By Manifesto Joe
This session, the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature is facing a two-year budget shortfall that could run as high as $27 billion. The reaction from Governor Goodhair and the others who are essentially on the corporate payroll has been predictable: slash and burn.
Texas already has a well-earned reputation for being one of the most piss-poor places in the U.S. for social services and other public initiatives. We're already 49th out of 50 states in spending on mental-health services, yet officials in that sector are bracing for marrow-deep cuts. That doesn't make much sense, especially when you consider what just happened earlier this month in Tuscon, Arizona. A bit of mental-health intervention might just have helped that situation some.
One of the biggest reasons that state services here are so anorexic is because the revenue base is so narrow. It's estimated that nearly 80% of Texas' revenue comes from sales and excise taxes -- i.e., taxes on poor people and the middle class. And then, the fastest-growing source of revenue in this state is the lottery. That's yet another tax on poorer people, albeit a voluntary one. I've heard it called "a tax on people who are bad at math."
According to one 2009 analysis, Texas is the fifth-worst state in the U.S. for taxes levied on the bottom 20% of earners. And then, since taxes on the upper 80%, and on big corporations, are so low, that bottom 20% gets some of the most feeble social services in the country.
I smell fundamentalist Christians here. The attitude among many of them is that the rich are that way because they are living right. If you're poor, you must be doing something sinful, like drinking and gambling too much, for which God is punishing you. And that fuels the vicious cycle of rich getting richer and poor getting poorer.
All of the above has been going on in Texas for a very long time, even when Democrats were in power. That's not too surprising -- I've met some "Democrats" who seemed more right-wing than some of the Republicans I've encountered here, and that's saying a lot. The GOP state platform that's assembled here every four years reads about like that of the John Birch Society.
But now, the state's entire economy could hang in the balance. Experts are warning that the proposed meat-ax budget cuts, involving as many as 8,000 state employees, could have a very large ripple effect throughout the entire Texas economy.
Governor Goodhair's perennial demagoguery
With Governor Goodhair beginning his 11th year in office, this was predictable. Rick Perry never met a rich dude whom he didn't consider a potential campaign donor. He's all about reverse Robin Hood government, shifting burdens down onto those who can least afford it and openly subsidizing "job-creating" corporations that already rake in unprecedented profits.
Someone with common sense and a minimum of political courage might suggest a state income tax on households with incomes over $100,000. Not Goodhair, who's busy being a demagogue on bogus issues like "sanctuary cities" for illegal immigrants.
But, the voters here re-elected him last November with 55% of the tally, so the masochism of middle-class Texans seems to be continuing unabated. Bubba gets mad, buys a new gun and joins the Tea Party movement whenever he hears anything about a state income tax, but then quietly and tamely pays higher and higher sales taxes when he visits Walmart.
And last year, he elected Republicans to the state Legislature 2-to-1 over Democrats, something that hasn't happened here since Reconstruction. And then, he's going to be surprised when, in two years, his daily life is that much harder and his money doesn't go as far?
I'm indulging in stereotypes, of course. But it's hard not to picture such things while living amid this degree of stupidity.
I don't need a Ouija board to tell you what's going to happen. The state budget will be slashed dramatically, to the delight of Tea Party Republicans. Then, localities will have to raise property taxes and such to keep from cutting into the bare bones of what they provide. Education, already an obvious problem here, will suffer all the more. A new Associated Press report says:
Analysts say schools would lose $9.8 billion and 100,000 jobs over the next two years. Hospitals and doctors are facing $2.8 billion in Medicaid cuts. And sheriffs are worried about cuts to mental health programs that inmates need.
Texans, brace yourselves for the worst. And, about 55% of you who voted last year pretty much brought it on yourselves.
Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.