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)


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 and 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.


  • My cousin inherited family land in West Virginia that a coal company later leased for ridiculous amounts of money. He doesn’t come to my house and tell me how to run my budget and criticize how much smaller my net worth now is. Yet you seem to implying that Texas, newly flush with oil money, should teach lessons to California and Illinois.

    • kamiller42

      Texas was exercising fiscal sanity before fracking began. Allowing fracking exploration is another example of sanity liberals do not have. As the article stated, a bulk of the budget comes from sales tax revenues, not energy. Texans do not want to tell CA and IL how to run their states. It’s to their advantage these states are run by foolish policies. CA & IL, keep it up. The conservative states thank you!

  • FLP- Not that TX should impose it’s will on those states…that’s a Leftist approach. But, if my home state of IL and my current state CA had any sense about them, they’d adapt in specific ways (i.e. incentives to companies to bring jobs, utilizing natural resources, lower taxes, job-friendly policies, etc.).

  • RJ, this was a great article.
    There are two main determinants of the differences between Americans living in different states (under the same USA fed laws).
    Different cultures.
    Different gov’t policies.

    With feedbacks from one to the other; voters voting based more on culture.

    You are absolutely right that whenever possible, small gov’t conservatives should look to compare Texas to California over the last 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50 years.

    “Jeb, move away from there … move to Beverly.

    Hills that is. Swimming pools, movie stars.”

    Baby boomers grew up with CA boomin’ and Texas sort of quite behind in the 60s.
    But Dem preferred policies, and Dem-athiest culture, and reduced CA.
    And Rep preferred policies and Christian-Rep culture is leading Texas to greater preeminence. It’s even conceivable that within 20-30 years, Texas will have more voters than CA.

    The boomers and Hollywood culture like to make fun of stereotype Texas rednecks — but in policy continue to push big gov’t support for wasteful policies.

    Both must be resisted. And the success of Texas, especially in the economic benefits for poor folk, must push to allow Republicans to argue over the “moral high ground”.

    The Dems promote policies that don’t help the poor — the poor are worse off. Detroit. Compton & Watts.
    The Reps promote policies that allow and encourage the poor to help themselves — and the poor are better off.

    The poor are better off in states with Rep culture.
    Reps are better, in reality, than Dems — for the poor.

  • See Steven Greenhut’s “Stockton’s Moral Deficit” in City Journal:

    Assured Guaranty is in the right here. CalPERS and bankrupt cities such as Stockton have decided to protect outsize public-employee pensions at all costs, insisting that a small group of beneficiaries should enjoy publicly funded luxuries while everyone else gets pummeled. Something will have to give, eventually. The episode proves that Stockton officials aren’t just fiscally bankrupt; they’re morally bankrupt, too.

    More of his articles here:

  • “California’s ‘wall of debt’ towers over tax revenues” by Steve Malanga, Public Sector