Monday, February 21, 2011

Voters Say Slash The Budget, But Not Anything In It

Texas Tribune insiders took on school finance this week, and they're not optimistic that there will be a happy ending:
Lawmakers have proposed spending $10.4 billion less than the Texas Education Agency says it needs to keep things running like they're running now. Is that current level of services sufficient for public education? Two-thirds of our panel said no, it's not.

On the question; Should lawmakers free local schools to raise their property taxes to make up for money lost to state cuts? Most of our insiders — 70 percent — said yes, while 27 percent said no.

More @ Texas Tribune.
The Texas Tribune this week also looked at the Mixed Signals on Budget Cuts that Texans are sending in a UT/Texas Tribune Poll:
By a margin of more than 2 to 1, Texas voters believe that lawmakers should solve the state's massive shortfall by cutting the budget, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, but their enthusiasm dissipates when asked if they support specific cuts.

"We [Texans] really want to slash the budget, but not anything in it," says pollster Daron Shaw, a professor of government at UT.

Given a list of things that could be cut to balance the budget and asked to check each that they'd consider, the voters were protective of state programs, and overwhelmingly so.

They oppose cuts to public education, 82 percent; pre-kindergarten, 62 percent; state grants to college students, 73 percent; state contributions to teacher and state employee retirement programs, 69 percent; the Children's Health Insurance Program, 87 percent; to state environmental regulation that could be picked up by the federal government, 65 percent; cuts to Medicaid providers like doctors and hospitals, 86 percent; state funding for nursing home care, 90 percent; prisons for adults or for juveniles, both 67 percent; new highway construction, 63 percent; border security, 85 percent; or for closing four community colleges, 77 percent.

Many of the items on that list are among the prime cuts made in proposed budgets from the House, the Senate and the governor. "Frankly, if you're assuming the results of the last election mean you should cut and that people meant government should completely go away, you're overreaching," says pollster Jim Henson, who teaches government and runs the Texas Politics Project at UT.

More @ Texas Tribune
This is, to me, a very Pavlovian thing. Pavlov conducted an experiment where for a period of time he rang a bell every time he set food down for his dogs. The dogs soon associated the bell with food and soon began to salivate as soon as they heard the bell, even when food was nowhere in sight.

It’s very easy to compare the techniques Pavlov used with his dogs to what the conservative noise machine has done to condition voters to the sound of "government spending."

When voters hear "government spending" their immediate conditioned response is "cut spending" without thinking that means their children will not receive a good education, their grandparents can't go to the doctor, potholes in roads (built by government spending) will go unfilled, there will be no prisons to hold the criminals who rob and kill, and on, and on, and on... When voters do stop to think about the GOP Price Tag attached to perpetual rounds of spending cuts they start to growl.

What Americans Really Want

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