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The Liberty Blog

Double Trouble

OPINION/EDITORIAL
Posted: 5/23/16

Bernie Sanders proposes we increase the federal minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $15.00. A professed socialist, Sanders feels doubling our current “starvation wage” would aid “struggling workers.”

Is he right? Let’s examine both arguments.

Argument #1: Entry-level workers earn a “starvation wage”

Thankfully, in 2015, most entry-level workers received some form of non-hourly bonus pay, tips, or overtime. Each month pet shampooers take home $1,594, amusement park attendants $1,663, and farm workers $1,670. All earn more than $19,000 per annum. (Houston Chronicle).

People of good conscience agree it’s tough to live on such a limited budget. We feel compassion when fellow Americans must dedicate 40% of each paycheck to rent and utilities. Nevertheless, a look at recent history keeps the situation in context. In 1989, the minimum wage was $3.35 per hour. Entry-level workers earned less than $7,000 per year – or $13,500 in today’s dollars. If $19,000 is really a “starvation wage,” how did anyone survive the 80s? 

Today’s minimum wage and entry-level workers do struggle, but they struggle to afford Netflix, video games, jewelry, Nike shoes, and cable TV. These workers’ standard of living differs radically from the portraits of deprivation that progressive activists peddle. In 2005, the typical minimum-wage-earning household owned a car and enjoyed air conditioning. Today, the average entry-level worker has at least one color television, subscribes to cable or satellite TV, and owns a smartphone. The majority of poor households have an Xbox or PlayStation; their kitchens contain refrigerators, ovens, stoves, and microwaves. Most own washing machines (83%), clothes dryers (79%), and ceiling fans (70%). Low-income Americans are not starving; to the contrary, most are overweight. Wages are inversely related to obesity– meaning low-wage workers exhibit higher body-mass index (BMI) and greater incidence of corpulence and Type 2 Diabetes. (Kim & Leigh, 2010). To find widespread starvation, look to socialist Venezuela.

Argument #2: Doubling the minimum wage helps poor workers

Doubling the minimum wage will destroy millions of entry-level jobs, tempt Americans to drop out of school, and exacerbate the culture of dependency. Mr. Sanders’ idea will harm many more poor workers than it will help.

The Law of Supply and Demand says increasing the minimum wage nearly always eliminates jobs. Studying Economics at Harvard, I learned: when a wage floor is above market equilibrium, the quantity of labor supplied exceeds the quantity demanded. This creates unemployment. To quote Professor Mankiw, “When a minimum wage law forces labor prices above the level where supply and demand balance, it creates a surplus that disproportionately impacts the least skilled and least experienced members of the labor force.” Every first year Econ student knows “too many workers chasing too few jobs” yields an unemployment crisis. While increasing the minimum wage raises the income of those workers who keep their jobs, it slashes the income of men and women who lose or cannot find jobs, with the greatest burden falling on low-skilled workers.

When the government increases labor costs, some firms become unprofitable, shrink, or close. Unscrupulous outfits move jobs offshore or hire undocumented immigrants paid less than the legal minimum. The number of jobs destroyed depends on the magnitude of the wage increase: a small rise eliminates just a few jobs, a larger increase kills millions. The CBO asserts a $10 minimum wage would shrink our workforce by 500,000 jobs. A $12 minimum would eliminate 1.3 million. The number destroyed by a 105% wage increase would be colossal – probably more than 3.4 million! Even the liberal Washington Post admits, “a $15 minimum —more than double the current federal level — would likely throw many, many people out of work.”

In addition to depressing the quantity of labor demanded, wage hikes increase the quantity supplied. If we double the minimum wage, many high school and college students will quit school to pursue $15/ hour employment. These dropouts tend to displace low-skilled workers, who often become “permanently unemployed.”

For argument’s sake, let’s assume doubling the minimum wage won’t destroy millions of jobs. Even in that fantasy world, Sanders’ plan can’t produce the effect he imagines.  Less than 35% of minimum-wage earners support families living below the poverty line; more are middle- and upper-class teens working part time. While these kids would love to see their wages double, it will not help them escape poverty or avoid starvation.

Americans without marketable skills benefit when companies can hire them cheaply and train them. Their experience and skill level grows, opening the door to more lucrative jobs. If companies must pay $15 per hour, few will hire untrained workers.

Simply put, we cannot afford to surrender 3.4 million jobs. The number of Americans “not in the labor force” has already surpassed record levels. Adding millions more to the welfare rolls weakens our nation, and the consequences for low-skilled workers are catastrophic. The evidence is clear: when we lose jobs, we lose hope. A man who’s employed, even at minimum wage, has responsibilities. He has dignity. As a Wal-Mart corporate executive, I met several store managers who started as minimum-wage workers and rose up through the ranks. A woman with an entry-level job can work hard, show initiative, and be promoted. A man earning minimum wage today can get a raise tomorrow. But people on welfare will never be promoted. Tragically, millions of Americans have become “unemployable” – having sat out of the workforce for so long, their skills are obsolete. Many laid off workers wreck their futures by making bad lifestyle choices. All too often, a man with no job responsibilities wastes his life in drugs and drink. Unable to secure legitimate income, some resort to illegal channels. Double the minimum wage and millions will fall idle, despair, and succumb to the temptations of substance abuse and crime (CNN Money, 2013). As Princeton economics professor Alan Krueger, a progressive democrat, has warned: “the push for a nationwide $15 minimum wage strikes me as a risk not worth taking.”

