Today’s breaking news: Texas took stimulus money. Yeah, I know — breaking news from eons ago. The Left is currently engaged in a fairly transparent campaign to discredit governor Rick Perry and the Texas model of limited, pay-as-you-go government, largely because Democrats cannot abide the idea of a state with a strong economy and no income tax. Former economist Paul Krugman is leading that particular chorus, and the recent nattering from the likes of Jon Chait and Kos over the state’s accepting federal stimulus funds is silly. It is also a rather naked attempt to defuse the continued disgust with Democrats inspired by that particularly spectacular pork-a-thon: “See! See! Republicans took the money, too!”
If Rick Perry had had his way, there would have been no stimulus bill of the sort we saw and will be paying for (for a long, long time). Yes, that would have made balancing Texas’s budget more difficult — to the tune of $6.6 billion in a state with a $1.2 trillion economy. Shock, horror, etc. Texas had more than enough money in its reserves to cover that sum. Perry could have gutted those reserves to make a political point, but he chose not to. That is prudence, not grandstanding. It does not make the stimulus any less of a national shame.
Republicans lost the stimulus fight but are under no special obligation to leave money sitting on the table when Uncle puts it out there, which Texas did rather than tap the billions in its rainy-day fund. If I had my way, there would be no Social Security or federal highway system, but I’ll drive on the interstates, anyway: They’re there, and I pay for them, and I am under no obligation to deny myself the use of the things Joe Government funds out of the money extorted from me. If Texas could have negotiated a deal whereby it neither received stimulus payments nor saw its citizens put on the hook for funding them, I suspect Texas might have taken that deal — just as I would opt out of Social Security today (yesterday!) if I had a choice. But to treat it as a scandal that a state is accepting some of the money being appropriated from its residents is boneheaded.
Texas’s government revenue is running about $15 billion less than expected this time around. So, what is the state doing? Senate Republicans have just submitted a bill that will — radical idea! — limit spending to the available revenue. AP:
The Senate bill calls for $73.8 billion in expenditures, exactly what the state comptroller said Texas will earn in revenues over the next two years.
The state agencies and the bureaucrats’ lobby want about $100 billion. They are not going to get it. That’s what legislatures are for — not that you’d know from the way our national one operates.
Chait and Krugman cannot abide by Texas’s “Just Say No” model of appropriations, because they are ideologically beholden to the belief that people cannot thrive without a very robust and paternalistic state to mind them. But they can, and do — and, once the bond markets get done with Washington, they will, nationally.
— Kevin D. Williamson is a deputy managing editor of National Review and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism, just published by Regnery. You can buy an autographed copy through National Review Online here.