May 17, 2011
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This piece originally appeared at Right Wing Watch, a blog published by People For the American Way.
In his presidential campaign announcement on Sean Hannity’s Fox News Channel show last week, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich praised job creation in Texas and said he’d been talking to Texas Gov. Rick Perry. "I know how to get the whole country to resemble Texas,” Gingrich told Hannity. That could go down as the worst campaign promise ever.
“I dearly love the state of Texas,” the late Texan and progressive icon Molly Ivins wrote, “but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.” Noting that Texas was a state that provided relatively few services to its residents, she once wrote, “The only depressing part is that, unlike Mississippi, we can afford to do better. We just don’t.” Maybe that should be the motto for Newt Gingrich and his fellow anti-government demagogues.
The impact of that governing philosophy is spreading a lot of pain in Texas right now. Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote earlier this year:
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.
In fact, Texas lawmakers have been struggling all year to figure out how to deal with a massive budget deficit. An AP story from March, headlined “Texas’ economic miracle beginning to tarnish,” noted that the state’s budget shortfall was “among the worst in the nation.” A temporary budget deal in March involving more than $1 billion in spending cuts still left the state $23 billion short over the next two years by one estimate. Proposed cuts could result in layoffs for 100,000 school employees and 60,000 nursing home workers and eliminate 9,600 state jobs this year. Just this week lawmakers struggled to reach agreement on a deal to close a $4 billion deficit in the current year, which ends in August.
It is possible that entire crisis may have been manufactured by Perry and other anti-government Republicans to give lawmakers a justification for further slashing government and basic human services.
Does Newt think we really want the whole country to look like Texas, which ranks:
50th in percentage of population without health insurance (2010)
50th in percentage of children insured (2009)
50th in percentage of women receiving early prenatal care (2010)
45th in rate of infectious diseases (2010)
44th in percentage of children in poverty (2010)
42nd in per capita health care funding (2010)
40th in overall health (2010)
36th in high school graduation rate (2010)
35th in percentage of children immunized (2010)
34th in rate of occupational fatalities (2010)
30th in percentage of people with college degree (2008)
Texas also ranks:
1st in amount of recognized carcinogens released into the air (2002)
4th highest in release of toxic chemicals into the environment (2002)
8th highest in percentage of people below poverty level (2008)
“I know how to get the whole country to resemble Texas.” Uh, thanks, Newt, but no thanks.
Peter Montgomery is a senior fellow at People For the American Way Foundation.