Doubling the minimum wage is a terrible, dangerous idea. Let’s create good jobs instead.

 

Submitted by Catherine O’Gorman Barranco
A.B. (Economics, Harvard), M.Phil (Economics, Oxford)

 

Let’s Talk About the Republican Party Platform

OPINION/EDITORIAL
Posted: 7/27/15

The best place to start a discussion about the party platform is to define it. I went to Merriam Webster's.  “A political party platform is a list of the values and actions which are supported by the members of the political party, in order to appeal to the general public, for the ultimate purpose of garnering the general public's support and votes about complicated topics or issues.”

In other words, the platform informs the public about stances on issues in order to convert new people to them as rallying points. A party platform is not, nor should it be, Martin Luther’s 95 theses. A platform is also not a litmus test to keep others out. If it is used to chase people away, we will lose because we know political parties that aim for inclusion perform well while parties that promote narrow ideologies attract only the support of the insiders.

Others think a party platform tells elected officials what to do – what the governed have agreed to – they think it’s a contract. It isn’t. Most elected officials never intended to adhere to it – and how could they when planks within it are contradictory?

Even though it is not yet time to send up written resolutions, the Republican Party of Texas has begun the process of determining how the platform should be constructed, perhaps because Chairman Tom Mechler saw the long document from 2012 double in size to a 40-page monstrosity of conflicting stances in 2014.

Need an example of contradiction? The platform states the Republican Party’s number one goal should be to limit the expanse of government power before going on to include about fifty planks, many of which call for laws to be written that will increase government control over individual citizens.

We in Bexar Republican Liberty Caucus applaud the Chairman for taking a closer look at the platform’s structure, and we ask other Republicans to consider helping to build a platform on the items that bring us together into the big tent.

 

Let's Talk About Those 28 Classified Pages

OPINION/EDITORIAL
Posted: 6/22/15

The "war on terror" will soon be 14 years old and, despite trillions of dollars spent and more than a million lives extinguished, it looks like a war without an end.

According to Kentucky Republican Congressman Thomas Massie, Congress and the American people are executing that war without vital information found in 28 classified pages of a 2002 Congressional intelligence inquiry—pages that outline foreign government ties to the 9/11 hijackers and are said to implicate U.S. "ally" Saudi Arabia.

Congressmen Thomas Massie has read the 28 pages and described them as "shocking." He said, "I had to stop every couple pages and...try to rearrange my understanding of history."

Speaking at a recent press conference introducing a Senate bill to compel President Obama to declassify the 28 pages, Massie said, "Some of the best intelligence we have is in these 28 pages and most of our colleagues in the House have not read them, yet they're pretending to be informed."

Neither John Cornyn nor Ted Cruz has cosponsored that Senate bill (S.1471), which was introduced by Rand Paul. Of the several Bexar County House representatives, only Democrat Lloyd Doggett has stepped up to cosponsor H.Res.14, a similar piece of legislation in the House.

After repeated questioning from a Bexar County RLC member that spanned months, Congressman Lamar Smith's staff finally admitted their boss hadn't read the 28 pages—which is particularly disappointing considering Smith sits on the Homeland Security Committee.

The growing movement to declassify the 28 pages is bipartisan in its sponsorship on Capitol Hill and in its support among the American people. In the interest of transparency and helping the American people reach informed conclusions about the war on terror, the Bexar County Republican Liberty Caucus calls on all Texas legislators to read the 28 pages and to help release them.

For more on this critical issue, including guidance on contacting legislators to build support for the declassification effort, visit 28Pages.org.

 

Let's Talk About Campus Carry

OPINION/EDITORIAL
Posted: 5/27/15

Senate Bill 11 is still making its way through the houses of the Texas Legislation this session with so much misinformation that it warrants some discussion. Just recently, one college professor I spoke to about the proposed law became almost hysterical. He said he didn't want all those teenagers on his campus running around with guns. He didn't want to hear that his reasoning didn't even vaguely resemble the law under consideration.

SB11 addresses allowing licensed CHL holders to carry on campus. In Texas that means 21-year-old or older, or active military, who establish the residency requirement, pass a background check for criminal activity (more than a Class C misdemeanor) or psychiatric treatment, who have taken the class, passed the written test, demonstrated handgun proficiency, and paid for their license to carry a handgun concealed on campus. That did not include a bunch of teenagers wielding AK47's by my understanding.

Why might a non-criminal adult want to carry on a campus?

