The Oklahoman published a snarky editorial (“All states should be ‘struggling’ like Texas,” Jan. 21, 2011) Friday attacking a recent New York Times column by Paul Krugman that calls attention to the massive $25 billion budget deficit in Texas.
Krugman’s basic point is that the Texas economy and its government budget management have been held up as a model of conservative ideology. Now that the state’s economy has declined and the state faces such a huge deficit, Krugman argues, it’s time to rethink the so-called “Texas miracle.”
According to Krugman:
Texas is where the modern conservative theory of budgeting – the belief that you should never raise taxes under any circumstances, that you can always balance the budget by cutting wasteful spending – has been implemented most completely. If the theory can’t make it there, it can’t make it anywhere.
And, as Krugman goes on to show in his column, the “conservative theory of budgeting” is not working.
In response to Krugman, The Oklahoman editorial page-Oklahoma has a clear connection to the “conservative theory of budgeting,” especially since the government is now controlled completely by Republicans-uses a typical mixture of ad hominem attacks and logical fallacies.
Here’s the attack on Krugman:
Krugman’s conclusion is that what happens first in California is no longer portentous. Instead, it’s what’s happening today in Texas. “And what we’re seeing right now is a future that doesn’t work.”
Is it any wonder syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer recently questioned Krugman’s sanity?
This is standard procedure for The Oklahoman and most right-wing media outlets. Rather than engage Krugman’s argument, the editorial attacks him personally. In this case, the editorial backhandedly questions the sanity of a Nobel Prize winning academic based on the word of a conservative columnist well known as a writer who often engages in right-wing hyperbole. So who’s crazy here?
The editorial then points out the recent population growth in Texas as something Krugman discounts, but that’s a red herring fallacy. It also focuses on Krugman’s argument about oil prices and the Texas economy, another red herring. Again, Krugman’s point is that Texas was once a model for the conservative movement in terms of how it managed its budget and the fact it did so with no income tax. Now the truth has come home. Krugman argues Texas used “smoke and mirrors to create the illusion of sound finances in the face of a serious ‘structural’ budget deficit . . .”.
Among the states, Texas ranks near the bottom in education spending per pupil, while leading the nation in the percentage of residents without health insurance. It’s hard to imagine what will happen if the state tries to eliminate its huge deficit purely through further cuts.
All this is extremely important for Oklahoma, which faces its own budget crisis this year. Gov. Mary Fallin, the Republican-dominated legislature and The Oklahoman are using the same type of conservative rhetoric about next year’s budget, which faces a $400 to $600 million shortfall, that has been employed by Texas Governor Rick Perry and other Republicans in his state. Like Texas, Oklahoma is unlikely to raise taxes to prevent further cuts in services and education. If fact, Oklahoma’s income tax is expected to get reduced even more this year, which will force even more cuts.
The Oklahoman, the most conservative metropolitan newspaper in the country, is as vested in “Texas miracle” folklore as you can get, but if Texas can’t pull it together under conservative budget beliefs, as Krugman asks, then what state can? Certainly, not Oklahoma, which lacks the massive resources and population of Texas. Personal attacks and fallacies won’t change that fact.
Then there’s this from The Austin Statesman:
The Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute estimated that the state could save $1.7 billion by skimming 10 percent from all state workers’ pay and requiring workers to take two days of unpaid leave per month.
Are similar conservative proposals for Oklahoma coming soon?