Some Follow Up Notes on The Perry Spiral

A few notes that didn’t fit into the previous article:

Texas ranks 50th (that’s last folks, not first) among states in the amount of money it spends on its citizens per capita.  That spending will now have to decrease further, but unless we’re planning to add Iraq soon, there still won’t be a rank lower than 50.

Nonetheless, up to this year my overall state and local tax burden has been markedly less in the Yankee Communistic North than it was when I lived in Houston.  Weird, huh?  The tax burden in Texas rests extremely (and pointlessly) heavy on middle and lower-income earners.

The current budget shortfall being discussed for the upcoming two-year period is about $25bn on a previous budget of $180bn. If patterns from the last two legislatures hold we should see that number increase steadily through the session.  There is no fat left.  Cuts will be severe.

When the state cuts a vital budget area, where does the deferred cost bubble up?  Answer – in local government budgets.  In 2009 alone, Texas local government debt increased by almost a quarter according to the Texas Bond Review Board annual report.  Unsustainable local government debt in Texas (about  $170bn) is masking some of the impact of our state spending cuts. That allows a lot of people to remain blind to the deterioration.

You don’t notice the effects of poor government much in day to day life unless you’re looking carefully, or unless you’ve been away for awhile.  Emergency room wait times, for example, don’t tell you much in relative terms unless you’ve had the experience of seeing them somewhere else.  But Texas is basically ‘paying it backward’ – attracting massive growth via low corporate and upper class taxation while the real costs of that small government are backloaded, waiting to spring like a giant Crap-a-pult.

It’s a lot like refusing to replace the shingles, or fix the leaky faucet, or replace the outdated wiring or broken pipes so that you can lower the cost of home ownership.  It may not impact your quality of life on any given Tuesday.  And maybe you get used to the drippy noises and the mildew and the sparks that fly when you flip a switch and it doesn’t bother you.  And you learn to live without the things that don’t work.  And maybe the house fills up with lots of other people who want to live there because the rent is really cheap.  And you decide that those people have ‘voted with their feet’ and you’re a genius.

And then one day the roof falls in.

Or maybe it doesn’t.  Perhaps it’s a mistake to pretend that some event can occur to suddenly make people notice the rot.  It is certainly possible to ignore declining living conditions forever if the citizens can be distracted, repressed or deceived. There are happy people out there who love living in Port Au Prince and over the past thirty years it’s been growing almost three times as fast as Houston.  That statistic proves that Haitians have an incredibly successful political system!  Who’s their Governor?

Texas is the most beautiful place in the world.  The history is inspiring.  The food is amazing.  The people are open-hearted and real, some of the most sincere folks you’ll ever find.  Texans have preserved a fantastic, distinct culture in a time when everyone else is embracing the bland.  I’m an ethnic Texan.  No matter where I go or who I pay my taxes to, it will always be my home.

Maybe we shouldn’t jack it up.

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