After the mid-term elections I quoted H.L. Mencken, “the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” These days the news is all about that. Texas is often found lagging the rest of the country, and here we have another example of that as the Bush recession comes home to roost. The news is full of state and city governments awash in red ink. The Houston Fire Department is moving to cut the number of paramedic squads and close fire stations in response to a $10 million budget shortfall. Harris County Sheriffs Deputies have been shorthanded for so long that they have sued to stop mandatory overtime. Libraries have been under a hiring freeze, and so have been understaffed. Next they are going to be closed on Sundays. Our school district has put off new school construction, expecting NASA layoffs to dampen enrollment.
The Texas Legislature convenes next month facing a twenty-some billion dollar budget shortfall. With the biggest Republican majority since Reconstruction, deep cuts are expected in social programs such as Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance, and higher education; all traditionally underfunded here even in good times. The only sacred cow here is probably the state prison system; with 649 prisoners per 100,000 population, second only to Louisiana. Again, the Texas safety net is topped with razor wire. There is a sort of self-fulfilling prophesy working here as hard times will probably reverse declining crime statistics.
State and local governments across the country are strapped for cash, and this Congress will not be passing another Recovery and Reinvestment Act to bail them out. The GOP seems poised to replay 1937, when FDR, thinking that the recovery from the Great Depression was self-sustaining, cut back on New Deal spending, which immediately plunged the country back into recession. Would the Republicans really risk a double-dip into recession just to gain electoral advantage? Just look what they’re doing with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty; people who would push the Doomsday Clock forward just grandstanding won’t blink at a mere recession.