This is the last time I will be addressing this Texas Workforce Conference as a Commissioner of the TWC.
I am particularly pleased with two initiatives we have launched here at TWC during the past four years: the Texas Veterans Leadership Program and the Texas Back to Work Program. TVLP is run entirely by our veterans who served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan to help their fellow veterans make a successful transition to civilian life. Headed by Jason Doran initially and Bob Gear now, TVLP has done a terrific job in getting our returning veterans back to work. So far, our TVLP veterans have provided assistance to more than 9,700 returning veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war. Just like Texas is the number one state for business, we need it to be the number one state for veterans. To our TVLP leaders – thanks for what you have done to bring our veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan home the right way.
The Texas Back to Work program was designed to get Texans back to work by providing incentives for companies to hire unemployed workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. This is a win-win proposition – it takes people off the unemployment rolls -- thus saving the Trust Fund money -- while getting Texans back to work in gainful employment. To date, we have helped over 30,000 Texans get back to work. Thanks to our local workforce boards and businesses who made all of that possible.
The Texas Back to Work program even received the 2010 Unemployment Innovation Award from the U.S. Department of Labor and the National Association of State Workforce Agencies.
Unfortunately, when Congress passed legislation allowing states to initiate or expand programs like Texas Back to Work, top officials at the U.S. Department of Labor issued onerous regulations that effectively blocked the implementation of innovative programs like ours. Hopefully, those roadblocks will be removed now that the election is over so that this initiative can go forward.
We are fortunate to live in Texas which continues to lead the nation in private sector job creation. Over the past year, we have added 269,000 private sector jobs and more than a million over the past decade. The energy discoveries and development here in Texas, and elsewhere in the U.S. are a potential economic game changer for our state and nation. As reported by Floyd Norris in the New York Times, the International Energy Agency has forecast that, “by around 2020, the United States could surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer.” This is not only good news for our energy industry; it also is a huge plus for our manufacturing sector. The ready access to energy, particularly natural gas, and the lower prices here relative to energy costs in the rest of the world will allow our manufacturing sector to be more competitive with manufacturers elsewhere. Now, if we would just change our national tax policy to one that is friendlier to capital investment and employment, then we would be off to the races in getting the private sector moving again at the national level.
But, more about that in a moment.
The question that looms over everything in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008 is: How do we ensure that the economic opportunities that have been there for previous generations of Americans will be there for our children and grandchildren? In times like this, we can’t just muddle along and hope that, somehow, everything will work out in the end.
Some pundits have even gone so far as to proclaim that America’s best days are behind us. Prominent Financial Times correspondent Edward Luce has written a book entitled, “Time to Start Thinking: America and the Spectre of Decline.”
There is no question that America faces serious challenges. From 2001 to 2010, we lost one-third of our U.S. manufacturing base – that’s 5.5 million generally good paying jobs that were shipped overseas, outsourced, or simply went away. The late German economist Kurt Richebacher warned of the consequences of our massive trade deficits and the hollowing out of our U.S. manufacturing base when he wrote, “Essentially, all job losses are high-wage manufacturing and most gains are in low wage services. In essence, the U.S. economy is restructuring downward, while the Chinese economy is restructuring upward.”
A major cause of this is that the U.S. has the most onerous business tax system in the world -- with a 35 percent tax rate plus a 7.65 percent employer portion of the payroll tax. We are exporting prosperity and American jobs abroad. Ironically, even with our manufacturing decline, we have a shortage of skilled workers in Texas as we have neglected the importance of career and technical education opportunities at the secondary and post-secondary levels.
Nonetheless, I am far more hopeful for our nation’s future than I was four years ago. Why do I say that? Because good ideas and sound policies that can reverse these negative trends are beginning to garner the kind of broad-based support necessary to win the day.
More and more Americans are realizing that you can’t have a strong economy without a strong manufacturing base. Manufacturing has provided good jobs and stable incomes for generations of Americans, and we need more of it at home. The time has come to fundamentally change a tax policy that exports prosperity and American jobs aboard and replace it with one that encourages capital investment and employment here at home.
Growing up as a kid in Texas, I still remember the time when “Made in Texas, Made in the USA” was the norm, not the exception. With good leadership and common sense solutions, we can rebuild our manufacturing base. If you don’t think we have any hope of changing the mindset of Washington policymakers on that issue, just look at the headway we have made recently here in Texas when it comes to education. Elected officials are beginning to recognize the importance of career and technical education for young Texans at the high school and post-secondary levels.
The need is obvious. We have a greying workforce and a shortage of skilled workers on many fronts. Just to cite a few examples: the average age of a welder is 55, a plumber 56, a stone masonry craftsman is 69.
