Paul Krugman’s column on the failure of the state of Texas as an incubator of Republican economic ideas is a good one.
Wasn’t Texas supposed to be thriving even as the rest of America suffered? Didn’t its governor declare, during his re-election campaign, that “we have billions in surplus”? Yes, it was, and yes, he did. But reality has now intruded, in the form of a deficit expected to run as high as $25 billion over the next two years.
And that reality has implications for the nation as a whole. For Texas is where the modern conservative theory of budgeting — the belief that you should never raise taxes under any circumstances, that you can always balance the budget by cutting wasteful spending — has been implemented most completely. If the theory can’t make it there, it can’t make it anywhere.
Oh, and at a time when there’s a full-court press on to demonize public-sector unions as the source of all our woes, Texas is nearly demon-free: less than 20 percent of public-sector workers there are covered by union contracts, compared with almost 75 percent in New York.
Right now, triumphant conservatives in Washington are declaring that they can cut taxes and still balance the budget by slashing spending. Yet they haven’t been able to do that even in Texas, which is willing both to impose great pain (by its stinginess on health care) and to shortchange the future (by neglecting education). How are they supposed to pull it off nationally, especially when the incoming Republicans have declared Medicare, Social Security and defense off limits?
People used to say that the future happens first in California, but these days what happens in Texas is probably a better omen. And what we’re seeing right now is a future that doesn’t work.
This is some really scary stuff. Krugman’s column has a whiff of schadenfreude to it, which would be understandable if the consequences of what is happening in Texas to working families weren’t so dire. Having a burning example of the failure of conservative economic theories is useful, but only if policy makers can look at it and change their course. For Texas, I doubt that is likely.
What we’re seeing at the state level in places like Texas, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Ohio, and New York isn’t terribly different from what we hear from conservatives in Washington. Evidence of failure is routinely ignored, as conservative dogma wins the day. Watching the state-level train wreck in slow motion is more evidence of how hard it is to change policy makers minds with evidence of the failures of their ideas. Above all else, this is what makes me think the mountain we have to climb to get our country out of economic morass defined by pain felt by working American families remains as high as it ever was.
On an unrelated note, I just looked and realized my last fifteen posts were tagged in the Economy section. Funny. I guess this is what I want to be writing about now, or something.