What’s the Matter with Texas?

If there is anyone anywhere who is ready and willing to serve as the chief mad scientist in the great Tea Party Economics Test Lab, it’s Texas Governor Rick Perry. Remember him? He’s that swaggering fellow who once hinted that Texas just might want to secede from the Union.

Like most states, now that stimulus funding has run out, Texas is facing a big budget deficit, currently estimated at $15 billion to 27 billion through the next two years.

And Gov. Perry is responding in full-on Tea Party mode by pushing a budget with no new taxes and some extraordinarily harsh cuts.

For instance, the current proposal will zero out the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas and cut the Library & Archives Commission by 70 percent.

The cuts are so broad and deep, that the bipartisan Texas Legislative Budget Board now estimates that they will cost the Texas economy more than 600,000 jobs over the next two years.

Putting 600,000 people out of work – without a paycheck in a tough economy and possibly in need of social services like unemployment benefits, is not likely to make things seem rosier overall for the members of the Texas Middle Class.

Especially since even back before the crash – one study showed that Texas had the largest income discrepancy between its richest 20% and middle 20% of families in the nation.

The Perry budget cuts means shredding the already flimsy social safety net. Texas already ranks 8th in the nation for the percentage of people living below the poverty line, and Forbes magazine rated Texas near the bottom of the national list (46th) for overall health.

But Cowboy Perry is undaunted. His Press Secretary, Katherine Cesinge said: “We must remain committed to the fiscal principles that have helped us add more jobs than any other state in 2010, as well as lead the nation in job creation over the last decade.” Nice talking point. But that job growth last year happened while there was still stimulus spending that included direct aid to states and municipalities.

According to the Texas Comptroller between January 2010 and January 2011, Texas gained 253,900 jobs. So do the math: if the estimates are correct and his new budget kills 600,000 jobs, this Tea Party darling’s job creation strategy for the Lone Star State will end up putting Texas 346,100 jobs in the hole. Sounds like when it comes to job creation, this Texas Governor may be all hat and no cattle.