San Antonio Express News

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Taking vs. Redistribution

“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”  Alex De Tocqueville

A March 27th Op-ed in the San Antonio Express News by Nicholas Kristof calls us a “Nation of Takers,” claiming that the US government gives welfare to the wealthy with mortgage tax “subsidies” for the wealthy and lower capital gains taxes as opposed to earned income taxes.

Forget that Kristof doesn’t understand the difference between taxes – where the government takes from some – and subsidies – where the government gives tax money to the benefactors the government selects. Taxes take, subsidies and benefits give.

Kristof assumes that all money is the government’s to tax, rather than the property of individuals who have the unalienable right to earn and accumulate what they earn to provide for themselves, their dependents, and for the future when they are unable to earn. The money doesn’t belong to even the most utilitarian – or Utilitarian* – government plan for its use.

Those capital gains taxes are on money already taxed and invested for a certain period of time. If you want to encourage investment, don’t tax it. If you want to encourage hoarding on the other hand . . .
As to those yachts and beach homes – people who don’t use these dwellings as their actual homes can’t claim the mortgage deduction. In any case, thanks to the effects of the alternate minimum tax, the wealthy don’t receive any mortgage tax deduction.

*Utilitarian good is the idea that government should rule “for the greatest good.” We end up with the biggest gun, the most charismatic leader or the majority voting — and eventually, “might makes right.”

 “I have never understood why it is ‘greed’ to want to keep the money you’ve earned, but not greed to want to take somebody else’s money.” – Thomas Sowell

Dan or Leticia? GOP senators might demur – San Antonio Express-News

Even a stopped (analog) clock is right twice a day. And here’s an example, from O.Ricardo Pimental:

Republican senators number 19, Democrats 12. If two seats flip, the GOP, if unified, has its can’t-mess-with-us majority. Most folks think Republicans will go up to at least 20. But rule changes can be done with a simple majority.

And here’s the thing: Van de Putte simply scores higher on collegiality than does Patrick, known for his red-meat policy choices and God-says-I’m-right-and-you’re-not posture.

via Dan or Leticia? GOP senators might demur – San Antonio Express-News.

Protect the right to life – San Antonio Express-News

I wrote this to the San Antonio Express News, in response to an “Other Views” Commentary a couple of weeks ago that claimed our pro-life HB2 violated the “separation of church and state.” It was rife with errors, easily corrected:

1. Abortion isn’t “private.” It is performed by licensed doctors in licensed abortion facilities, under laws regulating the practice of medicine passed by the elected Legislature of the state of Texas.

2. Women’s health and family planning clinics that offer federal and state funded health and cancer screenings and contraception are prohibited by both state and federal law from performing elective abortion. These clinics aren’t licensed abortion facilities and aren’t affected by HB2.

3. After Pennsylvania, Virginia and Missouri passed laws requiring safety standards similar to those in HB2, most abortion facilities in those states remained open.

4. Abortion facilities are allowed 16 months to come up to standard. If abortion facilities close, it will be because business owners decide not to invest in their facilities.

5. HB2, like earlier Texas laws, protects the mother if her life is endangered by continuing the pregnancy.

6. HB2 doesn’t create any criminal charges for the mother, only for physicians who perform illegal abortions after five months.

HB2 does require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges in case their patients have complications requiring hospitalization and abortion facilities to meet building standards known to improve patient safety.

More, including some philosophy, via Protect the right to life – San Antonio Express-News.

Texas Medical Association wants you to pay for elective abortions @texmed @texasallianceforlife #pro-life #tcot

Not all of the members of Texas Medical Association agree with the TMA on this.

The San Antonio Express News published an editorial August 9th, by O. Ricardo Pimentel, entitled, “Texas tries to get between you, your doctor:”

For them, the issue isn’t abortion; it’s about the doctor-patient relationship, patient health and the ability to put everything on the table that needs to be discussed. Even if it’s abortion.

