Our Military Women & Men Deserve a Raise

Congress always seems able to find money to fund wars, but seldom to pay for all the services our troops need when they return. With well over a decade of war, many more need VA services than for which the VA was intentioned, yet Congress doesn’t seem to find enough money to greatly increase the number of hospital beds and services for veterans. Neither does the GOP-led Congress seem to be able to find the money to give our troops a pay raise, even when many are having to rely on food stamps for their families. Many join the military for the benefits they’re promised- healthcare, college, a good retirement. We’ve all heard the stories of the long waits for VA care- when you have a system set up for a certain number of people, but then load in many times more people, it will get bogged down- guaranteed! When we promise college, then we need to pay for college, no ifs, ands or buts.

What we also need to do is to support these young women and men who go into the military now. Many are married and have families, and don’t make enough to support their families, so they have to turn to the government for food stamps. 

 It would be interesting to run the numbers, seeing how much food stamps cost us. Eliminating the need for food stamps could help to offset what I'm about to propose.

When members of military are deployed, be they active duty military, reservists or guard, their pay while deployed is income tax free, but the moment they get back home, it is taxed again. Not only is this difficult when it comes to filing income taxes, I think it short-changes the sacrifices they make in everyday life, even in America, serving in our military. Why not make all of their military pay income tax free, whether here or abroad? Given that the base pay for a new recruit is around $18,000, this makes sense. The lowest paid military are in the 10-15% tax bracket, so rather than a 1% pay raise as promised through 2017, we’d give them a 10-15% raise, all at once. Perhaps it needs to be phased out at the higher pay grades- someone making $65,000 a year could afford to pay taxes, and by the time we’re paying them that, they’re making about the same as they would in private industry. Like so many good ideas, this one didn’t originate with me, and it does need some more research, but it makes sense and needs to be considered. A retired military man contacted me recently, and suggested this as way to give our troops a pay raise. If we’re going to drive up our deficit fighting wars, then let’s either drive it up a little more to give our military folks this much-needed raise, or let’s cut some of those military weapons that the generals say are not needed or wanted, but that Congress continues to fund, (because the weapons-helicopters, tanks, etc.- are manufactured in their districts, and they don’t want to cause unemployment.) Let’s help those factories refit and start manufacturing solar panels, wind turbines and/or rainwater harvesting equipment. We can beat those “swords” into “plows”, freeing up money to offset the de facto raises for our military,  and it would help make our country more sustainable in terms of power and water. It may also help with troop retention and recruitment. What’s not to like about this?

Posted on 23 May 2016, 13:42 - Category: Military



Reasonable Gun Safety

If you want to buy more than 25 lbs of ammonium nitrate, there are regulations, because of the Oklahoma City bombing.

If you want to buy decongestant, even in allergy-prone Austin, you must not only show a photo ID, but also can only buy a limited amount, no matter how many people in your family need the medicine, because it can also be used to make meth.

There are safety regulations for cars (seat belts, anyone) and many other facets of our lives.

Yet, even though tens of thousands die each year from gun violence, and even though the majority of people, want reasonable gun safety laws, this GOP-led Congress refuses to do anything.

64% of gun deaths are suicides. I just read today about a man in the Houson area who apparently killed his wife, their two small children and then committed suicide, all with a gun. The children of Sandy Hook haunt me, and the thought that those parents who lost their babies to gun violence visited Congress people in their offices, and yet, NOTHING was done is unconscionable. Perhaps if we'd had a law that said you had to show a photo ID to buy ammunition, when mass murders started buying a lot of ammunition (think Sandy Hook and Califorinia terrorists),  they could be caught before they murdered innocents. Parents should not have to bury their babies because of gun violence.

I realize we don't have a Constitutional right to allergy relief, chemical fertilizers or even cars, but the 2nd amendment states " A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." It doesn't say "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State; AND the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, which is how the gun industry wants it to read. We're no where near "well-regulated", and closing the gun-show/internet sales loophole so that people will still have background checks is a reasonable step, and is supported by the majority of Americans, including Republicans.

I believe in reasonable gun safety and it is past time we had a Congress that doesn't shake in their boots at the thought of getting a bad grade from the NRA.

 

Posted on 20 Apr 2016, 16:21 - Category: Reasonable Gun Safety



Climate Change response, Thomas vs Williams

 

Climate change- over 90% of scientists say it is real and that humans are contributing to it. The few who don’t are mostly financed by Big Oil.  

Think of it this way: if you were sick, and 9 doctors told you that you needed to quit doing X or you would die, but 1 disagreed (and that one happens to work for the company that makes X), on which would you be willing to bet your life?

My opponent doesn’t address climate change on his website, but given his votes, it is a safe bet that: 1. he doesn’t think that we can do anything differently that will make our earth safer for the future, 2.  doesn’t believe that climate change is affected by humans, or 3. he doesn’t care about the future. None are stances our elected leaders, those who CAN pass legislation to make changes, should have.

 A few examples of those votes:

1.    Rep. Williams voted for big oil subsidies for drilling on public lands (Roll Call vote 408)

2.   Rep. Williams voted to undermine the Clean Air Act (House Roll Call vote 384)

3.   Rep. Williams voted for H.R. 2028, the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016, which moves us backward on energy policy by slashing funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency while boosting funding for dirty fossil fuels. 

