of its separate parts. We forget this fact at our peril.

What has to come first, before god, before religion, is something that was created with the United States itself; the notion of the supremacy of secular civil society. While individually our consciences must be acknowledged as our guides, what must guide our government is consensus, not any one person’s god or conception of god.

America is already great, and the saddest fact of all is that a wide swath of Americans don’t know this. They have fallen victim to a charlatan’s flim-flam act. A snake-oil salesman who hopes to cash-in on the lies told to the people of the United States for decades now.  He claims he can Make America Great Again, as if American greatness is something that can be given to us by an authority figure.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

American greatness is found when Americans realize we don’t need authority figures to tell us what to do. American greatness is based in all of us acting on the council of our own consciences. Providing food and shelter to the homeless. Comfort for the bereft. A ear for those who just want to be listened to. The answer is not to ask a leader “what should I do?” but to ask yourself that question in the light of your most fervently held beliefs, and then act on that advice in the best, most humane way possible. In the end, we will come to a better answer than any authority with a lifetime of knowledge can get to on his own. This is known as The Wisdom of the Crowd, and it is true whether you believe it or not.

Steven Pinker‘s book The Better Angels of Our Nature puts the lie to the notion that we are in a moral decline without god, and there are countless other resources which document through scientific inquiry the improving quality of life in the modern age. If you want to know why you are dissatisfied with your lot in life, you need look no farther than the contents of your own mind. Be the change you want to see in the world, and the world will look better to you because of it.  Not because of god, or of any other authority you might appeal to.

Or as I would say to the person who posted the image if I was still speaking to her, don’t ask questions you don’t want to hear answers to. It will save all of us a lot of time. 

What about the Losers?

Originally titled Austin, the Portland wannabe, this entry has morphed into an In Related News type column (with a tip of the hat to Dan Carlin) because Common Sense 113, What about the Losers asks the same questions that were being asked by Jeff Ward when he interviewed Austin Mayor Will Wynn (only took me 11 years to notice I spelled his name wrong unfortunately I can’t find that interview online anymore – editor) on Our Little Show a few months ago.

At the time, I was screaming at the radio “It’s because Austin desperately wants to be Portland!” but I think the answer will take more explaining than that. Probably quite a bit more.

First, let’s deal with Dan’s assertion that we live in a capitalist system. This is important because Dan’s point is quite valid; in a capitalist system the growth of the markets should be robust enough that even the least ambitious, least able to compete amongst us can be provided for charitably from the fat left on the table. The problem is, we don’t live in that system.

Ask any economist and they’ll hem and haw and finally explain that we live in a managed market system, a hybrid market managed from the top down with central controls placed there by government to ostensibly protect the investors/users/general population from the dangers of an uncontrolled market.

What those dangers are is anyones guess, because hindsight has shown that the failures of the stock market can generally be traced back to interference in the market by the Federal government, or by it’s monetary arm, the Federal Reserve (before the Federal Reserve the fluctuations in markets were probably an offshoot of the legalized theft that is Fractional Reserve Banking. I’m leaving that discussion for another time because this thing is almost a book already) Most of the other markets haven’t so much failed, as they were never allowed to fully bloom before being stifled by state and local controls placed on whatever resource or talent the market formed around.

But the controls do serve the purpose of keeping the markets in check (whether the controls are professional licensing, health inspection, zoning and planning, or just the good old Securities and Exchange Commission) Keeping the markets in check being indistinguishable from slowing growth.

So we don’t really live in a capitalist system, and it’s been getting less and less so for more than a hundred years now. We do still live in what is largely a meritocracy (which is better than the alternatives) but it’s a far cry from the kind of capitalism that most laissez-faire capitalists dream about, and the profit margins are getting leaner all the time.

If there’s limited profit (what it means to be lean) then there’s limited fat to provide for those marginal types on the fringe of society. And no amount of exhortation to buckle down and provide for them from outside is ever going to result in their getting more of what they need. Like a parent telling a child to be good and share, if there’s only one toy, the toy’s owner gets to play with it.

Globalization (Dan’s second point) was occurring whether we drafted and joined GATT, NAFTA, CAFTA, et al, or not. I would actually offer up the observation that the agreements appear to have been drafted to favor the staid multi-national corporations after the wilderness had been tracked by more nimble entrepreneurs.

[much like the stock tech bubble was burst just in time for established corporations to wade in and take over newly created tech industries. But it would be very black helicopter of me to say that, wouldn’t it?]

