Thursday, April 28, 2011

Texas House Approves A Redistricting Plan


House Districts in Denton, Collin,
Tarrant, Dallas and Rockwall Co.
Click to go to District Viewer map.
  1. From the “Select Plans” drop
    down – select “Base Plans”
  2. Scroll down to find and click
    on “PlanH276”
The GOP-led Texas House approved a redistricting plan early Thursday that would all but guarantee a continued Republican majority — albeit a smaller one than the party has now.

With so many seats to protect, GOP leaders couldn’t draw enough safe House districts to protect all their incumbents in the next election, in 2012.

The map was approved on a 92-52 vote after a marathon debate that dragged into the wee morning hours Thursday.

Republicans rode a conservative wave in the 2010 elections to a lopsided 101-49 majority in the 150-member House -- a super majority so big that they can conduct business even if Democrats don’t show up.

That didn’t stop Democratic lawmakers from trying to derail the map Wednesday on procedural grounds, to no avail.

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie released the statement on the passage of the State House redistricting map bill, HB 150:
The House redistricting plan is neither fair nor legal because it denies representation for Latinos, African Americans and Asian Americans who were responsible for 89% of Texas population growth in the past decade. This blatantly partisan Republican map actually reduced the number of districts that provide minority voters the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice while shredding communities for partisan gain.

The same Republican majority that insists on a state budget that will cut educational opportunity, force seniors from nursing homes and eliminate over 300,000 Texas jobs drew districts that would deny voters the opportunity to elect representatives who will stand up for our priorities. Texas Democrats and our Democratic elected officials will demand a fair and legal map that provides representation for all Texans, and we will take whatever actions necessary to ensure that any redistricting plan ultimately enacted complies with the Voting Rights Act.
More details:

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Trump Leading The GOP In Race-Baiting Fear-Mongering

Donald Trump, the rich kid turned real estate tycoon turned bankrupt failure turned TV reality show host, spent several weeks trumpeting to anyone who would listen—including a surprising number of corporate media outlets—that President Barack Obama had failed to answer questions about his citizenship.

And when Trump started talking, Fox News was there to amplify him. The network vastly increased its coverage of birther rumors, devoting nearly two and a half hours to the nonsense, in recent weeks. On other networks Trump's "birther" claims, like those made in an interview with "Today" co-host Meredith Vieira, went largely unchallenged. CNN's Anderson Cooper, refuted Trump on-air during a two-day invalidation of the "birther" myth, but CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry asked about Obama's birth certificate during Tuesday's press briefing. Whether giving Trump a pass or disputing his claims, the corporate media willingly kept the story alive by frequently giving Trump their air time and press space.

Today President Obama responded by releasing his long-form birth certificate making a short statement - at left.

Donald Trump answered President Obama's long-form birth certificate release from New Hampshire today by claiming credit for forcing Obama to release his "long form" birth certificate, and declared that the President should "get off his basketball court" and focus on gas prices.

Trump then repeated his new claim that Obama was an underachieving unqualified student who was admitted to the Ivy League universities only through affirmative action. Trump offered no proof for his claim but said he would continue to press the matter as he has the legitimacy of the president's birth certificate.

In GOP politics, attacking racial minorities as the underachieving beneficiaries of affirmative action is a very old move. Sen. Jesse Helms produced the most notorious example, an ad against his black opponent, Harvey Grant, which blasted affirmative action for taking jobs from deserving white people and giving them to minorities.

Let's not pretend for a moment that questioning President Obama's birth certificate or qualifications to attend Ivy League universities isn't steeped in racism. The New Yorker's editor-in-chief and the author of an acclaimed book about Obama's background, published an unusually blunt critique of Trump's "race-baiting" on Wednesday afternoon:

The New Yorker: The one radical thing about Barack Obama is his race, his name. Of course, there is nothing innately radical about being black or having Hussein as middle name; what is radical is that he has those attributes and is sitting in the Oval Office. And even now, more than two years after the fact, this is deeply disturbing to many people, and, at the same time, the easiest way to arouse visceral opposition to him.

