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Converting budget crisis into taxpayer opportunity Print E-mail
by Will Lutz    Wed, Mar 23, 2011, 05:12 PM

Right now, many at the Capitol are in crisis mode, panicking about how to balance the budget. At the Lone Star Foundation, we see the current situation as a wonderful opportunity to get better value for the taxpayers.

The Lone Star Foundation and Americans for Prosperity Foundation released a study today proposing or endorsing $4 billion worth of cuts to the bureaucracy. These smart cuts focus on reducing administrative spending and overhead, not front-line services.

The study was co-written by Lone Star Foundation Chairman David A. Hartman and LSR Managing Editor William Lutz, with help from Steven J. Anderson, CPA, and Peggy Venable with Americans for Prosperity.

Our goal was to identify or propose ideas that cut the budget without damaging front-line services and suggest changes to the functioning of government that provide better services at lower cost.

Perhaps the biggest area of administrative waste in government occurs in education. For public education, we propose focusing tax dollars where they belong – in the classroom. Forty years ago, the ratio of non-teachers to teachers was 0.64. Today, there’s almost one non-teacher on the payroll for every teacher. (.98 to be exact). While we proposed a modest 10 percent reduction in non-teaching staff, school districts could realize further savings with more streamlining.

Our institutions of higher learning are largely run for the benefit of the faculty. We suggest running them for the benefit of students and taxpayers. Cuts should come first to overhead and direct appropriations to institutions, with cuts to student scholarships occurring only as a last resort.

College faculty should teach more. We also admit far too many academically underprepared students to four-year universities, when community colleges would be a more appropriate setting that offers more vocational education opportunities. We also suggest saving money by charging independent school districts for developmental education when they graduate students who flunk community college academic placement tests.

Health care is perhaps the most complicated area for savings because of the maze of federal Medicaid regulations. We highlight several of the cost-reduction measures already underway, including expanded managed care in South Texas, higher co-payments, and payment based on better health outcomes. We also suggest continued improvements in the transparency of the system. Specifically, Medicaid clients should know exactly how much the care they receive cost, and taxpayers deserve better information on how much money was spent.

Some of the ideas proposed or endorsed in the report include the following:

  • Trimming non-teaching personnel in the public schools by 10 percent
  • Limiting salaries of school superintendents to that of the governor
  • Reduce enrollment of under-prepared students at universities, expand community colleges
  • Stop rewarding state universities when they get pork from the federal government
  • Encourage university faculty to teach more students
  • Improve government accounting to allocate fully all costs to the program generating them
  • Pay for improved health care items, instead of per-procedure
  • Let Medicaid clients know exactly how much the government spent on their care

While this study proposes billions in savings, we aimed for quality, not quantity. We also took a long-term rather than a short-term approach. While we do propose $4 billion worth of savings in the current biennium, the study is full of ideas that save money long-term. Examples include making health care more transparent, improving the use of technology in state government, and improving state accounting practices.

When setting a budget, the focus should always be on the taxpayer, not the recipient of government largesse. Education should be run primarily to benefit students, parents, and businesses, not the employees of school districts.

There are two ways to balance a budget – short-term measures that get reversed immediately after the economy turns back up, and long-term changes. While we recognize some of the former may be necessary, we encourage the Legislature to do more of the latter. Look for ways to shrink government and deliver better value for Texans' hard-earned tax dollars.

A full copy of the study is posted to and

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They, Too, Have a Voice Print E-mail
by John Browning    Tue, Mar 22, 2011, 06:48 PM

The extraordinary film “The King’s Speech” did more than just sweep the Academy Awards (winning Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay) and captivate the public imagination.  It shed light on an affliction that the general public knows relatively little about and at which society and Hollywood itself has poked fun.  Colin Firth’s moving portrayal of England’s King George VI and his lifelong battle with stuttering helped raise awareness of this communication disorder that affects over 3 million Americans and more than 68 million people worldwide.  Watching as the reluctant monarch ascends to the throne in the wake of his older brother’s abdication, one cannot help but feel for Colin Firth’s character, who—in the age of radio—must rally and inspire the British population through his public addresses as Hitler’s rise threatens the safety of Europe.  It is painful to watch “Bertie” struggle with the stoppages of sound and syllables, repetitions, and prolongations that characterize his stammering, just as one cheers the progress he makes with the aid of an understanding, if unconventional, speech therapist (played by Geoffrey Rush).


