Something for Nothing


Texas wisdom warns us that there is no such thing as a free lunch. But too many Texans believe that we can cut taxes and still expect the government services we need. They somehow think we can get something for nothing.

Conservatives have been pushing voodoo economics for 30 years. They promised that if we reduced taxes, it would free up cash that would go into the economy and float all boats. They argued that less taxation would somehow generate more tax revenue, and therefore better state services. But that hasn’t happened, and it never will.

Just look at the numbers. Along with our low taxes, Texas ranks near the bottom in education and health care. Despite all of the Fortune 500 companies based here, we are facing a massive budget shortfall. In a political sleight of hand, Gov. Rick Perry and conservative legislators took $14 billion of federal stimulus funds to balance the 2010-2011 budget, all the while denouncing Washington for supplying it. But next year they will face an $11-$20 billion shortfall, without the federal government to save them. If they stick to their “no new taxes” ideology, vital government services will go away. If you want to see what happens to a place that has little government and no taxes, visit Somalia.

When conservative leaders and their tea party brethren promise good governance with few taxes, they are making a promise they can’t keep. Most Texans know better than to hire a guy living out of his truck to put a discount roof on their house. The reason they know better is because someone else has already made that mistake. We can learn by looking at California, which Perry wants to emulate by passing constitutional amendments t hat would make it harder to raise taxes or state spending. Do we really want the wholesale budget chaos we’ve seen in California?

The question now: How soon will Texans realize that civilization only exists through government? Crows are already coming home to roost in high death rates for treatable diseases, low test scores at public schools, and crumbling bridges and highways. Voodoo economics promised trickle-down benefits, but instead they are creating bubble-up anger, ironically demonstrated by tea party followers who are protesting the wrong president. If progressive politicians can channel that anger to where it belongs, Texans may just wise up.