Column for 27 February, 2011

THE MAN IN THE MIRROR

 

“Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin.  But you have neglected the important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.  You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.  You blind guides!  You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

–Matthew 23:23-24

 

Fear is sweeping through local governments, particularly school districts, throughout Texas.  Not the normal sort of fear understandably caused every two years when the great clown car of State disgorges the idiocrats who mismanage the government; no, this is worse.  Texas is $27 billion in the hole, a deficit comparable to that of California’s, a state with 12 million more people.  Put another way, there’s nearly $1,100 of debt for every man, woman and child in Texas, but less than $750 of debt for every Californian.  Yet Texas already ranks dead last among the fifty states in per capita spending.  Accordingly, with their normal level of rank political cowardice, our alleged leaders are, as usual, looking to fob off as much of the pain of balancing the budget as possible onto the backs of local government.  Thus, the Cleburne School Board faces the very real prospect of closing one or more schools to make up the expected shortfall of money from Austin.  But don’t blame the school board.  How did Texas get into this mess?  About half the deficit is due to tax revenues going down thanks to the Great Recession.  But around $10 billion of it is structural, and was caused by Rick Perry’s political stunt in 2006 when he had the Legislature force local school districts to cut property taxes, thereby polishing his apple for his re-election campaign, with the promise that the State would make up the shortfall.  The property tax “cut” was a scam anyway; for starters, none of the savings were passed along to renters.  But more importantly, it blew a reoccurring $10 billion hole in the budget.  At the time, then-Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn warned that it was the “largest hot check” in Texas history, but no one listened.  But don’t blame the Legislature.  In the last Legislative session, in 2009, the Great Recession was in full swing.  Texas faced a budget shortfall then.  After spending weeks loudly denouncing President Barack Obama’s stimulus package as the devil’s own handiwork, Rick Perry snatched up the money and used it to plug the hole in the dike, without making any long-term provisions for the future.  Even now, we have $10 billion sitting in the “rainy day fund,” enough to stave off drastic cuts in education, but Perry won’t touch it.  Apparently being $27 billion underwater isn’t rainy enough for him.  And when the Legislature opened, what were Perry’s emergency measures, issues so important they had to be taken up immediately?  Forcing women to get ultrasounds before they can have a legal abortion, stopping “sanctuary cities” (a term Perry can’t even pretend to define) and, most laughable of all, a non-binding resolution by the morally, politically and fiscally bankrupt Texas Legislature calling for a Federal balanced budget amendment.  But don’t blame Rick Perry.  Blame yourselves.  Blame every voter in Texas who ignored Bill White’s loud, frequent warnings about the oncoming budget collapse.  Blame every voter who re-elected this nitwit and sent 100 Republicans to the State House as a reward for spending well over a decade wrecking and looting the state economy.  Blame every voter who only cared about punishing the satanic secret Muslim communist Nazi socialist from Kenya in the White House.  Blame every voter who couldn’t be bothered to vote because it was too hard to think for themselves or research the issues, or because Barack Obama didn’t wave his magic wand and resurrect the economy overnight.  When they are shuttering Coleman and/or Cooke Elementary, when your local property taxes shoot up, when the streets don’t get fixed, when your children’s extracurricular activities get cut or cancelled, when classroom sizes explode, when teachers are laid off or quit because their salaries and benefits are frozen or cut, don’t blame the school board, don’t blame the Legislature, don’t blame Rick Perry.  And don’t come crying to me.  Texas now has the government we deserve, God help us all.

 

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Published in: on February 25, 2011 at 1:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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