Watching this movie, it is impossible not to feel for the stuttering royal, born into a life of public appearances and speeches and desperately trying to live up to the expectations of a domineering, emotionally distant father.  How much easier would it have been for him if he’d lived in relative obscurity, able to avoid public speaking by pursuing some other profession?  After all, a person who stutters wouldn’t seek out a job that demanded public speaking, like being a trial lawyer—or would he?


The truth is, there are trial lawyers who stutter.  In a profession whose hallmark is communication skills and whose public perception is tied to such skills (even slang terms for lawyers, like “mouthpiece,” are focused on their speaking abilities), one might think, “stutterers need not apply.”  But there are lawyers—exceptional ones at that—who stutter.  One of them is David Walton, a partner at Philadelphia-based Cozen O’Connor who practices labor and employment law and who spends a great deal of time in the courtroom.  In law school, Walton says his stuttering was so bad that during moot court, the judge started crying in the middle of his argument because she felt sorry for him.  Walton, who had been turned down for sales jobs and discouraged from attending law school by family and friends because of his stutter, persevered.  A law professor even told him that his stutter could be turned to his advantage, in that a jury would listen more closely to him.


As it turns out, that professor was right.  Walton has gone on to a distinguished career as a trial lawyer.  In one of his first major cases, a lengthy trade secrets trial, after the favorable verdict was rendered a group of jurors approached him.  One juror told him that they really respected him because they knew he had a stutter, but that he showed real courage in being a trial lawyer.  As the jurors walked away, Walton says “I realized that I had something that was natural and genuine.  It was an epiphany—my stutter was a great gift.”  Reflecting on his career and dealing with the adversity of a speech impediment, Walton goes on to state, “I wouldn’t change a thing about my stutter.  It has made me tough; it has taught me how to fight through adversity.  Yet everyone who is reading has something in their life like stuttering that they’ve had to overcome.  The key is to use those experiences as strengths in a courtroom and provide the confidence to be yourself.”


The popular conception is that the last place for an attorney who stutters is in the courtroom.  Just look at the movie “My Cousin Vinny,” and its portrayal of the stumbling, stammering defense lawyer who painfully struggles through an ineffectual cross-examination to the bewilderment of the jurors and the abject horror of his client.  Yet David Walton’s story is not an isolated case.  In fact, another trial lawyer in Pennsylvania, William D. Parry, is a stutterer who has not only dealt with his disorder successfully in his legal career, but who has actually become a certified speech pathologist.  Parry is the author of a book on understanding and controlling stuttering, and has helped countless others in coping with their stammers.


When I recently visited an online support group, the Stuttering Forum, one thread caught my eye.  The discussion focused on law students who stutter and whether or not they should reconsider their career plans.  A lawyer who identified himself as a stutterer gave an eloquent, moving response:


“Will it be tough for you, tougher than for other students?  YES.  Will you be denied jobs and clerkships because of your speech?  YES.  Will you want to go back to your room, crawl into a ball on the floor and sob every now and then?  YES.  On the other hand, will you be denied all jobs and all clerkships?  NO.  Will your speech make you a failure as a lawyer?  NO!  The legal profession needs fewer slick talkers and more ethical, devoted thinkers.  You will find a rewarding role in the profession—I did.”


It’s a subject that resonates with me personally.  A good friend of mine, Christopher Egan, is a great attorney, a trial lawyer with the Tax Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.  He has received various promotions and recognition for his successes over the course of his government service, including 2 Outstanding Attorney awards.  Since childhood, Chris has also coped with a stutter, frequently brought on by anxiety.  When I first met Chris, he was dating my friend’s niece (they are now married and the parents of 3 beautiful children).  At the time, he was working as a CPA with a major accounting firm (Chris also has a master’s degree in accounting), but he really wanted to become a lawyer.  I tried to talk him out of it, as did others.  But Chris was intent on pursuing his dream, and was accepted to the SMU Dedman School of Law.


As I expected, it wasn’t easy.  Chris did well enough in his classroom studies, but advocacy programs like moot court (in which student lawyers present appellate oral arguments) and mock trial challenged him like they challenged no other law student.  In fact, during one of his trial advocacy classes the professor actually played the “stuttering lawyer” scene from “My Cousin Vinny” as an illustration of what not to do at trial.  Chris says, “I felt great shame and anger” when the professor did that, and “the scene’s use as a teaching tool flooded my head with doubts and fears.”  How could he expect to be a trial attorney, he wondered, when “I could hardly carry on a conversation sometimes.”  As tough as it was to be peppered with questions during a classroom exercise, interviewing for a job posed even bigger obstacles.  I tried to help Chris become more relaxed and confident in an interview setting by enlisting attorney friends of mine to conduct practice interviews.  But it was to no avail—interview after interview went nowhere as hiring partners at tax firms couldn’t quite picture the young man with the painful stammer communicating with clients or presenting arguments in a courtroom.


