Acton Institute Powerblog

Texas: The Thorn in Progressive Liberalism’s Side

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Hell hath no fury like a tax-and-spend liberal scorned”  -Me (like ten minutes ago)

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In the on-going debate between proponents of Big v. Limited government, it can often be too easy to dismiss the other side on partisan, emotional grounds. The Left accuses the Right of possessing callous hearts toward the poor, indifference toward the “infrastructure” of our nation, and a blind allegiance to nefarious, shadowy 1%-ers who pull the strings of Big (insert any word but “Government” here). The Right views the Left as being naive about mankind’s fallen state, indulgent with other peoples’ money, and un-serious about the, shall we say, “troubling” fiscal position our nation (and many of our states) finds itself in.

Mixed up and lost in all the hyperbole and high emotions are actual facts, figures, and dollar amounts. Regardless of someone’s religiosity, most Americans want to be good stewards of the unprecedented wealth we’ve been blessed with. In fact, many who embrace the most fiscally-detrimental tax-and-spend policies are the most certain they are living out our Lord’s call to look after “the least of these.”

With all of that said, please consider this recent Bloomberg News article on the economic upswing taking place in Texas:

Legislators in Texas, the biggest energy producer among U.S. states, will begin deliberating its next two-year budget with a surplus forecast today to match an $8.8 billion record set in 2007.

The Texas economy has topped budget projections over the past 15 months, as booming energy output fueled job growth and an 11 percent fiscal first-quarter gain in sales-tax receipts, the biggest source of general-fund revenue. Even after paying off $7 billion in health and school bills, Comptroller Susan Combs said today that the state will be flush heading into 2014.

Great news, right? Surely tax-and-spend progressives in Austin,TX who have a front-row seat to what is transpiring in The Lone Star State – a state that has put into place policies that stand in direct contradiction to those enacted in states like California and Illinois – will at the very least see that they are going to have more money to spend on “social justice” pet projects due to the pro-growth initiatives they have enacted in recent years?

With Combs projecting an $8.8 billion surplus by Aug. 31 and a 12 percent jump in general-purpose receipts for the next two years, Democrats sense an opening.

“Given that we’re seeing an increase in revenue, let’s use this opportunity to fix those things that those in control of the budget have broken,” said state Senator Kirk Watson, an Austin Democrat. “Some people clearly want to starve the necessities of our people, things like schools, health care and transportation.”

Please hear me: I don’t care about the “politics” involved here. Not in the “Republicans rule, Democrats drool” sense of that term, which unfortunately most people conjure up in their minds upon hearing it uttered. I’m interested in the contemplation of the worldview being expressed, both by state Senator Kirk Watson above, and by scores of elected officials from Sacramento to Washington D.C.

The very things that Texas is paying off its debts on—school and health care—are the things that Mr. Watson condescendingly (and inaccurately) accuses the other side of neglecting. Not only are they not neglecting it (i.e., racking up deficits that can never be paid back), the other side’s policies are providing the government with more revenue than projected—even after paying their bills.

Texas is mocked and ridiculed in the press and entertainment world because it stands as a brazen affront to all of the things the experts in the faculty lounge at Harvard (and writers’ room at The Daily Show) tell us ought to be working.

I recommend you read the whole article as you consider my main point in posting it: ideology and worldview run deeper than facts and figures. For those of us who care deeply about the advancement of free enterprise, limited government, and the “free and virtuous society,” we must stop acting as if mere raw data is going to woo fellow countrymen to our cause. The Left has won hearts and minds by circumventing open and public debate about how we should organize ourselves and what we should do with our tax dollars by capturing the moral high ground with lofty rhetoric and cherry-picked Bible verses.

Use the facts to support our moral case, but never presuppose that the facts alone will move the cultural needle.

R.J. Moeller R.J. Moeller is a writer and podcast host for the American Enterprise Institute's "Values & Capitalism" project. He's also a regular contributor at PJMedia.com and Acculturated.com. Originally from Chicago, he currently resides in Los Angeles, CA where he serves as a media consultant to nationally syndicated columnist and talk show host, Dennis Prager.

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