The Miraculous Shell Game

Digby points to this AlterNet piece by Joshua Holland about what conservatives are calling “the Texas miracle” and proof that conservative principles in action are the best way to create jobs and prosperity. In reality, it’s more like the broken-down apartment in a decrepit building in a terrible neighborhood that you find when you answer the ad that says, “Small but charming apartment with loads of potential; in the [name of coveted neighborhood] vicinity, bargain price, won’t last.”

Under governor Rick “Goodhair” Perry’s term in office, Texas has indeed been a model of conservative governance, but the truth is that it has resulted in anything but prosperity for the people of the Lone Star State. In fact, Texas is not only a complete basket-case, it would be faring far worse today without the help of policies enacted by Democrats at the federal level – policies Perry lambasted as “irresponsible spending that threatens our future.”

Basically, Texas under Rick Perry has created an ocean of low-paying dead-end jobs via a combination of massive tax cuts, taking advantage of an influx of immigrant workers, and cynical use of the federal stimulus funds Perry scorned to close the budget deficit. The problem now (one of them) is that the only way Gov. Perry can keep the decreased revenue as a result of those tax cuts from putting the state into debt again is by slashing spending on social programs:

Arguably the biggest sleight-of-hand in the Texas Miracle storyline, however, is that many of those jobs were a result of a huge surge in the state’s population, much of it fueled by immigration from Latin America (rather than liberal hell-holes like California).

Texas’ population grew by 20 percent over the past decade, and Hispanics accounted for almost two-thirds of that growth. A surge in people created greater demand for goods and services, which leads to more jobs. But the jobs being created in Texas aren’t keeping up with the state’s expanding workforce. …

But perhaps the most laughable claim in this whole narrative is that Texas has been “fiscally responsible.” Perry certainly adhered to the conservative playbook, offering massive tax breaks without the deep cuts in services that might inspire a voter backlash. As a result – an entirely predictable one – the Austin American-Statesman reported that “state lawmakers have spent much of the year grappling with a budget shortfall that left them $27 billion short of the money needed to continue current state services.”

CNN adds that while Perry was railing against the Democratic stimulus package passed over the fierce resistance of conservatives, the state “was facing a $6.6 billion shortfall for its 2010-2011 fiscal years,” and “it plugged nearly all of that deficit with $6.4 billion in Recovery Act money.” The stimulus package created or saved 205,000 jobs in Texas, second only to California. But as James Galbraith told AlterNet, while “the state budget has not yet been cut drastically” due to the stimulus boost, “the key phrase is ‘not yet.’” Now that the stimulus has run its course, “if projections for the current budget cycle are correct, things will get much worse in the next year.”

This, as Digby observes, is how the right defines the American dream: tax cuts for wealthy individuals, tax breaks and subsidies for corporations, and a bustling market of poverty jobs for everyone else.

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