Let’s be even plainer: to do what Trump has done (and he is only the latest and loudest and most spectacularly hirsute) is a conscious form of race-baiting, of fear-mongering. And if that makes Donald Trump proud, then what does that say for him?
Additional:

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Texas Leads Nation In Households Ditching Their Landline Phones

In a contest between the traditional landline and the cellphone the cellphone is winning nationwide. People in the US are ditching their landlines to save money and/or because those phones are becoming superfluous. By June of 2010 Texas had the third highest rate (32.5%) in the nation of households ditching their landline phones in favor of a mobile-only lifestyle. Texas also leads in the adoption of smart phones and mobile Internet access. In some metro areas of Texas, such as Dallas County, up to 62% of households can be reached only by calling a mobile phone.

The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) last week released its latest state by state breakdown on the "Wireless Substitution" trend. As of June, 2010 26.6% of US households were wireless only, meaning there was no landline in the house. In some states the numbers were higher than the average and some lower.

Rhode Island and New Jersey had the lowest rates of wireless substitution households at 12.8 percent, while Arkansas had the highest at 35.2 percent and Texas had the third highest household rate at 32.5 percent. The data suggest that economics are the primary driver of the decision to abandon the landline - lower income areas are going cell-only faster than more affluent areas.

CDC wireless surveys are also finding increasing percentages of so-called "cellphone-mostly" households. Cellphone-mostly households are households that do have a land line, but that line is used for FAX, security systems or other and it is rarely or never used to receive incoming calls. The January-June 2010 CDC survey found that 16% of households nationwide that do have a landline receive all or nearly all of their calls on a cellphone. This means that in order to reach 43 per cent of U.S. households as of June 2010, the only practical way to call their cellphone. If this additional statistic is added the number of cell-only households jumps dramatically in some states.

In Texas, 32.5% of all households are wireless only. But the "wireless mostly" number is 20.3% according to the CDC. Combine those numbers and almost 53% of Texas households rely primarily or exclusively on mobile phones. In several states the combined figure approaches or exceeds 50% of the population:
  • Texas: 52.8%
  • Arkansas: 50.9%
  • Mississippi: 49.8%
  • Arizona: 48.1%
  • Nebraska: 47.3%
Metro areas often have even higher cell-only adoption rates than the state as a whole. In Texas, 43.2% of households in Dallas County are wireless only. But the "wireless mostly" number is 17.7% according to the CDC. Combine those numbers and almost 61% of Dallas County households rely primarily or exclusively on mobile phones. The combined figure approaches or exceeds 50% of the population in most metro areas of Texas:
  • Dallas County: Cell-Only (43.2%) + Cell-Mostly (17.7%) = 61.9%
  • Bexar County: Cell-Only (29.1%) + Cell-Mostly (17.7%) = 46.8%
  • El Paso County: Cell-Only (32.8%) + Cell-Mostly (14.8%) = 47.6%
  • Harris County: Cell-Only (32.4%) + Cell-Mostly (22.1%) = 54.5%

The increasing prevalence of cell phone coverage in the U.S., and the consequent increase in the number of people who use their cell phone in place of a landline, makes it difficult to reach target populations by phone for pollsters, political organizations or political candidates.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Plano ISD Council of PTAs Starts Education Funding Petition

The Plano ISD Council of PTAs is circulating an education funding petition for signatures. The Council plans to hand deliver the signed petition to the local offices of Representatives Van Taylor, Jerry Madden and Jodie Laubenberg next Thursday. Annette Maule, Legislative Chair for Plano ISD Council of PTAs, says the Council is extending an open invitation to all who would like to join in the hand delivery of the petition. Click here to sign the petition. (Annette Maule can be contacted at legislative@planopta.org)

To The Honorable Members of the Texas House of Representatives:

We, the voters of Texas, strongly believe that the future of our great state depends on the investment we make today in education. We call on our elected officials in the House of Representatives to take the following urgent actions in support of Texas public education:

  1. Support new revenue source dedicated to education spending.
  2. Close business tax loopholes to finance education as promised in Spring 2006 Special Session.
  3. Find permanent solution to education funding.
  4. Use Economic Stabilization Fund to fully fund education at current biennium level.