What happened to our pipeline of skilled workers? Somehow, over the last two decades, certain political elites decided that everyone should be prepared to go to a four year university. I call it a “one size fits all” approach. In an attempt to make every high school student “college ready,” our state has come to rely on a so-called 4-by-4 curriculum and an expensive high stakes testing system. First, there was the TASS test, then the TAKS test, and now we have the STARR test. So much of our educational system is driven these days by a “teaching to the test” mentality from the third grade through high school. In many ways, test learning has replaced real learning. Meanwhile, in this quest to push every student to go to a university, we have deemphasized our Career and Technical Education programs at the high school level. And, we are paying a heavy price as we have choked off the pipeline of skilled workers by the neglect of vocational education at the high school level. A lot of young people are falling through the cracks and dropping out of school who otherwise might have thrived had they been given more opportunities for vocational education.
Frustration on the part of parents, employers, and educators with the current system has built up for years. Change is long overdue, and we need to have the courage to propose bold, meaningful solutions to these issues, rather than just tinkering around the edges. And, that is just what we are doing. A growing coalition of legislators, business and labor leaders, school board members, parents, other community leaders, and educators recognize that this is a serious issue and are working to fix it. The solution is simple, if not easy. But, we can solve this problem!
We need to allow for multiple pathways to a high school degree. One academic pathway would emphasize math and science. Another, the humanities and fine arts. A third would focus on career and technical education. All students would get the basics, but there would be greater flexibility than under the “one size fits all” existing system which pushes everyone towards a university degree.
This is a common sense approach to preparing young Texans to be college-ready or career-ready. It is time to end this “teaching to the test” system that isn’t working for either the kids interested in going on to a university or for those more oriented towards learning a skilled trade. Let’s replace it with one that focuses on real learning and opportunities for all.
I’d like to leave you with one parting thought -- our politics has become way too politicized and too many of our politicians on both sides of the aisle seem more interested in sound bites, PR gimmicks, and short-term fixes to long-term problems than in making decisions for the good of the country. Those politicians remind me of a certain style of “leader” as described by Charles Malik. Those are the kind of politicians who see the crowd running in a certain direction and rush to get ahead of them in order to tell the public what they think the people want to hear.
That is not real leadership. Writing long ago in a paper entitled “The Challenge to Western Civilization,” Ambassador Malik had this to say: “If Western civilization goes down, it will be only because its leadership has failed to show it the way. There is no impersonal law of growth and decay here at work whatsoever. There is the very personal moral failure of the leaders to show the way. And a real way out most certainly there is. The actual, ready potentialities of this civilization, in every sphere, are so tremendous, so overpowering, that with the proper co-ordination and the right voice of leadership it can rise to any challenge. The greatest danger today is that either this leadership is not forthcoming or its voice will come too late.”
It is not about Republican vs. Democrat, or Right vs. Left; it is about up or down. Will the people and our political leaders have the courage to make the hard decisions that are necessary to get our nation back on the right track, or will we go the way of so many other great nations which rose to power and then declined -- never to return to previous greatness.
The choice is ours. For the sake of our children and grandchildren, let’s make the right one.
Tom Pauken is the Commissioner Representing Employers and author of Bringing America Home. This is a condensed version of his speech to attendees of the TWC annual conference.
Well, my conservative 1st Republican friends it’s time to face reality — WE LOST! I, like so many of you here in Texas thought this was a win, win situation for us to regain the White House. Man, were we wrong. As Rush, so states, “You can’t vote against Santa Claus!” Which rings so true as Democrats painted the Republicans at heartless, money hungry evil rich people who hate the poor, women and minorities? No longer does hard work, study hard to get a good job, open up a business to make money and save and invest your money wisely ring true with most Americans. As it stands Democrats and the Obama Administration frown upon those who hold dear those values of my just aforementioned attributes of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” and expression that is meant to imply something like “improving oneself by one’s own efforts”. But sadly, it seems that Democrats seem to want every American to depend solely on the government to provide for their personal needs such as: food, housing, soon in 2014 medical insurance, iPhones, welfare checks, etc. by doing absolutely nothing but vote for them to keep on getting their freebees at someone else’s success in business or by earning a good living in a well paying job.
Really folks, what good does it do to tell our kids and grandkids to get a good education in order to be successful in this once great Nation when others will frown upon you if indeed you land a good paying job or open up a successful business. Most will call successful people and those who earn a good living as evil, greedy, money hungry, and Lord knows what else! I guess that most of us to be liked have to be on welfare and sit on our butts at home watching TV and waiting for a welfare check. Really, what good is it for us to go get a job if one can stay home and let the government provide for our needs for years on end!