Most Texans have the UT of Austin massacre somewhere in their mind, but that incident was in 1966. A look at the last 15 years in the United States shows 21 campus gun incidents that resulted in more than one death or injury and did not include campus police. Those 21 incidents resulted in 81 deaths and 92 injuries that could have been mitigated if the people on campus could have been armed.

Now some campus police commanders have said that might result in more single-incident occurrences of gun shots on campus as potential sexual assault victims protect themselves by shooting. I, personally, do not see the downside of that and will be quite happy to have a decrease in the number of successful sexual assaults on Texas college campuses. But that's a different blog.

If you have a few minutes, call your representatives and senators to let them know you support making college students who have a CHL not be sitting ducks on our campuses.

 

Let's Talk About Indebtedness

OPINION/EDITORIAL
Posted: 5/26/15

Car loans, student loans, mortgage payments, credit card debt, these are all things almost every American household juggles each month to pay. Very few of us live without some form of indebtedness, and we most likely all know at least a few people who have had to declare bankruptcy at some time.

If you’re one of the people struggling to meet your own debts, this blog post is going to stress you even more. You see, you don’t just owe your personal debts. Each one of us shares some of the responsibility for public debt as well. As of May 19, 2015, the federal debt per person is more than $56,000. (So if you are a family of four, multiply that by four.)

However, public debt isn’t just Federal. Residents of San Antonio each owe more than $7,100 because the city is more than $9 billion in debt.  Without exact resident numbers and debt for Bexar County, all that I can say is the County budget included debt service in 2014-2015 of $125.8 Million. That’s what it takes to keep Bexar County current on what it owes, not to pay it off.

The more debt a country, county or city holds, the less money it's able to put away in savings or to reinvest  in itself. We have been asked time after time to “invest” in our city, county or school district by passing bonds, but each bond puts us more in debt. The repayment of those debts and interest rates on them make it even more difficult to put money aside for emergencies which results in more need to borrow. It’s a vicious circle.

Worse than the circular reasoning is the idea that we can get what we want now and pass on the debt to the next generation. Sometimes families have to say, no; we cannot afford that right now. Additionally, many of these emergency and building bonds aren’t really emergencies. They come about because officials have made poor judgements in the past and because they have not made plans to save for obvious future needs. There’s an old saying that applies - poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.

It is time for voters to learn to say no too. It is time for voters who are asked to pass this city bond or that school district bond because “it’s for the children” to realize that they are putting chains of indebtedness on those same children. It is also time to pay better attention to who we choose to represent us at every level of government. Let’s try to get some who know how to plan for the future instead of continuing to increase the debt.

 

Let’s Talk about Gay Marriage

OPINION/EDITORIAL
Posted: 5/16/15

Some basic principles must be in play before a society can be defined as free. One of those is that every person is treated equally under the law. No one should be above the law, and no citizen or group of citizens should be singled out from being protected by that law.

Equality is not an easy principle and was one of the root causes of the Civil War when the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, emancipated the slaves. So when Liberty Republicans hear “How can you call yourself a Republican and support gay marriage?!” that is doubly puzzling. The correct response should be “How can you stand against equal application of law and call yourself a Republican?”

The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution makes it clear that if there is a law, it must apply equally to all American citizens. The Liberty view of marriage, then, is either stop having the government license marriage, allowing each religion to define it as they see fit (meeting all other laws that apply as to age of consent), or apply marriage laws equally to all adult citizens regardless of factors like gender.

Liberty Republicans generally believe each religion should be free---as assured by the First Amendment---to marry or not marry a couple, regardless of race or gender.

Now, since very few discussions of gay marriage or freedom of religion can take place without talking about it, Liberty Republicans oppose non-discrimination laws that prevent people from practicing their religion and following their conscience freely. In that, we frequently run afoul of people who ask us if that stance would have allowed continued discrimination of races during the Civil Rights era. (Note, Civil Rights laws were another Republican-led crusade.) 

There I would point out that cities, school districts, and states had laws that segregated people by race. There's a difference between a public institution practicing discriminatory policies in our names, and an individual or private business doing so with their own property. If Joe Smith wants to have a private lunch room that does not serve blacks, or women, or gays – if Joe Smith did not receive any state or government funding – then he should be allowed to have his bigoted lunchroom.

I just hope he would post his policy in his store front window, so I could be sure not to spend my money there.

 

Let’s Talk About Property Taxes

OPINION/EDITORIAL
Posted: 5/5/15

Sticker shock is what thousands of Bexar County homeowners felt as they opened their 2015 Notice of Appraised Value. While the county politicians pretend they did not raise taxes, the increase in appraised values of homes is in fact a tax increase. In some cases, that increased value is more than ten percent.

But I use the term “homeowner” loosely.

The right to own property is a cornerstone of any free society, but do we actually own our property? City ordinances determine how many pets you can have, where and what you can build on your property, how many and what kind of poultry you can raise. Try not mowing, you’ll see what power the city has.