So blaming the state of affairs on these agreements suits me just fine. I just wouldn’t waste time kicking the scapegoat of Globalization (whatever that means) for the fact that you can’t make $30 bucks an hour doing tech support for (insert giant corporation’s name here) anymore. As Dan rightly points out “they have smart people in India too” and they’ll work for much less. Any corporation bent on reducing costs is going to outsource work in those sorts of circumstances, globalization incentives in place or not.

It’s not globalization’s fault, because that’s only part of the big picture. There’s also the consistent devaluation of the dollar (generally referred to as inflation) by spend-happy congressmen bent on buying their way into re-election at the top end of the government chain (not to mention crusading Presidents with Foreign Dragons to Slay) These actions reduce the purchasing power of the dollars you have left after your job was outsourced to India.

On the other end of the government chain, you have cities (like Austin) that have activist governments bent on achieving various goals, either for the enrichment of the powerful within the city, or to satisfy the security/comfort demands of the citizens, or both. In Austin, the government has used zoning, licensing, and control of the water/wastewater and road system, as well as what’s known as an Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) to limit growth and prevent what city planners refer to with distaste as sprawl. The predictable results have been growth outside of city controlled areas (leading to congestion and a mad dash to toll all roads that lead into Austin) and a steep climb in real estate values within city boundaries.

I say predictable, because this is the same formula that Portland and other cities modeled after Portland have used to limit growth and encourage compact city centers. The problems with this model have been documented in CATO studies, which I have perused often enough that I end up in a screaming match with my radio when the Mayor is interviewed.

Traffic congestion, homelessness and poverty. All of these are attributable side effects of limiting road construction, driving up the cost of housing, and diverting public funds to programs (such as light rail and subsidized housing) that do not produce the benefits promised. When you couple that with multi-national corporations outsourcing employment to countries where three generations of a family live under the same (small) roof; and the devaluation of the wages that remain, you have the recipe for the near unavoidable disaster which looms on the horizon.

Hello, interesting times. The ancient Chinese guy I was just talking to mentioned you.


So, what about the losers? What’s the solution? A lot less government, and a lot less government interference. It’s what will occur whether we head that way voluntarily or not. We might as well plan for it.

On the local end it’s going to mean relaxing building restrictions at the city level and perhaps relying upon the licensed professionals to do their job without the city looking over their shoulder (an architect can dream, can’t he?) it means privatizing road ownership (road construction, contrary to popular belief, is already mostly private) so that real maintenance costs can be established and funded. Privatized mass transit systems (London’s seems to work just fine)

On the Federal end, who knows? Can Washington be reasoned with? Considering the battle in California over medical Marijuana (a clear states rights issue if I’ve ever seen one) I’d have to say it looks like no. Can the out of control bureaucracy be brought to heal? That remains to be seen, but also doubtful.

[I’d be interested to see what would happen if the states insisted on payment of federal debts in Constitutional money; precious metal coinage. I think the Fed would have a hard time winning that battle in court]

So the real question is “will the Federal government survive the collapse of the dollar?” (which appears to be underway right now. It’s been slow so far, let’s see how long that lasts. And yes, I’m being serious. When have you ever seen the USD trade at parity with CAD? I’ve never seen it, till now) I don’t think it can be avoided. If, by some machination of events beyond the average persons comprehension collapse is avoided, and the federal government continues, there’s no telling what it will look like. Better to not worry about events beyond our control.

As for the plight of the losers, I’ve been rolling this idea around in my head for years now. Since we don’t use real money anyway these days, and since the banks can create money out of thin air when they need it, why can’t we do the same thing for that portion of society that would do without necessities if they aren’t extended the equivalent of credit.

There would need to be a standardization or nationalization of accounts, so that each person would have one account (and only one account) into which his electronic funds are transferred when he works, and from which funds are drawn when purchases are made. But rather than having a lower point at which no more funds are available, as in today’s bank accounts, the loser hits the point where the cash card becomes a charity card. Businesses would be given direct tax write offs for extending charity, and charity would be limited to strictly defined necessities (such as utilities, food, etc.) If you want a large screen TV, sorry you’ll have to do without. If you became productive again, then after a set period of time your charity card would once again convert to a cash card, and you could purchase whatever you wanted with it.

Not a libertarian solution, but a solution all the same.


I can see several of my AnCap acquaintances bristling from all the way over here. So, why should I care if the losers do without necessities? If I don’t want to give them charity, I don’t have to. And that’s true, as far as it goes. This post is already too long, but I thought I’d touch on the issue of haves and have-nots (or winners and losers) because it’s the have-not / have quotient (and the correlative societal highs and lows of money and status) that defines whether a society can continue to function peacefully or not.

