Response to Policy Questions from a Self-Avowed Socialist
This post is in response to a comment made on Facebook by a self-avowed socialist. This may be the longest post I've ever written, so buckle your seatbelts.
QUESTION 1: Do you support adding more apartments in Plano and would have no problem with the people it would bring.(Would you embrace diversity)
ANSWER: I voted just a couple of weeks ago in favor of a small number of apartments in downtown Plano in the same meeting in which I voted against apartments on the JC Penney property. This is because the rhetoric that claims opposition to more multifamily housing in Plano = racism is completely baseless. It's all about appropriate use of our land, and the livability and character of our city. In some places it’s absolutely appropriate, depending on the area and existing and planned development, but Plano already consists of 37% apartments. When the Collin Creek redevelopment is complete, that will be 40%. This contributes to the fact that we already have the 2nd highest population density of ANY city in Texas with 250,000+ people--higher than Dallas, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio, and it definitely shows in our traffic, which is only exacerbated by the fact that we’re the only thing standing between the rest of North Texas and Dallas.
This means we need to responsibly manage growth and REdevelopment because overwhelmingly, the people of Plano don't want additional density. Moreover, we need more affordable housing. You can't get a newer single-story, single-family home in Plano, and the overwhelming majority of new multifamily is luxury apartments whose monthly rent costs more than the average mortgage payment in Plano--and they don't have the benefit of building equity. A constituent approached me about garden communities shortly after I was elected, and I think it’s a great idea; an entire neighborhood of small cottage homes for people (especially empty-nest retirees) who don’t need a huge two-story house. Lastly, it's simply not the case that the concern is over "diversity." When you ask if I would embrace diversity, it presumes that I don’t already, which is preposterous. So while we're on that, it’s diversity of thought, perspective, and experience that matters. What I care about is what's in peoples' hearts and their heads. Nothing else matters in determining their worth. I myself am, I believe, a racial minority in my neighborhood, and it is--and should be--completely irrelevant. I have a great relationship with my neighbors.
QUESTION 2: Do you support the rights of the trans community because like other ethnic and minority groups, they have been scrutinized by the content of their skin or who they loved and we as a society must be equitable in our approach to governmental solutions?
ANSWER: Again you start with a false premise: the notion that trans people have been scrutinized by the content of their skin. Not so. The rights of all our people are enshrined in the U.S. and Texas Constitutions. The 9th Amendment goes further to ensure that our UN-enumerated rights are still recognized and protected. There are certain rights we all share, regardless of any personal or group characteristic. It wasn't always so, but it is today. All of God's children deserve our love and protection, which in part is why I take great offense to your characterization of my simple recognition of the scientific fact that sex/gender is determined by chromosomal pair combinations as "hate.” As I keep saying, words mean things, and I don't hate anyone--not even you [for context, he and a few others had called me and the Collin County Republican Party "Nazis"].
Gender Dysphoria is a clinically-recognized mental disorder, and those who suffer from it need our help--not our indulgence. There are precisely two genders: XX, and XY (the rare XYY is still functionally the same as XY). This is simple universally recognized scientific fact, and there’s no getting around it. If a man feels like a woman, or a woman like a man, that is not “just the way gender works.” It’s a misalignment between their brain and their biological reality, which is why it’s clinically recognized as a mental disorder, and it’s exceedingly rare. As for rights, the pertinent expression is, "The right to swing your fist ends at my nose." I don't really care what adults do so long as it doesn't adversely impact anyone else. For instance, I don't have an issue with trans people using single-use restrooms for the simple fact that it impacts no one else. I have a big issue when it comes to men (actual biological men) sharing restrooms or locker rooms with women—as do the overwhelming majority of the women in those restrooms and locker rooms. It doesn’t make them bigoted, it makes them rightfully concerned and cautious.
Likewise, this is a big issue when it comes to children, who are, above anything, impressionable. Being taught that gender is a personal choice is to deny all objective reality, and to actively work to convince a small child that he is another gender (as is the case with James Younger) is absolutely unconscionable. It all started with James when he was three years old. I have a three year old, and have had two others before that, and their brains aren’t developed enough to even comprehend the nuances of the differences between men and women (and there are many), let alone make a decision about which they’d like to be. For every person you hear about who “knew” they were the opposite gender from their first memories, there are a million who pretend to be all sorts of things and never grow into it, because that’s what kids do. If James matures and decides he’s a girl, as long as he’s not participating in Drag Queen Story Time, I don’t care. But it is the role of government to protect our rights, and some of the demands that are being made on behalf of the trans community infringe on the rights of others—especially children (which supersede the right of someone to “feel affirmed” or use whichever restroom they choose.)