We urge you to support the efforts Texas Senate has made to finance public education by actively sourcing new revenues. Education is the most important investment the great state of Texas will ever make, now and forever.

Sincerely,

The Voters of Texas

Click here to sign the petition.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

The GOP Bait And Switch On Social Security And Medicare

The Republican Party endorsed Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) sharply conservative 2012 budget bill when all but four Republicans in the U.S. House voted for and passed the bill before the Easter recess.

Breaking a promise Republicans made during the 2010 mid-term election to "protect Social Security and Medicare" Ryan's budget bill deeply cuts Medicare funding and replaces with a private insurance premium voucher program.

(DCCC Video - Broken Promises left and Constituents Erupt Over House Republicans Voting to End Medicare)

Ryan's Republican budget eliminates Medicare, as it exists today, and guts Medicaid as well as the rest of the government. The budget also gives additional huge tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires plus further big corporate taxpayer handouts to pharma, insurance and petrochemical industries.

The Republican budget explodes deficit spend in the near term and doesn't actually balance revenues and spending until the year 2040.

Collin County's Republican Congressional representatives Sam Johnson, Tx-3rd and Ralph Hall, Tx-4th voted for Ryan's bill.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Billionaires' Tea Party


The Billionaires' Tea Party - Trailer
The Tea Party movement has taken American politics by storm.

But is this truly a populist uprising or one of the greatest feats of propaganda ever seen?

Australian filmmaker Taki Oldham sets out answer this question, finding that behind the movement’s rhetoric of ‘freedom’ versus ‘socialism’ lies a highly co-ordinated network of shadow groups, funded by the likes of billionaire ideologues Charles and David Koch. The video is a NEW DOCUMENTARY tracing how the billionaire Koch brothers are funding the TEA Party movement to create a privatized America.

Are the Tea Party protestors really just pawns in a plan to replace government with a privatized corporate government America? Watch the video and decide for yourself.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

New TDP Ad On The GOP Price Tag

The Texas Democratic Party released a new video with the following statement: "When it comes to the state budget, Republican politics are running roughshod over Texans’ priorities. Watch our new video and get the Democratic take on what’s most important."

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President Obama's Deficit Speech



President Obama's speech, as prepared for delivery:

"What we've been debating here in Washington for the last few weeks will affect your lives in ways that are potentially profound. This debate over budgets and deficits is about more than just numbers on a page, more than just cutting and spending. Its about the kind of future we want. It's about the kind of country we believe in. And that's what I want to talk about today.

"From our first days as a nation, we have put our faith in free markets and free enterprise as the engine of America's wealth and prosperity. More than citizens of any other country, we are rugged individualists, a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government.

"But there has always been another thread running throughout our history – a belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation. We believe, in the words of our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves. And so we've built a strong military to keep us secure, and public schools and universities to educate our citizens. We've laid down railroads and highways to facilitate travel and commerce. We've supported the work of scientists and researchers whose discoveries have saved lives, unleashed repeated technological revolutions, and led to countless new jobs and entire industries. Each of us has benefited from these investments, and we are a more prosperous country as a result.

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Friday, April 8, 2011

House Considers Accounting Maneuver To Slightly Ease School Funding Crisis

The Texas Democratic Party released new video details on HB 1, the state budget bill passed by the Texas House on Sunday.

HB 1 codifies a draconian $164.5 billion 2011-13 budget that cuts $23 billion from 2009-13 spending levels. HB 1 slashes public school spending by nearly $8 billion and cuts Medicaid spending by more than $4 billion.

The deficit was created when 2006 legislative session lawmakers cut state revenue by giving deep business tax cuts.

Upon passage of the HB 1 Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio released a statement that says in part, "Eighty thousand kids are not going to get their scholarships and grant money because of this bill. Forty-three thousand people are going to get kicked out of nursing homes or denied nursing home entrance because of this bill..."

