But are right-wingers scarier now than in the past? They certainly seem stranger and fiercer. I’d argue, however, that they’ve been this crazy for a long time. Over the last sixty years or so, I see far more continuities than discontinuities in what the rightward twenty or thirty percent of Americans believe about the world. The crazy things they believed and wanted were obscured by their lack of power, but they were always there – if you knew where to look. What’s changed is that loony conservatives are now the Republican mainstream, the dominant force in the GOP.
- Rick Perlstein, Why Conservatives Are Still Crazy After All These Years
The Texas GOP has no plans of ending it’s assault on working Texans. It started with teachers, public education, health care, etc.., and will continue to other state employees and their pensions. Make no mistake about it, the folks who fund the GOP campaigns do not want to pay an extra penny of taxes. They want to make sure that poor, working, and middle class Texans are the only ones that have to sacrifice in Texas. Now that the primary date is set they’ve started their election year push to warn all Republicans running for the legislature – don’t do anything to help working Texans!
Michael Quinn Sullivan with Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, another coalition member, said failing to heed the call for cuts could jeopardize legislators’ election hopes. “Raising taxes and seeking new revenue sources is off the table for Texas taxpayers and voters, and so it needs to be also for lawmakers,” he said.
That makes clear that corporate think tanks now set the election strategy and policy agenda of the Texas GOP. Yesterday it was reported that a group of right wing, corporate-funded, think tanks want to make sure we know, (and voters must hear this), that they think last session was a beginning – a first step. They think that education cuts should not be restored, even as the budget outlook improves for the next biennium. They believe the budget needs to be pared even more. Here’s what the Illinois think tank, the Heartland Institute, had to say.
Looking to get an early start on shaping budget discussions for the 2013 legislative session, the Texans for a Conservative Budget Coalition recommended Tuesday that lawmakers plan to reduce welfare spending, increase local control for public school districts, and consolidate or eliminate general revenue spending for several state agencies.
“The roadmap is very clear,” said Julie Drenner of the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank and member of the coalition. “Government must prioritize spending on essential government functions only. When lawmakers look at questions, they must ask themselves only two questions: Do I reform it, or do I eliminate it?”
These think tanks are funded by the ususal suspects - the Koch Brothers, ALEC, corporations and the uber-wealthy. Their only concern is to make sure that financial backers taxes are not raised.
Here’s what they want to do to state employees and their pensions.
While [former Rep. Talmadge Heflin, R-Houston] is among state retirees who enjoy relatively generous pension and health care benefits, he said Texas needs to move public-sector workers away from traditional, defined-benefit plans and into 401(k)-style retirement savings plans. The so-called defined-contribution plans cap an employer’s financial liability.
Heflin said taxpayers need to be protected, but also young workers, who he said forfeit benefits now if they work only four years and then leave government service, and retirees, who he said face uncertainty because of unfunded obligations.
“They don’t currently own the retirement system they have today,” he said.
There’s “uncertainty” because the Texas GOP has not adequately funded those obligations since taking over our state government.
State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon (D-San Antonio) had this to say about the harm this right wing plan will do to Texans.
Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, said conservatives ignore the “structural deficit” created in 2006 when lawmakers cut local school property taxes by one-third — a move made possible by shipping more state aid to districts, which left state revenue in short supply.
“The Texas population is growing, the population of school-age students is increasing and the population of baby-boomers retiring is steadily rising,” said McClendon, a member of the House budget panel. “This proposed policy-making agenda is a pending disaster.” Taking note of the proposed pension overhaul, she said that educators and public employees “receive no bonus checks or stock options as part of their compensation.”
The CPPP’s F. Scott McCown had this to say about the GOP scheme.
F. Scott McCown, executive director for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, said the coalition’s proposals don’t serve Texas’ best interests.
“Slashing budgets even deeper than we just did in 2011 is not the path to prosperity in our state,” McCown said. “Instead, increasing our investment in education is the way forward. Between 2000 and 2010, the child population of the United States grew by about 2 million children, and over half of them were Texans. Our economy benefits from having so many young people — if we teach them the skills they need.”
And last, but not least, from Linda Bridges, Right-Wing Groups at State Capitol Say: Cuts and More Cuts.
“The ‘real budget solutions’ now proposed by these guardians of the 1 percent would continue to shortchange needed investments in the future of our Texas family. These advocates are like profligate parents who would rather spend money on their own current consumption than provide for the basic needs of their children. They pretend that their solutions are all about efficiency, but their real agenda is to cut spending and disinvest in public education and other essential services. In the wake of deep budget cuts that already have done lasting damage to our schoolchildren’s educational opportunities, their real strategy is more of the same: double down, continue the cutting, continue the status quo, ask even less of the 1 percent. It’s a failed strategy that common-sense Texans who care about the long-term health and prosperity of our Texas family will reject.
“We Texans are all in this together, and we should act like it. If the out-of-state Heartland Institute and its local confederates are really interested in efficiency, we ask them to start by joining us in an effort to close grossly inefficient tax loopholes for big businesses that make our state revenue system look like Swiss cheese. A prime example is the so-called high-cost natural gas exemption, which has long outlived its original justification but continues to leak $1 billion a year from the state’s revenue system.”
Of course, think tanks funded by the likes of Exxon-Mobil and the Koch Brothers, are unlikely to say anything bad about such corporate welfare for their backers.
What Texans – but teachers, state employees and retirees in particular – must realize is that this coalition and their backers are out to get us. And that continuing to elect candidates that are controlled and cowed by these think tanks is voting against our own interests. Gutting and cutting the pay and benefits of working and middle class Texans is not a path to prosperity. We have to remember that these corporate interests will not be happy until they get it all.
State Pays Workers for Earned Time Off (title amended from suggestion in comments).
Texans Want to Move Forward, Not Backward.
Experts Correct Myths about Pensions for Public Employees.