Owner's Box

Chapter 1: The Owner's Box

Just a few days ago, I got an email where one of the main right-wing groups in Texas is now calling Bill White “comrade.” That’s a record—even in Texas. Bill White just won his primary ten days ago, and now, he’s a Communist. And that’s after lowering property taxes five times in a row down in Houston!

With the extreme wing of the Republican party in Texas, name calling doesn’t end in the third grade. From the Empower Texas PAC to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, from the Club for Growth to Grover Norquist’s Wednesday Group, all of these groups share a single philosophy — “to cut government in half in twenty-five years to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub” — and share most of the same paymasters.

So, how do all these groups get funded? Why is the message the same and what do they want? What’s the real deal on the far right?

The real deal is the Owner’s Box. What binds all these groups together is common cause to first cut taxes to the wealthy few, then cut regulations to their corporations that sell to you—that’s how the Owner’s Box works. In Texas, there’s a reason that interest rates are 1100% on the streets of Laredo. There’s a pattern to the toxic pollution from El Paso to Andrews over to Beaumont. There’s a reason that no Texas Republican has made a solid proposal to solve the health care crisis—and that the Lone Star state is America’s least insured. And fundamentally, that pattern, policy and politics is behind a Texas school system that ranks first in dropouts and near last in SAT scores.

Over the next few chapters, we’ll learn just how the far right works in every agency in Austin . What Ronald Reagan never told America is that his “shining city on the hill” was a gated community. From D.C. to Sacramento, from Alabama to Austin, many of these groups share the same funders year in and year out. And there’s no place that the far right runs more than right here in Texas .

Not long after WW II Dwight Eisenhower was writing to Edgar Newton Eisenhower, his younger brother about plans post-World War II. Eisenhower was the darling of D-Day, and the one guy that both parties wanted as first choice. America was riding high back then. On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered after seven long years of terrible war all over Europe . Three months later, the Emperor of Japan handed his sword to Douglas MacArthur on the deck of the Battleship Missouri. And of all the American heroes from Patton to Bradley, MacArthur to Doolittle, Dwight D. Eisenhower of Abilene, Texas was “the one.” He above all other symbolized the American fighting spirit and one nation coming together to defeat an enemy and keep freedom alive.

As Eisenhower sat to write, America was a very different place. Business and workers were really were aligned. As Charles Erwin Wilson said, “what’s good for General Motors is good for the country." GM’s President Wilson made only 40 times what the line workers made while building tanks, engines and the inventions that won the war. Banks mostly lent local. And bank loan committees knew best what risks old Mr. Smith presented in his bid to build his business. What risks they took—they had to cover—that was the lesson of the Depression.

Back then, Americans bought war bonds. Women worked in factories building planes. Jobs came with benefits—and an expectation that so long as you did a good job—you had a job.

Eisenhower’s letter meandered through some family stuff and then came the real deal. In considering his bid for the Presidency, Eisenhower had come to believe that the Social Security system was the bedrock of America . He had seen too many older Americans suffer over too many years. Back then, there was an absolute consensus about Social Security, unemployment insurance, and labor laws except from a few folks in Texas . Here’s what Dwight wrote in 1954 to his brother Edgar:

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

Fast forward now to Barry Goldwater’s defeat in 1964, board room meetings of the early far right, and the birth of the extreme wing of the Republican Party. Now, forty years later—the extreme wing of the Republican Party and those few crackpots in Texas have run government here for ten straight years. So what does ten years of the Owner’s Box look like in what is now the living laboratory of the radical right?

Over the next few chapters, we will detail disaster after disaster at agency after agency. When government of the people, by the people and for the people, becomes instead a wholly-owned subsidiary of the wealthy few, here’s what that looks like when our great state is ranked against the rest of America:

Education
Average Teacher Salary as a Percentage of Average Annual Pay1 49th
Current Expenditures Per Student2 44th
State Aid Per Pupil in Average Daily Attendance3 47th
Percent of Elementary/Secondary School Funding from State Revenue4 47th
Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) Scores5 46th
Percent of Population 25 and Older With a High School Diploma6 50th
High School Graduation Rate7 41st
Health
Percent of Population Uninsured8 1st
Percent of Non-Elderly Uninsured9 1st
Percent of Low Income Covered by Medicaid10 42nd
Percent of Population with Employer-Based Health Insurance11 46th
Total State Government Health Expenditures as Percent of the Gross State Product12 33rd
Per Capita State Spending on Mental Health13 48th
Per Capita State Spending on Medicaid14 37th
Percent of Population Physically Active15 41st
Health Care Expenditures Per Capita16 44th
Percent Living Below Federal Poverty Level17 3rd
Percent of Population with Food Insecurity18 3rd
Prevalence of Obesity in Adults19 15th
Rate of Death due to Heart Disease20 44th
Prevalence of Diagnosed Diabetes21 4th
Diabetes Death Rate22 10th
Access to Capital
Average Credit Score23 50th
Percent of Mortgage Loans that are Subprime24 8th
Percent of Households with Interest-Bearing Accounts25 41st
Private Loans to Small Businesses 43rd
Level of Asset Poverty26 43rd
Amount of Money that Banks Located in the State Collect through Deposits in Relation to the Amount of Money the Banks Re-channel Back into Communities Through Loans27 45th
Environment
Air Pollution Emissions28 1st
Amount of Volatile Organic Compounds Released into Air29 1st
Amount of Toxic Chemicals Released into Water30 1st
Amount of Toxic Chemicals Released into Air31 5th
Amount of Recognized Cancer-Causing Carcinogens Released into Air32 1st
Amount of Recognized Cancer-Causing Carcinogens Released into Water33 7th
Amount of Hazardous Waste Generated34 2nd
Number of Hazardous Waste Sites on National Priority List35 9th
Amount of Carbon Dioxide Emissions36 1st
Consumption of Energy Per Capita37 5th
State Budget
Tax Revenue Raised Per Capita38 49th
Tax Expenditures Per Capita39 50th
Sales Tax Per Capita40 22nd
Progressivity of Tax Revenues41 44th
Income Inequality
Income Inequality Between the Rich and the Poor42 9th
Income Inequality Between the Rich and the Middle Class43 5th
Median Household Income44 37th
Home Ownership Rate45 43rd
Homeowner’s Insurance Affordability46 50th
Auto Insurance Affordability47 30th
Personal Bankruptcy Rate48 38th
Percent of Households with Internet Access49 36th
Most Livable State50 37th

Here’s the good news. Dwight Eisenhower did run for President. And his signature project was the National Highway System. With it, he put six million servicemen back to work and build America’s backbone. And he did it as a Republican, an authentic American patriot in service to the public good.

Right now, Texas is in a pitched battle for the heart of Texas. Once upon a time, during the term of President Eisenhower for example, government was about solutions—especially when America was at war. Government was us, working together to do that which we alone could not do—not an enemy to be pilloried for political gain. Now, with the rise of the far right, elections are a race to label and libel—not to solve, create and build. Too few Texans know just what a mess we have in Austin. All of us need to pitch in and fix it—it literally means the world to our children.

How can you help? Read this book—then send it on. Better yet buy two—and send them on. Read a chapter at your book club. Discuss it at your PTA. But most importantly—stand and be counted to take back Texas. Time is wasting. Our children, our communities and our great state are worth the fight!

1 Kathleen O’Leary Morgan and Scott Morgan, State Rankings 2008, Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, Inc., 2008 at 128.

2 National Education Association, Rankings & Estimates (December 2007) at 55. Online. Available at: http://www.nea.org/edstats/images/07rankings.pdf. Accessed November 21, 2008.

3 Texas Legislative Budget Board, Texas Fact Book 2008 at 19. Online. Available at: http://www.lbb.state.tx.us/Fact_Book/Texas_FactBook_2008.pdf. Accessed November 21, 2008.

4 U.S. Census Bureau, Public Education Finances 2006 (April 2008) at 5. Online. Available at: http://ftp2.census.gov/govs/school/06f33pub.pdf. Accessed November 21, 2008.

5 College Board, College-Bound Seniors 2008. Online. Available at: http://professionals.collegeboard.com/data-reports-research/sat/cb-seniors-2008. Accessed: November 21, 2008.

6 U.S. Census Bureau, Educational Attainment in the United States, Educational Attainment of the Population 25 Years and Over, By State, Including Margin of Error: 2006. Online. Available at http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/education/cps2006/tab13.xls. Accessed November 21, 2008.

7 Kathleen O’Leary Morgan and Scott Morgan, State Rankings 2008, Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, Inc., 2008 at 134.

8 The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, State Health Facts Online, Health Insurance Coverage of the Total Population, states (2006-2007). Online. Available at: http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparebar.jsp?ind=125&cat=3. Accessed November 21, 2008. 24.9 percent of Texas is uninsured, compared with the 15.3 percent national average.

9 The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, State Health Facts Online, Health Insurance Coverage of Nonelderly 0-64, states (2006-2007). Online. Available at: http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparebar.jsp?ind=126&cat=3. Accessed November 21, 2008.

