Columns/Opinions

Wed
07
Jan

Now it’s time to focus on growing the economy

by Lee Hamilton

No one who works full time should be poor in this country. Recent economic news has been broadly reassuring. Retail sales are strong, November saw the best job gains in three years, the federal deficit is shrinking, the stock market is robust, and the Fed is expressing enough faith in the economy that an interest rate bump next year is considered a certainty. Yet the public remains unconvinced. This is partly because perceptions haven’t caught up to reality. For many middle- and lower-class families, economic circumstances have not changed very much. Average wages, adjusted for inflation, have not risen in keeping with the good economic news. The median net worth of households is actually a bit less than it was in 2010, just after the official end of the recession — and the gap between the wealthy and the rest of us is wider than ever.

Wed
07
Jan

New mix of lawmakers, officials heading for Austin

By Ed Sterling

When the 84th Texas Legislature convenes on Jan. 13 and oaths of office are administered, the political party split will be 21 Republicans to 10 Democrats in the 31-member Senate, and 98 Republicans to 52 Democrats in the 150-member House. The composition and leadership of committees, the flow of legislation through those committees and control of floor debate will be according to the wishes of new Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Houston and House Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio. Straus is subject to reelection by his peers. He is expected to retain the rostrum and gavel for a fourth consecutive term, even if challenged by a subgroup within the Republican party.

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Wed
31
Dec

Texas’ big year for job creation

by Ed Sterling

2014 has been a banner year for job creation in Texas, according to government assessments. Drawing on figures calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas Workforce Commission on Dec. 19 reported employers added 34,800 seasonally adjusted total nonfarm jobs in November, for a total of 441,200 jobs added since last year. “This broke the state’s previous record set in October, as the state’s annual job growth expanded to a new high for a fourth month in a row,” according to an agency news release, which also said, “even more Texans were employed in November as the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent from 5.1 percent in October, and down from 6.1 percent a year ago.”

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Wed
31
Dec

Celebrating the holidays

By Carol Spicer

Christmas means something different to everyone, and yet, it is meant to be the celebration of the birth of Christ – not who has the most elaborate decorations or who receives the most outrageous gift. This year I stuck to my beliefs. I didn’t celebrate with loads of presents or sending out a hundred cards. Yes, I bought a few presents for special people – but what meant the most was spending time with some of the family  and going to the candlelight service at Zion. We stuck to a simple spaghetti supper – not the ususal turkey and all the fixings – although I did make a pecan pie for Donald’s Christmas present.

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Wed
24
Dec

Tech firm contract probed

By Ed Sterling
 
AUSTIN — State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, on Dec. 18 requested that the special prosecution unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office “begin a formal and thorough investigation” into transactions between the State of Texas and 21CT, a software intelligence firm with offices here and in Vienna, Virginia. Information about the transactions came to light via an ongoing investigation and stories published by the Austin American-Statesman.
 
Wed
17
Dec

Americans, it’s not as bad as you think

by Lee Hamilton

When next you see a news story or commentary hyping a pessimistic view of America’s future, keep this in mind: Our people possess strengths in abundance. Our society has a resilience. Our government may act slowly, and often it’s well behind where we’d wish it to be, but it does act. We are one glum country. Trust in the federal government is at historic lows, according to Gallup. More than half of the respondents to an October Rasmussen poll think our best days are behind us. And just a few weeks ago, an NBC/Wall St. Journal poll found that the one thing Americans agree upon whatever their race or circumstances is that the system is stacked against people like them.

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Wed
17
Dec

Panel sets $7 billion minimum for Rainy Day Fund

By Ed Sterling

Wed
10
Dec

Continuing to build upon a record of success

by Greg Abbott

In 2002, I began my service as the attorney general of Texas honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve fellow Texans. Over the past 12 years – by fostering a strong network of law enforcement, crime victim advocates and communities, we have made Texas a better place to live, work, and raise our families. I’m proud of what we have accomplished together in service to the people of Texas.

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Wed
10
Dec

Gov. Perry directs state agencies to screen employees

By Ed Sterling

Gov. Rick Perry on Dec. 3 ordered state agencies to check the employment eligibility of current and prospective employees by using E-Verify, an Internet-based system that allows employers to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. Perry also urged Congress to pass legislation “to provide the resources necessary to secure our southern border.” Perry’s announcements come in the wake of President Obama’s executive action on immigration on Nov. 20. At the time, in a national broadcast, Obama said he would take various actions because of the protracted unwillingness of Congress to pass an immigration reform bill that addresses the legal status of millions of undocumented workers employed in Texas and other states by American business owners. A White House news release lists three elements of the president’s executive actions:

Wed
03
Dec

Divided government: What lies ahead

by Lee Hamilton

Divided government does not have to be dysfunctional. Given all the words and images devoted to the midterm elections over the past few weeks, you’d think the results had told us something vital about the future of the country. In reality, they were just a curtain- raiser. It’s the next few weeks and months that really matter. The big question, as the old Congress reconvenes and prepares to make way for next year’s version, is whether the two parties will work more closely together to move the country forward or instead lapse back into confrontation and deadlock.
 

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