Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Lone Star State's Black Hole

The formal name of this terrestrial phenomenon of cosmological astrophysics is The Legislature Of The State Of Texas. Like its massive brethren at the centers of galaxies, it swallows everything near and emits no light of any kind. For most of its existence it has been dominated by corrupt and incompetent conservatives reactionaries. Only on rare occasions has public outcry forced the emissaries of the elite to pander to the public with token trickles down (you know, the kind where they then tell you "It's raining"?) The fact that it is currently gerrymandered to have Republican majorities really alters the dynamics very little.

They just got through with a special session. This was only called at all because the courts finally told them what anyone with an IQ above freezing has known for decades: the way Texas finances public schools is unconstitutional, and if it isn't fixed, it will be shut down. Mostly this is because of the intentionally regressive tax system here (by some figures high among the ten worst states), which includes no state or local personal or corporate income tax. Underpaid, overworked teachers are leaving in droves; those dedicated ones still barely hanging on are having to pay for school supplies and classroom needs out of their own pockets. Meanwhile the only bright thing about the failure to fund enough textbooks for all the students to use is that the theocrats on the committee that approves them have so intimidated publishers that the newer ones would be even more full of lies than the old ones which are wearing out.

Unfortunately for the future of the people here, at the start of this special session the Comptroller (who is the state tax collector, the mother of George Bush's just-departed Press Secreter, and running for Governor herself this year as an independent because she knew she couldn't beat the incumbent in the Republican primary with all of those bible-brandishing "women in their place, far behind me" types voting there) announced that there would be a big budget surplus. In blessed relief, the pols promptly threw planning in the pissoir, and started scrambling for ways to shuffle formulae and give a property tax break to their favorite contributors. Demain le déluge.

The Red State calls their three tax monte game "putting a band-aid on a bullet hole", and links to an analysis from the Center for Public Policy Priorities: "Special Session Tax and School-Finance Package Creates $10.5 Billion Deficit". Just Another Blog says "That Giant Sucking Sound You Hear is the Future. The Legislature has dug itself into a huge hole."

Southpaw writes "Can we now bury the myth that Republicans are better at managing money?", and quotes the Dallas News (historically an apologist for the powers that be, segregation and all): "The new state business tax doesn't raise enough money to pay for promised property tax cuts -- in fact, it falls $5 billion short. Lawmakers are counting on a booming economy to make up the difference, but if it turns sour, the crisis could be more immediate." Capitol Annex summed it up with The Fix Is In, But Will It Work?. He earlier did a longer analysis of Why ‘Tax Relief’ Is And Always Will Be Bogus In Texas.

What are our silly sub-solons spending their semi-salaries on instead? (Remember, these clowns once considered a resolution thanking the Boston Strangler for population control.) How about trying to intimidate one state university by threatening to withhold funds because it put up 123 different world flags to brag about how many countries they had students from? Unfortunately, one of those places was Vietnam. So the right-wing thugs who got out of Saigon early before the commies took over proceeded to demonstrate and demand and finally the enablers of eternal enmity in the legislature turned on the heat (in a cooperative, bipartisan way, of course). The offending institution decided to take all the flags down. The screechers still want an apology. The details are at jobsanger.

You get what you pay for, and our legislators make less than their own aides -- in many cases deservedly so, but still.... If you want to see in pictures a summation of the whole episode, check out two photographs. The first is of the Republican Governor and his associated shell gamers, and the second is of some of the people their political Ponzi program will oppress (with a little help from The Decider). Go ponder PinkDome's Lookin' Back.

(Oui, yet another Tuesday cross-post to American Street.)


Anonymous jobsanger said...

Thanks for the link. I couldn't agree with you more about our Texas Legislature. They are an embarrassment to all of us. The recent special session clearly showed their incompetence. These guys don't have a clue about how to fix any of Texas' problems.

8:47 PM  

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