10 The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, State Health Facts Online, Medicaid Coverage Rates for the Nonelderly by Federal Poverty Level (FPL), states (2006-2007). Online. Available at: http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparetable.jsp?ind=161&cat=3. Accessed November 21, 2008.

11 The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, State Health Facts Online, Health Insurance Coverage of the Total Population, states (2006-2007). Online. Available at: http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparebar.jsp?ind=125&cat=3. Accessed November 21, 2008.

12 The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, State Health Facts Online, Total State Government Health Expenditures as Percent of the Gross State Product, 2003. Online. Available at: http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemaptable.jsp?ind=284&cat=5. Accessed November 21, 2008.

13 The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, State Health Facts Online, State Mental Health Agency Per Capita Mental Health Services Expenditures, FY2005. Online. Available at: http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemaptable.jsp?ind=278&cat=5. Accessed November 21, 2008.

14 Kendra Hovey and Harold Hovey, Congressional Quarterly’s State Fact Finder 2007. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, Inc., 2007 at 255.

15 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Adults with 30+ minutes of moderate physical activity five or more days per week, or vigorous physical activity for 20+ minutes three or more days per week, 2007. Online. Available at http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/brfss/list.asp?cat=PA&yr=2007&qkey=4418&state=All. Accessed November 21, 2008.

16 The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, State Health Facts Online, Health Care Expenditures per Capita by State of Residence, 2004. Online. Available at: http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemaptable.jsp?ind=284&cat=5. Accessed November 21, 2008.

17 The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, State Health Facts Online, Distribution of Total Population by Federal Poverty Level, states (2006-2007). Online. Available at: http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparebar.jsp?ind=9&cat=1. Accessed November 21, 2008.

18 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Household Food Insecurity in the United States, 2006 (November 2007) at Table D-1. Online. Available at: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/ERR49/ERR49.pdf. Accessed November 21, 2008.

19 Trust for America’s Health, F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America, 2008. Online. Available at: http://healthyamericans.org/reports/obesity2008/release.php?stateid=TX. Accessed December 21, 2008.

20 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, Division of Vital Statistics, National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 56, Number 10 (April 24, 2008) at table 29. Online. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr56/nvsr56_10.pdf. Accessed November 21, 2008.

21 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Diabetes – 2007, Have you ever been told by a doctor that you have diabetes? Online. Available at: http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/brfss/list.asp?cat=DB&yr=2007&qkey=1363&state=All. Accessed November 21, 2008.

22 The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, State Health Facts Online, Number of Diabetes Deaths per 100,000 Population, 2005. Online. Available at: http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemaptable.jsp?ind=74&cat=2. Accessed November 21, 2008.

23 CreditReport.com, Average Credit Scores by State. Online. Available at: http://www.creditreport.com/info/credit-scores/average-credit-scores.asp. Accessed November 25, 2008. See also Experian, Experian National Score Index. Online. Available at: http://www.nationalscoreindex.com/. Accessed November 25, 2008.

24 Corporation for Enterprise Development, Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, 2007-2008. Online. Available at: http://www.cfed.org/focus.m?parentid=31&siteid=2471&id=2476&stateid=43. Accessed November 25, 2008.

25 Corporation for Enterprise Development, Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, 2007-2008. Online. Available at: http://www.cfed.org/focus.m?parentid=31&siteid=2471&id=2475&measureid=3893. Accessed November 25, 2008.

26 Corporation for Enterprise Development, Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, 2007-2008. Online. Available at: http://www.cfed.org/focus.m?parentid=31&siteid=2471&id=2475&measureid=3886. Accessed November 25, 2008. This category is measured as the proportion of households without sufficient net worth to subsist at the poverty level for three months in the absence of income.

27 U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, 2007 Host-State Loan-to-Deposit Ratios. Online. Available at http://www.occ.treas.gov/ftp/release/2007-56a.pdf. Accessed November 25, 2008.

28 Kendra Hovey and Harold Hovey, Congressional Quarterly’s State Fact Finder 2007. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, Inc., 2007 at 235.

29 Scorecard: The Pollution Information Site, Rankings of States by Air Pollutants Emissions. Online. Available at http://www.scorecard.org/env-releases/cap/rank-states-emissions.tcl. Accessed December 14, 2008.

30 Scorecard: The Pollution Information Site, States with Reported Releases of Toxics Release Inventory: Water Releases. Online. Available at: http://www.scorecard.org/ranking/rank-states.tcl?how_many=100&drop_down_name=Water+releases. Accessed December 15, 2008. Texas has over 30 million pounds of toxic chemicals released into its surface water supply as reported by industrial facilities.