I guess I, as a practicing Catholic and Christians of other denominations have to learn to love to be poor in order for God and others to like us. No longer should we strive to work hard to donate to our church, provide clothing, shelter, food, pay our bills and utilities to keep our families warm and comfortable because we will be tagged as greedy and money hungry. Instead, we should let the government provide for all our family needs. To confirm that God seems to love poor people more than us hardworking and successful folks here’s some biblical passages: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” “Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.”
But wait a minute my friends, in order for God and others to like us should we then aligned ourselves with a government party (Democrats) who support killing the unborn, support marriage between two men or two women, tell religious organizations that they will have to provide contraceptives and abortions on demand regardless if their church teachings and God’s as well are totally against it? Do ya’ll think God likes and is in step with a political group that espouses those government-mandated policies He’s stated he is totally against? Here’s some biblical statements about a fetus in the womb: The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” Here’s how the Bible condemns homosexuality as an immoral and unnatural sin. Identifies homosexual sex as an abomination, a detestable sin. Declares homosexual desires and actions to be shameful, unnatural, lustful, and indecent. States that homosexuals are unrighteous and will not inherit the kingdom of God. It is clear that homosexuals “marrying” is not God’s will, and would be, in fact, sinful. So there you have it my friends, should I a conservative Republican Catholic embrace wanting not to work and be poor, plus wanting the government to provide for me and my family and should I throw under the bus, the teachings of my Catholic church not to kill the unborn nor support same sex marriage?
During this last election I lost a lot of Hispanic Catholic friends because I’d challenge them in our church’s stance and teachings against abortion and same sex marriage. They would get incensed when I’d posted on Facebook biblical passages about killing the unborn and same sex marriage, which their Democrat Party supports. They simply responded that they were against abortion and same sex marriage but were still voting Democrat. My response to them was, “Ya’ll are like Jews voting for Hitler!”
One bright side in all this mess: Thank God we live in Texas, a Republican run state that just elected a Latino Senator (Ted Cruz)!
As readers of “Legally Speaking” know, I frequently report on some of the more bizarre lawsuits out there. Sometimes—like this week—there are so many out there they warrant their own column.
In January 2012, when the ill-fated Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground and 32 people died, most of us expected there to be lawsuits filed. We just didn’t expect that one of those lawsuits would be a wrongful termination claim by the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino. After all, Schettino currently faces criminal charges of manslaughter and abandoning his ship, and he was fired for pretty much doing the opposite of what a ship captain ought to do. He brought the cruise ship too close to shore, causing it to hit a rock; delayed evacuation of the ship; abandoned ship and took a lifeboat while passengers were still trying to escape (Schettino later claimed he tripped and fell into the lifeboat); and then refused Coast Guard orders to return to the ship. Yet, somehow, he feels he’s been wrongfully terminated. His lawyer says “It is the right of every worker to appeal against his dismissal and Captain Schettino has done no more than exercise that right.” Spoken like a lawyer . . . .
A wife could blame a number of people if she found out her husband cheated on her and had a threesome. For starters, she could blame her husband and his two sexual partners. But what if he died during the act—who does she blame then? Well, if you’re the widow of 31 year-old William Martinez of Lawrenceville, Georgia, you sue your husband’s doctor for malpractice. Confused? Join the club. The widow got a lawyer and sued Martinez’s cardiologist, Dr. SreenivasuluGangasani, claiming that the doctor failed to warn Martinez (who had a history of high blood pressure) to refrain from physical activity like sex. The day before he was scheduled for some medical tests in 2009, Martinez had a tryst with a friend and a woman who was not his wife, and died of cardiac failure during the encounter. As incredible as it sounds, when the case went to trial in 2012, the jury found Martinez’s doctor liable and returned a verdict of $5 million (because the jury assessed 40% of the fault against Martinez himself, the verdict was reduced to $3 million). The cardiologist’s lawyers said they would appeal.
David Hoogland of Perth, Australia claims he is the victim of discrimination—hair discrimination. Mr. Hoogland, you see, was thrown out of Point Hall, a popular Perth bar, because of his mullet. Yes, in 2012, Hoogland is still rockin’ the “business up front, party in the back” hairstyle made famous by Billy Ray Cyrus. Hoogland may be a victim, all right—a fashion victim.
