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Opinion Editorials

Reid’s use of the nuclear option is understandable but short-sighted

Although an argument can be made that filibustering has been abused, implementing the nuclear option is a bad move in the long run.

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Putting the nuclear option on the table

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s “nuclear option” to end the abuse of the filibuster by Senate Republicans amounts to treating strep throat with a throat lozenge. His action may have a short term benefit, but is unlikely to help in the long-run, just as changes to the rules of the Texas Senate helped move the majority’s agenda forward this summer, but damage the institution going forward.

Why should you care about the filibuster? Why would we ever want to allow one person or a minority in a deliberative body to have that much power? Let’s take a look at the issue for a moment and consider the significance of this crisis in American legislative processes.

What is popular may not be best

While “majority rule” is a common form of decision making and is easy to understand, there are many times in our self-governance that we use other standards. It takes a 2/3 vote to ratify treaties and it takes unanimity to convict someone of a crime. One over-simplified reason to look beyond 50 percent making our decisions is to think back to the popularity contest of high school student government elections – sometimes what is popular is not truly the best choice. And sometimes – to implement critical policy, it takes the support and cooperation of more than half of the people.

Another important fact to remember is that the United States was set up to both allow the rule of the majority and protect the rights of the minority. Put yourself in this scenario: Your child belongs to a club that has a set of bylaws that says that all children can participate in the activities of the club. Let’s say that while you have been a dues paying member and supported the club, some of the rest of the club has become frustrated because a few of the children are left-handed and other equipment must be purchased to accommodate the left-handed kids.

A majority has decided to change the bylaws and exclude left-handed kids from participation. Most organizations require a supermajority of 2/3 or more to make it harder to stick it to the minority in situations like this.

Considering the minority

The filibuster in parliamentary bodies is sort of like that. Filibusters can be stopped by a supermajority, but one incentive not to stop a member from halting the action on the occasion that to take a particular action would have a significantly negative impact on a constituency they represent is that such a scenario could arise for any member. So, historically, for better or worse, members of the Senate have been allowed such power for use on rare and important occasions.

And importantly, it placed a requirement of deliberation upon the body that the minority must, at times, be negotiated with. Most reasonable people would concur that in the end, accommodating concerns of the minority usually makes us stronger. In strictly majority-rule, one does not have to even consider the needs or desires of the minority.

Not without good cause

Reid’s action to dilute the meaningfulness of a filibuster in the current atmosphere is not without good cause. A procedure that was used one time when LBJ was Senate Majority Leader has been used over 400 times during the Obama administration to hold Obama appointments hostage and halt legislation of the majority. The chart below shows the escalation in recent decades of the use of the procedure:

filibuster

The fix is not this simple

In the U.S. Senate, the rules meant to protect the minority have become abused to the point of halting action of the institution. The fix is not this simple, but one alternative to simply ending the power of the filibuster would have been to require that members maintain the floor for the duration of the filibuster. Everyone remembers Wendy Davis’ marathon filibuster at her desk in the Texas Senate. Currently in the U.S. Senate, a member only has to declare a filibuster and does not have to actually stand and speak during the procedure. To require such would likely cut down on abuse of the rule.

In Texas, both the filibuster and another rule that requires 2/3 of the members of the Texas Senate to bring a piece of legislation up for debate have been under fire in recent times. Just as Wendy Davis’ filibuster was cut short by a non-traditional majority vote in an inexplicably amateurish move by the head of the Texas Senate this summer, there is much discussion of the Texas Senate simply doing away with the rules that require 2/3 of members to move forward with legislation. This rule has served Texas well for decades through both Democratic and Republican majorities, but the radical divide in today’s state and national politics is pushing once-minorities to change rules that will ultimately come back to hurt them.

This nuclear option does not solve the problem

In Texas, the causes of the problem are not the same. Rather than abuse by the minority, it is simply the contempt of the majority that has led to the changes in long-standing rules. On the federal level, both Democrats and Republicans have abused this system, but in the current administration the problem has reached new levels.

Reid’s implementation of the nuclear option, while understandable from one perspective, does not solve the problem that caused the crisis. There are efforts by organizations like No Labels to solve some of these problems in a non-partisan manner. And there are pressures to change the underlying problems – like redistricting gerrymandering and campaign finance issues – that could change the atmosphere over time so that there is less pressure to change rules that are in place for very good reasons.