QUESTION 3: Do you support the rights of workers in our community and will consider to mandate businesses pay them at least a $15 minimum wage because workers in the city of Plano can’t afford to live here if they aren’t paid a living wage?
ANSWER: first, the reason people can’t afford to live in Plano isn’t the wages—we have the 2nd highest median income of any major North Texas city. Affordable housing is a much more significant problem. Second, minimum wages are arbitrary. Why aren’t you championing a $50 minimum wage? Or a $5000 minimum wage so we’d all be fabulously wealthy? Because that’s not how economics works, and on some level, those demanding a “living wage” know it. Every dollar paid to an employee is a dollar of cost passed on to a consumer, so if employee pay increases, so, necessarily, does the cost of a business’s product or service, because the money has to come from somewhere. The only alternative is to reduce the employee’s hours, which gives them some more time, but doesn’t actually give them more money. This, incidentally, is the same reason I oppose taxes on businesses—because they all either get passed on to the consumer, or reduce the wages of employees, or both, but to them it’s invisible. But the money always has to come from somewhere. So if you increase the minimum wage to a “living wage” it won’t remain a living wage for long, because it will create artificial inflation, and your purchasing power will be cut significantly, and that $15 will buy you precisely what $7.25 gets you now. That’s exactly what happened in Seattle.
The rights of workers are to provide their skills and effort in exchange for compensation to which they agree. Things like price or wage fixing infringe on the rights of workers because it strips them of the ability to freely compete to offer their services. The same principle applies to forbidding employees from discussing their salary—it robs employees of their right to negotiate for their services, and they should be free to offer their services to whomever they like (legally) for a compensation they agree to. That, by the way, also provides a free-market incentive for people to continually grow and improve their marketable skills, from which everyone benefits.
QUESTION 4: Do you support candidates in future city council elections to swear off Corporate PAC money because you believe corporations aren’t people and they shouldn’t have the right buy elections? (Maybe you could sign a resolution condemning Corporate PAC spending; I would take everything I said back at you and even go as far as to support you if you pushed for that resolution)
ANSWER: yes, but with some definition and clarification which you may end up seeing as no—let’s explore and see. First, let’s be clear—there’s nothing wrong with a PAC, in and of itself. They’re just like political mutual funds. However they should be clear about what they represent and advocate, just like a mutual fund should be clear about what type of investment mix it is (small cap international, etc.), and where the money is coming from. Corporate PACs, as opposed to other PACs, represent a specific industry interest, or a specific company interest, but it has to be above board with what it represents and how it goes about it because, just like corporate taxes, the money has to come from somewhere.
For that reason also, if it involves employee money, those employees should never be coerced—even subtly—into contributing to the PAC; it should always be 100% voluntary.
So here’s where the rubber meets the road: what is the corporate PAC buying with its money? In the last Plano City Council election, I received a grand total of $950 (3% of my funding) from PACs, which were all citizen PACs. My opponent, on the other hand, received $129,563.76 (88% of his funding) from PACs, NONE of which were citizen PACs. $64,749.23 was tied to high-density commercial developers with votes coming before the council; $63,814.53 from unions (which, by the way, may have mandated contributions from their members… still looking into that), and $1000 from a bank. I believe you called me a “corrupt politician” if I’m not mistaken. So between the two of us, who would you really call corrupt? And that’s where my answer to your question may be a “yes” depending on what’s really important to you:
If a corporate PAC or Industry PAC wants to promote policies and candidates which favor their industry generally and broadly, I have no problem with that because, in the end, those corporations and industries are made up of people whose livelihoods depend on the success of the company/industry. Where I have a BIG problem is when anyone, whether corporations or “natural persons” buy votes from which they personally materially gain. If a politician receives a certain minimum amount or percent of their money (campaign money or personal) from a person or business with a direct material stake in a vote, that politician should recuse him/herself. In a recent development vote, one council member recused himself simply because of an investment in a nearby property, whose owner opposed the project, while another council member who received 4% of his campaign funding from the heads of the project did not recuse himself, and voted in favor of the project. Currently in Plano, there is no such recusal requirement, and I’d sign any resolution you like condemning outright vote-buying; it undermines the representation our electoral system is supposed to provide to the people. So you be the judge of whether that meets your criteria.
