Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Governor Perry And Extremist Texas Republicans Target History And The Arts—They’ve Done All The Harm They Can Do To Health And Education

(Above–The Donley County, Texas Courthouse received Texas Historical Commission funds for renovation. Governor Perry wants to end funding for the Commission. Photo by Billy Hathorn.)

We all know that brutal cuts in the Texas state budget are on the way.

Due to longstanding Republican mismanagement of state finances, we have a massive budget deficit in Texas.

These cuts to health and education will cost lives and leave Texas children less able to compete with young people in other parts of the nation and from elsewhere in the world.

The leading “health” issue being addressed is legislation that would force some pregnant women to have a sonogram as they engage in a constitutionally-protected medical procedure.

If the state can force unwilling people to undergo a specific medical procedure, what is there to stop the state from forcing other medical procedures on free citizens?

We have the option of raising taxes or using the $9.4 billion Rainy Day fund to help make up the shortfall.

Governor Rick Perry has said many times that Texas will not use the Rainy Day fund.

Texas is 43rd in the nation in state tax burden, while at the same time the overall tax burden in our nation is as low as it has been since 1950.

People can say they are overtaxed, but they are not.  We either have the self-respect to meet the responsibilities of running a decent society, or we can let people suffer and fall behind as we go about our way.

In addition to the cuts in vital public services, Governor Perry has now also proposed to eliminate funding for the Texas Historical Commission and the Texas Commission on the Arts.

It makes sense that a state that places no value on the future would also place no value on the past. All there is are the current political and ideological aspirations of a far-right Governor and a far-right legislature.

The only time history has value is when the State of Texas alters history text books to lie about our past.

Real history goes out the door while fake history goes in our textbooks.

The revision of history is right up there with forced medical procedures with how a totalitarian state would conduct business.

As for the arts, you either feel they have value or you do not. I’m not going to change your mind.

People of all kinds have creative talents. Those with the resources to pursue those abilities will be able to go ahead.

People who need some help in the form of a Texas Commission on the Arts grant, will have to decide where to go in life where what they have to offer will be valued.

The direction of Texas is clear.

* Darwinian cuts for the least amongst us.

* Government control of the bodies and the medical decisions of women.

* Historical indoctrination over historical fact.

* Rejection of  the arts and of the people who pursue the arts.

The people of Texas can decide that this is all okay, or they can decide that the past has meaning and that the future has value.

It is up to you.

(A great Texas artist was Jerry Bywaters. You see below one of his works depicting Texas. Governor Perry feels the arts have little value to Texans.)

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February 8, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , ,

24 Comments »

  1. Governor Perry feels the arts have little vaue [sic] to Texans.

    That’s a straw man. You’re mischaracterizing Perry’s argument and then attacking the mischaracterization.

    You claim Perry’s opposition to public arts funding means he thinks Texans don’t value art. Does my opposition to Cash for Clunkers mean I don’t think Americans value automobiles?

    Perry’s position is that funding for the Texas Commission on the Arts is an unaffordable luxury for now, and that private funding (more than $12 billion worth, nationwide) will have to do.

    In addition, it seems strange that the problems of a “totalitarian state” would be cured by giving its government more resources.

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | February 8, 2011

  2. Texas has the option to fund homegrown artists and Governor Perry is saying this is something we should not do. As I say in the post, we can raise the needed taxes to live in a decent society, or we can send the clear message that our values don’t go beyond low taxes and far-right ideology.

    No matter what the Tea Party/Republican Party asserts, the exercise of government itself is not a path to a undemocratic state. What is of concern are the longstanding values of the American right. These values are currently in full bloom in Texas.

    Thank you for your comment.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | February 9, 2011

  3. Current state tax revenue for the biennium is something like $78 billion.

    What amount do you think would be necessary to constitute the “needed taxes to live in a decent society?” Say, within 10 percent or so.

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | February 9, 2011

  4. Funding for the arts, not affordable.
    Funding for Perry’s mansion rental, affordable.

    There is a direct connection to arts education and the ability of higher reasoning. People who have a reasoning deficit can’t see the harm in the above.

    Comment by Sharon Wilson | February 9, 2011

  5. Matt—I have no idea what that number would be. More than we are raising now would be a good start.

    Sharon—Thanks for the comment and thanks for visiting my shop. You are always fighting the good fight.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | February 10, 2011

  6. “Matt—I have no idea what that number would be. More than we are raising now would be a good start.”

