Friday, January 07, 2011

Looming $25 Billion Texas Budget Deficit

In response to Paul Krugman's article in the January 7, 2011 New York Times:

This following article from the Austin American-Statesman shows the real price of the Texas budget fiasco.

This story breaks my heart, and shows just how close many of us are to being Texans without any safety net at all. The young man in this story, a University of Texas graduate on his way to a bright, successful life, is now vegetating in a nursing home with no hope for therapy or treatment to help him regain his life and future. He did not make the "lottery" to be eligible for treatment. Do you remember Sarah Palin and her fear of Democratic "Death Panels"? Well, here is the Rick Perry Texas version of that - only it is not only the old - it is people in the prime of life who are being told the equivalent of, "Your life is not worth a plugged nickel. And, here, let me pull that plug."

When George 2 was Texas governor (1995 - 2000), he bragged about cutting Texas real estate taxes. As a result, my real estate taxes went from $2576 in 1994, when Ann Richards was governor, to $3939 in 2000, when George 2 left Texas for the White House, and Rick Perry stepped into George 2's boots. Under Rick Perry's regime, my real estate taxes (same house, no improvements) rose steadily to $6444 for 2010. Rick Perry also brags about cutting property taxes! What kind of accounting is this: fifteen years of real estate tax cuts equal a 150% increase in my real estate taxes?

But, my woes of trying to hold onto my house while on a fixed income with rising property taxes, is small potatoes when compared to those who are sick, maimed, injured, unemployed, homeless, hungry, cold, and mentally ill. These Texans are left out in the cold -- literally -- with no safety net except the kindness of friends and strangers. Friends and strangers, whether charitable organizations or individuals, who themselves are stretched to the breaking point.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

A Christmas Eve Surprise

This true Christmas Eve story starts at home. Here I am, slogging through gift-wrapping detritus, fingers sore from pulling and pushing tape onto hundreds of spots on almost as many packages, I certainly am not up to cooking. Or even putting together a sandwich. I know! Thai food to takeaway. I wonder if Thai Fresh is open on Christmas Eve?

Gathering my covered plastic recyclable containers, I head across the railroad tracks to Thai Fresh on West Mary, Austin, TX 78704.

I am a little bit disappointed that there are only 7 selections. Disappointment turns to happiness when I see that 6 of them are gluten-free. "Let's see. Fill this container with Silver Noodles; that container with Massaman curry; this one with Thai special dish; that one with rice noodles with chicken and egg; this one with rice stick with fried tofu."

"I know you can't eat this yellow curry -- it has a bit of wheat;" Jam, the owner says, " but would you like some of this bone-in chicken dish?"

Thinking of my budget and the fact that already I have five dishes, "No, I have chicken at home. But I will take some of your coconut milk ice cream."

As we walk toward the ice cream counter, a tall, slender man, spiky hair, modish dress, scarf around neck, swings through the door and announces, "I have never eaten here before. I will take one of everything!" "Well, that was theatrical," I think to myself. "He must be starved."

At the ice cream counter, "How about a taste of Anise Seed Orange?" I ask. "Yumm, I'll take that, and the Eggnog, and how about a taste of your Coconut Corn? Yes, that is delicious, I will take that, too."

At the check out register, Jam said, "That will be $7.58."

I look at her, dumbfounded. "For all this food?"

"Oh, the food is free. We are giving it away today! I am charging you only for the ice cream."

Can you imagine the surprised and happy feeling spreading from my brain to my heart?

"But, why?" I stutter as I pay for the ice cream and drop a big tip in the tip jar.

"Well, it is Christmas Eve, lunch is over. We want to go home, and it seems a shame to throw out this good food. So, I posted on facebook that we are giving it away." Laughing, she asks, "So, you didn't know?"

"No, I just wanted some of your delicious food. What a great Christmas present you have given me. Thank you so much."