Articles

Republicans’ Inevitable Tax Increase

Thou shalt serve thy sponsors.
Thou shalt poison and despoil the works of God.
Thou shalt imprison all people in thy sponsors’ schemes.
Thou shalt sow the seeds of tax increases.

Above are the ten commandments given to Republican politicians at Mt. Koch. Yes, only four are listed, but ten is the number that applies to commandments.

The fourth commandment is the most confusing for ordinary people. In order to assure future tax increases, the Republicans have found it necessary to always speak of tax decreases. There are some who claim Thou shalt speak misleading rhetoric is the fifth commandment, but the original clay tablet was broken and the evidence is unclear on this point. Nevertheless, Republican politicians diligently speak carefully designed talking points which play upon the frustrations and complaints of the voting public.

The seeds of tax increases are best planted in the fertile ground of policies to carry out the first three commandments. From the big picture view, the Republican politicians transfer public wealth to their private sponsors, encourage pollution and waste, and eliminate possible alternatives. The commandment to serve thy sponsors requires Republican politicians to maximize fossil fuel consumption, to maximize mortgage and auto loan debt, and (with help from their Democrat brothers) to maximize public debt. They carry out these commandments through transportation policy, suburban real estate development, industrial agriculture, and the foreign policy of perpetual war. The system of imprisonment has four walls: home mortgage (rent), auto expense (loan, fuel), health care expense, and public debt (municipal bonds, federal deficit). The prison is built on a foundation of income that is slightly less than expenses, so that “success” appears possible while remaining just out of reach and the public is kept in a state of chronic economic insecurity.

In Texas, the Republicans are currently implementing these commandments at the state government level in the budget. They are recovering from the setback of public anger over their toll road plan, and building on past accomplishments which were focused on transportation, pollution, and reduced education. The Republicans were able to engineer a transfer of $2.5 Billion from the general fund to the highway fund through a 2015 constitutional amendment approved by about 8% of eligible voters. Republicans also cemented the privileges of the money-losing fracking industry to create water and air pollution and eliminated local interference. Subsidies for the fracking industry are provided by the federal reserve banking cartel, so the Republicans only needed to provide $250 Million to cover road and bridge damage from fracking in the state budget. The difficult part for the 2017 state budget is the reduction in public services necessitated by the $2.5 Billion transfer to the highway fund.

The Republican plan is to transfer the need to raise revenue to local government agencies or to simply not pay the bills. Thus, it is inevitable that $2.5 Billion will be the approximate amount of tax increase Texans will experience through a myriad of local tax increases. These tax increases will be seen mainly in local school district taxes, which will also advance the Republican goal of eliminating public education by setting the stage for further budget reductions. Shifting public expenses to private individuals is another Republican method, which is seen most clearly in reduced services for the mentally impaired, health care needs due to pollution, and reduced care for drug addiction. These symptoms of Republican policy result from degrading and mismanaging the public sphere in favor of private sponsors and are actually public responsibilities.

While public education will likely be the next focus of tax frustration, the most promising seeds of future tax increases are in the Republican transportation policy. The so-called iron triangle of house, car, and job is in fact a money loser at the public level. The house, car, and job do not create enough of a tax base to support the motor vehicle infrastructure. Added to this is the infrastructure of suburban sprawl, so that when water and sewer lines need replacement, the suburbs will not have the money or tax base to pay these enormous expenses. The Texas Department of Transportation has stated that their entire budget will be needed simply for maintaining the current highway system, but the Republican commandments require expansion of the highway system and suburban sprawl. Expanded highway systems require expanded local roads, create traffic congestion, increase pollution, increase existing maintenance needs, and increase infrastructure costs for other systems. Therefore, future tax increases for highway and local roads spending are inevitable. Regardless, the motor vehicle transportation monopoly must be maintained to maximize fossil fuel consumption.

It should come as no surprise to see that transportation options such as public transportation, railways, pedestrian paths, and cycling paths receive almost no funding under Republican policies. The common feature of these alternatives is reduced fossil fuel usage, which violates the first two commandments. They would also create practical choices in transportation, which violates the third commandment.

In order to actually achieve tax reductions it is necessary to operate public functions in an equitable and economical manner. Since our present infrastructure is so devoted to wasteful usage, actual tax reductions are only a distant possibility. The right direction for transportation policy is roughly opposite of the Republican policies. Texas should be creating locally scaled networks of public transportation, pedestrian paths, and cycling paths to meaningfully reduce car dependence and the need for huge highway monuments. Texas should be promoting greater density in cities and livable cities built for human beings. Texas should be creating a network of railroads for transportation between cities.