    That doesn’t strike me as very serious. Let’s say you get your way, and taxes go up every year by some amount per year. How would you know when to stop?

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | February 10, 2011

  7. Matt–I’m serious. I just don’t have an exact number. I’ve never claimed I had such a number.

    Thanks for your comments here.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | February 11, 2011

  8. I didn’t mean to suggest you were joking, rather that you don’t seem to have thought this through very well.

    After all, you’re talking about quantities. Taxes should be higher, arts funding is too low, and so forth. That implies that some level would be right — at some point you would say, “there, that’s better.” If a room is too cold and you turn the heat on, at some point the room is no longer too cold.

    I’m just trying to gauge where that point is for you, because it’s not clear that you’ve considered it, even in some wide ballpark range. Should we be at the median tax burden? In the top quartile? Is there a level of taxation you think would be too high?

    A serious policy recommendation — and I think that’s what you aim to offer — ought to be something more substantial than “higher.”

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | February 11, 2011

  9. Matt—I have never pondered the matter for Texas and have made no pretense otherwise. So I’m sticking with “higher.” Should we get some new taxes in Texas, I promise to write a post when I feel we are taxed enough.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | February 12, 2011

  10. I encourage you to continue thinking and writing like that and distributing it as widely as possible. Make sure your name and party affiliation is on it.

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | February 12, 2011

  11. Matt—It is your encouragement that spurs me on to each new post here.

    If you think what you are seeing in Texas is the right path, you are welcome to that view. Texas is a place with many problems and is led by people who seek only to make our problems worse. Your questions and scenarios, meant to do nothing but prod, are quite abstract in the current climate here in Texas. No new taxes are on the way in any case if what our leaders say is to be believed.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | February 12, 2011

  12. Matt– Your questions are directed at Neil, but I’d like to respond. I hope neither of you mind that I’m joining the discussion.

    I would argue that tax rates are high enough when school districts don’t face budget cuts.

    Education is not only a moral responsibility, but also a way to improve the future of our economy and our ability to compete globally.

    The Historical Commission and the Parks and Wildlife Department will face budget cuts, yet they play a role in bringing tourism dollars to the state. I think these are certainly worthy causes that deserve adequeate funding.

    The arts are an “unaffordable luxury”? It has been proven that studying the arts can help kids in other “practical” fields like math and science. There’s a reason many medical schools are now requiring their students to take fine arts courses during medical school, not only as undergraduates.

    Comment by Sarah V. | February 14, 2011

  13. Sarah, the more the merrier. (Neil’s not saying anything, really.)

    Within $20 billion, what should total tax receipts be for the biennium?

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | February 14, 2011

  14. [...] notes that having planned all the harm they can on health and education, Texas Republicans are now going after history and the arts. Neil also posted on comments made by Texas State Senator John Whitmire. Senator Whitmire made the [...]

    Pingback by Eye on Williamson » Texas Blog Round Up (February 14, 2011) | February 14, 2011

  15. Matt–Well, they’ve got approximately $70 billion right now, with a shortfall of about $20 billion (depending on who you believe, and what you think needs to be funded.) So, I’d say they need to find an additional $15-$20 billion dollars somewhere. Let’s go with $90 billion.

    At the very least, they should find a way–through taxes or other means–to make sure school districts don’t see cuts.

    Comment by Sarah V. | February 14, 2011

  16. Matt—We are many comments into this thought exercise, and we’ve yet to see any number from you or what additional sources of revenue you would back. (Sarah–You’ve drawn me back into enabling Matt! I’ve already responded to his goading with more thought than it merited.)

    Comment by Neil Aquino | February 14, 2011

  17. Neil, $72 billion is plenty.

    I’d plug the hole by cutting expenditures. To wit, I’d replace most public schools with $6,500 vouchers, allowing districts to fire most of their personnel. The good ones will be rehired by private schools; the bad ones shouldn’t have been there. For the kids who remain in public schools, per-pupil spending would rise significantly (we’re always told that it’s “too low.”)

    As for new sources of revenue, I’d replace the gasoline tax with highway tolls (the tolls would be spread over many thousands of miles of roadway, and would thus be much lower than the buck-a-pop we’re used to on Harris County toll roads). All the revenue collected there would be dedicated to road maintenance and construction (i.e. no carve-out for education).

    I’d also repeal the business tax and expand the sales tax base. That wouldn’t be a revenue-raising issue, but one aimed at reducing the distortions that tax policies cause.

