Monday, February 15, 2016
Why I Give Liberals and Other Minions a Hard Time
I spent two years on the TxDOT Public Transportation Advisory Committee. We changed the funding formula for the distribution of federal transit dollars to make it more equitable for rural areas that are NOT around Austin and Houston. Austin and Houston are where we keep our liberals. They like to congregate around big cities. Big city liberal lobbyists are quite formidable and had been successful at steering federal transit dollars to their areas to the detriment of more conservative rurals area elsewhere in our vast State of Texas. I showed the House transportation committee a graph of how much money each rural transit district was receiving and then pointed out that the two men who had testified that the status quo must be maintained were lobbyists representing the transit companies who received the appropriations represented by the two bars on the funding distribution graph that looked like the twin towers standing in a corn field.
That got a laugh from the Republicans on the committee. And then the TxDOT commissioner stood up after me and called the two of them "liars". It was very gratifying. It was a bloody fight against entrenched and experienced political infighters, but with the help of two hard-nosed conservatives on the commission, we got the funding formula rewritten and a plan in place that made the distribution reflect population needs rather than who got to the trough first with the best lobbyists. Me and my chart were universally hated.
It certainly made the distribution of funds fair and effective for small towns and rural areas not associated with Democrat strongholds. It's one of the reasons why I have had problems with Democrats. My little old people I worked with were stranded. I lived in the part of the state with the highest density and percentage of elderly and disabled without access to transportation. One in five adult East Texans at the time had no reliable access to transportation and were, in effect, stranded. We helped stop that. Two of my chief allies in the effort was a taxi company owner named Jamal Mohrer and a savvy city bus company director named Norman Schenck.
With the tremendous and invaluable help of private transportation providers like Jamal, visionary public transit directors like Norman, church groups, nonprofits, sturdy East Texans who care about old people and disadvantaged families, people with disabilities, and a pair of unusually bipartisan Austin liberals experienced in the ways of government, we helped land a federal earmark for an after hours home-from-work and extended bus hours program to benefit transportation challenged families and individuals with disabilities who worked and/or wanted to participate more fully in local life. The partnership between the private cab company and Tyler Transit that came out of it was a wonderful example of what could be accomplished when a diverse stakeholder group puts aside political ideology and solves problems. Unfortunately, I didn't remain there long enough to see the program survive the damage done when aggressively left-leaning members of our local stake-holders group piled on the city council about "rights" and entitlements and completely missed the far more effective argument that without transportation, people who can't drive can't work and can't hope to break free of dependence on entitlements. It's an important argument that my liberal friends habitually missed when they were busily chaining themselves to light poles in front of the governor's mansion and to downtown buses in Austin and Houston which are already liberal towns. Which brings me to today.
In this current election cycle, we conservatives need to broaden our stakeholder group if we want to get things done (i.e. elect a sane person to the highest office in the land). If we don't we're doomed and speaking of doomed. Sadly, Donald Trump is the only "Republican" who is doing this particularly well, though the folk he is drawing unto himself are not the sharpest pencils in the desk drawer. Ben Carson is also trying to do that, but with less success. Personally, I think that the GOP bosses are terrified of someone like Carson - you know, someone honest and incorruptible. To the country club GOP leadership, and honest man is the last thing this country needs. Honest men are notoriously difficult to "deal" with. So the only one appealing to the broad tent successful is a pseudo-conservative flim flam man with a bad combover. God help us (and I'm not being flip about that).
Left and right agree on a surprising number of things, but disagree primarily on method. When you figure out what you all agree on and focus on that, it becomes considerably easier to come up with a way to make it work. Ronald Reagan had a striking ability for articulating the problem and convincing people that there were rational solutions to those problems.
And, I have found that if you do make a solution work it infuriates the good old boys of both political stripes who depend on no one meddling with their "system". I've seen the system at work. It is designed to maintain the power and profitability of the political incumbent. A dear friend of mine said the reason he wanted the government to managed things like transit was because they don't run out of money - they can just take more from our taxes, he said. Bless his heart, this man, with a PhD to his credit, believed that the government was trustworthy because, as he pointed out, the government doesn't make a profit (as though making a profit were evil).
Dr. Bob was wrong about the government not being a profit-making concern, though. I mean when is the last time you met a poor elected official. The government make profit in two ways - directly through graft and indirectly through the accumulation of power and power always equals cash, whether you are writing the checks for those wild parties in Vegas or the taxpayer is writing them. The closer we keep our money to the local level, the more effectively we can manage it and the more efficiently we can address our community's problems. It's harder work and takes effort to get people involved. I did thousands of hours of free work or work that my nonprofit paid me to do in the interest of their clients.
East Texas had 20% of its citizens without transportation in rural areas. So we worked very hard and got our transit budget tripled. A lot of people helped make it happen, both Democrats and Republicans and people who'd never participated in anything political before. My great concern is that we too often spend our teaching time trying to indoctrinate the new generation into one party's system for doing things. How much better would it be if parents and teachers were to teach our kids how to work with their legislators and with stakeholder groups without reference to politics If we brain-wash our kids, teach them to parrot an ideology; to regurgitate canned answers a'la Bernie Sanders rather than to seek for them on their own, then we wind up raising a generation of something worse than yuppies.
We're raising minions, capable of following a charismatic leader without critical thinking and that frightens me. I first wrote that last sentence years ago - long before Donald Trump came along as a socialist in Republican's clothing. Well before the Despicable Me series hit the movies. I was cruising through some old blog drafts and came upon this piece. It struck me that we are seeing in this election cycle, the consequences of teaching ideology rather than critical thinking.
I'm on the track to leaving this planet in the next couple or three decades. I just hate to leave behind a culture that, thanks to our failure to pay attention to educating our kids and ourselves, is on track to becoming the worst of Orwell and Huxley's dystopian nightmare futures. If you'd told me when I first started on this piece that in 2016 we'd have a shifty strip club owner and reality TV star and an open socialist vying for the office of President of the United States back then, I'd have laughed at you.
Not so funny, now though, huh?
Just one man's opinion.
Tom King © 2016