In short, Texas should stop funding the Republican sponsors and start taking care of its people.

Transportation Alternatives Program

NCTCOG is the acronym for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. This relatively unknown entity is represented as playing a role in developing the transportation system for the DFW area. The actual role is small, even trivial, but the NCTCOG does offer bureaucratic positions and an appearance of local influence in the corporate driven transportation system.

According to the NCTCOG, the Transportation Alternatives Program “provides funding for programs and projects defined as transportation alternatives.” This includes “on- and off-road pedestrian and bicycle facilities, infrastructure projects for improving non-driver access to public transportation and enhanced mobility, and pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure associated with Safe Routes to School.” As you may suspect, there is more to the program title than to the program itself.

Under the Republican and Democrat party controlled government, the interests of corporations and the wealthy elite are given priority. This is especially true in transportation policy. The primary purpose of transportation policy is to serve the “monthly payment” financial system, mainly auto and mortgage loan payments. The secondary purpose is to maximize fossil fuel consumption. There are other purposes, such as maintaining the highway contractors. The code word which summarizes these purposes is “growth,” but the reality is debt and consumerism, leaving a legacy of infrastructure that cannot affordably be maintained by the suburban tax base. Experience shows that urban density is necessary for long-term economic growth. But for the corporate expansion model, the automobile is the key to current transportation policy. The automobile is is the perfect technology for endless monthly payments, requires constant refueling with fossil fuels, and creates an ongoing need for hugely expensive infrastructure. As many people realize, current transportation policy is intended to make automobile use a practical necessity by monopolizing the transportation infrastructure.

The monopoly granted to automobiles makes tax increases and chronic financial crisis inevitable. The infrastructure is simply too expensive to maintain. The City of Dallas recently delayed a bond package for road maintenance. The suburban City of Addison has suffered major cost overruns in maintenance projects for automobile infrastructure. The City of Plano is preparing to take the plunge. Meanwhile, the State of Texas has allocated $2.5 Billion to a mere 391 out of over 80,000 miles of TxDOT roads for existing and future “congestion.”

In contrast, the Transportation Alternatives Program provides funding for projects which do not promote automobile use. It is no surprise that the Transportation Alternatives Program receives less than 1% of transportation funding. The NCTCOG Transportation Improvement Program for 2017 to 2020 allocates $5,794,425,336 in total for “regional mobility.” The sum of $29,823,976, or 0.515% of the budget, is allocated to the Transportation Alternatives Program.

Spending only 0.5% of these transportation funds for alternatives to automobiles is a serious error, but it is essential to maintaining the automobile monopoly over the transportation system. To understand this, we should focus on first principles. A transportation system requires continuity and connections, much like a communications or computer network. A classic challenge in network infrastructure is called the “last mile” problem. The main network pathways are relatively simple, but the actual connection to the users is the “last mile” and presents the most difficulty and expense. This, ironically, is the area where the Transportation Alternatives Program could provide the greatest value to the goal of improved local and regional mobility. It is the “last mile” where pedestrian and bicycle transport is the most practical and economical. A single bus can replace up to forty automobiles on the highways, and more buses would do more to relieve “congestion” than any highway project.

Appropriate funding and a policy goal of a bicycle path and a pedestrian path connecting every neighborhood to a bus route or transit station would represent a commitment to realistic and effective improvement in the transportation system. It is even possible to imagine that children could safely walk or cycle to school. In reality there are few bicycle paths and these are not connected to other transportation. Pedestrian paths are narrow, non-continuous, and often blocked by obstructions. The safety of pedestrians and cyclists is deliberately compromised in order to devote more space, speed, and convenience to automobiles. Thus, the “last mile” function of bicycle and pedestrian paths is effectively sabotaged by present transportation policies.

As a political body, the NCTCOG can be expected to promote the status quo and the automobile transportation monopoly. However, rather than being a rubber stamp, the NCTCOG and member governments could revise the focus and make major expansion of the Transportation Alternatives Program a priority. Human beings should be more than an afterthought in transportation policy. It is time that the needs of human beings became the primary concern of transportation policy, and human beings need alternatives.

Meeting January 8

Notice: Time has changed to 10:00 am to 12:00 pm.