As doors shut in his face, Chris refused to give up.  He worked harder than ever, and he credits his Christian faith and the support he received at monthly meetings of the National Stuttering Association for building his confidence and “providing me with a safe place to explore my anxiety.”  Chris obtained an unpaid internship with the Department of Justice.  There were no promises that it would lead to anything, but it was the shot he needed.  Chris impressed his bosses enough to land a paid internship, and his performance in that job earned him a position after graduation with the DOJ.  Chris graduated with honors from SMU, made the school’s prestigious law review, and won awards for his legal writing.  He’s gone on to distinguish himself at the DOJ, trying 6 cases and successfully arguing dozens of dispositive motions.  As Chris describes it, the whispers of doubt in his head are gone, and while “my speech is far from perfect, I am thankful every day that I took a risk and became a trial attorney.”  And that’s not all—since 2006, Chris has served as president of the Dallas chapter of the National Stuttering Association.


Over the course of his education and career, Chris—like stutterers everywhere—has had to overcome a great deal.  Beyond coping with his speech disorder, he’s had to battle the many popular misconceptions and stigmas associated with stuttering.  Such misconceptions are largely rooted in ignorance.  According to the Stuttering Foundation of America, there are several factors that can lead to stuttering.  One is a genetic link; an estimated 60% of those who stammer have a family member who does so as well (David Walton’s father and brother both stutter).  Neurological research also points to a neurophysiological source as well, as people who stutter process speech and language slightly differently from those who don’t stutter.  Other factors that have been identified with stuttering include childhood developmental delays and family dynamics.  Many well-known people have struggled with a stutter.  They include not just King George VI, but people who have gone on to become reknowned for their public speaking or performing: Winston Churchill; actors James Earl Jones, Bruce Willis, and Marilyn Monroe; country singer Mel Tillis; NBA great and analyst Bill Walton; broadcast journalist John Stossel; and business mogul and former General Electric CEO Jack Welch.


In “The King’s Speech,” King George VI is goaded by his speech therapist about why anyone should listen to what he has to say, and the frustrated monarch exclaims “Because I have a voice!”  If you know people who stutter, take the time to listen to them and to be supportive of their career aspirations—even if they want to be lawyers.  After all, they too have a voice. 


To learn more about stuttering, go to, contact the Stuttering Foundation of America at 1(800) 992-9392, or contact the National Stuttering Association at and at 1(800) 937-8888.

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Another Imperial Quagmire? Print E-mail
by Ivan Eland    Mon, Mar 21, 2011, 01:25 PM

Unbelievably, after experiencing 10 years of quagmire in Afghanistan and Iraq, the American foreign policy establishment is now clamoring for the institution of a no-fly zone in Libya. Luminaries on both the Left and the Right have endorsed the concept: for example, Senators John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, and John McCain. Even though the U.S. military would have to first attack Libyan radars, air defenses, runways, aircraft, and command, control, and communication facilities, John Kerry argued that a no-fly zone was not a military operation. Traditionally, the foreign policy elites of declining empires have never accepted the need to retrench overseas before it was too late. The U.S. establishment hasn’t either.

With whopping budget deficits of more than $1 trillion per year, a national debt of more than $14 trillion, and the U.S. military already overstretched by two drawn-out occupations, one would think some sort of “Vietnam Syndrome” would have set in. Although some pundits on the Left (Maureen Dowd) and the Right (George Will) have cautioned against a no-fly zone, most foreign policy luminaries have reflexively supported it.

Yet even if one disregards the cost in money, military readiness for other missions, and potentially even lives, such intervention into the affairs of a sovereign nation has drawbacks. In the case of Libya, we could start off with the simple fact that the country is not strategic to the United States. Libya does produce oil, but a reduction of its production because of internal conflict will merely increase the price of the commodity, thus providing monetary incentives for other oil producers to pump more oil in compensation. Second, aiding the Libyan rebels with a no-fly zone may embolden the opposition in other nations to revolt, thinking they can also get U.S. military help. Third, selling weapons to an opposition that the United States knows little about could be dangerous; for example, U.S. assistance to the Afghan Islamist fighters battling the Soviet Union inadvertently helped create the only threat to U.S. territory since the War of 1812—al-Qaeda. Fourth, attacking a third Muslim country would make the United States even more unpopular in the Islamic world, thus increasing blowback Islamist terrorism against U.S. targets. And finally, the no-fly zones in Iraq and the Balkans eventually led to deeper involvement there, raising the possibility that taking over Libyan airspace to implement a no-fly zone could enmesh the United States in another quagmire in an Islamic country.

