Here, a few inconvenient facts come to mind. As most of us start working on our Christmas shopping lists and exchanging fruitcake recipes, Governor Rick Perry and other state officials are forced to contemplate a very uncheerful set of possibilities. If Obama administration and the Republicans fail to make a deal to avoid the dreaded financial-geographical metaphor we know as "the fiscal cliff," on January 2, 2013, automatic federal spending cuts will be triggered (as per the sequestration outlined in the Budget Control Act of 2011. If that happens, then states like Texas, yes, even mighty Texas, will face Draconian cuts in federal aid.
Some of the specifics were mentioned in a December 4, 2012 story in the Austin American-Statesman . According to the Texas Legislative Budget Board, the cuts could reach $1.1 billion and affect 13 state agencies over the next two years. Expect to see some pained expressions in the granite domed state capitol building (which, in case some Texan hasn't told you already, is five feet taller than the one in the nation's capital).
The Texas Legislature has scheduled a hearing to discuss the issue
the second week of December, but miracles are not expected. If the
automatic cuts should come to pass, Texas' genitals, caught in the proverbial
vise, would be torqued even further because of the state's dependence on
federal spending on defense, homeland security and border security, and so
forth. All of this, despite the fact that Texas used to be an independent
nation, with a president, a flag, and everything. Yes, and despite the fact that
Mexico was so badly routed at San Jacinto, the Republic of Texas continued to
be invaded by Mexico with great regularity. Like it was a sport or something.
Oddly enough, for a state claiming to be the "15th largest economy in the world," Texas and the federal tit are never very far apart. According to Eva DeLuna Castro of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, (cited in the Statesman article) federal spending accounts for about one-fifth of the Texas economy. In 2010 a total of $226 billion federal dollars were expended in the Lone Star State, including $43 billion from Social Security; $16 billion from Medicare, and a total $59 billion from the Department of Defense.
If the fiscal cliff comes under our wheels, just try throwing a rock without hitting someone reeling from the impact. OK, maybe you could just drop it on a Houston oil man's head or something.
Public education would be pole-axed: Title 1 grants to schools cut by $100.8 million, 1,386 education jobs gone, 254,704 fewer students served, 422 fewer schools receiving grants, and many other cuts to areas already hurting. Thus would acceleration be applied to the state's race to the bottom in education.
Over the next week or two, expect to see some pained expressions around the granite domed state capitol building (which, in case some Texan hasn't told you already, is five feet taller than the one in Washington, D.C.)
These quirks and coincidences are all kind of tangled up together. If there's any logic to my presentation, it should become clear enough soon. The aforementioned fiscal freak-out story was reported on December 4, the same day that Elizabeth Flock, on the US News blog Washington Whispers quoted a series of breathless brags from Dan Miller, president of an organization called the Texas Nationalist Movement (TNM). According to Miller, the group's paid membership had risen by 400 percent in recent months. Although Miller declined to provide any specific numbers or proof of these claims, he also claimed that traffic to the group's website, TexasNationalist.com has increased by 9,000 percent.
Some of that increase, however, is likely due to a copy editing error that was overlooked when a pro-gambling group, Let Texans Decide, ran a series of radio spots, seeking support for a referendum to legalize gambling in the state. In the ad copy, the organization's home page URL was misspelled, and thus, instead of sending listeners to LetTexansDecide.com, they were directed to LetTexasDecide.com, where they found a petition sponsored by TNM advocating a referendum on Texas independence. It's an ill wind that blows a Libertarian no good. (My definition of libertarian, by the way, is a redneck with a bong.)
Miller insists that the secession/independence fad is not merely a reaction against the reelection of Barack Obama, who happens to be a Democrat, an African-American and a non-Texan. "A lot of people in the opposition want to downplay this as extreme and fringe," says Miller, "But at our meetings in different counties, we're sometimes drawing more people than the Democratic and Republican parties... This political and cultural disconnect between Texas and the federal system has been talked about for generations. Now, it has entered into mainstream political discourse."
Miller is obviously enjoying his moment in the spotlight, but I would disagree that being talked about in the mainstream political arena is the same thing as being involved in the mainstream swing of things. I mean, when traffic on the freeway slows down to gawk at a bloody accident, it doesn't mean all those drivers wish they were sitting in a crumpled car, waiting for the jaws of life to arrive.
Speaking of disconnect, there's a cherished myth in this state that rugged, independent Texas folk, particularly those who live in rural areas or who happen to own oil producing land, could get along quite nicely without the generous pipeline of federal money carried between the federal government and the state. You know, such as agricultural subsidies, defense contracts, oil company tax breaks, and things like that. Maybe you actually believe that.
Maybe you were actually excited at the prospect of President Rick Perry.
There's also a misconception that Texas joined the Union under some sort of non-binding agreement, one that allowed it to leave again, no strings attached, whenever it felt like it. There's not one molecule of truth to this notion. Zip, nada, zero. By now, we hope someone has shared this info with Rick Perry, who helped spread this bit of misinformation.
Texas' abrasive, disconnected character got a boost in the 1950s, when the oil was flowing and all that oil money helped make Texas a valuable player in right wing political discourse. It was a rich Texas oil man who gave Senator Joseph McCarthy a brand new Cadillac for being such a great American.
Conservative Texas Republicans also never quite forgave FDR for not only leading the Allies to victory over Germany and Japan during World War II, but his New Deal programs that got us out of the Great Depression.