Reading over this Texas Tribune article on the GOP race in SD-5 it’s pretty clear it’s a race between which one would do the least harm. As Kuff points out while current Sen. Steve Ogden is not ideal, Ben Bius would be infinitely worse:
I note that mostly as a reason to link to this Trib story about Ogden’s primary race, in which he faces a challenge from the right from someone who doesn’t really have a firm grasp on what’s in the budget. This pretty much said it all to me:
In an apparent attempt to solidify his more-conservative-than-Ogden bona fides, Bius has made the elimination of “generational welfare” a centerpiece of his campaign. “If we begin requiring drug testing for those trying to get cash payments for welfare and require them to be citizens of the United States and Texas, it’ll go along way toward solving our social problems,” Bius says. “My momma told me, you get what you pay for. If you want drug addicts, give them money. If you want illegal immigrants, give them money.”
Ogden brushes off the idea as cynical stereotyping of the poor — and wholly unnecessary in a conservative state that already has among the nation’s stingiest public doles. “It bothers me, because it’s kind of a code word,” he says. “I’m not sure exactly what he means by it, but Texas is the least-generous state when it comes to welfare. The majority of people on it are children. Another large category is people in nursing homes. Neither of these groups fit into the category of ‘generational welfare.’ … We have not incentivized anti-social behavior, but when you’re dealing with unemployed mothers with children, you have to do something. You can’t just say, ‘It’s not our problem – good luck.’”
Yes, it is a code word, and not a particularly subtle one. It’s weird being put in the position of defending Steve Ogden, who’s far too conservative to be the guy I want writing the budget, but that’s the state of the GOP these days. The alternative to Steve Ogden is someone who lives in a fantasy world. The sad thing is that Ogden’s experience and understanding of reality won’t be an asset for him in his race.
Yes it’s amazing that wanting to give poor people a hand up might cost a 20-year GOP incumbent their seat in the primary, but anything is possible right now with the Texas secessionists GOP these days. As this quote from the article shows the “Tea Party”, aka teabaggers, anger is focused mainly at the Federal government, and Obama in particular, and isn’t well-informed of the fiscal situation facing Texas.
Bill Lyle, president of the Tea Party in Leon County, says he’s heard no particular buzz about the District 5 race and no outrage directed specifically at Ogden. “Honestly, we’re probably a whole lot less aware of the state situation than the we are of the federal, but I have heard we’re facing a $12 or $15 billion shortfall in the state,” Lyle says. “We want to get back to conservative roots and the Constitution. Whichever candidate is the most conservative, they’re going to get the vote. It’s going to boil down to who’s the most fiscally responsible and who will do the most to control the borders.” [Emphasis added].
And that depends on what the definition of being “fiscally responsible” means to a conservative, at this point that’s anyone’s guess. Given Mr. Lyle’s response he doesn’t appear to have an idea of how either one of these two would work to fill that $12 – $15 billion hole in the state budget, much less whether they’d do it in what he considers a “fiscally responsible” way.
The frustration of the tea party crowd along with the moderate vs. conservative fights going on inside the Texas GOP – headlined by Hutchison vs. Perry – this primary season means there’s likely to be some very interesting outcomes next week and in November. But whether teabaggers ignorance of the state’s fiscal situation is willful or not, they’re in for a rude awakening come next session. What the teabaggers would find, if they educated themselves, is that the fiscal crisis facing Texas has been largely caused by so-called fiscal conservative, aka starving the beast, tactics. The choices next session aren’t good, likely won’t be what teabaggers consider fiscally conservative, and not matter who does it and how it’s dressed up, will consist of cuts and revenue increases.
That’s at the state level, but at the federal level the teabaggers are in for an even ruder awakening as Paul Krugman pointed out, The Bankruptcy Boys.
So the beast is starving, as planned. It should be time, then, for conservatives to explain which parts of the beast they want to cut. And President Obama has, in effect, invited them to do just that, by calling for a bipartisan deficit commission.
Many progressives were deeply worried by this proposal, fearing that it would turn into a kind of Trojan horse — in particular, that the commission would end up reviving the long-standing Republican goal of gutting Social Security. But they needn’t have worried: Senate Republicans overwhelmingly voted against legislation that would have created a commission with some actual power, and it is unlikely that anything meaningful will come from the much weaker commission Mr. Obama established by executive order.
Why are Republicans reluctant to sit down and talk? Because they would then be forced to put up or shut up. Since they’re adamantly opposed to reducing the deficit with tax increases, they would have to explain what spending they want to cut. And guess what? After three decades of preparing the ground for this moment, they’re still not willing to do that.
In fact, conservatives have backed away from spending cuts they themselves proposed in the past. In the 1990s, for example, Republicans in Congress tried to force through sharp cuts in Medicare. But now they have made opposition to any effort to spend Medicare funds more wisely the core of their campaign against health care reform (death panels!). And presidential hopefuls say things like this, from Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota: “I don’t think anybody’s gonna go back now and say, Let’s abolish, or reduce, Medicare and Medicaid.”
What about Social Security? Five years ago the Bush administration proposed limiting future payments to upper- and middle-income workers, in effect means-testing retirement benefits. But in December, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page denounced any such means-testing, because “middle- and upper-middle-class (i.e., G.O.P.) voters would get less than they were promised in return for a lifetime of payroll taxes.” (Hmm. Since when do conservatives openly admit that the G.O.P. is the party of the affluent?)
At this point, then, Republicans insist that the deficit must be eliminated, but they’re not willing either to raise taxes or to support cuts in any major government programs. And they’re not willing to participate in serious bipartisan discussions, either, because that might force them to explain their plan — and there isn’t any plan, except to regain power.
But there is a kind of logic to the current Republican position: in effect, the party is doubling down on starve-the-beast. Depriving the government of revenue, it turns out, wasn’t enough to push politicians into dismantling the welfare state. So now the de facto strategy is to oppose any responsible action until we are in the midst of a fiscal catastrophe. You read it here first.
Which brings us back to the upcoming election cycle. There’s much gloom and doom being predicted for the Democrats in November, similar to what happened in 1994. But there’s still time to avoid that, as is pointed out here. And it should be pointed out, over and over, once the primaries are done that the fiscal problem facing Texas in the next legislative cycle was caused, as at the federal level, by conservatives who are anything but fiscally responsible.