Five Kinds of Wrong, Only One Mouth

One evening, a few years ago, the Mister was bathing Tiny while I cleaned up after dinner. I ran the disposal, and then heard a shout as both poop and ground up debris from came spewing up into the bathtub.

It was both impressive and horrifying at the same time to see the raw sewage of a family of three come out of one small drain with some amount of force. It was also expensive, but that’s another story for another day.

I mention this because I thought of that evening yesterday when I thought of Don Huffines.

Lordamighty, this man. He decides to yell at a bunch of middle schoolers who were asking him questions about what he calls school choice and everyone else calls vouchers or a really dumb idea Dan “Resting Dumb Face” Patrick keeps having every other night, because some nights are for the Lord (who by the way is asking Mr. Patrick to keep him out of this) and others are for checking genitals in public restrooms.

Want to see him yell? Here. Or here.  He’s yelling and huffing at PTA parents and middle schoolers. In fact, what seemed to tee him off the most was when a student pushed back a bit and asked how his voucher or education savings account offering was going to pay for most private schools tuition.

Now, today he claims he was ambushed. Ambushed by children. Which leads me to another point: If public education in Texas is so bad, how did a bunch of middle schoolers get the bead on you, Huffines?

Now, here’s what I’m guessing. You thought middle schoolers are super dumb, and you didn’t prepare. Buddy, that ain’t an ambush, it’s you being caught with your drawers around your ankles in your front yard as a previously scheduled and widely publicized parade comes by.

You weren’t ambushed. You were unprepared, and now you’re gonna whine about it some more. What you don’t realize is this totally fucks (‘scuse my French) with your narrative about how bad public education is in Texas because, again, YOU GOT INTELLECTUALLY JUMPED BY MIDDLE SCHOOLERS.

Now, I’m gonna go back a sec and talk about yesterday, when you were all, CORPORATIONS PAY THE MOST PROPERTY TAXES. When you said that wanting a fully-funded public education system in Texas was selfish. Back when you were spewing five kinds of wrong out of one mouth, much like my bathtub drain three years ago.

See, here’s the deal – you’re only telling part of the story, either out of sheer meanness, sheer dumbness, sheer numbnutsness, or a combination of all of those things. Probably the latter. You and I both know (or at least I know and you will later when some poor staffer gets a ping on his listening post set up to monitor mentions about you on the internet) that commercial real estate fair market values are a somewhat nebulous thing that by law allows most corporations to dick over your constituents.

Here’s how it works, almost everybody else: A company can challenge their tax appraisal on a property either by arguing that the property was appraised above market value, or you argue that the property was appraised at market value but the comparables in the area have lower appraisals.

To argue the latter, you just look at the comparables (the law requires a reasonable number, but doesn’t say how many, and also doesn’t say what is comparable) from your appraisal district’s website. Then you look at things their properties might have or have not, and then basically grab the middle number of the group. If your valuation is higher than that median number, you get to argue it’s unfair.

“From 2011 to 2013, equity protests and litigation peeled more than $57 billion in taxable commercial and industrial value from Bexar, Dallas, Houston and Travis counties—about $1.35 billion in potential tax revenue their localities never received,” The Texas Observer found. “That’s just in those four counties. Across the state, Valero has filed the most lawsuits, but the law has also helped lower tax bills for hotels, shopping malls, apartment complexes, office buildings, banks, drugstore chains, Costco, Target, H-E-B, AutoZone, 7-Eleven—the list is long and growing longer.”

So in other words, corporations have more in their arsenal than you do to argue their property taxes. And I’m also willing to bet that the ratio of tax to income is much higher for your average property owner than it is for a corporation, who can decide to pay what they believe they owe and not their bill while they’re protesting and litigating that invoice.

So yes, they probably pay more in total, but I’m willing to bet you feel the burn a lot more, and have less resources and time to fight an appraisal. You’re going to ask for and possibly get maybe $10,000 off your valuation, if you’re lucky. They’re going to get millions – possibly even halving their tax bill.

That’s what Don Huffines won’t tell you. He also won’t tell you that businesses get to pass at least part of their property tax bills on to consumers. Do you get that luxury?

So in addition to all the other reasons why Don Huffines is super dense about this, you have to know that he’s lying to you about taxes. Or he’s stupid.

But the real reason Huffines got so mad at school children may actually be attributed to this: the Texas House signaled today it has zero intentions of picking up school vouchers or anything like it. Knowing this bill is hot, unpassable, unpopular garbage has to be tough, I guess (I wouldn’t know because I have never backed hot garbage for anything). Tough enough to make you throw a stage five panty fit in front of a bunch of preteens.

Won’t somebody run against this fool in 2018? And won’t everybody go vote for that somebody?

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Howdy, Mr. Cornyn

So you are a very hard man to get in touch with. I’ve faxed, I’ve written letters, I’ve emailed, I’ve called, I’ve tweeted – all to no avail.

I’m a voter. I’m a voter in your state. And there are a whole bunch of us – liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, atheist, agnostic, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Libertarian, Green, centrist, leftist and right – that feel pretty irritated that you won’t listen to us.

We don’t want Betsy DeVos as our Education Secretary. And I know you’ve gotten thousands of postcards, letters, emails, phone messages, faxes, tweets and Facebook comments from all of us saying we don’t want her.

So why in the Sam Hill aren’t you listening to us? I mean, I tweeted at you just yesterday asking this very question, and upwards of a 1,000 likes and retweets later, my phone is still blowing up.

I think you’ve forgotten who you work for. It’s not Donald Trump. It’s not Betsy DeVos. It’s me. It’s every other constituent. There are a whole lot of us saying no, and you aren’t listening.

Take my kid’s school – it’s a perfect argument for how woefully unprepared she is. It’s 93 percent free and reduced lunch, and 77 percent ELL (ask her if she knows what that means, because I’m guessing she doesn’t). It’s making tremendous strides toward becoming a Blue Ribbon school soon. Very soon.

But she lacks the chops to deal with that. She lacks the chops to deal with special ed students and all the things they need to succeed academically. She has zero frame of reference for the teacher who spends her own money on copier paper. She likely has never been inside a school that has its own washer and dryer not for athletics – but to help homeless and poor students maintain clean uniforms.

I don’t think she would know how innovative our country’s public schools have become. Do you even know? Are you aware that in Dallas, a child can now graduate high school with not only a diploma, but two years of college? Are you aware that kindergarteners (like my child) are learning to be fluent in both English and Spanish? Did you know that some of the best schools in the nation are right here in Texas – and they’re public schools?

Are you prepared to defend them from whatever Betsy DeVos might do, or are you going to roll over again?

You are shortchanging Texas children – especially the most vulnerable. I mean, sure, my kid is white and has two college educated parents who can make sure he knows that Jesus Ponies is not another name for Dinosaurs. But not every kid has parents who can supplement or supplant bad education.

So here’s the deal, you go ahead and do this candy ass thing you’re planning on doing tomorrow. You do that.

But don’t expect to keep your job. We’re tired of paying someone who won’t do his job. And do us one little favor while you’re screwing over our children: Lean over and tell Ted Cruz his resume will need a dusting off, too.