Texas Governor Perry to Feds 6 months ago – “Get off our Back”
Texas Governor Perry to Feds Today – “Why haven’t you got our back?”
Remember the lines from Joni Mitchell’s 1970’s hit “The Big Yellow Cab”
Don’t it always seem to go,
That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.
It’s a song about how we gave up the natural beauty of our environment to build more malls, housing developments and parking lots. But it’s not that far removed from how ultra conservatives in this state today have dismissed the need for shared responsibility between states and the federal government in times of crisis.
In a state where Republican Tea Partiers have gained dominance in the Texas legislature there is a glee of sorts that was recently expressed by Lt. Governor David Dewhurst that saw the funding gutted for schools and social services in the state as an opportunity. “We pronounce the word C-R-I-S-I-S as ‘opportunity.’” Dewhurst said after winning his third term last fall.
Then voters who supported Governor Rick Perry and Tea Party candidates were caught off guard when they discovered earlier this year that Texas has a $23 billion budget shortfall. It had an unsettling affect on some who were given a rosy picture of the state’s economic condition by Perry and others prior to the elections last fall. “We’re opened for business” Perry claimed in one campaign ad as the mounting economic crisis he helped create was looming in the wings.
This opportunity the Republicans are over-joyed about is the fact that their revenue sources are so deeply cut that they no longer can fund many education and social services programs like Medicare and Education at last year’s rates. It has also left them short to care for their own citizens in natural disaster circumstances and matters of security. But instead of realizing they have cut off their nose to spite their face they continue to insist that further tax cuts are needed, as they proceeded to give millionaires a tax break on yacht purchases.
The shoe is on the other foot now and the anti-government attitude of Tea Partiers in the state and their appeasing Governor are facing critical situations that require massive amounts of federal aid. At a Tea Party meeting two years ago Perry told the enthusiastic crowd there that, “We think it’s time to draw the line in the sand and tell Washington that no longer are we going to accept their oppressive hand in the state of Texas.”
It appears now that it is this hand from the federal government that Perry so earnestly needs. Last month Texas wildfires due to droughts devastated a good part of the state and the governor, who as rejected federal aid to help cover the increased need for Medicaid coverage and the unemployed in this state has asked FEMA for financial help in covering the losses of these natural disasters. FEMA responded by “supporting the State of Texas with 22 Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) declarations, including 16 FMAGs since the beginning of April”. Yet Perry continued his indignation towards the feds and claimed they were not coming to the state’s rescue fast enough. A strange stance from someone who portrays government more as a foe than a friend.
Then just recently the federal government made Perry and the state aware that they were cutting Homeland Security funding for Austin, El Paso and San Antonio. These cities were among the cities around the nation being dropped from the grant list after these three received a combined $14.5 million in funding last year. This news didn’t sit well with the state’s top law enforcement agency. “Any significant cuts to homeland security funding degrades our ability and capability to protect, respond and recover from terror attacks or natural disasters,” said Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
If McGraw finds no sympathy from Washington he can thank the crowd in his state that snubs such federal sources. Forced to make cuts, when all things are equal, those who dole out money from our national treasure for things like disaster relief and homeland security are apt to give priority to those who don’t say mean and nasty things about them. It’s simple human nature. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
The “crisis-as-opportunity” attitude that Tea Partiers and the state’s GOP cheered earlier has now been put into perspective for them who seemed blind to it when parents and educators were beseeching them to not cut education funding. Evidently what’s good for the goose is not such a good idea for the gander.
Perry and conservative anti-tax, anti-government proponents have no room to call the kettle black. To validate their claims that spending needs to be cut they have been slowly cutting tax revenue over the years to eliminate necessary funds and thus legitimately claim that there is now not enough in the state’s treasury to cover the social services and educational needs of the state. But they have done so perhaps without realizing that this practice and its gospel they spread can be their own undoing.
Texas has a “rainy day” fund that with increased sales tax revenue from this year currently sits with $9.7 billion in it. The legislators have reluctantly agreed to provide some of that to cash strapped school districts in Texas as advocates have pressured their representatives but there is still much reluctance to utilize these assets by Perry, Dewhurst and newly elected Tea Party legislators as they complain they’re not getting their fair share of federal assistance. It’s the same argument many of them have lamely made about low-income families bleeding the state of financial resources instead of “getting a job” and covering their personal needs themselves.
For a governor and a contingent in this state that favor “secession” as a possible solution to avert “the oppressive hand” of the federal government, their bragadocious assertions may force them to reconsider the “opportunities” of tax cuts as the need arises to convince Texans that less is not necessarily better.
Instead of approaching a state’s rights argument with a more rational view that the constitution allows for the shared responsibility between each of them to assist its citizens, Perry and the Tea Party have thumbed their noses at those they now depend on for emergency aid and find themselves now back tracking on an attitude that has given federal sources pause in considering anything other than basic essentials within narrow limits of the law.
It a game of hardball and the secessionist have just figured that the other side can play this game as equally well as they.