I don’t know who is more delusional, the people we’ve elected, or the people who elected them. I refer, of course, to the Texas State Legislature and statewide officeholders and their supporters, who continue to insist that we can balance the state budget for the next two years without raising taxes or dipping into the “rainy day” fund, and without doing massive harm to our state and its citizens. I personally think the more conservative voters among us are the most naïve of all and that the Republican politicians are playing a small game with them to create an illusion that they are really humane after all.
Rick Perry kept telling anyone who would listen (and some who wouldn’t) during last year’s election that Texas’ economy is on sound footing and we’ve been able to weather the storms better than other states, and he continued that theme in his inaugural address. “You might say historians will look back at this century and call it the Texas century,” he blustered. He could be right, but it may be for the wrong reasons. Texas just may be blazing a trail for a race to the bottom, achieving the status of what we now call “third-world countries.” And a large part, if not most, of our citizenry will be in denial that it’s happened.
Republicans are very, very good at the game of politics. They have proven themselves to be masters at running campaigns. They just suck big time at governing.
So – at first I was surprised to read that Republicans in the House had introduced an initial bill that cuts $4 billion more than the $27 billion needed to maintain current service levels. But then it hit me that they’re likely engaged in the gamesmanship of lowering expectations so they can later restore $4 billion in funding to crucial areas that they “overcut” in the first place, then add a few more billion from the “rainy day” fund to restore funding to other areas. If I’m right, they will then tout the $8 to $10 billion that they “added” for education, health care for the poor, and other areas, ultimately diverting attention from the $21 to $23 billion that they actually cut from what is needed to maintain current levels.
If this is what Texas Republicans are doing, and I think it is, they will contend to high heaven whenever the subject is raised that they fought tooth and nail to restore the funding and that it was the “best they could do under the circumstances.” The fact that the State Senate came along a few days after the house with an initial budget proposal ($28.8 billion) that was greater than the projected deficit just reinforces my view.
We’ll see how this plays out, but Republicans are literally the best spin experts in history. Two things we do know: Poor and middle-class Texans are going to be hurt badly; and it’s going to get really deep in the BS department before this is over.