Texas Governor Rick Perry likes to run around the country to all the conservative gatherings and brag about all the "tough conservative decisions" that he has made in order to keep the state budget in surplus while allowing the state to weather the storms of the recession. It's all a lie, of course. The state actually has a budget deficit of close to $30 million, and it will be extremely hard for Perry, like other Republican governors I might mention, to scapegoat public sector unions in Texas for the state's fiscal problems, since, essentially, there aren't any. At least none that have any clout.
The conservatives who run our state talk about Texas as a model of small government and, in this at least, they do not lie. Let's take a look at some of the things that "small government" has given us:
- Texas ranks fifth in child poverty among the 50 states.
- It ranks first in the percentage of children without health insurance.
- The high school graduation rate is 61.3% which ranks 43rd out of 50 states.
- We have the highest teenaged pregnancy rate of any state.
- While Perry likes to boast of low taxes, in fact taxes on the bottom 40% of the population, those who can least afford it, are actually above the national average.
These are shameful statistics and you would think that a government with any compassion for its citizens would be working 24/7 to try to find solutions to the problems, and you would be right, of course. But "compassion" is not in the vocabulary of Texas government officials and hasn't been since the time that former Governor George Bush dubbed himself a "compassionate conservative." Even then, while it may have been in his vocabulary, he didn't really know the meaning of the word and it never actually showed in his actions.
No, our present state governor and other elected officials are all about closing the budget gap and how do you suppose they are going to do it? Silly question! They'll do it by depriving the most vulnerable, of course, just like they always do. They are proposing deep spending cuts in Medicaid, the program that provides medical care for many of the state's children, and cuts to education which may result in 100,000 layoffs, meaning even lower quality education.
As Paul Krugman asked in his column today, "What's supposed to happen when today's neglected children become tomorrow's work force?"
I'll tell you exactly what will happen - they won't be able to cope. They are already not able to cope, and the future can only get worse as our self-proclaimed deficit hawks eat that future by shortchanging our children today.
The best investment that we can make in the future is for better health care, better nutrition, and better education for today's children. Our benighted state government would prefer to make their investments in increasing the profits of Big Oil and their other high-income cronies.
Poor Texas. Poor Texas' children.