Saturday, September 1, 2018

Beto & Cruz: What's Best For Texans, Issue By Issue

Neither Ted Cruz nor Beto O'Rourke is an underhanded politician in this for the power and perks.

Both men stand by similar values of simplicity and honesty, and their reputations as "family men" are genuine.


It's refreshing that the only dirt dug up on these guys is their weird younger years -- which, would that not apply to all of us? -- and a decades-old arrest that's already been repeatedly acknowledged for months with honesty, contrition, and demonstrated reform.


If we can't yell about their hypocrisy and secret lives, what's left to talk about but issues? How refreshing.


The Cool Factor


I'm not on the Beto Band Wagon for the cool factor. There is nothing "cool" about me, and I have no problem owning up to never having been a cool kid.


Seriously, if there were a concert of hot guys at a popular club at the same time as a mime interpretation of Genesis at a local church, I would probably be at the church with Cruz.




So, no, I'm not voting for Beto because he plays bass and takes good mugshots. (
Though, let's be honest -- and overbearingly polite -- our country's kind of at an awkward place about holding elected officials accountable for past, um, indiscretions.)

Anyway, after months of listening and thoroughly reading through both candidates' campaign websites, here are my thoughts on the issues I believe are most important to Texans today.


Education


On his campaign website, Beto emphasizes that education policy must address the protection of Texas teachers' retirement pensions and health care. Most of us have at least one teacher in our extended family who won't qualify for social security despite decades of gainful employment. Sadly, the education overview on Ted Cruz' website does not mention teacher pay, pension, or health care

Beto and Cruz both support the teacher-led initiative to reduce emphasis on standardized testing, returning autonomy to each Texas classroom, as well as power to parents to decide whether or not their children will participate in testing.

While Cruz would support tax-payer-funded vouchers for students to attend private schools, Beto does not support any public funding for private schools. 

On the one hand, I agree with Beto. Is the purpose of school vouchers to increase educational equity for all students, or is it to give a few students a leg up out of their local public school system while ignoring the majority of students without the personal resources to access private education -- even with a public voucher? There are individual success stories shared about public vouchers used for private education (as there are individual success stories available for pretty much any political issue), but statistically, vouchers have not demonstrated a unilateral improvement in student performance or success

Furthermore, if private education vouchers pull funding away from public education, I cannot support them. While property tax revenue across Texas has steeply increased over the past decade, state contributions to public education have decreased, which means Texas is already one of the lower-funded public educations in America

Nonetheless, I'm not personally opposed to education vouchers (with the caveat that funding for private vouchers cannot remove current funds from public education). As an aside, it's ironic to me that the same people who strongly advocate for taxpayer-subsidized vouchers to support individual private education plans so strongly dissented against taxpayer-subsidized vouchers to support individual private healthcare plans (as established by the Affordable Care Act). Does public funding of private organizations improve outcomes or not? The primary difference between health care and education is that where a safety net exists for every child within the public education system, no such public option exists in healthcare. Given this, which sector should we rush to bolster? Which politician -- Beto or Cruz -- is addressing this inequity more effectively? 

The best scene from the entire "West Wing" series

Student Loan Crisis & Higher Education


Ted Cruz was instrumental in passing legislation to make 529 Education Savings Account available to all. These tax-free educational accounts, similar to Health Savings Accounts, are very beneficial to those with the disposable income to contribute to them.


However, the higher education student loan crisis cannot be resolved by telling parents to just save more money. With wages stagnated and housing, health care, and education costs increasing unchecked, there simply isn't more money to save. 

The student loan crisis is an economic issue, not a parental responsibility issue. I believe Beto understands this and approaches solutions accordingly. Beto suggests improving access to community colleges and trade schools, offering debt-free educations for students who work in underserved communities, and holding publicly-funded higher education institutions accountable for lower inflation and increased affordability.

Healthcare

On healthcare, Beto recognizes that a health care system that is inaccessible and unaffordable to many will end up more expensive for everyone. Beto believes the government should intervene to regulate pharmaceuticals since American consumers have demonstrably zero power to do this. Beto also supports the creation of a public option for healthcare, such as the ability to buy into Medicare, which would allow everyone to benefit from increased access and affordability made possible by a non-profit approach to health care.