In a recent letter to the state, the Texas Medical Association, joined by other medical groups, said Texas is about to embark on a plan for providing medical care to low-income women that will impose a “gag order” on discussing abortion even on doctors working with patients not in the program.

Other groups, weighing in during the public comment period on proposed state rules, have similar concerns.

It’s a plan, they say, that will ensure not enough doctors for this program willing to provide care, including family planning services. And this, they say, will guarantee more unintended pregnancies, more abortions and more illness that might have been prevented for low-income women.

Among those also commenting on the rules were the Center for Public Policy Priorities, and leaders of Planned Parenthood entities in the state, South Texas groups among them.

Trust me, for everyone who is mentioned above, it’s about abortion. The law doesn’t stop anyone from discussing or even promoting true contraception that doesn’t end the life of our youngest children of tomorrow.

And it is about “elective abortions:” those that are performed on health babies in healthy mothers. We’re not talking about the more controversial abortions in cases of rape and incest, much less in the cases of congenital disorders that are “not compatible with life outside the womb and certainly not in cases where the mother’s life is in danger. Since when do elective abortions “need to be discussed?

How difficult is it to understand that Texas taxpayers should not pay for “promotion” of abortion? Or that we most certainly do not want our State tax funds to go to doctors who perform elective abortions on healthy babies and healthy mothers?

While I don’t speak for the Society, I am an elected delegate for my County Medical Society to the TMA House of Delegates and I believe that most of our members would agree with me on this. I am very much in favor of restricting payment from our limited State funds to only those doctors and organizations that provide comprehensive and continuing medical care for the whole woman and her whole family. With Texas Family Doctors, Internal Medicine Docs, Pediatricians and OB/Gyns reeling from the lack of increasing fees from Medicare and decreases in Medicaid funding, why not help keep them in business by adding the availability of billing the State for screening tests like pap smears, exams for breast masses, diabetes and high blood pressure?

In fact, that’s what the Legislature decided: that money would be prioritized. First come the comprehensive care docs, hospitals, and county and city clinics. Planned Parenthood is never mentioned, although there is a section of the law that absolutely prohibits the State from contracting with anyone who “promotes” abortion *if there are other qualified providers available.*

Texas DHS has already identified more than enough doctors and clinics that qualify under the law. These doctors can actually treat the diseases for which the Texas Women’s Health Plan screens. Our Texas Legislature made a wise decision when they agreed that it doesn’t make sense to send our few dollars to a clinic that treats a very narrow medical spectrum in an intermittent manner.

And the law has already saved human lives: Austin city and Travis County taxes once paid for 400 elective abortions each year. A year ago, the law achieved what the taxpayers who protested this use of their money couldn’t do: Austin and Travis County health clinics were forced to stop funding those abortions.
If you have a family doctor, consider a polite call to his or her front desk asking them to let the TMA know their views on using Texas’ tax funds to support Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

You might also consider contacting Texas Alliance for Life and/or you local Crisis Pregnancy Center to let them know that you support their efforts to keep your State (and federal) tax funds from paying for the ending of lives of our Texans of tomorrow.

Enabling vs. Providing “Infrastructure” for Family Planning (and a Map of Government-Funded Family Planning Providers in Texas)

It’s not just right wing, Christian “anti-choicers” (we really prefer to be called “pro-life”) who understand that paying abortion providers and those who refer to them under Medicaid and Title X funds enables them to do abortions. From the Guttmacher Institute:

Title X is a grant program under which funds are distributed to grantees who design and operate their own programs—funding can be targeted to local needs and challenges. Unlike Medicaid, for example, Title X can subsidize the intensive outreach necessary to encourage some individuals to seek services. Furthermore, by paying for everything from staff salaries to utility bills to medical supplies, Title X funds provide the essential infrastructure support that enables clinics to go on and claim Medicaid reimbursement for the clients they serve.

So, whoever receives title X funding is “enabled” to stay in business. In these days of low tax revenues and high demand, shouldn’t Texas only “enable” comprehensive, continuing care?