31 Scorecard: The Pollution Information Site, States with Reported Releases of TRI Chemicals to Air. Online. Available at: http://www.scorecard.org/ranking/rank-states.tcl?how_many=100&drop_down_name=Air+releases. Accessed December 15, 2008.

32 Scorecard: The Pollution Information Site, States with Reported Releases of Recognized Carcinogens to Air. Online. Available at: http://www.scorecard.org/ranking/rank-states.tcl?how_many=100&drop_down_name=Recognized+carcinogens+to+air. Accessed December 15, 2008. The state rankings are produced by a proprietary scoring system developed by Scorecard.com that is based on the State of California’s official list of chemicals with known toxic properties and a risk scoring system developed at the School of Public Health at the University of California at Berkeley. The scoring system adjusts the amount of a chemical using a weighting factor so that chemical releases can be compared on a common scale. For more information, see http://www.scorecard.org/general/health/health_gen.html.

33 Scorecard: The Pollution Information Site. States with Reported Releases of Recognized Carcinogens to Water. Online. Available at: http://www.scorecard.org/ranking/rank-states.tcl?how_many=100&drop_down_name=Recognized+carcinogens+to+water. Accessed December 15, 2008. The state rankings are produced by a proprietary scoring system developed by Scorecard.com that is based on the State of California’s official list of chemicals with known toxic properties and a risk scoring system developed at the School of Public Health at the University of California at Berkeley. The scoring system adjusts the amount of a chemical using a weighting factor so that chemical releases can be compared on a common scale. For more information, see http://www.scorecard.org/general/health/health_gen.html.

34 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Biennial Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Hazardous Waste Report: Based on 2007 Data, (November 2008), Exhibit 1.2. Online. Available at: http://epa.gov/osw/inforesources/data/br07/national07.pdf. Accessed December 15, 2008.

35 Texas Legislative Budget Board, 2008 Texas Fact Book. Online. Available at: http://www.lbb.state.tx.us/Fact_Book/Texas_FactBook_2008.pdf. Accessed December 15, 2008.

36 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Energy CO2 Emissions by State, (2005). Online . Available at: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/downloads/CO2FFC_2005.xls. Accessed December 15, 2008.

37 U.S. Department of Energy, “Table R2. Energy Consumption by Source and Total Consumption per Capita, Ranked by State, 2006,” Online. Available at: http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/states/sep_sum/plain_html/rank_use_per_cap.html. Accessed December 15, 2008.

38 U.S. Census Bureau, 2006 State Government Tax Collections. Online. Available at: http://www.census.gov/govs/www/statetax06.html. Accessed November 21, 2008.

39 U.S. Census Bureau, State and Local Government Finances: 2004-05. Online. Available at: http://www.census.gov/govs/www/estimate05.html. Accessed November 21, 2008.

40 U.S. Census Bureau, 2006 State Government Tax Collections. Online. Available at: http://www.census.gov/govs/www/statetax06.html. Accessed November 21, 2008.

41 Kendra Hovey and Harold Hovey, Congressional Quarterly’s State Fact Finder 2007. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, Inc., 2007 at 170. This category compares the tax burdens as a percentage of income on households of two income levels: $25,000 and $150,000.

42 Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Pulling Apart: A State-by-State Analysis of Income Trends (April 2008). Online. Available at: http://www.epi.org/studies/pulling08/4-9-08sfp-fact-tx.pdf. Accessed December 15, 2008.

43 Id.

44 Kathleen O’Leary Morgan and Scott Morgan, State Rankings 2008, Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, Inc., 2008 at 103.

45 U.S. Census Bureau, Housing Vacancies and Homeownership, 2007. Online. Available at: http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/housing/hvs/annual07/ann07t13.html. Accessed December 3, 2008.

46 Matt Woolsey, “Most Expensive States to Insure a Home,” Forbes, August 14, 2008. Online. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/2008/08/14/insurance-hurricane-property-forbeslife-cx_mw_0814realestate.html. Accessed December 15, 2008. Citing 2005 data collected by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

47 Insurance Information Institute, “Auto Insurance.” Online. Available at: http://www.iii.org/media/facts/statsbyissue/auto/. Accessed December 15, 2008. Citing 2006 data collected by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

48 Kathleen O’Leary Morgan and Scott Morgan, State Rankings 2008, Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, Inc., 2008 at 105.

49 U.S. Census Bureau, Table 1B. Presence of a Computer and the Internet for Households, by State (October 2003). Online. Available at: http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/computer/2003/tab01B.xls. Accessed December 15, 2008.

50 Kathleen O’Leary Morgan and Scott Morgan, State Rankings 2008, Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, Inc., 2008 at xviii. For an explanation of the factors that go into determining the Most Livable State, see page xvii.