QUESTION 5: Would you be willing to publicly condemn Empower Texans? I understand you don’t believe this group has helped you an any capacity, however, this group has helped “certain” city council members at least from the filings/evidence and propelled elected officials to win elections. Could the city of Plano condemn Empower Texans? (I am not even saying you have to publicly say ban them from spending here, but at least explain the problems you have with Empower Texans potentially buying elections)
ANSWER: at least you acknowledge that they didn’t help me; the popular fiction is that they funded my campaign and I’m their puppet. However, I see no reason to condemn Empower Texans, nor do I see any reason for the City of Plano to do so. They do a ton of useful reporting around the state to bring issues to light (such as the nature of my election opponent’s campaign contributions) where voters otherwise wouldn’t know. More transparency is better. Contributing to campaigns and helping propel candidates to victory isn’t nefarious—it’s what every person and advocacy group who gets involved with a candidate does. It’s how we’re meant to participate beyond simply showing up to vote (which we don’t even do). Empower Texans is conservative, but so am I, and while I don’t agree with all of their stances or approaches, that’s the case with anyone, and disagreement isn’t the criteria for condemnation. Where I would have a problem is if, as we discussed in the previous question, Empower Texans money were used to fund candidates whose votes were used to directly and materially benefit Empower Texans (or a contributor to their PAC). If you have evidence of that, or of any wrongdoing by anyone, I’m always open to review it. I will say that I found the audio from the meeting with Bonnen to be anti-climactic.
QUESTION 6: Universal Broadband for the city of Plano? Just about every other industrialized country has public broadband and they achieve far superior results b/c of the implementation of it. Why not make Plano excellent with Universal broadband in the city? (I will personally go to the Plano City Council Meeting and praise your efforts, if we accomplish that)
ANSWER: there are a few things to unpack here. First, I am fully in favor of all people having access to high-speed internet. Access to information is empowerment, which, by the way, is also why I’m a champion of libraries. Second, I don’t believe that means the government should pay for universal broadband because, as with all things, the government doesn’t have any money—the people do. Third, because the people are the ones who are going to pay for it anyway, the cost should be fully transparent to them, and they should have the purchasing power to drive their own decisions, which in turn drive the decisions and product development of the broadband providers, because they want to keep their markets and please their customers (or at least keep them happy enough that they don’t jump ship). Fourth, part of the reason broadband is better in some other nations is because they were later to the game. We see the same thing in electronic banking. Because we were pioneers in this, our electronic banking systems and infrastructure are archaic compared to many other developed nations. This is why we still have to wait three days for an ACH transfer while South Korea had Zelle-like money transfer capability more than a decade ago. We’ll catch up, but not without innovation, which means that the broadband networks and companies need incentive to continue to innovate.
I don’t know how old you are, but I remember Ma Bell, and when I was a kid, houses had one phone, mounted on the wall in the kitchen, and it was a big deal when we updated from a rotary phone to a touch-tone phone. This was the case for a very long time, until the monopoly was broken up, and telecommunications was slowly deregulated. This sparked an unbelievable surge of innovation which eventually brought us the iPhone, and broadband itself. If we kept providing “universal telephone” service, it would never have happened, and I don’t want to prevent the next quantum leap in telecommunications from happening either.
QUESTION 7: Universal Childcare? The costs of childcare is really high for many struggling parents in your city, why can’t we provide them free at the point of service childcare, if it would help those people?
ANSWER: I’m not so concerned with the rate of innovation in childcare, but I AM concerned about market forces, transparency of cost, and decision-making power of parents. You’re right, the cost of childcare IS high, and some struggling parents (especially single mothers) can barely afford it, or can’t afford it at all. But just as with Universal Anything, why should it be universal? I believe that we, as a society, should provide a true safety net for those who genuinely can’t care for themselves, but that in no way means “universal.” But first, why can’t those with a true need be assisted by those in their community? The difference between a community and a city is that a community can support one another on a voluntary basis. A city can only force people to fork over their money and give it to other people. Basic economics dictates that when cost is decoupled from the consumer (whether in broadband, healthcare, child care, or anything else), quality declines because the incentive to maintain that quality vanishes. There was a time when the Faith community played this role. They provided child care at reduced rates, or for free; they fed the hungry, sheltered the homeless. That role waned with the increase in big government started more than a century ago, and it’s been diminishing ever since.