Cities aren’t the only entities taking away private property rights. The county, school district, river authority, health system, and college district are slicing away too. Consider this, even if you owed nothing to any bank for your place, you still have to pay property taxes or you lose your home. Lose, as in, government authorities will seize it, throw you out, and auction it.

Homeowners also lose their homes when the city decides it needs it for “public projects.” People who live outside of some of these tax districts lose their right of refusal when the city annexes their areas.

Most of us purchase homes for a sense of security. We purchase them with money that we earn through jobs or investments. That money is taxed. In effect, property taxes are additional taxes on what you purchased with money that was already taxed.

Government officials know this and that’s why they freeze taxes when the owner hits retirement age. They know too many people on fixed incomes cannot afford the extra ten percent tax raising your home value adds. They think this makes them good guys, but what about younger families with children who are barely getting by? Are they not entitled to the American Dream?

Bexar County and the other taxing entities are all banking on doing this because they don’t think the majority will protest. Every single one of you reading this should. Turn over the form, fill it out and send it in. Or go on-line and E-file. Make them prove their assessment and show them that you know what they are doing.

 

See also:

Property Tax Remedies
http://comptroller.texas.gov/taxinfo/proptax

Notice of Protest Form
http://comptroller.texas.gov/taxinfo/taxforms/50-132.pdf

Hearing Request Form
http://comptroller.texas.gov/taxinfo/taxforms/50-131.pdf

 

Let's Talk About City Charter Amendments

OPINION/EDITORIAL
Posted: 4/28/15

Voters in San Antonio have three Charter Amendments to consider when early voting in the May 9 election begins on April 27. Charter Amendment One will build a roadblock to the city’s ability to make a light rail system without bringing it to the people for a vote; Charter Amendment Two deals with paying the council members and mayor; and Charter Amendment Three deals with how empty council seats will be handled in the future.

Whatever your personal view of a light rail system, the voters have made it clear three times that they do not want city funds to go toward building it. This charter amendment figuratively shouts of being tired of the entire discussion by making it impossible for the city to alter the roads, grant right-of-ways, or pass bonds for a light rail system without bringing it back during an election.  It would take a stone-deaf city council or employee to want to try again any time soon. We, in the Liberty Caucus, hear you! N-O means NO! There will be some who don’t like this, but they’d be foolhardy to fight for something when the people have their ears flat and their feet dug in.

The second charter amendment deals with changing the structure of the city government on a fundamental level. The Mayor of San Antonio and Council Members will no longer be volunteers if this passes. Instead the council will receive a salary based on the median income for residents, and the Mayor will get that plus thirty-five percent. A person’s kneejerk reaction might be to say no to this based on the idea that it saves the city money, but Liberty people believe in fairness. Because over time the council’s responsibilities have grown to where they spend more than forty hours a week doing the job, we say a worker should be paid. The city can find the money in the budget by cutting unessential items. Let’s hope that this opens the door for people who don’t have the financial backing of special interest groups to represent us on the council.

Charter Amendment three will ensure that council positions that become vacant – that have 120 days remaining before an election – will be filled by the people in that district during a special election. Elected representation…who opposes that? For the record, not us!

 

Let's Talk About Ballot Initiatives in San Antonio

OPINION/EDITORIAL
Posted: 4/20/15

Early voting in May 9 city elections is starting April 27. With so many cities and so many candidates, we Liberty folks want to point out that there are other issues on the ballot too - issues that affect local liberty.

For example, the City of San Antonio wants us to vote on allowing them to create an Edwards Aquifer Protection Venue Project which includes additional sales taxes for five years. So first thing to note, this raises taxes. Yes, it supposedly has a time limit, but the number of times these additional taxes actually end of going away once instituted – abysmally low.

Here's how the proposition is described: Revenue from the (.0125) sales tax would be used to finance, fully develop and implement the Edwards Aquifer Protection Venue Project to preserve open space and protect the Edwards Aquifer water supply. It is designed to earmark 100 million dollars of sales tax revenue for water protection and land preservation and acquisition.

This initiative is closely tied to the second proposition. If approved, Prop 2 earmarks 80 million dollars of sales tax revenue to continue building the Howard W. Peak Greenway Trail system. That includes areas where the city has already said it is willing to use eminent domain to take other people's property - for the good of the many.

Most Liberty people will agree that neighbors who want to tell you what to do with your property, whether it's for your own good or the good of the community, are uncomfortable neighbors! AND governments who want come in and take over land because they can use it better are uncomfortable governments.

We believe in property rights. We also believe in holding taxes as low as possible, not increasing them.

 

Let's Talk about Stupid Bills

OPINION/EDITORIAL
Posted: 3/18/15

The Liberty Blog was not planning to go point by point evaluating more than 3,000 proposed Bills in the Texas Lege this session. In writing about over-regulation last time, we had hoped to show that we support fewer, not more, laws. Then Republican Representative from Dallas, Jason Villalba, filed what is arguably the worst, most Fascist, piece of legislation we could imagine.

