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June 9, 2005

Fiddling while Rome burns

perry.jpgIt's a good sign that it's not going to be a good day at the office for a Republican politician when the morning's edition of the Wall Street Journal has both an editorial and an op-ed piece critical of the politician.

But that's precisely what Texas governor Rick Perry is confronting today. In this WSJ editorial ($) aptly entitled "What's the Matter with Texas?", the Journal editors pick up on a theme that was noted earlier in this post -- that is, the utter lack of leadership being exhibited by Republican politicians:

Republicans control every lever of political power in Austin for the first time since Reconstruction and had promised a sweeping reform agenda. Property tax relief. Vouchers for kids in failed inner-city public schools. An end to Robin Hood school financing. And passage of a fiscally tight budget.

This entire legislative agenda was ambushed. The school voucher pilot program for 20,000 mostly minority kids was rejected by the very Democratic legislators representing the families who would have benefited from the opportunity to attend private and parochial schools that actually work. The depressing fact that nearly half of the black and Hispanic children in the state fail to graduate from public high schools wasn't perceived as a sufficient crisis to give choice a chance.

Most of the other failings of this legislature must be laid at the feet of the Republicans.

The Journal goes on to note that the Republicans are playing with serious political fire by failing to address the problem of spiraling property taxes in Texas:

But it's almost inconceivable that the legislature would adjourn until 2007 without chopping property taxes. Skyrocketing appraisals are taxing Texans out of their houses, and infuriated home owners are ready to march on Austin. One Dallas legislator reported that he was accosted by irate voters at his kid's swim meet this week. . .

[I]f property taxes aren't cut meaningfully right now, the Republicans might not be coming back to Austin after the next election.

Meanwhile, over at OpinionJournal, J.R. Labbe, senior editorial writer and columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, pens this op-ed that addresses the challenges from within the Texas Republican Party that Mr. Perry is expected to face in the upcoming election campaign, and notes in particular that Mr. Perry's recent political staging of a signing ceremony for parental consent legislation in the gymnasium of a Ft. Worth church could backfire:

But the community of faith, even in the Lone Star State, is not a monolith. Plenty of Texan Christians were put off by what they perceived as Gov. Perry's use of religion as a theatrical prop. Witnessing oneself as a godly governor might be more effectively demonstrated if religion weren't turned into a sideshow.

As I observed to Charles Kuffner during lunch yesterday, I'm not sure what's worse -- the risk that government will embrace the worst characteristics of certain Christian churches, or that those churches will embrace the worst characteristics of government.

Posted by Tom at June 9, 2005 5:21 AM |

Comments

I plan on voting against every state Republican incumbent in the primary, and I'm considering voting for any Democrat in the general election to clean house.

The lack of any progress on school financing and property tax reform, combined with the stealth income tax (business payroll tax) is destroying the Republican party in Texas. And Rick Perry is not the sole cause of the problem. I blame David Dewhurst and Tom Craddick as much or more than the Governor.

Posted by: Jeff at June 9, 2005 9:27 AM

Nobody pays attention to political props except activists. The church backdrop was for the primaries and for voters who might stray to Kay Bailey. Nobody else will care in a month.

Perry will NOT be hurt by siding with the overwhelming majority of Texans on parental consent and gay marriage. Any notion otherwise is just wishful thinking by people who support the minority view on those issues.

Indeed, Perry is most vulnerable where I did not think he would be vulnerable after he managed to balance a budget deficit without massive new taxes -- the fiscal side.

The candidate who runs to his right on fiscal matters -- fixing education funding and property tax appraisal creep -- has a chance to beat him.

But which candidate is going to do that? Kay Bailey Hutchison? Chris Bell?

Call me sceptical.

Perry hasn't been great, but the culprit the WSJ has targeted once and should stay focused on (because he has institutional power) is Dewhurst. If the Republicans haven't managed to move a conservative fiscal agenda, they need not look much further than Dewhurst (although I will concede that Perry could have put public pressure on Dewhurst, and that's a failure of Perry's).

People also tend to forget that the wise designers of our state's constitution intended it to be hard for politicians to "do things." Republicans haven't been in charge all that long. It's kind of amusing for folks to expect the party that tends to advocate NOT doing things to overcome institutional limitations and get lots of things done, almost overnight! As Don Lutz would remind me, institutions matter. :)

That said, the state GOP won't get to play the "institutionalism" card forever, I don't think. I don't expect the Dems to get to their right on issues, but GOP primary fights are almost surely coming down the pike in a big way.

Posted by: kevin whited at June 9, 2005 9:56 AM

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