Unfortunately, Texas representatives of Texas taxpayers found themselves limited in funds this year and we had to prioritize where we allocated Family Planning money. Funding for the Family Planning programs and the Texas Women’s Health Program, which receives Medicaid money, was directed toward programs and doctors that offer continuing, comprehensive care, such as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), State, County and local clinics and hospitals, and fee for service doctors that participate with Medicaid.

However, in article after article, the law which sets aside money to pay for contraceptives and never mentions Planned Parenthood, is said to have been a weapon in the war on contraceptives and abortion, and in particular, against Planned Parenthood.

Medicaid is supposed to be a health program for the very poor, but Congress has allowed States some flexibility when it comes to the disabled and to pregnant women, through a system of waivers. Texas began our Women’s Health Program in 2007, asking for a waiver to spend funds to screen women for disease, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and even tuberculosis, not just for STD’s, breast cancer and cervical cancer. The program also pays for the prescription and dispensing of contraception – including Natural Family Planning! – to women who are not pregnant or disabled, and who would not otherwise be eligible for Medicaid.

The Obama Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services has refused this year’s request for a waiver to apportion the funds because of the stipulation that the State’s money will not go to affiliates of those who either perform or refer to elective abortions.

Just to be clear, “elective abortions” mean those that are done because the healthy mother carrying a healthy child seeks an abortion, not those done to prevent damage to her health or save her life. “Elective abortions” don’t even include those done in healthy mothers with healthy babies who were conceived through rape or incest. Procedures to treat tubal or ectopic pregnancies are never considered abortions, either “elective” or medical.

The law, HB 7, passed in the Special Session of the 82nd Legislature does not mention Planned Parenthood or any other abortion provider. The text stresses that our State must prioritize how we are to spend our limited tax dollars:

Sec.531.0025. RESTRICTIONS ON AWARDS TO FAMILY PLANNING SERVICE PROVIDERS. (a)Notwithstanding any other law, money
appropriated to the Department of State Health Services for the purpose of providing family planning services must be awarded:
(1) to eligible entities in the following order of descending priority:
(A) public entities that provide family planning services, including state, county, and local community health clinics and federally qualified health centers;
(B) nonpublic entities that provide comprehensive primary and preventive care services in addition to family planning services; and
(C) nonpublic entities that provide family planning services but do not provide comprehensive primary and preventive care services; or
(2) as otherwise directed by the legislature in the General Appropriations Act.
(b) Notwithstanding Subsection (a), the Department of State Health Services shall, in compliance with federal law, ensure distribution of funds for family planning services in a manner that does not severely limit or eliminate access to those services in any region of the state.

(b) Section 32.024, Human Resources Code, is amended by adding Subsection (c-1) to read as follows:
(c-1) The department shall ensure that money spent for purposes of the demonstration project for women ’s health care services under former Section 32.0248, Human Resources Code, or a similar successor program is not used to perform or promote elective abortions, or to contract with entities that perform or promote elective abortions or affiliate with entities that perform or promote elective abortions.

The Texas Tribune has published a map of family planning clinics in Texas, claiming to point out which clinics will stop receiving taxpayer money in March of this year.

The  In Texas, the Legislature has drastically reduced funding for family planning agencies that serve low-income women statewide. There are 41 agencies that receive funding today, down from 71 last year. Those organizations often operate multiple clinics that provide Texans with contraceptives and disease screenings.

Using the most up-to-date information available through the Texas Department of State Health Services, we have mapped out the locations of government-subsidized family planning clinics in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Not only are there fewer contractors each year, but those that receive grants are getting less money. During the 2011 session, lawmakers redirected virtually all state funds that have traditionally gone to family planning services to other programs. Today, nearly all public funding for these clinics comes from the federal government’s four-decade-old Title X program, which is dedicated to family planning.

via Updated: Map of Government-Funded Family Planning Providers in Texas.

Everyone who would like to support those clinics, should send a donation — because the Texas Legislature won’t meet again until January of 2013 and the law can’t be changed until then.

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