Sunday, May 1, 2011

Endangering Our Future

“When the leaders have no vision, the people will perish.”  This quote appears to have connection with the current leadership of Texas.  The seeming lack of vision from our current leaders does not bode well for the future of our state.  Buoyed by right-wing think tanks and the Tea Party, our governor and Legislature seem intent on causing irreparable harm to Texas, education and other social services.

While giving no thought to examining an outmoded and antiquated system of taxation, our leaders would seek to correct our huge deficit on the backs of teachers, children, the ill and aged.  

Often wrong, but seldom in doubt, Governor Rick Perry ignored the warning of former Comptroller Carolyn Keaton-Rylander about three sessions ago and claimed his property tax cut proposal would allow the state to reduce property taxes and at the same time fully fund education.  Rylander, who has spent at least a decade estimating future tax revenues and comparing them to the needs of the state, was ignored by Perry.  She claimed the Perry proposal would leave school funding about 5 billion short each year.  Rylander was right.

In typical Perry fashion, the governor publicly predicted Rylander was simply an “alarmist” and the phenomenal growth he would promote in Texas would more than make up for the shortfall predicted by Rylander.  It didn’t.  Even worse, Perry and others continued to ignore the increasing debt raised by the inadequately funded state budget.  

Hypocritically, our governor took more than a billion from stimulus money appropriated by Congress to help relieve and balance the state budget for 2009 and 2010.  At the same time that federal funds were saving Perry’s and other conservatives’ bacon, Perry had the gall to suggest at a Tea Party rally that perhaps it was time for Texas to secede from the Union.  It appears he didn’t recall that having been tried once before.  

While taking billions from the feds to help cover up a huge deficit in Texas’ funding, at the same time, Perry, has refused to accept slightly over $800-million on the grounds there were too many strings attached to it and that the feds were trying to tell Texas what it had to do.  Strangely enough, the big strings attached to the $800 plus millions was that it had been appropriated by Congress for the purpose of education; and if Texas accepted it, they had to spend it on education.

Even though the wealthy in Texas are among the lowest taxed in America, the Republicans prefer to balance the budget by firing teachers and cutting payments for people who are in nursing homes.  They seem incapable of even taking a look at the possibility of changing the huge corporate giveaways such as the $23-million to the gas industry in the form of reduced taxes–even though the gas industry is turning out record profits.  It also appears the approximate $300-million slush fund available for the governor to give his fat-cat friends in the name of business development is sacred.  A recent attempt by Democrats in the Texas House failed better than 2:1 to take the slush fund of the governor and invest it in education for young people in this state.

Reminiscent of the 50's, right-wing politicians in our state are presuming to tell the universities how to run their business.  In the 50's Texas lost some national scholars and educators on the grounds that some of them only taught 3-4 hours of class work but contributed internationally to tremendous research which proved of benefit to the future of this state.  Know-nothing, brainless conservatives, for example, ridiculed the fact one of our universities was studying the sex life of the screw worm fly.  By discovering the screw worm fly would breed only once during its life span, producing millions of sterile, male flies, screw worms in Texas have virtually been eradicated.  The value of the millions of livestock saved by this ridiculed research can’t even be counted today.  Now, right-wing “policy wonks,” pals of the governor, are suggesting we improve the efficiency of our colleges by curtailing research.  These are closely akin to the know-nothing conservatives of the early 1900's who wanted then to shutdown the United States Patent Office on the grounds that almost everything worthwhile had already been invented.

The future of this state does not lie in giving away millions to fat-cat speculators and business people.  The future of this state lies in developing the potential of great minds; particularly, those of our young people.  We cannot fire enough teachers to replace $29-billion in our budget.  Thousands of younger teachers who will be laid off will eventually find better jobs.  They will be loathe to return to teaching.  Fewer young people, particularly bright young people, will be more and more reluctant to enter teaching when it is not viewed as a job with a secure future.  In a generation or so in the future, I am certain this state will be faced with a huge teacher shortage which will only be solved at a much greater price than keeping the teachers we have or the price of having our children taught by unqualified persons in the classrooms.

The distinguished professors who will be chased from Texas by wrongheaded thinking--that cannot see the value of research and development--will not be replaced or lured back to Texas for generations.  Our colleges will pay the price of having lower standings nationally and internationally and in losing the good reputation we have gained in recent years.  The price we pay today to maintain what quality of education we now possess will pale in comparison to the price of lack of vision for the future.  Without doubt, it is a “pay me now, or pay me more later” situation.

1 comment:

  1. In 2000, Texans thought they were electing Jesus in the form of George W. Bush. Today, Republicans have forgotten Jesus and are trying to elect Ayn Rand.

    With just a little bit of effort, Texas may be able to eclipse Mississippi in lack of education and girth.


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