As humiliating as it must be to be a grown man beaten up by a child, it has to be even worse when you draw attention to that fact by filing a lawsuit over it. Yet, that is exactly what happened with New York elementary school teacher John Webster. Webster, a 220-lb. former college football player, claims to have suffered permanent injuries when he tried to subdue first-grader Rodrigo Carpio (who Webster describes as “very very strong”) when the student began acting up. Webster claims to have suffered a broken ankle and a right knee injury requiring surgery, and he is seeking money damages from the school district. There is no word on how much the injury to Webster’s dignity might be worth.
A judge in New Zealand has thrown out a case brought by someone who evidently never heard the old adage “Never speak ill of the dead.” A New Zealand government ministry brought charges against South Korean fishermen Soon Ill Hwang and Dae Jun Lee of illegally dumping dead fish at sea. However, shortly after the charges were made, Soon died in a car accident. Despite this, the ministry’s lawyer argued that there were still reasons for the prosecution of Soon to go forward—a position Judge Gary MacAskill found “absurd.” Said the judge, “It reminds me of Monty Python and his dead parrot. I would have thought that the death of the accused is pretty fundamental.” Judge MacAskill even sarcastically suggested that the only way to obtain testimony from the accused would be to hold a séance.
A Staten Island, New York pastor and his wife, Michael and Angela Nwadiuko, recently fell short in their effort to change their names to “Mr. and Mrs. ChristisKing.” Civil court judge Philip Straniere cited separation of church and state as the reason for denying the unusual request. Straniere wrote that if he approved the name change, “many people would not only not be comfortable reciting the petitioners’ proposed name but that in doing so would be violating that person’s religious or lack of religious beliefs.” The pastor and his wife had previously (in another state) changed the names of their two children to “JesusisLord” and “Rejoice.”
In Texas, we live by a simple rule: you mess with the bull, you get the horns. And if a mechanical bull is involved, don’t count on a windfall. That’s the takeaway from the Austin Court of Appeal’s August 2012 opinion in Thom v. Rebel’s Honky Tonk. In the case, a man who consumed alcohol, failed to disclose a prior back condition, and signed a release of liability tried to sue for injuries sustained when he fell from a mechanical bull at the honky tonk. The court held that the plaintiff had assumed the risk and released the bar from all liability. C’mon, this is Texas—what did you expect would happen when you mounted a bull, mechanical or otherwise? You get thrown off the bull, and thrown out of court.
For most of us the best lessons in life are learned through the hardest times. When
we are the end of our own abilities and on our knees, humbled, well, then we can
finally hear God, or our conscience, and recognize things in ourselves that we
can't when we're puffed up by our own success, ambition or ego.
Perhaps much the same is true for our nation right now.
Tuesday was hard for many of us to understand. We've lived through four years of
one of the most radical, destructive, and incompetent presidents in our history.
For those of us sheltered in the greater Washington area, propped up by the out
of control government spending, it's hard to capture the real pain in our nation
unless you're traveling around the country. Unemployment and underemployment,housing,
poverty, and every other index that judges the state of our nation's health is simply
a disaster and trending in the wrong direction. The president is also adversarial
to many of his fellow citizens, even in the faith communities, while very solicitous
of the most unsavory elements abroad.
Yet President Obama and his radical left party were rewarded with another four years
to inflict "change" on the nation - rather like a surgeon who took out a spleen
instead of a gall bladder being given the new job as a heart surgeon.
Could it be that as a nation we're not yet on our knees; we're not yet quite ready
to hear what we need to hear? Are times not yet hard enough to get us to listen?
There will be plenty of time to digest this election in the coming weeks and months.
But, already we're hearing about things Republicans have to change according to
the experts; they have to be for amnesty right now, or they have to drop their pro-life
principles and embrace gay marriage, as examples. Others are saying that the party
is too conservative, in spite of the fact that the last two candidates nominated
were moderate to liberal, and both lost.
The reality is already obvious though. A quick look at the data reveals that three
million citizens who voted for John McCain in 2008 didn't go to the polls to vote
for Mitt Romney in 2012, for whatever reason. He simply didn't get the vote out.
But some of us believe there is something larger at work - and we have been preaching
this message to anyone who will listen for some time:
We conservatives, traditionalists, and constitutionalists (even in the faith communities)
must regain the compelling narrative of our core beliefs - along with the will and
the ability to explain how those beliefs make a real difference and improve the
lives of the average American. We have to learn how to take our values into the
marketplace of ideas and connect them to the actual circumstances of life that normal
citizens grapple with every day.
For a generation or more (at least since Reagan) too many of us have simply failed
to put in plain words the clear and persuasive truth that our values are hardwired
into the human heart in the first place, and that the timeless principles of life,
liberty and property represent at once the most practical and the most noble, moral
organization of human affairs. Only rarely do we even speak to or defend the ultimate
truth that the Founders stated - that God, not a government or a fleeting majority
- is the grantor of these human rights and our individual sovereignty and dignity.