Too high a number and the have-nots are emboldened to take what they want from the haves; and not all of us are or want to be Joe Horn. Too low a number, and human nature takes over correcting the trend turning haves into have-nots through natural laziness.

So obviously, it’s in the haves best interest to act in advance of the outset of violence, by not allowing the number to get too high; and the easiest way to do this is to keep the low end of the have-nots from falling too low. Put whatever conditions you want on the charity that makes you happy (after all, this is an exercise in “what if?”) Sterilization of the lowest portions of society so as to prevent a blossoming of their ranks through reproduction, in the event that they go on charity status. Repayment of charity before cash status is returned. Whatever.

Just remember that the more draconian the penalties, the less effective the charity will be at mediating violence. Which is the point of offering it in the first place, if human decency isn’t enough of an appeal to move you.


Editor’s note 2019. So much bullshit, so little time. Be thankful I took the time to correct the former mayor’s name. The rest of this? Mostly smoke blown up my own ass. But, it was amusing writing it at the time. I will point out that my naivete concerning the motivations of the wealthy are on full display here. I fully expected them to be cognizant of the fact that there aren’t enough bullets in the world, even if you could speed load them all, to be able to kill every hungry, poor person lurking outside your window before they get you, when the payback time arrives. Apparently they think action movies are real just like everybody else does.

November 6 – Texas Constitution Amendment Vote

Have you ever read the Texas Constitution? It’s a mess. Check it out, here. There’s been a movement underfoot for years now to replace the outdated state constitution with a version that makes a little more sense (it’s not like we haven’t done that a dozen times before, don’t see the problem with doing it again) but it never amounts to much of anything.

I only mention it because it’s once again time to amend the Constitution, as we seem to do every year here in Texas, and I’m consequently reminded of the idiocy of the current state of our government here.

Anyway, there are 16 amendments this year, which is more than the average year. There are several guides to what the different amendments mean; ranging from the tried and true League of Women Voters to the how can this not be biased guide published on the Texas Legislature’s site. (I don’t know about bias, but I do know that it would take a scholar to find it. 136 pages of wind. Sheesh) There’s even one from the local LP, which I’ll append to this blog entry.

The reason I feel compelled to write something on this anniversary of the annual vote-me-a-benny spending spree is because of the fifteenth amendment on the list, the one that everyone’s favorite biking hero has been cheapening himself shilling for.

Yes, I have a problem with being taxed so that Texas can have their own inefficient version of the NIH, and spend even more money on ill-advised gov’t backed research into cancer than the federal gov’t currently does.

You may well ask “why”, and you better believe I have an answer. It’s because I don’t like theft. It’s bad enough when the state steals from me when it wants to build roads (which it now wants to charge me tolls to drive on) or when it wants to indoctrinate, er, educate children (and pays too much for schools I wouldn’t want to send my neighbor’s kids too, much less my own) at least those types of massively over-funded boondoggles can be justified on the basis that they could benefit everyone in Texas.

Not so the TIH (or maybe it’ll be called TICR, but that sounds like heart research) the expenditures there will benefit only the researchers.

Oh, but I hear you saying “what about the benefit of new cancer cures, those will apply to everyone in Texas” What’s my response to that? The cures will only benefit those who can afford to pay. That’s right boys and girls, just like paying to build stadiums that you then have to pay to attend (or roads that you have to pay to drive on after paying for them to be built) we get to pay for research into medical treatments that we will then have to pay for in order to receive.

Those of us who still have sufficient funds to pay with, that is. Consequently, I’m not exactly gung ho on the subject of giving a few more of my rapidly disappearing dollars to the state so that they can spend it on things they will want to turn around and charge me for.

How about this for a suggestion; I’ll keep my portion of the dollars, and you can bill me for my portion of the research costs if I ever need cancer treatment (or drive on the new roads, or go to a stadium event, etc) Of course, the argument runs “well, you won’t have the treatments (or roads, or stadiums, etc) later if we don’t pay for them now.

I’ve got news on that front too. I won’t be here if my tax burden gets much higher. I’ll be taking up residence under the 360 bridge with the rest of the homeless.

…I guess I really shouldn’t worry. Hillary will be elected next November, and I’m sure she’ll be re-introducing her socialized medicine, er, single payer health care proposal; as well as putting a chicken in every pot, no doubt. Cancer treatment will be free then, right?