Apart from all of this, I’d like to address the NEED for child care. A single mother has to work, but for two-parent families, it shouldn’t be a necessity. In our economy, with our tax burden, many households are forced to have two income earners. It’s been a while since I conducted the study, but I calculated that the average American ends up handing over about 50% of their earnings to the government. The problem is, they don’t know it. It’s siphoned away through sales tax here, income tax there, property tax over there (which they don’t even realize if they rent—but they’re still paying it), gasoline taxes in this other place, social security taxes which they think they only have to pay half of because they don’t realize that all taxes and costs reduce their potential earnings, and all sorts of other excise taxes and fees. Imagine if they just paid 25% of their income in taxes, the government at all levels provided half of all the stuff it does now, instead letting people make the free choice whether they want that stuff to begin with, and prioritize it accordingly. With a median household income of $63,179 in the U.S., that would be $15,794.75 PER YEAR saved for them to spend as they choose. Maybe they would end up spending it on all the same stuff as the government now spends it on, but it would be more efficient, with less waste, and would drive higher quality and innovation. And it would be more than sufficient to pay for child care.
QUESTION 8: If we can’t House all of the homeless, what is your solution?
ANSWER: many years ago I actually tried to develop a program to help people out of homelessness. I still have the details, such as I’d worked them out, but it was predicated on helping those who truly needed a hand-up, and simply needed to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness. I still believe in that, but the structure of the program I had in mind was untenable because it required a minimum viable number of participants to make it work, and all of the statistics I saw regarding homelessness showed that too great a proportion of homeless people suffered from drug addiction and mental illness, and weren’t equipped to be successful in the program, and hence the program itself wouldn’t work.
All that said, it comes back to incentives. The easier you make it on homeless people (made exponentially easier by giving them “free” housing), the greater your homeless population will be because there will be a certain percentage of people who are on the fringe already and will gladly take a minor hit to their lifestyle in order to have their worries evaporate. This is playing out in California now in a big way (not to mention Austin), but I’ve also seen a microcosm of it right here in Plano. Before it was decommissioned, I served twice on the City of Plano Family Self Sufficiency Committee, whose purpose was to help primarily single mothers on public housing assistance achieve financial self-sufficiency and homeownership. There were some incredibly dynamic, hard-working women in that program, who weren’t going to let anything get in their way of being self-sufficient. It was truly a privilege to work with them. However, some of the ones who fell out of the program, or never made it in, actively turned down better paying jobs, and career growth, because they would take a reduction in their public housing benefit. It’s a trap.
To that end, I want to address not just homelessness, but the REASONS for homelessness, and there are three, primarily:
People who are just down on their luck, and are trapped in a cycle (this is the minority of the homeless population): these folks we should help by providing temporary housing and assistance finding meaningful work so they can help rebuild their lives. This was the focus of my program.
Drug/alcohol addicts: they need to get clean first, and then they can fall into the first category and be helped, but as long as they’re addicted, they’ll never break out of the cycle. We need to help find them programs to get them clean.
The mentally ill: absent any medical breakthroughs, those with serious mental illness, with no family to care for them, will be homeless, and will be tragically taken advantage of by predators. Institutionalization of the mentally ill was dark in many places throughout the country, and the conditions some of them lived in are inexcusable, but we no longer have the ability to provide institutional care for those who are seriously mentally ill. To ensure they’re properly cared for, we need to regain that capability, coupled with transparency and oversight which ensures they ARE properly cared for, and not neglected or abused.
It’s worth letting everyone know that the underpinning principle behind my opposition to universal-everything-for-everyone is simply liberty and the inviolable right to individual sovereignty. The only thing that’s truly free is oxygen; everything else is gained by someone else’s effort and ingenuity. NO person has an inherent right to the fruits of another’s labor. We make an exception for the purposes of securing our rights, as expressed unequivocally in the Declaration of Independence, and reflected in the Constitution. “...that among these rights are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, and that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” These rights amount to the right to live unmolested (including by said government), which entails a certain amount of administrative overhead, and is why we have military, public safety, and government officials. We do NOT have a right to make others labor for us.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! While it may turn out that we don’t agree on a single thing, I hope you at least realize now that I’m the furthest thing from a Nazi, and that I approach any policy discussion in a thoughtful manner. Anyone who treats me with respect will be met with respect. To quote Smeagol, “We be nice to them, if they bes nice to us!”