It simply isn't enough in our "sound bite" age, to use, as an example, catch phrases
like "free markets" and "pro-growth policies" to stake our claim to being conservative,
when the citizens to whom we're speaking often don't relate those ideas to anything
relevant in their own lives.
While an auto mechanic may have little interest in "free markets," he absolutely
has interest in whether or not the dealership for whom he works remains in business.
A truck driver might not understand how "pro-growth" capital formation works, but
he's very interested in new and more efficient equipment, and increased cargo traffic.
These are the connections that we conservatives have to recognize and present; and
if we don't, we end up with endless campaign disappointments accomplished by small
If we in politics and public policy, and the orthodox traditionalists in the faith
communities, can't explain simply the intimate linkage between life, liberty and
property, and how these ideas connect us to our Judeo-Christian heritage and ethic
- which in turn protects and prospers each individual, creates the civil peace,
establishes the rule of law, and brings glory to the "Author of Liberty," then we
will find our voice in the culture eventually reduced to a whisper, and our relevance
confined to the status of fodder for late night comedians.
We are the inheritors of a timeless narrative of life and liberty; the question
raised Tuesday is whether we are ready to tell it to a wanting nation in economic,
spiritual and cultural chaos.
Mike Giere has written extensively on politics, foreign policy, and issues of faith.
He is a former candidate for the US House; worked for Ronald Reagan in 76 & 80;
served in both the Reagan and Bush (41) Administrations. He lives in Virginia with
his wife, and has three children.
On November 15, job fairs targeting veterans will be held across the state of Texas. Twenty-seven different locations will be hosting events as part of the Hiring Red, White & You! statewide job fair. That day will be the culmination of a joint effort among several state agencies, private employers, and countless staffers. But, it would not have been possible without the hard work of three unassuming men who have a heart for veterans.
Leaders at the Texas Medical Center (TMC) in Houston made it a goal to help our returning veterans make the transition to civilian life and in the process it has become a statewide model for helping veterans find jobs. TMC’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Richard Wainerdi, helped set up a task force from the TMC’s member institutions on military hiring. Joining Dr. Wainerdi were Dr. James H. “Red” Duke and Dr. John Holcomb. Both Dick Wainerdi and Red Duke served in the Korean War. John Holcomb is a veteran of the Iraq War.
These three men knew that many veterans possess skills and experience needed in the healthcare field and wanted to do a better job of tapping that talent. The task force examined the job recruitment process, looked for new ways to reach out to veterans, and worked to find ways to translate military skills and training into civilian course credit. As a result, TMC and its member institutions have integrated support for our military into their corporate cultures.
The task force – entitled Hiring Red White and You! – was so successful that Governor Perry, the Texas Workforce Commission, and the Texas Veterans Commission have partnered with TMC to build on their success by sponsoring job fairs under the same title in cities all over Texas.
As a Texas Workforce Commissioner, I was proud to present the Texas Medical Center with our office’s Texas Veterans Employer Award last month for the organization’s outstanding work in this area. Employers can learn a lot from TMC. Here are some of the key ways TMC created a veteran-friendly culture:
• Understand the military. Many skills taught in the military translate well in the civilian world. But sometimes the military uses its own terms and titles to describe such skills. TMC updated its resume-scanning programs to recognize military equivalents to civilian job requirements.
• Words matter. One of the most important things an employer can do is state that it is military-friendly and encourages veterans to apply.
• Working together is also important. One of the things that really impressed me about TMC’s approach is the way the member institutions are helping each other. It’s not uncommon for one institution to refer a veteran to another institution.
TMC works with many veterans organizations, including the Texas Veterans Leadership Program (TVLP). Sadly, the unemployment rate for our returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan exceeds the general unemployment rate. At the Texas Workforce Commission, we created the TVLP, run by veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, to help their fellow veterans make a successful transition to civilian life. It was modeled on a program I initiated in the Reagan Administration called the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program to help our returning Vietnam Veterans.
Speaking of President Reagan, he had a sign on his desk at the White House which read: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit.” He governed with that adage in mind. As CEO of TMC, Dr. Wainerdi sure has exemplified that principle in his unassuming leadership on behalf of our returning veterans.
I encourage employers across the state of Texas to turn out November 15 for the statewide job fairs for veterans. For more information visit texasworkforce.org/svcs/vetsvcs/hiring-red-white-you.html or email
Tom Pauken is the Commissioner Representing Employers at the Texas Workforce Commission and author of Bringing America Home.