So, why is Texas wanting to pay for research now, then? Anyone care to follow the money on this issue?


Travis County Libertarians release constitutional amendments voter guide

AUSTIN – October 18, 2007 – The Travis County Libertarian Party (TCLP) executive committee has adopted positions on 12 of the 16 Texas constitutional amendment propositions to appear on the November 6 ballot.

For: 7, 10, 11, 14
Against: 1, 2, 4, 8, 12, 13, 15, 16
No position: 3, 5, 6, 9

Propositions 3, 5, 6, and 9 generated debate among Libertarians. On the one hand, they appear to provide some tax relief. On the other hand, they are targeted toward narrow special-interest groups to buy votes and provide sound bites for re-election campaigns, while the legislature keeps raising spending and shifting the tax burden onto others. Libertarians favor broad-based tax and spending cuts, rather than more complexity and special-interest pandering.

During the debate, some Libertarians expressed the principle, “When in doubt, vote no.”

These are the TCLP positions, with brief explanations:

1. AGAINST (Angelo State University governance change) This would be more than a simple change in hierarchy. It would allow
spending, tuition, and fees to increase.

2. AGAINST (Additional $100 million bonds for student loans) Bonds cause future tax increases. Government subsidies to students enable university bureaucrats to keep raising tuition and fees. Student debt upon graduation has skyrocketed in the past ten years, and we shouldn’t encourage that trend with more tax dollars.

3. No position (Tweaking appraisal cap rules)

4. AGAINST ($1 billion in bonds for state facilities) Libertarians support less spending on state facilities, not more.

5. No position (Tax incentives for down town revitalization programs)

6. No position (Tax exemptions for personal vehicles used for business)

7. FOR (Eminent domain buy-back rights)
This would provide a small amount of protection in some cases. However, the 2007 legislature failed to pass stronger protections against eminent domain, and this is a perfect case where politicians are likely to mislead voters by claiming they support eminent domain reform more than they really do.

8. AGAINST (Home equity loan regulations)
Libertarians believe in free markets and personal responsibility. This amendment would increase government interference with the loan process.

9. No position (Disabled veteran tax exemptions)

10. FOR (Abolish office of inspector of hides and animals)
Libertarians support eliminating the obsolete minor office of Inspector of Hides and Animals. We wish this amendment would also eliminate the State Board of Education, which would represent a real cut in government.

11. FOR (Require record votes on bill passage)
This would allow voters to actually find out how their representatives voted on final passage of a bill. More accountability is good.

12. AGAINST ($5 billion in bonds for Texas Transportation Commission)
The government already does a terrible job of spending transportation tax dollars, and we should not provide new revenue sources.

13. AGAINST (Denial of bail to some offenders)
This has a “tough on crime” sound to it, but it violates constitutional rights to bail and is unnecessary. America has the highest incarceration rate in the industrialized world. The state should focus on removing victimless crimes from the books to reduce incarceration and promote a stronger civil society, rather than imposing ever-increasing criminal penalties on every unwise action.

14. FOR (Permit judges who reach mandatory retirement age to serve out their terms)
Let elderly judges work if they want to.

15. AGAINST ($3 billion for a Cancer Research Institute)
Medical research is not a legitimate function of government. Funding for medical research should stay in the private sector. There is plenty of profit motive in seeking patents for drugs and medical devices, and if that weren’t enough, there is also a great deal of funding provided by voluntary charitable donations.

16. AGAINST ($250 million in bonds for water development to poor unincorporated colonias)
Developers build neighborhoods without providing and paying for infrastructure like water, then want other taxpayers to pay for water and wastewater services for their developments. Wrong. Development should pay for itself without outside tax subsidies.
Early voting starts October 22 and ends November 2. Election day is Tuesday, November 6.

Contact:
Wes Benedict, TCLP Chair
512-442-4910
wesliberty@aol.com


For the purpose of completeness, I’ll add this addendum. It looks like we’ll be getting TICR,;getting a high profile celebrity to back spending your tax dollars (rather than celebrities spending their own private funds) always gets the public behind a project. Amendment 15 passed with 61% in favor. (source, Texas SOS)

Most of the amendments passed by 10 to 20 percent margins. With only about 5% of the population voting (One million of the over 20 million reported in the last census) I wonder how much the vote was skewed by targeted advertising, and how it might have been skewed differently if all those people who are certain that voting is a waste of time (because all the amendments will pass anyway) had gotten off their fat asses and gone to vote.

I guess it’s true that we create our world through our (in)actions.