Which brings us to whether a no-fly zone would even do much good in Libya. Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi could still use his superiority in tanks, artillery, and other ground forces to gain advantage over the poorly armed and trained rebels. If the no-fly zone failed to end Gadhafi’s offensive, pressure would then likely build for the U.S. to attack Libyan ground forces directly, thus commencing interventionist quagmire number three.

But what about the vast accomplishments of interventionist quagmires numbers one (Afghanistan) and number two (Iraq)? As the U.S. gets ready to withdraw its remaining forces by the end of the year, Iraq is trending toward autocracy, with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki running the armed forces and national police himself, closing down political parties that organized demonstrations, killing protesters, and gaining control over the previously independent central bank, the election commission, and the agency that investigates corruption. Such consolidation of power under an Arab Shi’ite prime minister could very well result in a backlash among Kurds and Sunnis, thus rekindling the civil war.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the rosy picture painted by Gen. David Petraeus, unquestioned by the American media, has always differed from the more ominous view of the U.S. intelligence community. The U.S. military is the best in the world and can cause the ragtag Taliban to retreat from wherever it chooses to clear and hold, thus the rosy picture of U.S. gains in territory at Taliban expense. Yet, if U.S. forces are ever to draw down in significant quantities, the ground gained will have to be turned over to the Afghan government, with security provided by the country’s army and police. The Afghan government is one of the most corrupt in the world, and the country’s army and police, despite years of training, are a joke.

Meanwhile, the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan and drone attacks against Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan are making new enemies. The Pakistani Taliban, which previously focused its efforts against the Pakistani government, is now sending suicide bombers to Times Square. Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamist group originally organized by U.S.-backed Pakistani intelligence to battle the Soviets in Afghanistan, is now transitioning from attacking the Indians in Kashmir to attacking European and American targets, including U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Thus, honestly examining the failures of U.S. intervention elsewhere should give the American foreign policy elite some pause before pulling the trigger again in Libya. Alas, American imperial urges die hard. Given such continued interventionism, however, the overextended American Empire could die quite easily.

Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He has been Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, and he spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. He is author of the books Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, and Recarving Rushmore.

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Reclaiming the Constitution (Part 6) Print E-mail
by Wes Riddle    Mon, Mar 21, 2011, 12:48 PM

Perhaps the purest Tenth Amendment cases in constitutional law have to do with congressional enactments that "commandeer" instrumentalities of state government. The "commandeering" doctrine offers additional grounds for hoping that the Supreme Court will vindicate local authority and roll back federal overreach. In New York v. U.S. (1992) the Court struck down a federal law that required States to take title to nuclear waste. In Printz v. U.S. five years later, the Court struck down a part of the Brady Act that required States to conduct background checks on prospective gun purchasers.

These cases do not rely on enumerated powers constraints as a basis for decision. Thus, they did not address general federal authority to regulate either nuclear waste or gun purchases. What the federal government cannot do, under New York and Printz, is to order instrumentalities of state and local government to serve as instrumentalities of the federal government.

As Michael Greve notes in Real Federalism: Why It Matters, How It Could Happen (1999), "what the Supreme Court has done is to elevate the Tenth Amendment into an extratextual, judge-made principle of intergovernmental immunity." Greve argues that the "genius" of Justice Scalia's majority opinion in Printz is to locate that intergovernmental immunity in the "structure" of the Constitution: "First Justice Scalia explains that the Constitution establishes a system of 'dual sovereignty,' wherein the States and the national government occupy separate 'spheres.' The Tenth Amendment is only one of the indicia of federalism so understood.

"Second, Justice Scalia maintains that the congressional commandeering of state and local officers would undermine the federal executive: by dragooning state and local officers into federal law enforcement, Congress could subvert and circumvent the President's constitutional authority to ensure the faithful execution of the law.

"Third, Justice Scalia argues that Congress lacked the constitutional authority to enact the background check requirements under, of all things, the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution, which empowers Congress to 'make all laws which be necessary and proper' to the enforcement of its delegated powers. A law that presses state and local officers into federal service, Justice Scalia maintains, cannot be 'proper.' Each of these three claims points beyond the seemingly limited holding in Printz. Each implies a notion of federalism, not as a mere protection of state immunity but as a direct constraint on the federal government."

Justice Scalia's opinion takes aim at the danger of requiring States to enforce federal laws, particularly the danger of diminishing political accountability: "By forcing state government to absorb the financial burden of implementing a federal regulatory program, Members of Congress can take credit for 'solving' problems without having to ask their constituents to pay for the solutions with higher federal taxes. And even when the States are not forced to absorb the costs of implementing a federal program, they are still put in the position of taking the blame for its burdensomeness and for its defects."