Villalba, bless his heart, filed HB2918 to criminalize Texans First Amendment rights. I say that because the Supreme Court has already ruled that filming the police is a First Amendment right, so you might think that Villalba might know that, or have Googled it, or even have a staff member who looks this kind of thing up for him if he's too busy to, say, have read the Constitution.

To be clear, Villalba's proposed HB2918 calls for the criminalization of anyone videotaping the police while they are working. This, by the way, comes about because various citizen Cop Block organizations and various witnesses to official abuse have used cameras as a way to demonstrate many police officers behaving badly. Instead of trying to get police to follow the law, Villalba's solution is to help hide their wrong-doings.

This travesty of a Bill even tries to define what Press is – in making an exception for them. Had Villalba an inkling of sense, he might have realized that that's another no-no. Every press organization started somewhere. His Bill does not recognize that. But, I digress. There is so much wrong with this Bill that it's hard not to veer off on the many tangents. For another example, videocameras in stores could be running while police are there. Oops, Mr. Business owner, Villalba has criminalized you!

If you are one of the many Texans who took to Facebook and Twitter to ask Rep. Villalba what he was thinking, you might want to check. He has been liberally blocking citizens who have objected to his terrible Bill because why should he listen to the people? Is this really someone you would want representing you?

For the record, the Liberty Caucus strongly opposes HB2918. We join many in encouraging his constituents in recalling him, or at least making sure this is his only term of office.

 

Let's Talk About Over-Regulation

OPINION/EDITORIAL
Posted: 3/7/15

"One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws," said writer Ayn Rand. It's not a new idea, Sun Tzu said something similar, and so did Benjamin Franklin.

As a country, we have become overburdened by laws, and the great state of Texas is piling on new laws every legislative session. The 2011 session of the Texas legislatures passed about 1,500 new laws; in 2013, they passed 1,437. I cannot find a definitive answer for how many laws are on the books. And when you add the federal laws we fall under – well, more than 40,000 new federal laws were passed in just the past five years.

So when I single out Rep. Will Metcalf, House District 16 from Montgomery County, and his proposed law, HB 2309, realize that it is just one of too many chains on our liberty. This bill calls for regulation of roadside vendors or solicitors. Metcalf wants county commissioners to be able to require every farmer selling a truck full of watermelons or peaches to ask permission and buy a license.

Metcalf's bill would be part of the transportation code and says it's for public safety, but that's the cry of every tyrant. They are all trying to pass bills "for our own good." Keep in mind, please, that most incorporated areas already have ordinances in place. This bill would make sure every roadside stand, every truck, heck – even Cub Scouts and volunteer fire departments passing the boot – would be required to obtain a license first.

So much for moving into unincorporated areas to escape some of the regulatory burden.

HB2309 calls for this restriction on unincorporated areas, public highways and roads, in the right-of-ways, and even in parking lots. Bye-bye farmers markets. This will hurt small farmers. Is it a power grab? Would it make you feel safer?

The Bexar Republican Liberty Caucus opposes all unnecessary restrictions on freedom. We also request that legislators who are proposing new laws first find at least ten old laws that can be stricken from the books.

 

National Security Resolution

RESOLUTION
Posted: 2/25/15

WHEREAS the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance of the American public represents a gross breach of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution;

WHEREAS Thomas Jefferson said, "The true barriers of our liberty in this country are our State governments";

BE IT RESOLVED that the Bexar County Republican Liberty Caucus urges the Texas legislature and governor to enact the 4th Amendment Protection Act (model legislation from the 10th Amendment Center) or similar legislation that

  • Bans Texas from providing material support or resources to warrantless federal spying programs
  • Bars the use of data obtained without a warrant in Texas courts
  • Includes other measures to thwart unconstitutional NSA surveillance.

 

Let’s Talk About Minimum Wage

OPINION/EDITORIAL
Posted: 2/25/15

San Antonio representative from House District 116, Trey Martinez Fischer, has sponsored a Bill calling for Texas minimum wage to be raised to $10.10. Let’s talk about why that is a bad idea that will hurt the people it is most designed to help. Raising minimum wage always sounds good to those who are currently employed at minimum wage. However the good it may do them is short term at best.

Instead of a “one-size-fits-all” solution like a government mandated pay increase, if the worker is skilled and knowledgeable, he or she should ask for a raise. If the employer does not give it, the employee should look for another job with a company that values hard work and diligence. Since it costs employers money to find and train replacements – it could be that the employee isn’t as great at the job as they think they are. Forcing the employer to give pay raises to marginal employees results in fewer employees or more automation.

Interestingly enough, arguments pro and con on government interference on setting minimum wage can  be found in government documents. At a National level, the U.S. Department of Labor likes the idea and the Congressional Budget Office foresees negative consequences. Do some employers underpay their workers? Yes. Should the government regulate that? No.