David Holmes, owner of Intrepid Solutions, has over 20 years experience planning for, avoiding, and solving crises in the public policy, political, and private sectors. David is also a professional mediator and has worked in the Texas music scene.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. rolandestrada

    November 23, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    The framers of the constitution had in mind that the Senate should a more deliberative and as part that, the filibuster. They did not want a majority position to be able to lord over the a minority.

    The use of the nuclear option shows the desperation of the administrtion, realizing some of the battles of Obamacare may play out in the DC district court system. The administration needs more liberal judges for future battles.

    Interestingly, Senator McConnell voiced that should the GOP regain control of the Senate, the nuclear option would be reversed. Hopefully this doesn’t turn into a ping pong enact and repeal option.

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Opinion Editorials

The truth about unemployment from someone who’s been through it

(EDITORIAL) Unemployment benefits aren’t what you thought they were. Here’s a first-hand experience and what you need to know.

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Have I ever told you how I owed the government over two grand because of unemployment in 2019, and only just finished paying it back this year?

This isn’t exactly the forum for memoirs, but this is relevant to everyone. So I’ll tell y’all anyway.

It all started back in 2018 when I came into work early, microwaved my breakfast, poured coffee, and got pulled into a collaboration room to hear, “We love you and your work, April, but we’ve been bought out and you’re being laid off.”

It was kind of awkward carrying my stuff out to the car with that Jimmy Dean sandwich in my mouth.

More awkward still was the nine months of unemployment I went through afterwards. Between the fully clothed shower crying, the stream of job denial, catering to people who carried rocks in their nostrils at my part-time job (yes, ew, yes, really), and almost dying of no-health-insurance-itis, I learned a lot!

The bigger lesson though, came in the spring of the following year when I filed my taxes. I should back up for a moment and take the time to let those of you unfamiliar with unemployment in Texas in on a few things that aren’t common knowledge.

1: You’re only eligible if you were laid off. Not if you had quit. Not fired. Your former company can also choose to challenge your eligibility for benefits if they didn’t like your face on the way out. So the only way you’re 100% guaranteed to get paid in (what the state calls) “a timely manner”, is a completely amicable split.

2: Overpayments have to go back. Immediately. If there’s an error, like several thousand of Texans found out this week, the government needs that cash back before you can access any more. If you’re not watching your bank account to make sure you’re getting the exact same check each time and you have an overpayment, rest assured that mistake isn’t going to take long to correct. Unfortunately, if you spent that money unknowingly–thought you got an ‘in these uncertain times’ kinder and gentler adjustment and have 0 income, you have a problem. Tying into Coronavirus nonsense is point three!

3: There are no sick days. If ever you’re unable to work for any reason, be it a car accident, childbirth, horrible internal infection (see also no-health-insurance-itis), you are legally required to report it, and you will not be paid for any days you were incapacitated. Personally, my no-health-insurance-itis came with a bad fever and bedrest order that axed me out of my part time job AND killed my unemployment benefits for the week I spent getting my internal organs to like me again. But as it turned out, the payment denial came at the right time because–

4: Unemployment benefits are finite. Even if you choose to lie on your request forms about how hard you’re searching for work, coasting is ill-advised because once the number the state allots you runs out…it’s out. Don’t lie on your request forms, by the way. In my case, since I got cut from my part-time gig, I got a call from the Texas Workforce Commission about why my hours were short. I was able to point out where I’d reported my sickness to them and to my employer, so my unpaid week rolled over to a later request date. I continued to get paid right up until my hiring date which was also EXACTLY when my benefits ran out.

Unemployment isn’t a career, which is odd considering the fact that unemployment payments are qualified by the government as income.

Ergo, fact number five…

5: Your benefits? They’re taxed.

That’s right, you will be TAXED for not having a job.

The stereotype of the ‘lazy unemployment collector burdening society’ should be fading pretty quickly for the hitherto uninformed about now.

To bring it back to my story, I’d completely forgotten that when I filed for unemployment in the first place, I’d asked for my taxes NOT to be withheld from it–assuming that I wasn’t going to be searching for full time work for very long. I figured “Well, I’ll have a tax refund coming since I’ll get work again no problem, it’ll cancel out.”

Except, it was a problem. Because of the nine month situation.

I’d completely forgotten about it by the time I threw myself into my new job, but after doing my taxes, triple checking the laws and what I’d signed, it was clear. Somehow…despite being at my lowest point in life, I owed the highest amount in taxes, somewhere around the 2k mark.