Lawmakers in the Texas Senate have been working on their own version of the budget, but the Senate version cuts only $13 billion from current spending levels to mitigate the cuts to public education and Medicaid. Senate budget-writers propose adding $10 billion state-related revenue through new and increased fees.

Thursday morning State Rep. Rob Orr, R-Burleson, introduced two bills to the House Appropriations Committee that could add several million dollars to the public schools budget over the next two years. These bills providing for some accounting maneuvers to more easily shift money around a couple of state agencies responsible for public school funding:

HB 2646 proposes allowing the School Land Board to transfer at least half of the net revenue it collects from a land trust it oversees to the Available School Fund (ASF), an endowment that puts money directly into public schools in Texas. Orr said that pot of money has risen to more than $2.5 billion in market value and contains more than $1 billion in cash. If that trend continues, the fund could supply the state with an additional $500 million in the next biennium.

HB 2646 requires companion legislation (HJR 109) to put a constitutional amendment on the November 8, 2011 ballot that would allow the General Land Office to distribute revenue directly to the ASF.

The School Land Board (SLB) was established in 1939 by the 46th Legislature to manage the sale and leasing of public lands that fund the Permanent School Fund. The Permanent School Fund (PSF) was established in the state Constitution of 1876, the current charter of Texas law, to fund public eduction using revenues generated from Texas' land and mineral resources. The SLB’s responsibilities include approving land sales, trades and exchanges, and the purchase of land for the PSF. In addition to this, the SLB issues permits, leases and easements for uses of state-owned submerged land. The SLB is just one of nine boards and councils chaired by the Commissioner of the General Land Office. As chairman of nine boards or councils, the Land Commissioner oversees matters that range from state lands and coastal issues to veterans affairs.

The General Land Office of Texas (GLO) manages state lands and mineral right properties, including oil and gas production leases on more than 20 million acres of state land. State lands and mineral right properties include the beaches, bays, estuaries and other submerged lands out to 10.3 miles in the Gulf of Mexico, institutional acreage, grazing lands in West Texas and timber lands in East Texas. Revenue and royalties are distributed to school districts on a per-pupil basis, helping to offset local school property taxes.

The Available School Fund is made up of the money set aside by the state from current or annual revenues for the support of the public school system. There are two major revenue sources for the fund: earnings from the Permanent School Fund managed by the School Land Board and 25 percent of fuel tax receipts. The fund does not receive annual appropriations by the legislature from other general state revenue sources.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Texas Republicans In Dust-Up Over Redistricting

Politico: A bitter, behind-the-scenes fight has broken out among Texas Republicans over redistricting, pitting Rep. Lamar Smith against longtime colleague Rep. Joe Barton.

The dispute is over the makeup of four new congressional districts for the Lone Star State, and centers on the racial balance — including the controversial issue of “bleaching,” or including more white voters in a district — of the new political map for Texas.

GOP Rep. Lamar Smith has taken the position that Hispanic population growth in Texas means that two of Texas' four new U.S. House districts should be majority-minority. Smith has been working with Dem Rep. Henry Cuellar to create a map that includes the new majority-minority districts. This has infuriated fellow Republican Rep. Joe Barton, who insists that at least three if not all four of the new district be drawn (gerrymandered) to favor non-minority Republicans.

Politico's sources indicate Gov. Perry's alleged plan is to skip Department of Justice pre-clearance and go directly to federal court, perhaps hoping for a friendly conservative panel backed by a conservative-leaning Supreme Court. The piece also reports that proposed maps have been circulated among Republicans, but of course, no one's sharing any copies.
Read more at Politico »

For full details on the 2010 Texas Census and redistricting for Texas and Collin Co. read: Redistricting : U.S. Census Bureau Releases 2010 County Level Counts

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Monday, April 4, 2011

President Obama Announces Reelection Bid

It's official: President Barack Obama today announced he will run for reelection in 2012.

The President's 2012 campaign used his 2008 campaign's contact lists to distribute an email and a text message to his 2008 supporters with his announcement. (announcement video left)

By filing papers with the Federal Election Commission, the president can begin fundraising for his 2012 operation.