No government decree makes an employee worth more to an employer, only increased productivity does. Raising the minimum standard means employers are forced to pay people with no work experience more than they are worth. This will mean fewer people will ever get a chance to start building a work history. Look at the number of restaurants that are moving toward ordering stations at tables and pay kiosks, even grocery stores are adding these check out features. These are the cost effective replacements for unskilled workers after government decreed health care benefits. If the minimum wage is raised, you can expect more automation, not more employees.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that as many as 500,000 minimum wage jobs will be cut because of a raise to $10.10 for minimum wage. Might not seem like much, but look at what else the CBO predicts. Higher minimum wage means higher prices for every shopper or patron at a restaurant. Higher prices hurt everyone on social security and everyone whose current income is already stretched to the limit. What may seem like a nice thing to do for people in minimum wage jobs will have negative unintended consequences on our most economically fragile residents.

The Bexar RLC recognizes this as a polarizing issue but opposes this proposed legislation by Rep. Martinez Fischer as bad for the businesses, bad for seniors, and bad for the future workers who will need entry level positions.

 

Let’s talk about gun rights

OPINION/EDITORIAL
Posted: 2/17/15

General opinion would have you believe Texas is a gun-friendly state, but that's a bald-faced lie. Texas is among the more restrictive states when it comes to allowing residents to carry hand guns, openly or licensed. In fact, Texas falls into a small group of states that do not allow open carry (New York, Illinois, California, Florida, South Carolina, and D.C.).

How did Texas end up in such nefarious company? Carpet baggers. After the Civil War, the government foisted on Texans didn't want to make it easy for Texans to fight against new policies. After that group was out of office, the next bunch didn't want former slaves to be able to be armed.

How did these policies persevere for so long? Well, for one thing, politicians told residents that allowing more gun rights would bring increased crime. That, patriots, is another bald-faced lie. Thirty-one states already have unlicensed open carry with none of the problems the fear-mongers want you to believe. No increase in crime – the exact opposite in some of the most recently converted states. For example, Arizona switched in 2010, and the murder rate has fallen from 6.4 to 5.4 per 100,000 annually.

Only five other states make U.S. citizens get a license to open carry. That's the role models some lawmakers want to adopt because, I don't know, they might be influenced by a certain national gun association that makes a bunch of money training people to teach Texans how to exercise a right that citizens of 31 other states enjoy at no cost.

This issue should not be infringed by fear-mongers. Texans should have as much right as the majority of citizens from other states. We shouldn't have to beg and compromise to get them.

Right now, Texas has one of the most restrictive and expensive licensing laws in the nation. The Texas RLC and Bexar RLC support the non-partisan group Open Carry Texas as it advocates what is known as Constitutional Carry. We ask you to join us by calling your state representative or senator about this. Ask them if they are planning to support your rights, or if they think Texans are less reliable than the people of other states.

 

Let's Talk About Romeo and Juliet

OPINION/EDITORIAL
Posted: 2/8/15

Liberty-minded people like equal protection of the law applied regardless of other factors, so when the state legislature comes up with exemptions, we pay attention. For example, about 30 years ago the state passed an exemption to the statutory rape law that says it is a legal defense to laws against statutory rape if the person who would otherwise be facing charges is within three years of age as the minor.

This is known as the Romeo and Juliette exemption. Named after the young lovers in William Shakespeare’s most famous play, the exception prevents serious criminal charges against teenagers who engage in consensual sex with others close to their own age.

In Texas, the law applies to opposite sex couples where one is a minor who 14, 15, 16, or 17, and the other is three or fewer years older than the minor. Okay. Good exception. It ensures that angry parents of young couples can’t have the 15 year old charged with rape of the 14 year old when they were in it together. (None of this applies if it is forced.)

But here’s the problem, why is this only opposite sex couples? If Bobby is a 15 year old boy and experiencing sex with a willing and equally curious Joe who is 14, why is the offense greater than if Bobbie is a girl? They both fall into the age exception. They are both caught in a consensual act.

Statutory rape laws, and rape laws in general, can be filled with difficult emotional overtones. Rape is a very personal crime, and it can be devastating to the victim when he/she is questioned in a court room full of people. One would hope that no parent wants to subject their child to cross examination when the acts were mutually agreed upon – and Mom and Dad are (probably) not going to be pleased about the sex regardless of the genders involved.

The parents of gay teens have asked Texas lawmakers to give their children the same legal protection as heterosexuals when it comes to prosecuting sex crimes. Some people, especially some other Republicans, said including all teens in the exemption extends gay rights.

The Log Cabin Republicans say "so what if it does?" These are kids. The exemption to the law was passed because they are kids, and kids have been known to do dumb things. When they are doing dumb things with each other consensually, we don’t really think it matters whether they are being heterosexually or homosexually dumb. Changing this statute helps provide more equal protection under the law and prevents the young teenaged boy from being branded a sexual predator forever.

Please, when this comes up in Austin during the 84th session, let your representative or senator know that you support it because you support equal protection under the law.

