Suppose for a minute, that the radical right is correct in assuming that the government needs to be small enough to drown in a bathtub. The state of Texas has taken that leap of faith and is now “right-sizing” government in its current budget. Education took the biggest hit, and Texans are still thanking God for Mississippi, which continues to spend less and get even worse results in education. What else did Texans not need?
For starters, they no longer need to offer job training either to adult or juvenile offenders. If offenders get back on the street and find themselves unable to get a job, they should write the Texas Legislature a nice thank you note. They will probably have plenty of time to do it when they return to prison for their next go-round, as the inability to become employed is a major cause of recidivism. Texas has one of the highest prison populations in the country, so the outlook for careers as correctional officers is bright. Just hope applicants do not have to perform well on written tests.
Next up, the plan is to cut the legs out from under the Texas Teacher Retirement System. TRS is a defined-benefit program that covers more than 1 million current and retired educators. Members pay into the plan over their careers and their employers match their contributions. On retirement, members receive a pension and health insurance benefits. Most members do not participate in Social Security. Less than two per cent of the state budget goes to fund this plan, but abolishing it will create a class of uninsured and unprepared retirees. Perhaps they can commit a couple of drug crimes and spend their golden years in one of Texas’ many prisons, especially since state payments to nursing homes are also being cut to the bone.
Look for more news soon of mentally ill people doing wacky things like shooting up public gatherings. Texas has cut public health funding in a big way, and mental health care was the biggest loser. Expect also to see epidemics spreading to this country from the Rio Grande valley, where public health initiatives have been zeroed out, meaning that lab testing and tracking diseases like TB, influenza and the like just went up in smoke. Texas will be an easy place for physicians and nurses to find work; however, they should come with license in hand, because state scholarships for nursing and medical schools are gone.
Not all the news is bad, however, Parents who object to having their children forced to learn the Christian Theory of Sexuality and Health in school will be pleased to hear that funds for abstinence-only sex education are being cut. No longer will non-virgin girls in Texas be compared to dirty toothbrushes in school (at least not at public expense).
Even as the budget is forcing cuts everywhere, it wouldn’t be Texas if Governor Goodhair didn’t have his pet project. Governor Perry has taken decisive action to solve the largest non-problem facing Texans everywhere: voter ID. Now every voter will have to prove his or her identity with a photo ID. The law won’t cause anyone much trouble, unless they are poor or old; those populations are not really welcome to vote anyway.
What it will do, however, is add $2 million to the $31 billion gap. This measure will allow the radical right wing to continue to advance its agenda of staying in power until the United States is completely destroyed by its short-sighted idea that the free market can fix everything. Way to go, Governor Perry.