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Vote Like Your Life Depends On It

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Here comes the November 2 election, and those who genuinely care about our society and our future need to vote like our lives depend on it because, in fact, they do. The last election was about changing the guard; this one is about guarding the change.

At the federal, state and local level, Democrats have been standing up for us, visibly present in our community and helping us improve our lives individually and collectively and making government serve our needs. They've earned your support to continue working for you.

Remember when the Bush administration rammed through TARP, the Troubled Assets Relief Program or the "bank bailout?" my Democratic Congressman Ciro Rodriguez voted "No" for all the right reasons -- lack of accountability, rewarding greed and mismanagement. Then the Democratic administration took office and imposed accountability and efficiency. They recovered over 70% of the money and turned a bailout into a successful recovery program.

Democrats voted on our behalf to pass financial reform, which prevents taxpayer-funded bailouts and increases regulatory control over fraud, conflicts of interest and manipulation of the financial system. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was established to help millions of us who have suffered abuse at the hands of credit card companies, banks, mortgage companies and payday lenders. Financial reform was essential because the excesses of the banks, mortgage lenders and Wall Street were the proximate cause of this great recession. Yet Republicans advocate the same old "free market" that didn't work and rail against "big government" that would hold big business accountable and call for tax cuts for the wealthy. It's very clear whose interests they serve.

Democrats know how the economy works and have been applying effective measures to recover from recession. What creates jobs is demand for goods and services, not tax cuts for the rich. And when consumer spending drops off, the government must -- and sometimes is legally required -- to step in with spending to restore the economy. That's what the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or "The Stimulus" was all about. It included tax cuts benefiting 98% of working Americans and grants to state and local entities for transportation, public safety, housing and community development, education and energy projects. And, despite claims to the contrary, it IS working. Seventy percent of the $787 billion has been spent, deadlines for distributing the funds have been met with few complaints of fraud or abuse. Most importantly, it will save or create 3.5 million jobs by the end of the year, including critical jobs such as police, firefighters, teachers and emergency responders. Getting back the millions of jobs we've lost is going to take more time, but the economy is recovering.

But hear this: Congressional Republicans have openly said that, if they regain control, they will de-fund the stimulus and thus kill the recovery. What they deride as "excessive spending" is simply our tax dollars returning to us. In my state of Texas projects have so far received $14 billion, second only to California among state recipients. And my county alone has received $8.7 million. Yet Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry spouted threats of secession. Even with this boost to our economy, our state government is in the red around $20 billion as a result of his poor leadership.

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Then there's health insurance reform, which Republicans have openly said they intend to take from YOU and give back to the corporate profiteers in health insurance. This reform established that, in the United States as in every other advanced country, access to health care is a right, not a privilege. On September 23, a number of requirements that stop insurance company abuses went into effect. Republicans claim we didn't want this reform, but the truth is that a clear majority demanded it and many are dissatisfied now only because they are unaware of benefits that have just started. Furthermore, of those dissatisfied with the reforms, by a 2 to 1 margin it is because they wanted more, not less, reform.

There's a long list of other Democratic accomplishments -- college student aid reform and expansion, children's health insurance expansion, improved veterans' services, enhanced border security through both federal programs and grants to border sheriffs. In fact and despite Republican opposition to everything, even things they previously suggested, this has been one of the most productive Congresses in history. We wanted change, we voted for it, we got it -- and now it's imperative to protect it.

Time has long passed for Texas Republican Governor Perry to graze his corporate-funded pastures. Aside from the state's $20 billion shortfall, there is also the problem of public education funding. When federal stimulus funds of $3.2 billion were designated for Texas education, Perry used it for other purposes in violation of the Texas Constitution. Then, as a condition for receiving $830 million more for education, Texas must guarantee no drop in education funding for 3 years. Amazingly, instead of using this money for Texas school kids, Texas Attorney General Abbott filed suit against the feds and Perry proposed a $260 million cut in education. Meanwhile, Texas ranks 32nd among states in per-pupil spending and near the bottom on graduation rates and SAT scores. Rick Perry doesn't know or care that our future depends on Texas education. And Attorney General Abbott doesn't know the law. It's time to replace these incompetents with Democratic public servants of quality Bill White for Governor and Barbara Ann Radnofsky for Attorney General.

Furthermore, Republicans advocate a Texas law like Arizona's anti-immigrant law, and Abbott entered the federal lawsuit on the side of Arizona. This law is really about suppression of our Hispanic community as a whole, citizens and non-citizens alike. But our governor and attorney general are not interested in representing all the people of Texas; Democrats are.

The Republican Party has turned itself entirely over to the tea party ideology of divisiveness, prejudice and obstruction of progress. Their demagoguery, laced with lies about their opponents and misrepresentation of how government works, will motivate some to vote. Yet the public policies they advocate of low taxes, low services and deregulation would empower big corporations and the wealthy at the expense of small businesses and average Americans.

This is why it is imperative that the Aware Who Care vote like our lives depend on it. We have to keep saying "Yes, we can" or the Party of No certainly will take us back to the Dark Ages.

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I'm a retired public health worker focused these days on supporting a variety of progressive issues, such as criminal justice reform, energy efficiency, environmental protection, universal health care, civil rights, and worldwide peace and respect. (more...)
 

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