Help! Help! There’s a pig in this room! Quick, get the lipstick!
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You have to feel sorry for the Legislative Budget Board. The LBB came out with a required report titled “Dynamic Economic Impact Statement” on the effect of the House budget, and you have never heard such squealing in the pink building. Among those seeking to apply the Maybelline were David Dewhurst and the Texas Public Policy Foundation. But it will take more than a whole tube of “red revolution” or “warm and cozy” to pretty up this swine. You see, the LBB made a big mistake: It told the truth. It didn’t say, as the governor likes to boast, “We have gotten through hard times before,” or, “We are confident that the state will be able to meet its obligations.” Instead, it delivered the bad news. How bad is bad? All of the numbers in parenthesis are negative. Total employment [Jobs lost] 2012 (271,746.1) 2013 (335,244.1) Total employment change [%] 2012 -1.9% 2013 -2.3% Private non-farm employment [Jobs lost] 2012 (117,060.5) 2013 (146,457.0) Total government employment [Jobs lost] 2012 (158,584.6) 2013 (188,787.6) Gross state product [Billions of fixed 2005 dollars] 2012 (15.2) 2013 (19.0) Personal income [Billions of current dollars] 2012 (12.6) 2013 (17.2) Disposable personal income [Billions of current dollars] 2012 (11.2) 2013 (15.2) PCE-Price Index [2005=100 (Nation)] 2012 -0.057 2013 -0.142 These numbers are horrible. They testify to human misery and to the empty, self-congratulatory boastfulness of Texas’s leaders over the past decade. Earlier today I wrote about what Rick Perry is running for. He ought to be running FROM. Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst responded by throwing the LBB under the nearest bus, headlining his press release with this pass-the-buck statement: “Lt. Governor Dewhurst Sets the Record Straight on LBB Report.” How does Dewhurst “set the record straight?” He says, in effect, that things would be even worse if the state raised taxes: “The LBB report clearly shows that job creation is tied to the size of the economy, not the budget. What it does not calculate, however, are the dramatic job losses Texas would suffer if the Legislature raised taxes just as our economy is starting to rebound. You cannot expect to grow the economy and create jobs by growing bigger government.” Well, apparently you can’t grow the economy by going $27 billion in the hole, either. Perry, Dewhurst, Craddick, and, yes, Straus — they have proven that they are so wed to their ideology they will let the state go down the drain rather than take responsibility for the carnage that their policies have produced. TPPF’s Talmadge Heflin also weighed in: “The LBB’s baseline scenario assumes that Texas continues to support levels of spending where government has grown at almost three times the rate of population growth plus inflation over the last two decades, and has available revenue to match that bloated spending. Texas doesn’t have the available revenue to support that — and to get it would mean ruinous tax hikes that aren’t on the table.” Heflin suffers from what I call “political anorexia syndrome.” He looks at state government and sees only fat, when everyone else in the known universe knows that it is lean. Don’t take my word for it. The Tax Foundation says that in fiscal year 2007, Texas ranked 50th among the states in per capita spending ($3,831). No other state is even close. Texas is the only state in the union that spends less than $4,000 per person. To describe Texas’s spending as “bloated” destroys his, and TPPF’s credibility. Not that this is going to change either of them. Straus also weighed in: “I question the validity of the assumption that requiring government to live within its means will lead to a downturn in the economy – in fact, the opposite is true. The best way to jump-start growth is for the Legislature to keep taxes low and regulations reasonable to provide the opportunity for business to grow and thrive in Texas.” I’m all for government living within its means. I accept that Texans want a low-tax, low-service state. But it is one thing for government to live within its means, and it is quite another for it to be intentionally starved of revenue by its leaders to the point of a $27 billion budget hole. This budget crisis is not a natural result of the economic cycle. It is a manmade disaster created by the indifference of its leaders. There isn’t enough lipstick in the world to make this pig look good.