On his healthcare site, Cruz does not offer any hope for healthcare improvement or reform. He promotes the same ideas that have repeatedly failed us or proven ineffective: selling insurance across state lines and Health Saving Accounts. A health care system under Cruz' ideals would also remove coverage for those with preexisting conditions, reinstate lifetime caps on care, and only make health insurance affordable if you don't actually need health care. 

Economics


Beto's economic plan aims to balance stakeholder and shareholder interests, to "promote policies that encourage companies to focus on returning investments back to their consumer, their employees, and to the community." Cruz' economic plan withdraws government regulation with the goal of job creation and a pro-business approach.


The juxtaposition of stockholders and stakeholders, to which Beto's economic stance draws attention, is a common one, and not necessarily a liberal one. 

An example of a business operating to benefit stakeholders would be the local school donations that Walmart or Target offer, education initiatives for employees, generous employer 401(k) or health insurance contributions, or the sponsorship of local parks or trails by new business in town. 

An example of a business operating to benefit shareholders would be investing profits in share buybacks and dividends when employees haven't had a cost-of-living raise in three years and family health insurance premiums have doubled. 

As Beto projects, we want companies in Texas who are an embedded part of our communities, who honor their stakeholders, not just their stockholders.

Regarding government regulation and business:


If we want to address the innate fallacy of a capitalist economy -- that it naturally prioritizes profits over people, regarding employees as expendable and replaceable -- we have two options: 1) labor unions, which give voice and representation to typical workers, or, 2) government regulation.

To be honest, I'd prefer every worker have the opportunity of representation by a union. This would provide a good checks-and-balance system within each industry to prevent companies from misusing their human resources. (The Catholic Church has long been a proponent of unions as a way to protect workers and their families.)

Without unions, government regulation is necessary to ensure minimum basic protection of employees. Examples of this are in every industry: mining safety protocols, mandatory paid overtime, child labor laws, limited consecutive driving hours for truckers... "Government regulation" is sometimes a trigger word, but the truth is, it's not inherently a bad idea. It's simply the oversight of the people via their elected officials.


Immigration

Beto pursues immigration solutions that would modernize our visa system to protect workers, ensure due process for refugees, recognize the innocence of child-immigrant 'Dreamers,' and disallow private companies to profit from the detainment of immigrants.


Cruz has not proposed any solution to the 'Dreamers' predicament, and his choice to willfully ignore the issue of child-immigrants demonstrates a complete lack of vision for how complex our country's immigration issues really are, especially in a border state as large as Texas. 


Furthermore, any approach to immigration that supports an increase of merit-based visas over family reunification visas ("chain migration") reveals two things: 1) a failure to understand our actual immigration problem -- poor, hardworking people trying to establish new stability for their families in a new country, and 2) a political position that advocates for the powerful, the resourced, and the viable to avoid the cost or inconvenience of others. 


Prioritizing merit-based visas over family reunification visas turns immigration into a utilitarian rather than humanitarian issue, through which we commit the same root offense that Pope John Paul II cited as leading to abortion, the objectification of women, and the marginalization of the family in society:

"Utilitarianism is a civilization of production and of use, a civilization of "things" and not of "persons", a civilization in which persons are used in the same way as things are used. In the context of a civilization of use, woman can become an object for man, children a hindrance to parents, the family an institution obstructing the freedom of its members." - Pope John Paul II, Letter to Families, February 2, 1994
As I've mentioned before, if pro-life values are truly internalized by a candidate -- recognizing the humanity and dignity of every person regardless of their ability, potential, or state in life -- it should be reflected throughout their political platform.

Criminal Justice


There's no question that our country -- the world leader in incarceration with significant disparity between rates of arrest and sentencing for minorities -- needs criminal justice reform. We have 4% of the world's population and 22% of the world's prison population. 

Thankfully, a bipartisan Congressional task force has been working for years to pursue criminal justice reform in our country. President Trump announced its progress during his 2018 State Of The Union address. I was pleasantly surprised and hopeful.

