DALLAS – Texas government, gripped in the talons of right-wingers since before the rest of the nation ever heard of George W. Bush, has gone from dirty politics to downright nasty. Consider the following:
• The Texas Health and Human Services system is trying to replace the jobs of up to 7,500 state employees with an automated telephone system. The job loss is only the beginning of this potential tragedy because thousands of Texas’ neediest people would find themselves “on hold” or trying to deal with automated systems instead of working with professional counselors.
• The Texas Legislature is bogged down in their special “school finance” session. If they manage to get legislation passed, it will almost certainly feature big property tax cuts for rich people, tiny or nonexistent tax cuts for everybody else, and a tax system even more regressive than today’s; larger class sizes; more inequality in funding; and a “voucher program” to undermine public education in favor of elitist private schools.
• The Texas Workers Compensation Commission is holding hearings prior to changing from a system where injured workers can choose their own doctor to one like California’s new procedure, where everybody has to go to a company doctor. They are also continuing to pressure doctors out of the system. Until recently, 30,000 Texas doctors could take workers’ comp cases, but only 10,000 can now. All lawyers to defend injured workers have already been forced out.
Texans are not willing victims. The state’s workers are fighting to save jobs, the teachers are pushing a “no” vote in the Legislature, and unionized doctors are leading the fight for rights for injured workers. All of them are drawing their allies together into fighting coalitions. The end of the story will be determined by whether or not Texans come together in time.
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