How to Make Texas Better: A Bold Agenda for Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick

click to enlarge GAGE SKIDMORE
Gage Skidmore
Editor's Note: The following is City Current, a column of opinion and analysis.

Let’s just dispense with this now: Next year, Greg Abbott will still be governor of Texas, barring credible evidence that he’s a serial killer or a seriously depraved pervert surfacing between now and the November 6 election. By “credible,” I mean video-recordings of his heinous acts, perverted and/or murderous.

Democrat Lupe Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff who’s running against Abbott, will still be brooding about her missing service weapon and trying to figure out how it ended up in her department’s property room.

Dan Patrick will still be convinced that fewer entrances are the only sane way to prevent mass school shootings. He’ll also still be lieutenant governor with godlike power over the Texas Senate.

Whoever is currently running against Patrick will be back doing whatever he or she did before. And his or her co-workers will ask, “Did you go anyplace nice for vacation?”

With that out of the way, I’d like to introduce several policy initiatives for Abbott and Patrick to consider as they compile their 2019 legislative agendas for continuing to make Texas more like the miracle that is Mississippi.

So, ta-dah:

• Change the name of Welfare, Texas, for obvious reasons, to Self-Reliance. The town has had 138 years to adopt a better name but has failed to act. You know why? Because it’s lazy.
• Require women seeking abortions to write letters of explanation to their fetuses.
• Shut down zoos’ pro-homosexual agendas in Texas. Most people aren’t aware, for example, that politically correct zookeepers at the San Antonio Zoo are housing three adult female elephants together — without any males. How much longer can these elephants remain just friends?
• Initiate a state takeover of Texas pawn shops, auto-title and payday loan companies, and plasma centers – the components of our state’s robust poverty industry. Use the profits to fund property tax cuts. In years in which property values go crazy, lawmakers can provide additional relief by raising the interest rates on the state’s customers and maybe trimming what it pays for plasma.

I pitched these measures in a piece ahead of last year’s special session of the legislature. However, there was also some speculation in Austin that Abbott and Patrick may have been too busy to read it. Patrick probably doesn’t read much, anyway. Or maybe they had been unaware of my efforts.

Hopefully twice is a charm.

The first three items are straightforward. If our lawmakers can’t agree that the name Welfare is a hideous coffee stain on our state map, that fetuses are owed an explanation or at least a heads-up, and that our zoo animals shouldn’t be forced to be gay, we are lost.

My fourth proposal, however, is going to take some work. It’s visionary, though it does kind of pick up where the Texas Lottery leaves off. And like anything that tosses out the old thinking, it will be wildly controversial.

There’s no getting around the fact this would be a huge government intrusion into the free market. But we have an opportunity here to finally deliver real relief to Texas taxpayers and to adequately fund public education, including any future school-voucher program. All we have to do is get up the gumption to take this step.

It’ll help to begin thinking about the poor and the working poor in this way: The people of the state of Texas – the real ones, with decent jobs – have the strongest claims on the poor because their tax dollars pay for welfare programs, Medicaid and public schools. Those claims include the opportunity to make a buck or two – a return on their investment.

As the private-sector poverty industry learned decades ago, Texas is a booming market. Nearly 16 percent of our population lived below the poverty line in 2016, according to the U.S. Census. That’s a ton of opportunity.

Just look at auto-title and payday loans. In 2015, Texas customers took out $1.7 billion in new loans, and refinanced $2.4 billion in debt, Texas Appleseed, an advocacy group for so-called vulnerable Texans, reported in 2017. They paid $1.58 in fees for every dollar they borrowed. And that’s just one part of the industry. Think about the lakes of plasma the poor sell every year, and all of the iPads, laptops and jewelry they pawn.

Under my plan, profits from these businesses would flow to everyday Texans instead of corporations, most of which are smart enough to figure out other ways to make money.

The fate of my proposal will come down to whether our state lawmakers are willing to take bold, unprecedented action to finally lighten the little guy’s load.

I’ve studied our state’s progress under the inspired leadership of Abbott and Patrick. So, let’s just leave it at this: I am extremely optimistic about our chances come 2019.

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