 

Let's Talk About Political Activism

OPINION/EDITORIAL
Posted: 1/28/15

Many of us can pinpoint the exact moment when we "woke up" to our responsibilities in politics or the government – when we learned we must stop being passive bystanders or mindless followers. We can compare candidates, speakers, issues, and the impact being awakened has had on how we behave now. For some, they woke up and began working for a specific candidate; for others, the awakening inspired them to learn about the system currently in place and possible alternatives.

When the learning and doing is channeled toward changing things, we arrive at political activism. The dictionary says "Political Activism" is a policy of taking direct and sometimes militant action to achieve a political or social change.

The Bexar Republican Liberty Caucus is an umbrella organization for individual activists. We are not a single-issue homogenized group with one goal or one set method to achieve change. Throughout Texas, no two Liberty Caucuses are exactly the same. That's apparent in that each charter has different priorities. One place we agree upon, however, is that we want members to be actively trying to make changes that make all of us freer.

Being free isn't something we can sit around waiting for someone else to give us. So we learn about issues, we talk to allies, and we decide how we can work to achieve the goals we set. We work in phases. We consolidate. We learn, and we grow in influence. Then we work together – because we can make more of a difference working together than on our own.

One person walking down the street carrying a gun or a placard is seen as a nut case. A group of people walking together are showing like-minded people that they are not alone. It's not crazy to want what they want. It's normal to want to live in a free society.

It could be that the group decides that we need a postcard or letter writing campaign about a specific topic. Numbers work better there, too. Politicians will lean toward what's best for them politically. The more constituents (voters in their political boundary) contact them, the better chance of that representative or senator responding appropriately. Telephone calls work too, but only if you make sure they understand that the calls are from voters in their area.

So a person should be 1. a voter, and 2. in the politician's district, 3. clear about what action the politician should take. Phone calls, post cards, letters, and visits to meet face-to-face are more effective if those three areas are met. To clarify, reading about issues and talking with friends is fine. Those things may help bring more people in agreement on issues who will work with us, but it is not effective political activism unless it includes directly contacting the right politician, at the right time, in the right manner, about timely topics.

Raising awareness, educating others on topics, and being politically active are goals of the Bexar Republican Liberty Caucus. Join us.

 

Let’s Talk About Hemp

OPINION/EDITORIAL
Posted: 1/21/15

The first thing to notice is that it is, in fact, an entirely separate topic than the previous blog about marijuana. Hemp and the cannabis plant that has sufficient THC to affect humans are not the same plant. Hemp has only trace amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which is what brings about the effects that act as medicine, or if used recreationally, gets the user high. Two separate plants.

In February 2014, about one year ago, the big Farm Bill passed by Congress allowed ten states to participate in limited growth of industrial hemp by creating pilot programs for research purposes. These programs are being run by universities or state agriculture departments in states that have previously approved industrial hemp production. This is the first time hemp has been allowed to be grown legally since 1937 when Congress passed a Controlled Substances bill that outlawed it.

A drug bill.

Hemp is not a drug.

What Hemp is - is a multi-use plant that is in high demand and currently making Canadian farmers a bunch of money while struggling Texas farmers have watched less drought resistant crops dry up in their fields. Hemp can be processed for the popular hemp-seed oil; it can also be used to make cloth.  Canada's windfall has been largely due to the American demand for omega-balanced hempseed oil. But hemp is also a go-to material for dozens of applications all over the world, creating manufacturing jobs.

What else Hemp is - is a more drought-resistant plant than cotton, and one that puts back nutrients into the soil instead of stripping it like cotton does while being almost as good as bamboo for creating oxygen. In other words, Hemp is a smart money-making crop for farmers, that actually helps the environment.

The Texas Farm Bureau would like to see a farm bill passed in Texas that will allow them to make some money without being enmeshed in what comes down to a case of mistaken identity. Industrial Hemp is not its cousin the marijuana plant.

Why would any good Republican want to oppose it?

 

Let’s Talk About Marijuana

OPINION/EDITORIAL
Posted: 1/20/15

Some people may start talking about marijuana policies by talking about Liberty and the right of free adult American men and women who should be allowed to make their own choices. We could get into the argument comparing it and alcohol, how policies should be comparable because marijuana's effects are less, but I'm not going to start there.

Instead, let's talk about wasting money and failed policies. First there's the $496 million spent annually in America to incarcerate people whose only crime is possession of marijuana. Not sale. Not as part of another crime. Where on earth did you come up with that number, you may ask? And you should! Liberty Republicans encourage verifying. I got that number from the Republican Liberty Caucus's ally Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP) who got it from the Marijuana Policy Project.