Source:  League of Conservation Voters, http://scorecard.lcv.org/moc/roger-williams

 

We have been subsidizing big oil for generations. We need to change those subsidies to clean, renewable energy, and to thorium research (a promising form of safe nuclear energy) and we need to do it without delay.  We also need to do it in a way that creates jobs and strengthens our economy.  The longer we wait to act, the more it will cost. 

Every year we push it back is less time for our children and grandchildren to have a safe earth. It may not be a big problem while my generation is alive, but I care about what our daughter inherits from us, and with what those who come after will have to live. If predictions are correct, the land my family has owned since the 1830’s in SE Texas may become beachfront property in the next 100 years. While that would certainly improve its value, I don’t think my family’s personal future profit trumps the welfare of people in coastal areas, not only of our state and country, but of the entire world.

Most Americans understand the dangers of climate change and want Congress to take responsible action.  (“The poll found that 83 percent of Americans, including 61 percent of Republicans and 86 percent of independents, say that if nothing is done to reduce emissions, global warming will be a very or somewhat serious problem in the future”)  As your Representative, I will work with Democrats and Republicans to implement solutions to climate change that reduce risks while strengthening our economy.  The responsible thing for our environment and our economy is to take action now to address climate change.  

 

Posted on 02 Apr 2016, 15:46 - Category: Climate Change



My memories of 9/11/2001

I have two very strong memories about 9/11. September 11, 2001 was a beautiful morning. We'd been living in our home for a little over a year, and were clearing some of the land to build a barn. We'd borrowed a friend's tractor-mounted wood chipper and were chipping up cedars as we cut them. That morning, Mark couldn't get it started. We were still fairly new to town, and didn't know who might be able to fix it. I came inside to call a friend who'd lived here many years and ask her. When she answered the phone, I knew something was wrong. This is a woman who just didn't get shaken up easily, but she sounded as if she'd lost the world- something in the tone of her voice. I asked her what was wrong, and she asked if I'd been watching TV, which we hadn't, we'd been outside chain sawing down "cedars" since first light. She told me that a plane had struck the towers in NYC and that she didn't know what was going on. She said I should turn on the TV, which I promptly did, and watched in horror. I watched, dumbstruck for several minutes, then remembered Mark out on the tractor. I ran out to tell him that planes had flown into the World Trade Centers and that he should come watch. He didn't believe me at first, said I MUST be mistaken, then I think he saw the look on my face. He turned off the tractor and ran inside with me. We spent most of the rest of the day, like so many of us, glued to the TV, watching in horror as the towers came down. We heard the reporters speaking of people jumping to their deaths, and cried along with the rest of our nation and much of the world.

The other memory that is linked with 9/11 was our adoption. We'd had one referral a year or so earlier, but 6 months into it, when they finally did the DNA test, they found that the woman relinquishing little Flor de Maria was actually no biological kin to her. She was arrested, little Flor was taken from the only home she'd ever known (her foster mother's home) and placed in a government orphanage. We'd tried to find out where she was, and offered to pay to place her in a better orphanage, as the government ones were notoriously poorly-run, over-crowded and under-staffed, but were told we "had no right to know anything about the child"- the baby we'd loved for 6 months, who we'd visited and held the month before. It was devastating.
In August of 2011, we'd told them we were finally ready to move forward with another referral, but that we wanted a DNA test done before we even saw photos of the baby. They'd called us the last week of August, told us they had a referral and that they were getting the DNA test done. As it turns out, they accidentally mailed us the referral package, with photos, before the test was done. We'd put it up, refusing to even look, until we knew for sure this child was legally able to be relinquished, but we were on pins and needles, wanting to see if this was indeed to be our daughter. The DNA test was done, and was in the air, on its way to the lab in New Jersey on 9/11. Of course, the plane was landed, and everything stood still for our adoption, too. They finally ended up driving everything, so the DNA test did get to NJ, a few days later, and we found out in late Sept. that the woman relinquishing this baby was indeed her biological mother, so we opened the package and accepted the referral of our Lettie.

In my mind, Lettie's life is tied up with 9/11. Her DNA test being slowed down by all the landed planes, but also that in her lifetime, there has only been 1 month and 2 days that the US was not at war, and she is 15 now. She, and all children, deserve a world without constant, ongoing war, but how do we get there? I feel like we've spent the last 15 years fighting, and it doesn't seem to be getting much, if any, better. Should we try something different? I know that is "sacrilege" to some, but when doing the same thing over and over gets basically the same results- more carnage, more radicalized males and now females, too, maybe we need to consider a different path, but certainly not hate-filled one of the GOP Presidential nominee.

This is a day for remembering- what we were doing, how we remember this day, how our lives, and the lives of people all over the world have been changed since then.Tomorrow, we need to talk more about how we go forward, how we make this a better world, so that children aren't living in a war-world for all of their lives. I believe we owe that to our children.

For all who lost their lives on this fateful day 15 years ago, my heart goes out to their family and friends. For all who have had their lives irrevocably changed in the wars since, my heart goes out to you and your families. We need to do all we can for our veterans who are fighting, but also for the people who live in those parts of the world where they truly don't know what the next minutes bring. Hug your families today, remember that some folks didn't get a chance to say "goodbye." Life is precious.

 

Posted on 11 Sep 2016, 6:39 - Category: 9/11



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