Here we go again. We’re about to spin back into the biennial vortex in Texas there’s talk about taxes, loopholes, and reform but nothing gets done. The reason nothing gets done is because the regressives that run our state don’t want anything to get done. They see little, if anything, wrong with out current tax and revenue system in Texas. That shouldn’t shock anyone, since they’re responsible for setting it up.
To get up to speed with what’s being discussed check out Kuff’s post, It’s usually a bad idea to bet on any kind of overhaul in the Lege.
I agree that it’s a sucker’s bet to think that the Lege will try to fix Texas’ tax code in any meaningful way. Nobody likes having to take votes that may later be used as clubs against them in a campaign, and the lobbyists swarm like no other time when someone’s tax break is on the line. But such an overhaul has to happen eventually.
As I’ve said many times before, nothing will change until the state’s leadership changes.
What I’ve said many times is that we can’t expect our current leaders who believe government is the problem, to know how, or even try for that matter, to use government for, or as part of, a solution. The regressives don’t think there’s a problem, and the Democrats and progressives try to nibble around the edges in the austerity frame of the regressives. This article from George Lakoff, from 2011 during the Wisconsin public pension fight, makes the case pretty good sums it up pretty good, What Conservatives Really Want.
The central issue in our political life is not being discussed. At stake is the moral basis of American democracy.
The individual issues are all too real: assaults on unions, public employees, women’s rights, immigrants, the environment, health care, voting rights, food safety, pensions, prenatal care, science, public broadcasting, and on and on. Budget deficits are a ruse, as we’ve seen in Wisconsin, where the Governor turned a surplus into a deficit by providing corporate tax breaks, and then used the deficit as a ploy to break the unions, not just in Wisconsin, but seeking to be the first domino in a nationwide conservative movement.
Deficits can be addressed by raising revenue, plugging tax loopholes, putting people to work, and developing the economy long-term in all the ways the President has discussed. But deficits are not what really matters to conservatives.
Conservatives really want to change the basis of American life, to make America run according to the conservative moral worldview in all areas of life.
In the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama accurately described the basis of American democracy: Empathy — citizens caring for each other, both social and personal responsibility—acting on that care, and an ethic of excellence. From these, our freedoms and our way of life follow, as does the role of government: to protect and empower everyone equally. Protection includes safety, health, the environment, pensions and empowerment starts with education and infrastructure. No one can be free without these, and without a commitment to care and act on that care by one’s fellow citizens.
The conservative worldview rejects all of that.
Conservatives believe in individual responsibility alone, not social responsibility. They don’t think government should help its citizens. That is, they don’t think citizens should help each other. The part of government they want to cut is not the military (we have over 800** military bases around the world), not government subsidies to corporations, not the aspect of government that fits their worldview. They want to cut the part that helps people. Why? Because that violates individual responsibility.
He then discusses what needs to change.
What is saddest of all is to see Democrats helping them.
Democrats help radical conservatives by accepting the deficit frame and arguing about what to cut. Even arguing against specific “cuts” is working within the conservative frame. What is the alternative? Pointing out what conservatives really want. Point out that there is plenty of money in America, and in Wisconsin. It is at the top. The disparity in financial assets is un-American — the top one percent has more financial assets than the bottom 95 percent. Middle class wages have been flat for 30 years, while the wealth has floated to the top. This fits the conservative way of life, but not the American way of life.
Democrats help conservatives by not shouting out loud over and over that it was conservative values that caused the global economic collapse: lack of regulation and a greed-is-good ethic.
Democrats also help conservatives by what a friend has called Democratic Communication Disorder. Republican conservatives have constructed a vast and effective communication system, with think tanks, framing experts, training institutes, a system of trained speakers, vast holdings of media, and booking agents. Eighty percent of the talking heads on tv are conservatives. Talk matters because language heard over and over changes brains. Democrats have not built the communication system they need, and many are relatively clueless about how to frame their deepest values and complex truths.
And Democrats help conservatives when they function as policy wonks — talking policy without communicating the moral values behind the policies. They help conservatives when they neglect to remind us that pensions are deferred payments for work done. “Benefits” are pay for work, not a handout. Pensions and benefits are arranged by contract. If there is not enough money for them, it is because the contracted funds have been taken by conservative officials and given to wealthy people and corporations instead of to the people who have earned them.
Democrats help conservatives when they use conservative words like “entitlements” instead of “earnings” and speak of government as providing “services” instead of “necessities.” [Emphasis added]
In Texas we’re going to be looking at billions in surplus and likely over $10 in the Rainy Day Fund. In other words, Texas is not broke! What we should be focusing on are the issues of poverty and education. As well as what keeps people out of poverty – health care, a living wage, food, and a roof over their head.
It’s long past time Democrats and Progressives in Texas went about creating that long-term plan and began hammering home the message. And the CPPP’s updated report, Who Pays Taxes in Texas?, is the perfect template.
Our quality of life in Texas depends on our public structures—including public education, child health services, and transportation infrastructure—maintained by Texas tax dollars. A good tax system would not only provide adequate revenue to maintain these structures, but would also match the share of taxes paid with the share of income earned by each Texas family. The Comptroller’s 2011 study of the fairness of the Texas state and local tax system, Tax Exemptions and Tax Incidence,idemonstrates conclusively that low-and moderate-income Texas families bear a disproportionate share of state and local taxes. We need a fairer system to fund public structures so we can improve and maintain Texas families’ quality of life.
Offering the people of Texas a clear alternative to what we currently have should be the focus for the future. This cannot and will not change until we change the leadership of our state.
Further Reading & Viewing:
Senator pitches new state property tax for schools.
Teddy Roosevelt on a R living wage.
We stand for a living wage. Wages are subnormal if they fail to provide a living for those who devote their time and energy to industrial occupations. The monetary equivalent of a living wage varies according to local conditions, but must include enough to secure the elements of a normal standard of living–a standard high enough to make morality possible, to provide for education and recreation, to care for immature members of the family, to maintain the family during periods of sickness, and to permit of reasonable saving for old age.