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House Passes A Budget

Update April 4, 2011 @ 1:02am

House Bill 1, the draconian $164.5 billion 2011-13 budget that cuts $23 billion from 2009-13 spending levels, passed the Texas House Sunday on a preliminary vote of 98 to 49 along party lines. Two Republicans, Aaron Pena and David Simpson, voted against the bill.

House Bill 1 cuts public school spending by nearly $8 billion and cuts Medicaid spending by more than $4 billion. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio released a statement that says in part, "Eighty thousand kids are not going to get their scholarships and grant money because of this bill. Forty-three thousand people are going to get kicked out of nursing homes or denied nursing home entrance because of this bill..." The Center for Public Policy Priorities projects that as many as 189,000+ public education related jobs will be eliminated in Texas. Almost 14,000 public education jobs may be eliminated in Collin Co. Medicaid cuts to nursing homes and other health care providers will most likely result in many nursing home closures.

House Bill 1 taps none of the remaining $6 billion in the state's Rainy Day Fund, but it does include $100 million in new fees. Republicans on the House floor made some adjustments to the version of the bill that passed out of the Appropriations Committee last week. Conservatives stripped family planning funds to fund autism and mental health services for kids. For details on other adjustments made to House Bill 1 on the House floor read this article in the Texas Tribune.

Lawmakers in the Texas Senate have been working on their own version of the budget, but the Senate version cuts about $13 billion to mitigate the cuts to public education and Medicaid. Senate budget-writers propose adding $10 billion state-related revenue through new and increased fees. The spending gap will be major point of contention with House and Senate appointees meet to hammer out the differences in conference committee.

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

The TRUE Story Of The Original Tea Party

The policies advocated by Tea Party Republicans are modern analogs of the British Government's 18th century policies that precipitated the Boston Tea Party. Tax policies that penalize the citizenry while rewarding the corporations like the East India Company were at the root of the Boston Tea Party.

The Koch brothers and other conservative billionaires who head multinational corporations, who fund the the Tea Party movement, today play the part of the East India Company. Thom Hartmann gives the actual history of the original tea party in this video: a movement against the collusion of big business and the political party controlling Parliament in the 1700's.

Thirty new GOP Texas state lawmakers took office this year, promising their constituents they'd cut the fat out of government.

The current $27 billion deficit in the Texas budget is is caused by the Texas legislature giving corporate business massive tax breaks over the last ten years.

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Fixing The Tax Revenue Problem Instead Of Cutting Teachers

Texas will have a persistent $10 billion hole in its budget for years to come unless legislators address it this session, the state’s chief revenue estimator told Senators in Senate Finance Committee meeting on January 31, 2011.

Pressed by Democratic senators on the Finance Committee, John Heleman said the state will have a $10 billion structural deficit in future budgets largely because the business tax has underperformed and the 2006 property tax swap has cost more than expected.

The revised business tax was supposed to bring in $6 billion per year. Instead, it it is generating $4 billion. The cost of the property tax relief is also running about $1 billion per year above expectations.

“That gap is not closing up,” said Heleman, chief revenue estimator for Comptroller Susan Combs.

Republican state leaders have attributed the state’s budget woes to the recession and have dismissed calls to raise taxes to deal with the current budget shortfall, estimated at $15 billion to $27 billion, saying they can cut their way out of that hole.

But the structural deficit means legislators will have to come back in 2013 and beyond to deal with at least another $10 billion hole.

G.O.P. lawmakers in Austin have taken a vow of no new taxes, which is a vow to not fix the business tax revenue problem created by law makers in the 2006 legislative session.

Last week the Texas House began debate on a $164.5 billion budget bill that strips $23 billion from two-year 2011-13 state budget. The budget bill makes the kinds of spending cuts that many Conservative Tea Party lawmakers championed in their 2010 campaigns. Republican lawmakers say voters gave them a huge majority and clear marching orders last November: reduce spending, shrink state government, don't raise taxes. Shrinking state government, as it turns out, includes firing hundreds of thousands of teachers and state employees, taking billions of dollars out of the public school system and weaken the state's safety net for low-income Texans and the elderly.

