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Jason Stanford: A budget tale that would make Stalin proud

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Whenever a Texas Republican makes the national news for saying that “ping-pongs are more dangerous than guns,” for alerting Anderson Cooper to the danger posed by “terror babies,” or for shooting a coyote while jogging, friends from the boring states ask me, “How can you stand to live in Texas?”

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It’s not just because of these colorful threats, though they do lighten the mood. I majored in Russian in college and lived in Moscow for almost two years after that. I studied the state-sponsored balderdash of Socialist Realism that paid artists to paint record harvests while peasants starved. I experienced the free-market dystopia that followed Communism’s fall and preceded the rise of the Putinocracy. The oft-comic consequences provided relief from the grinding stupidity of a false economic ideology.

This prepared me well for Rick Perry’s Texas. The official state reactions to the recent revenue estimate contained Soviet-style absurdities that can help treat depression caused by the Republicans’ false economic ideology.

Long story short, the Comptroller estimated that we have enough money to restore budget cuts to pre-Great Recession levels. But the Texas Republicans in charge of the budgets have decreed that we’ll hold the line on spending growth and cut taxes instead. Trust me, it helps if you pretend these guys are Communists.

I’m not sure Joe Stalin could have done better than Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams’ quote: “We’re poised to lead our country into the 21st century with a brighter and more prosperous future because of the hard work of the citizens of our state and the restraint that has been shown here in the Legislature in growing state government only as much as necessary to fund essential services.” I’m a little surprised there’s nothing about the beet crop in the Urals.

It would be petty to quibble that we’re already more than a decade into the 21st century, and if Texas is leading the country, the other states aren’t following. It would be pedantic to note that if the number of Texas children in poverty has quadrupled since 2007, then we can’t become “more prosperous,” only less hungry.

The real fun in Williams’ statement is when he brags how Texas is funding essential services. Maybe he doesn’t think higher education is necessary, because he cut that by $200,000 in his budget after cutting it $1 billion two years ago.

According to the left-leaning but math-friendly Center for Public Policy Priorities, Williams’ budget assumes that caseloads will not rise despite being told they will. And because Rick Perry is limiting spending growth to consumer inflation, the state can’t meet the rising costs of health care. The reality is that health care costs rise faster than consumer goods, but reality is not official state policy.

Our Dear Leader has decreed that we cannot dip into the rainy day fund even to restore $5.4 billion in budget cuts in 2011 that forced school districts to cut workforces and crowd classrooms. But fear not, citizens of Texas! All is well!

“I think under any scenario over the last decade, the funding that we have seen in the state of Texas for public education has been pretty phenomenal,” said Rick Perry. In a triumph of understated dissidence, Politifact rated that claim “false.”

This is conservatism for conservatism’s sake, the triumph of ideology over common sense. Republicans liked the budget they passed in 2009 before all the budget cuts in 2011. When he ran for president, Perry even bragged about closing the 2009 deficit without dipping into the rainy day fund. He forgot to mention that he did so with $6.4 billion from Barack Obama’s stimulus bill that Perry opposed.

Now they have proposed bare bones when we can afford the meat. Why?

“I think we have a record proving that tax relief should be a priority,” Straus said. “The details of that and the potential for that are yet to be determined.”

Perfect. The point of cutting taxes is to cut taxes, never mind how or why. We’re hoarding money simply to hoard money, bragging about our ideological fealty while the peasants starve in classrooms, nursing homes and doctor’s offices.

Stalin would be proud, fellas.

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JASON STANFORD is a Democratic consultant iwho has helped elect or re-elect more than two dozen members of Congress. He lives in Austin, Texas.

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