Monday, February 28, 2011

Tea Party: Let's Redistribute Corporate Wealth

Recall the photograph of the family at the Austin solidarity rally that took place last Saturday? They reminded us that not only is there a “Rainy Day Fund” to be used when funds for education are scarce, but in the next budget cycle from all accounts, funds for education are going to be scarce.

Alarmingly, the Kool-Aid flavor-of-the-day that the Tea Party is serving up to its members in the state legislature, 55 state reps and 2 state senators to be exact, is that they should keep their hands off of the “Rainy Day Fund.” And amazingly, some are saying that the state should actually return that money to the taxpayers.

And the same people are even saying that if the funds are not returned to the taxpayers they should be used only in some specific cases. And amazingly enough, one of those cases is, literally, a rainy day.

“Konni Burton of Colleyville said the rainy day fund should be set aside for coverage during a natural or other disaster, such as a hurricane, flood or terrorist attack, and for a financial buffer to allow the state to maintain a high bond rating. ‘If our elected officials believe we have more than enough for those contingencies within the fund, the rest should be returned to the taxpayers of Texas, not used to cover up past revenue mismatches or pay for recurring expenses.’” [Emphasis is mine]
And wouldn’t you know it, another case is a terrorist attack.

Ah the ignorance of these people who profess a need to follow the constitution in each and every way. Education is not important to these incredibly ignorant people. If they can do without it, everyone else can, too, it would seem.

But this sheer ignorance could not survive long. Witness the learned response today from Scott McCown, the executive director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. His letter to the tea party group that advises its legislator/members not to allow the use of the Rainy Day Fund almost reads like a parent disciplining a child.

The Tea Party stands strongly for interpreting the constitution according to original intent. As constitutional history shows, when Texas citizens created the Rainy Day Fund by constitutional amendment in 1988, they voted to save money in good times to pay for recurring expenses during bad times. The 1988 ballot language reads: ‘The constitutional amendment establishing an economic stabilization fund in the state treasury to be used to offset unforeseen shortfalls in revenue.’ Original intent had nothing to do with emergencies such as hurricanes or a buffer to pay debt on bonds as you suggest; rather it was about protecting Texas during economic downturns.
But wait, it gets better. That thing about the repaying the taxpayers? McCown, I think very patiently, pointed out that returning this money “to the taxpayers” would mean returning this money to oil companies. Since 1988 it was these taxpayers who forked over money for the Rainy Day Fund. Not all taxpayers. Not Konni Burton of Coffeyville.
“Every penny in the rainy day fund comes from oil and gas taxes set aside for use in an economic downturn. If you return this money to oil and gas producers, you merely increase already big oil and gas profits while Texas families suffer.”
Well, maybe not so patiently.

What makes this notion the huge joke is that should the Tea Baggers get their wish and the Rainy Day Fund gets distributed to all Texas taxpayers that would be tantamount to the socialist notion of wealth redistribution. Take it from Big Oil and give it to the little people.

Now whether McCown’s arguments gets through to enough Tea Bagger/legislators or not is a critical issue. In the State House 55 no votes would kill releasing any of these funds. They need 90 votes to do it. Losing 55 votes of the 150 state reps means that there would be only a 5-vote margin for error to release the funds.

I guess it depends on how many Republicans, and how many Tea Baggers think with that thing between their ears as opposed to that thing between their hips.

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