by David Remer Sept. 21, 2003 Political News & Analysis
(This article was written in coordination with many other writer bloggers who agreed to write and post articles with the same title. To view other writers works on this topic as part of the BlogFest, click here.)
The Republican plan for redistricting holds the key to the only viable response for minority Texas Democrats, it they are willing to take the lesson to heart. The thrust of the Republican redistricting plan is to divide urban democratic strongholds and incorporate into those subdivisions large areas of rural Republican constituents. The obvious lesson to Texas Democrats is to focus on winning the rural vote. Easy enough to say. In reality, while not easy, or quick, this can be done. Fortunately, the Texas Democrats have the federal government to assist them. The Bush administration is going to tip the balance in the nation from conservative to centrist as debt and deficits take center stage in the media from this point forward.
Wall Street and business TV channels like MSNBC are beginning to focus on that ever increasing national debt. Between now and 2008, the national debt will become the Republican's achille's heel. The Republicans are helpless to do anything about the debt as any attempt to rein it in would force an end to the very programs and values they have promoted to the public. So, between now and 2008, the national political scene is going to work for Texas Democrats in the background. Texas Democrats must seize this opportunity and agree on a long term plan to take back control of the state's government; and it must include targeting the rural areas of Texas.
What do the Democrats and rural Texans have in common? Democrats will be missing the boat entirely if they do not drive home to the public what the current debt and deficits are going to cost rural Texans in taxes in the not too distant future. Rural Texans hate taxes. Rural Texans hate high interest rates. Rural Texans hate rising land values (they increase taxes on the land). Rural Texans need clean safe water. Rural Texans need jobs. Rural Texans believe in fairness. Rural Texans believe in freedom, liberty and the American military. All of these issues can be championed by the Texas Democratic Party and used against the Republicans.
Texas Democrats should champion fiscal responsibility. Driving home the cost in taxes to be paid by rural Texan's children when the national debt bill comes due is one of the Aces in the Democrat's deck. It is a Republican President and Congress which is enslaving the next generation to federal taxes that will be much greater than rural Texans are now paying. This issue should become the cornerstone of the Democrat's plan. The current debt is approaching 7 trillion dollars. Estimates for the national debt in 2012 now range from 10 to 12 trillion dollars. The interest on that 2012 debt alone will raise taxes on the new generation of workers and small business owners before even trying to pay down the debt.
Unrestrained and unregulated development is driving land values ever higher for rural Texans living in proximity to growing towns or urban areas. This in turn is driving taxes up for cattle ranches, small businesses, and rural homesteads. Texan Democrats have a unique opportunity to launch a platform that demands rural land owner's input as part of a licensing program for developers. This will give rural Texans the power to negotiate and constrain development where increased population, jobs and work force may be outweighed by rural landowners marginal economic hold on their land assets.
High interest rates. Small businesses, land owners and home owners in rural Texas depend on low interest rates for growing their business, developing their land or making home improvements. The national debt and deficits are, without debate, going to raise interest rates in coming years. This is not good news for rural Texans. And even worse news for the children of rural Texans who will see many cycles of maintenance, upkeep and repair in their lifetimes. Astronomical national debt will cost rural Texas many percentage points higher interest on that maintenance, upkeep and repair.
Rural Texans need clean water. Democrats should champion a state water protection agency that will research and account for the entire state's water resources and promote legislation that will enforce clean water laws through the states law enforcement agencies. Democrats should champion state assisted water conservation projects which will catch rain and runoff and make it available at cost to rural Texans. Clean water is of concern to everyone in Texas and Democrats should bridge the political differences between urban and rural Texans using this centrally important issue. What is good for rural Texans in the way of clean water is good for urban Texans as well and vice versa since the Texan economy depends on both populations to thrive.
Rural Texans in small communities need jobs. They need higher pay. They need training. The Texas Democrats should focus in on marrying urban enterprise and their need for a quality work force and rural communities in Texas where quality jobs and pay are desperately needed. Tax incentives to corporations that train and or hire rural Texans for telecommuting jobs will be a great start. Tax incentives for decentralizing urban enterprise to field offices in rural communities would go a long way toward meeting the needs of rural Texans and grow a Democratic base in rural Texas.
Rural Texans believe in fairness. Democrats must draw a hard and clear line on policy fairness. The robin hood funding of school systems in the state is clearly viewed as an unfair system by many rural as well as urban communities. The Democrats should champion a flat rate state income tax that will allocate an equal per student capita rate of funding for public schools throughtout the state of Texas for administration, salaries and all other costs of education except capital expenses. Democrats should foster a flat minimum for capital expenses based both on a per student captia amount and on the minimum needed by the poorest school district in the state to bring its capital holdings up to a minimum standard. Democrats should as part of this plan, define a minimum income level under which no state taxes will apply. In addition the state income tax should not be made progressive. A flat tax would stimulate economic development in the state of Texas, provide fair and equitable funding of public schools, and be perceived as fair by a majority of rural and urban Texans. Such a tax plan would not necessarily have to result in reduction or elimination of taxation on natural resource development, depending on whether or not the flat tax system would be able to ensure a balanced budget for a projected 10 year period.
Texas Democrats should begin a campaign to emphasize the costs of nation building on foreign soil and distinguish between the war on terrorists and the war for global expansion of corporate interests. Democrats should punch home the idea that we can spend until our great grand children are enslaved by high taxes for making the world a more secure place, and still not have a secure America. The best security for America's future generations is in developing friendships and cultivating trust in the people's abroad. Maintain a capable military, but, use of that military should be only for the purposes of self-defense, and not for grandiose schemes of regime change and nation building in countries that have not attacked, nor had the ability to attack the security of Americans. And the Democrats should begin a campaign to bring our weary troops home from Iraq. The mission was to take out Saddam Hussein. That mission was accomplished. We should withdraw and let the U.N. move in to help ensure that Saddam Hussein or someone like him cannot return to power in Iraq. We should remove our troops from harm's way, now that our mission has been completed.
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