One promising area of Tenth Amendment jurisprudence is therefore what meaning can be attached to the word "proper" within the final clause of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which grants Congress the power "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers." To follow Justice Scalia's opinion in Printz, a law that upsets the federalist structure of the Constitution by infringing on the "quasi-sovereign" status of States might not be "proper."


Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford. Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he ran for U.S. Congress (TX-District 31) in the 2004 Republican Primary and is currently Chairman of the Central Texas Tea Party. Article condensed from an essay by Ted Cruz and Mario Loyola (Texas Public Policy Foundation, Nov 2010). Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Refocus on the Classroom Print E-mail
by Erwin Cain    Fri, Mar 18, 2011, 03:26 PM

I’m a product of public schools. My wife is a trained educator, and my three children attend East Texas public schools - so I have huge personal stake in ensuring that our education system is successful. Every day in classrooms across Texas, teachers tirelessly inspire and motivate their students to pursue academic excellence. Like me, you probably also know some of these teachers. There is simply no substitute for the central link between student and teacher inside the classroom. Yet in many places across Texas, bureaucrats and school administrators have lost sight of the fundamental mission of public education and where the rubber meets the road—in the classroom.

A disturbing trend has developed over the last several decades. Armies of support aides, administrators, and auxiliary staff have grown in our school districts. Over years, the natural character of this bureaucracy becomes self-preservation rather than focus on the classroom. The predictable result is that fewer and fewer dollars make their way to the classrooms where they are most needed.

Texas has more public school employees than any other state in the nation, including California, despite having 1,000 less schools and 1.6 million less students than the Golden State! Forbes Magazine has found that if Texas school districts were a single company it would be the fifth largest employer in the world, just short of the United States Postal Service.

It was not always this way. In the 1970s, for every 5 teachers employed in Texas public schools there were 2 non-teachers. Now that number is nearly 1-1. Since 2004, non-teachers have been hired at nearly 3 times the rate of in-classroom teachers. Adjusted for inflation, Texas spends nearly double per-pupil what it did a decade ago. Over the last 20 years, per-pupil costs have exploded from $3,600 to more than $11,000.

At a time of fiscal uncertainty for many Texas teachers, the average Texas school superintendent earns six figures and a majority received raises last year. More than 70 Texas school districts pay their superintendents upwards of $200,000 a year, and more than two dozen superintendents with salaries of a quarter-million dollars a year or more. The highest paid Texas superintendent earns $347,000 a year. It is easy to see how payroll accounts for fully 60% of public school expenditures. While our local superintendents do not make lavish salaries, all Texas taxpayers are on the hook for those who do. Yet when economic conditions compel lawmakers to find efficiencies all across state government, too many school administrators recommend that classroom teachers be the first to go. This is an unwise approach. Instead of putting teachers on the chopping block we should be prioritizing them.

We have to get back to basics in public education. Texas can no longer afford to spend 50 cents of every education dollar outside of the classroom. After decades of experimentation, objective observers now know that layers of bureaucracy—however well intended—do not result in better outcomes for students. We must eliminate unfunded mandates that turn teachers into government compliance officers and I have filed legislation that would help accomplish that while giving school districts greater flexibility. Results must be analyzed, every dollar scrutinized, efficiencies zealously sought, and old premises reexamined. The Legislature is operating under self-imposed 10% staff budget cuts this year. It was a small measure considering the budget challenges we face, but it was a signal that we are serious about fiscal responsibilities.

Texas has abundant resources. The problem lies in our desire to spend more than we have. Texas citizens do not conduct their household budgets that way. Neither should Texas. For example, even a modest reduction in non-teachers to a 3-2 ratio with in-classroom teachers would net a $3 billion savings. Were non-teaching staff reduced only to 2004-05 levels, Texas would save $1.5 billion. That would allow school districts to save many teachers' jobs.

It is important that everyone understand lawmakers in Austin do not cut teachers' jobs. School boards, superintendents, and principals make the final decisions on how education dollars are spent in their district. I strongly encourage those decision makers to focus their belt-tightening on non-teachers in order to preserve our classroom teachers.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives. Please contact me with your thoughts at 512-463-0650 or at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Attorney and businessman Erwin Cain represents the 3rd District in the Texas House of Representatives. He serves on the Committee on Government Efficiency and Reform, the Committee on Corrections, and was elected by fellow members to serve on the Republican Policy Study Committee.

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