Then, we could talk about the War on Drugs. That's a term popularized in 1971 after President Richard Nixon described drug use as Public Enemy Number One in a message to Congress. The Drug Policy Alliance estimates that in the United States we spend about $50 billion per year on this War on Drugs. So, I'm not a mathematician, but we have spent that much annually for more than 40 years. That means we have spent more than $2 trillion supposedly fighting drug use, sale, and trafficking. How do you think it's working? Marijuana, of course, is not the only drug the War on Drugs is opposing, but it is at least a significant portion of the money we are spending.

There's another aspect to our marijuana policies, however, and one we should also address. While the Federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, many states have changed their policies. Currently there are 24 states who allow some type of marijuana use for medical purposes or research. Through that research, marijuana has been shown to be a safe medicine for conditions including Alzheimer's, arthritis, autism, cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, glaucoma, high blood pressure, inflammatory bowel diseases, Lyme disease, migraines, multiple sclerosis, nausea, pain and seizures to name 15 of the many (in alphabetical order).

Before anyone talks about the effects of smoking to the lungs, I want to point out that many of these marijuana-based medicines are in oils and pill forms. All of the people suffering from these diseases are going to be using some type of drug in their treatment. Shouldn't we leave deciding what is the most effective remedy between them and their doctor?

The Bexar Republican Liberty Caucus wants Texas to review our state laws. We would like Texas to allow research and medical use of marijuana and to decriminalize marijuana's use in simple possession cases. We think this would be more fiscally conservative and be a more sound policy.

 

Happy MLK Day!

OPINION/EDITORIAL
Posted: 1/16/15

Why aren't more Republicans marching in the MLK Day parade? Why aren't Republicans out there celebrating this great American Civil Rights leader? Martin Luther King, Jr. was, after all, a Republican (although, like many, he crossed the line to vote for John F. Kennedy).

The Rev. Mr. King had a public policy of not endorsing candidates, and may God bless him even more for trying not to have politics and religion snarled. He also, rightfully, found fault in both Democrats and Republicans for their machinations against racial equality, but in the end he usually voted the party of Lincoln.

So many Liberty Republicans understand that too. Yes, the Republican Party has flaws. It has some hateful people and candidates who do not want to recognize Civil Rights for people who are different from them, whether that is a religious difference or homosexuality. In the final outcome, though, most Liberty Republicans vote for the candidate more willing to apply the rule of law to all, equally.

When did Republicans decide to sit back and let others rewrite history? The general voter nowadays would say the other party was better at upholding the rights of all, especially those being disenfranchised. Yet, it was Republican Representative Aaron Sargent of California who wrote the verbage and introduced to Congress the paragraph that became the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. He is not the only one who led the way in Civil Rights.

Take a good look at history, people. The Republican Party was founded as the anti-slavery party to combat the Democratic Party which was formed by slave holders. The founders of NAACP were Republicans. Republican President Dwight Eisenhower desegregated the military and established the Civil Rights commission. Eisenhower also appointed Chief Justice Earl Warren who ended school segregation.

President Richard Nixon (yes, I know, not a great Liberty record) established the first affirmative action program. More recently President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act and his son, President George W. Bush, appointed more blacks, women, and minorities to Cabinet –level positions than ever before or since.

This proud history of standing up for the rights of all is why so many Liberty Republicans won't just leave the party that has so many of its members advocating oppression based on their personal religious beliefs. The Republican Party stands for equal rights under the Constitution, equal protections of the law. It is a proud history that more people should espouse.

 

Happy New Year!

OPINION/EDITORIAL
Posted: 1/7/15

The start of a new year is a good time to reflect and to make plans. Many of my goals are the same back through 2014, 2013, in fact, back through 2007, when I woke up and stopped believing what I was being told by government officials.

That's eight years of disappointment, frustration, and of inching forward and falling back. I am still not ready to give up, and I hope you aren't either.

Looking forward to 2015 for the Bexar County Republican Liberty Caucus means making plans to grow in influence and strengthening our ties with allied organizations.

How? By getting out our message that the Liberty established in the U.S. and Texas Constitutions should not be infringed and that we will oppose legislation and legislators that curtail freedom.

A free people need fewer, not more, laws. Once peoples of other nations envied our freedoms. Freedoms like the right to speak our mind wherever we were instead of confined to Free Speech Zones, like the right to practice our religion without interference from the government, having a free and independent press, or our rights to keep and bear arms and not have the government violate our privacy without a warrant.

Many of these rights have been modified and eroded so much that it has become hard to recognize them. Our government now can even interfere with your personal life to the point that it can force you to purchase medical insurance. Even locally, government agencies are criminalizing everyday behaviors of citizens making more criminals, and our police, who once swore to serve and protect us, arm as though for war with us as the enemy.

Moving into 2015 we all have a choice to make. The Liberty movement chooses freedom. Join us to fight for our liberties, to demand a return to a more free city, state, and nation – or sit back and let the government control your life, be like cattle and accept the yoke of inequality.

In one year, what will your reflection be on 2015? What kind of land do you want to live in in 2016 and beyond? How are you working to preserve the freedom and a Republican form of government for your children and grandchildren?

2015 is here. Which side are you on?

 

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