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | February 14, 2011

  18. I think many in the center and left would be willing to talk about changes in public schools, but what is always the case is that those on your side of the aisle oppose these schools on ideological grounds, and so no real discussion is possible.

    I wonder if any state budget figure would be so low that you could not live with it? It is government itself you oppose.

    Thanks for the comment.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | February 14, 2011

  19. There you go again with the straw man. I used to think you were one of the more honest guys in the lefty Texas blogosphere. That’s a real shame.

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | February 15, 2011

  20. You said you would “replace most public schools.” What else can be made of that? Please tell me. What do you think someone coming from my point of view thinks of that view?

    Okay…what government functions do you support?

    Comment by Neil Aquino | February 15, 2011

  21. I think you misunderstand the proposal. Funding would still be provided by the state — billions upon billions — but the mechanism would be direct grants rather than providing the service in-kind.

    Sort of like how welfare payments for food used to be in-kind (government cheese and the like) but have been largely replaced by vouchers that recipients spend as they choose.

    After all, the idea of public education is to educate children at public expense, right? I don’t see that doing it by one mechanism rather than another should cause many ideological problems. I’ll grant there could be some issues with funding religious schools and the like, but those are a very small part of what we’re talking about.

    I also support courts of law, policing, fire protection, water treatment, a basic social safety net, and a whole bunch of other things. I oppose tax incentives for businesses, the Enterprise Fund and similar programs.

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | February 15, 2011

  22. I got your idea. I had less problem than others on my side with private insurers making profits rather than single payer. While single payer is best, I just want people to be covered.

    But the thing is that the goal of the right is the fulfillment of ideological objection to government itself, and the gutting of public employee unions. People have a right to unionize.

    Beyond that, religious schools would line up for such funds and those objecting to that would be called God-bashers. Rural areas would be underserved. Republicans blow off the rural base just like Democrats take advantage of city voters. Where would new teachers come from? You’d get the same teachers who would no doubt be forced to take pay and benefits cuts. Where would all these new private schools get buses and school buildings? Would we just hand over resources that taxpayers have purchased over the years? Would all these private schools cost the same? Would the best schools be out of reach for those who had vouchers but still not enough? Would the vouchers be means-tested or would everybody get the same voucher no matter what? I could go on, but it is late.

    What is part of the basic social safety net you mention?

    Comment by Neil Aquino | February 16, 2011

  23. People have a right to unionize.

    They sure do, and an employer has a right to negotiate (or not) with the party of his choice. I don’t see why we need to set up a monopoly/monopsony situation.

    Beyond that, religious schools would line up for such funds and those objecting to that would be called God-bashers.

    I think you’re overstating how many religious schools would opt-in. I think a lot would be reluctant to accept government funds, as they are now.

    Rural areas would be underserved.

    I don’t see why. They’d have to draw kids from a wider area, but that’s the case now.

    Where would new teachers come from?

    The labor pool — same place new teachers, truck drivers, doctors and ditchdiggers come from now.

    It seems that you’re implying that there would initially be too few teachers — that a lot of the existing teachers wouldn’t be hired. If that’s true (and I think it is), why are we keeping them now?

    . Where would all these new private schools get buses and school buildings?

    Many of the existing assets would be unused and would be sold. Some schools would finance them from operating revenues, while others would use debt or equity financing. Where do companies and nonprofits get their buildings and vehicles?

    Would we just hand over resources that taxpayers have purchased over the years?

    After payment of the negotiated price, yes. Taxpayers would thus recoup their “investment.”

    Would all these private schools cost the same?

    Probably not, just as milk costs X at the local mini-mart and Y at Wal-mart, even when paid for with WIC vouchers.

    Would the best schools be out of reach for those who had vouchers but still not enough?

    Probably, as they are now. The difference is that a poor kid from a crappy neighborhood wouldn’t be stuck in his crappy school. He could shop around.

    Would the vouchers be means-tested or would everybody get the same voucher no matter what?

    I’m not sure where I come down on this one. On the one hand, education isn’t means-tested now. Lots of folks making six figures send their kids to public schools, and the public seems to be okay with that. On the other hand, I have contempt for these people.

    What is part of the basic social safety net you mention?

    TANF is part of it.

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | February 16, 2011

  24. Matt–Thanks for the comment. I’ll not have time to reply tonite, but did now wish the impression I’d spiked the comment. So the last word is yours until I have a few minutes. Thanks.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | February 17, 2011


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