The federal stimulus program that many experts agree kept the U.S. economy running in the midst of an unprecedented financial crisis was especially valuable to Texas, which accepted more aid dollars than any other state apart from California, using them to close nearly 97 percent of its budget deficit last year.
But according to a new fundraising letter from Gov. Rick Perry (R), a likely presidential contender, he thinks the stimulus “failed.”
But that so-called failure is what let Perry and Texas Republicans balance the state’s budget in 2009 and 2010, kept tens of thousands employed and ensured that hundreds of thousands continued to receive health benefits. Overall, $28.5 billion in federal assistance was sent to Texas, and officials used it to keep schools open, put more people to work on infrastructure projects and ensure children still received needed health care, among other things — all in spite of Perry’s posturing against such measures.
Giving potential supporters a “small taste” of what he feels is breaking the nation’s budget, Perry puts his sights on arts funding, government operating expenses and mass transportation projects, insisting they are examples of wasteful government spending. His letter includes dollar amounts dealt out to each program he believes should be eliminated — including an unspent $45 billion in stimulus funds — but only comes up with about $57.6 billion in savings, compared to a budget deficit that’s running just over $1 trillion for this fiscal year.
“It is almost inconceivable what President Obama and the big spenders are doing to this country,” he wrote. “They are setting a financial time bomb that will explode and devastate every American family unless it is immediately disarmed.”
But he wasn’t saying that three years ago, when President Obama was stepping into office and inheriting a $1.3 trillion annual deficit from President George W. Bush, the former Governor of Texas and Perry’s old boss. Nor did he say such things in 2001, when he came out in support of President Bush’s tax cuts, which tore over $1.8 trillion from of U.S. revenues by reducing the responsibilities of the wealthiest Americans and corporations. Nor did he speak out against the Republicans’ unfunded prescription drug plan that prevents government from negotiating for lower prices, or the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, or the No Child Left Behind mandate that takes money away from under-performing schools.
By eliminating the Bush-era tax rates and allowing them to sunset, as Republicans originally planned, and revert to Clinton-era levels, approximately half of the U.S. budget deficit would be eliminated. President Obama has vowed to make ending the Bush tax cuts a centerpiece of his reelection campaign.
Instead of pointing at the largest pieces contributing to the problem, Perry has consistently blamed Democrats, and particularly President Obama, for the nation’s budgetary woes. The numbers, however, do not match up with his rhetoric. According to a recent New York Times analysis, after nearly three years of the Obama administration, the total costs of his new policies have risen to $1.4 trillion, whereas after eight years of the Bush administration, the total costs of his new policies came out to $5.07 trillion, which is still rising due to the reoccurring nature of the expenses.
“The big spenders in Washington from the president on down need to feel the outrage of the American people,” Perry writes in his letter.
What he doesn’t add is what voters should do if the real “big spenders” have already left office.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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