Remarkably, Ted Cruz is leading a small group of dissenters against this widely-supported bipartisan reform. It's remarkable because he used to understand this issue, as noted in a 2015 bipartisan press conference, which he led

"Right now today far too many young men, in particular African American young men,” he said, “find themselves subject to sentences of many decades for relatively minor non-violent drug infractions.” He continued: “We should not live in a world of Le[s] Miserables, where a young man finds his entire future taken away by excessive mandatory minimums.” - Ted Cruz, 2015
Currently, criminal justice and reform are nowhere on Cruz' campaign site as issues. (Correct me if I'm wrong or it gets added. I'll update this post.)

Beto, on the other hand, has a comprehensive approach to reform that includes focus on prisoner rehabilitation initiatives, mental health services, programs that reduce recidivism, and prioritizing public safety as a determinate in bail bonds rather than ability to pay.  

Same-Sex Marriage (That Video Where Beto Argues With A Priest)

Beto supports it, and Cruz said he's personally against it but he'll support same-sex marriage if the state votes for it. Given that the majority of Texans support same-sex marriage, it would seem to be a non-issue for both Beto and Cruz in this election cycle. 

Pro-Life / Women's Health

This is a very important issue to me and one of primary importance while voting.


I outline in this post, Five Reasons a Pro-Life Catholic Might Vote For A Pro-Choice Candidate, why Ted Cruz, in his own words, holds a pro-choice position, despite his claimed "pro-life" party platform. 

Given that both candidates are pro-choice, I believe that Beto's approach to healthcare, education, immigration, and jobs is more likely to result in fewer abortions than Cruz' policies. 

Government Spending, Bureaucracy, and Career Politicians

Cruz believes that "Washington’s out-of-control spending robs prosperity from our children and grandchildren, and that economic growth necessitates a smaller, less regulation-heavy federal government." I agree that our national debt is insane, and we are making irresponsible financial choices for which generations beyond us will suffer. I believe Congress should have to maintain the same fiscal responsibility as my own household and keep a balanced budget. 


On the second point, however, I do not believe that less government regulation is the solution. As long as our country has an economic system based on capitalism -- in which most employers consider human labor a "resource" to be expended in service to company profits as opposed to a personhood with whom to establish a mutually beneficial relationship, including care of the employee and his/her family -- I absolutely believe it is the role of government to establish minimum acceptable thresholds that businesses must observe. 


Furthermore, when elected officials receive funding from businesses and special interests, it leads to a country of laws that support corporations instead of everyday Americans. A true free market economy needs moral oversight, which in our current situation, can best be provided by the citizens of our country through regulations established by our elected officials. 


To address campaign finance reform, Beto introduced legislation to prevent candidates from receiving PAC donations. In his words, "Let’s get big money out of Washington and ensure legislation isn’t written by the highest bidder." Yes, get political power back in the hands of the people.


Overall Political Approach


Remember those two random politicians in 2017 -- a Democrat and a Republican -- who took a seemingly impulsive 1600-mile road trip from Texas to DC because bad weather had grounded their flights and they had a vote to cast in Congress? Beto O'Rourke was one of those guys. 


Our country is in a political stalemate. I contribute to the problem when I become combative and defensive on social media. We need politicians who are better than this, politicians who can work across the aisle and collaborate in goodwill. On the very divisive issue of NFL protests, Beto began his position statement with the following: 

"I think this is a really important question, and reasonable people can disagree on this issue. Let's begin there." - Beto O'Rourke

Cruz is a purist. He doesn't compromise. That can be an admirable quality, but it doesn't help our country move forward. 

Right now, our state and our country need a good-hearted, proven leader who can work collaboratively with other leaders to craft quality, plausible legislation that works in the best interests of everyone. This is no easy task. 


I believe Beto O'Rourke is the best person for the job.


If you agree or disagree, please, for the love of God and country, and in appreciation for those who have died to protect this precious right: VOTE. Register to vote here.

And finally, don't vote straight party. Seriously, stop it. Get to know your candidates and vote for good people who will lead well. Here's your personalized, local ballot for November: https://www.vote411.org/ballot 




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