Despite being based on a system that’s tied to how much income you were getting before, and all the frustrating “safeguards” put in place to keep payments as low and infrequent as possible, Uncle Sam still wants a bite out of the gas-station Hostess pie that is your unemployment check. And as I’m writing this, more and more people are finding that out.

I’d like to end this on a more positive note…so let’s say we’ve all been positively educated! That’s a net gain, surely.

Keep your heads up, and masked.

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Opinion Editorials

COVID-19 acts are unfortunately too short sighted

(BUSINESS NEWS) The biggest flaw in the CARES act is simply that it won’t last. Numerous issues have extended the life of COVID-19 but the act hasn’t matched it.

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The CARES act gives an additional $600 weekly to those on unemployment assistance. The idea being that, combined with the $380 already granted by unemployment, the payments would roughly equal the wage of the average worker prior to the pandemic- about $1,000 weekly.

But on July 31st, the expansion that CARES provides will expire, and benefits will return to pre-pandemic amounts. Those currently receiving the maximum payment will see a 61% decrease in their income. In states that offer lower benefit payments, that percentage goes even higher. All of this comes during a national rental crisis, and moratoriums on evictions across the country are also nearing their ends or being extended last minute.

This isn’t the first or only “yuge” hole in the federal government’s COVID-19 safety net. Many Americans (this writer included) have seen neither hide nor hair of their promised stimulus checks. The HEROES act, which is being billed as a second round of stimulus money, remains under debate- as it has been for several weeks.

And the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which requires certain businesses to provide two weeks of paid leave to workers who may be sick (or caring for someone who is) has plenty of problems too, namely the laundry list of exceptions to it.

This is just the most recent push to return to the pre-virus economy before effective protective measures have been put in place for workers and consumers alike. After all, with cases of COVID-19 spiking again in the US, it’s apparent that the act is still absolutely necessary. Our lawmakers either lack patience, or compassion – take your pick. Frankly, I say it’s both.

Not only have countless health experts warned that reopening too early will be disastrous, but if a second lockdown is in our future, all of the time, money, and human lives that went into reopening will be wasted.

There is a silver lining among the storm clouds on the horizon. Because ballooning unemployment has created long wait times for benefit applicants, unemployment assistance programs are shelling out retroactive back payments to those deemed eligible.

Good news, at least, for laid off workers who have been waiting months to hear their fate.

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Opinion Editorials

Women-owned businesses make up 42% of all businesses – heck yeah!

(EDITORIAL) Women-owned businesses make a huge impact on the U.S economy. They make up 42% of all businesses, outpace the national growth rate by 50%, and hire billions of workers.

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Women entrepreneurs make history in the U.S as female-owned businesses represent 42% of all businesses, while continuing to increase at DOUBLE the national growth rate!

Women are running the world, and we are here for it! The 2019 American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, states 13 million women are now self-employed entrepreneurs. From 2014 to 2019, women-owned businesses grew 21%. Think that’s impressive? Well, businesses owned by women of color grew 43% within the same timeframe, with a growth rate of 50%, and currently account for 50% of all women-owned businesses! Way to go! What this also means is that women employ over 2.4 million workers who together generate $422.5 billion in revenue.

What can we learn from these women that’ll help you achieve success in your businesses?

  1. Get informed: In a male-dominated business industry, women are often at a disadvantage and face multiple biases. So, know your stuff; study, research, and when you think you know it all…dig deeper!
  2. Stay hungry: Remember why you started this journey. Write down notes and reminders, goals, and inspirations, hang them up and keep them close.
  3. Ask for advice: Life is not meant to go through alone, so ask questions. Find a mentor and talk to people who have walked a similar path. Learning from them will only benefit your business.

Many of these women found ways to use their passion to drive their business. It may not be exactly what they thought it would be when they started out, but is it ever? Everyone has to start off small and rejection is part of the process. In fact, stories of rejection often serve as inspiration and encouragement to soon-to-be self starters.

Did you know J.K Rowling’s “Harry Potter” book was turned down TWELVE times? Seven books later with over 400 million copies sold, the Harry Potter brand is currently valued at over 15 billion. While you might not become a wizard-writing fantasy legend like J.K Rowling, you sure as heck can be successful. So go for it, and chase your dreams.

If you want to support women-owned businesses, start by scrolling through Facebook or doing some research to find women-owned businesses in your community. Then, support by buying or helping to promote their products. Small businesses, especially women-owned, black women-owned, and women of color-owned, are disproportionally affected by the current economic crisis ignited by a health pandemic. So if you can, shop small and support local. And remember, there’s a girl (or more) doing a happy dance when you checkout!

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