For 15 years, from Bush to Perry, the Grover formula has given tax cuts to the wealthy and delivered budget cuts to you.
What are the results? Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured children in the nation, is dead last in the percentage of residents with their high school diploma and near last in SAT scores. Texas now has America’s dirtiest air.
Grover’s formula has paid another dividend—people quit voting. In Texas, fewer registered voters go to the polls than in any other state.
Despite the excitement surrounding the last presidential election, there were few changes in voter turnout in Texas. Areas of the state with historically low voter turnout did not experience a significant increase in participation that would have reversed past voting trends.
Here’s why. When interest rates on predatory loans rise to 1,100 percent, when insurance rates are now the highest in the U.S., when healthcare is now out of reach for one in four, people have given up hope that voting in Texas makes any difference. Sadly, Texans give up their power to make change by not casting their vote.
What to do? Now that we know how we got in to Grover’s tub, the better question is how do we get out?
Once, good government meant just that. Government worked for people, where dedicated professionals delivered valuable services for valuable tax dollars.
Government by and for people has been an American value since 1776. Abraham Lincoln embraced it as a cornerstone of the America’s democracy in his address at the battlefield in Gettysburg. He framed the Civil War as a fight to guarantee “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
Right up through Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, a solid majority of Americans believed that government was a force for good. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.”
From free public schools, to Social Security; from CHIP to the GI Plan, Americans have long believed that government serves them—and that with hard work and a good education, every American might succeed. Then came Ronald Reagan.
After his conversion from a Roosevelt Democrat to Goldwater Republican, Ronald Reagan ran against government. “Government,” he said, “does not solve problems; it subsidizes them.” More recently, George W. Bush, Karl Rove and his college Republican friend Grover Norquist put Reagan’s ideas on steroids. Together, they made tax cuts the only real domestic policy of George W. Bush’s administration.
And in Texas, where Bush, Rove, Cheney and Perry have made our great state the living laboratory of the radical right—tax cuts are now king, and the consequences of government by Grover are now very clear.
Pledge to do right for Texas, not to move priorities further right.
In 2007, Rick Perry appointed some of his staunchest supporters to travel the state to tell us how to make Texas more competitive. In 20008, the Governor’s Commission on Competitiveness in the 21st Century held hearings from Austin to Lubbock and then issued their Report.
Here are the findings of Perry’s Commission:
“Texas is not globally competitive. The state faces a downward spiral in both quality of life and economic competitiveness if it fails to educate more of its growing population (both youth and adults) to higher levels of attainment, knowledge and skills. The rate at which educational capital is currently being developed is woefully inadequate. Texas also needs an innovation-based economy in all the state’s regions that can fully employ a more capable workforce. It must generate more external research funding, and commercialize ideas and intellectual property at a volume substantially greater than currently taking place.”
Is this the Texas we want for our children? Isn’t it time to put Texas back on track?
What do we do? First, let’s honor the values that made America great. Let’s restore to our democracy the central idea of government of, by and for people. Government is not the enemy—it is us. And those who seek to starve government are starving us.
Second, let’s set clear, bold priorities. Fundamentally, state government is education. If Finland can lead the industrial world in education outcomes, why can’t Texas? If Alberta, Canada will pay to have a world research university, why can’t Texas? Moving up from last in the percentage of residents with their high school diploma and near last in SAT scores has to be our shared goal; we simply can’t afford the cost of last.
Third—let’s each engage today in making democracy better. When politicians run on a ‘no new taxes’ pledge, ask instead for a pledge to “make Texas better,” ask the hard questions—how will you pay for better schools, and recruit qualified teachers? Good schools are an investment in better jobs. Quality teachers are who will teach our children how to compete. Great universities make great ideas change the quality of our lives.
Write a letter to the editor—explain why educating more kids makes much more sense than one more tax cut. Better yet, run for school board—that is where American democracy does her best work.
Finally, and most importantly—please, go vote. After a quarter century of government by Grover, too few have faith that together we can make a difference. When you cast a ballot, your simple act sends a ripple of hope all across Texas. That decision and that choice is an investment in a better tomorrow. When you vote—we win.
Let’s all remember — our children and our future are worth the fight!