Some Democratic lawmakers are, however, advocating fixing the business tax revenue side of the equation as stated in the follow press release from State Representative Yvonne Davis.

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House GOP Budget Converts Medicare, Medicaid To Private Insurance Vouchers

Washington (CNN) -- House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, will unveil a highly anticipated 2012 Republican budget next week that proposes dramatic changes to political lightning rods: entitlements.

The plan, to be released Tuesday, calls for a controversial overhaul of Medicare, the health care program for seniors, and imposes deep cuts in Medicaid, which provides health benefits to low-income Americans, according to House Republican sources with knowledge of the proposal.

Starting 10 years from now, in 2021, Americans would no longer enroll in the Medicare program, but instead receive vouchers for private insurance, according to the GOP sources.

Read more »

The New Republic - Medicaid in the Cross Hairs:

The assault on Medicaid is about to begin. GOP sources have told Politico's Jonathan Allen that House Republicans will propose $1 trillion in cuts from the program. Exactly what form those cuts will take is not entirely clear. But a trillion dollars over ten years is serious money and Capitol Hill sources are saying it will likely come from two dramatic changes: Eliminating the Medicaid expansion that takes place under the Affordable Care Act and then converting the entire program into a system of block grants....

[R]olling back the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion would mean taking health insurance away from about 15 million people. That's the official, Congressional Budget Office projection of how many people will get coverage under Medicaid once the Act is fully in place.

As for turning Medicaid into a block grant, here's a quick refresher on what that entails. Right now, Medicaid is an entitlement program. That means the federal government, in partnership with the states, must enroll everybody who meets the program's guidelines. In other words, if millions of additional people become eligible because, say, they lost their job-based insurance in the recession, than the feds and the states have to provide them with coverage and find some way to pay for it. And it can't be spotty coverage, either. By law, Medicaid coverage must be comprehensive.

At least, that's the way it works now. If the law changes and Medicaid becomes a block grant, then every year the federal government would simply give the states a lump sum, set by a fixed formula, and let the states make the most of it.

The GOP likes to trumpet block grant programs as providing maximum flexibility for states. What this would actually do is take away states' ability to provide healthcare in economic downturns, like the one we're still in the middle of. Republican governors would be fine with that, they'd take the flexibility and make out like bandits, just like Gov. Rick Perry, who has advocated that Texas drop out of Medicare. Who will hurt the most are the primary beneficiaries of the program, the elderly and the disabled, including millions of children.

From Jobsanger Blog: "Exposing 10 Republican Economic Lies"

LIE -- Social Security is going broke because of the influx of the "baby boomers" and soon won't be able to meet its obligations, and future generations will not have any Social Security at all.

TRUTH -- Social Security is not in any immediate danger. The program has the funds to pay full benefits to all its recipients through 2037, and even after that date it could pay 75-80% far into the future -- and that is if nothing is done. One small tweak, raising the cap on income on which the FICA tax is paid, would make the program able to pay full benefits to all recipients for many, many more decades. There is NO REASON to cut benefits or raise the retirement age.

LIE -- The budget can be balanced by cutting programs that help ordinary Americans (like Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, Planned Parenthood, the EPA, unemployment insurance, etc.).

TRUTH -- All of these programs could be abolished and the budget would still not be balanced. But the budget could be balanced by stopping both unnecessary wars, cutting the Defense Department budget, eliminating corporate subsidies, and making the rich and the corporations pay their fair share of taxes.

The Republicans have to tell these lies because, as I said, no one would ever vote for them if they told the truth. But we as citizens do not have to believe those lies. Their misguided and wrong-headed policies have caused the worst economic disaster this country has experienced since the Great Depression (which was also caused by the same Republican policies).

It is time to stand up and tell them no more, and a good time to do that will be at the ballot box in 2012. We must boot them from power, and then put pressure of the far too-timid Democrats to do the right thing. Then we must hope our grandchildren don't fall for the same lies in another 70-80 years.

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