Party Elections: We will be electing party officials – Female and Male Co-chairs, Secretary, and Treasurer at this meeting. If you would like to nominate someone or yourself, please submit your name and position to jvidhee@mail.com by Wednesday, Jan 4 5pm to be included on the printed ballot. Nominations will be taken the day of the election as write in candidates. Newly elected officials will take office in April 2017.

Legislative Watch: Update

If you have any agenda items to be added to the January meeting, email items to Gary Stuard, Secretary at garystuard123@gmail.com

Location: Union Coffee Shop, 5622 Dyer St #100, Dallas, TX 75206 . Time: Sunday, Janary 8, 2017 at 11:30 am. Message if you have any transportation issues. DallasGreens

You can use some planning tools and check your nearest bus route at DART schedules & maps. Basically, take the train to the Mockingbird Station and then either (1) Bus Route #1 to Greenville @ Dyer, then walk about 2 blocks west to 5622 Dyer St #100, or (2) from the north end of Mockingbird station walk over the tracks to the left on Twin Sixties Dr. to the prospective bike path (marked by the construction barrier and the construction on the left or west side), continuing as Prentice St, about three blocks, then right to Dyer and right again into the Union Coffee Shop. gooogle map

Meeting November 19

Location:
Opening Bell Coffee
1409 S. Lamar Street
Basement Retail #012
Dallas, TX 75215

Time: Saturday, November 19, 2016 at 2:00 pm. Message if you have any transportation issues. DallasGreens

We will discuss election results and we will work on a list of preparation items for the 2018 elections. If you can’t attend but have something to say on this topic, please feel free to email Kevin or Joy. We will also consider the best weekend of the month to try and have meetings.

google map
You can use some planning tools and check your nearest bus route at DART schedules & maps. Basically, (1) take the Red or Blue train to the Cedars Station and then walk 2 blocks southwest on Belleview St. to 1409 S. Lamar Street, or (2) take bus #26 or bus #155 to Belleview and S. Lamar.

The coffee shop is located in the basement of Southside on Lamar Lofts, which is the restored Sears & Roebuck building. The location is near the Dallas Police Dept. and Dallas Community College.

Texas Transportation: The Nightmare Future

The future of Texas, as envisioned by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in the Statewide Long-Range Transportation Plan 2040 (SLRTP), is a dystopia of vast suburban road grids, endless traffic jams, and huge highway spending. According to projections used by TxDOT, the population of Texas will grow to 45 million people by 2040, and transportation spending will rise to $21 Billion per year (2016 Budget).

However, we need to keep in mind the higher temperatures we can expect from climate change as fracking methane leaks and greenhouse gas emissions drive the transition to a hostile and unforgiving climate. Additionally, there are water resource issues as watersheds and aquifers are exploited beyond capacity. The expansive consumer motoring world of TxDOT is in sharp contrast to the struggling natural world of reality. The realistic prospect for future transportation is sweltering congestion in which Texans struggle to make their car payments, get their gas, and keep their road rage in check.

One may wonder whether the SLRTP is more a marketing brochure than a realistic projection. TxDOT mentions walking, cycling, public transportation, and passenger rail in an effort to present an illusion of balance and choice in transportation. There is even a reference to higher density urban development. However, it is clear there is no actual credibility given to these alternatives. For example, out of a projected $547 Billion ($21 B/yr) in total spending, only $2.19 Billion ($0.08 B/yr) is devoted to pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, far less than the $1 Billion annually to repair road damage by the fracking industry. The fact is all available resources will be consumed by highway expansions and maintenance. TxDOT itself states that the “good” condition of highways and bridges can only be maintained by devoting all highway spending to maintenance unless its budget is increased dramatically.

Those of us who think will see that TxDOT has become a dinosaur. It takes little imagination to realize the existing bottlenecks and traffic jams will become worse, not better. There is only so much room for roads and highways, but the growth projections envision many millions of additional cars and trucks. TxDOT faces a task that is physically and economically impossible. Yet sympathy is the wrong response. The highway transportation system of TxDOT is as large and costly as we will ever be able to afford, but TxDOT will not admit this or change on its own. We have no need for a state agency devoted to making car ownership a necessity.

The only practical way forward for Texas is public transportation – buses and rail. This is the only way to move the required number of people in the available space with the available resources. Instead of token gestures to public transportation and pedestrian and cycling modes, TxDOT should be devoting billions annually to these “alternatives” which have become a necessity. Instead of relegating these modes to last-resort status, they should be moved front and center as the centerpiece of future transportation in Texas.