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Texas the model

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Recently, I watched a FOX News program that focused on states that were in fiscal trouble versus the few states that were succeeding.
The commentator, Glenn Beck, reviewed the numbers for a half dozen of the worst cases, with California leading that sorry group. They all had in common a "progressive" view of governing. Of the handful of states that were doing fairly well, versus the national economy, Texas led the pack, and all were the beneficiaries of conservative economic and governance policies.
Texas leaders have wisely not crowed about their state's success, but Mr. and Mrs. America have figured it out. Roughly a thousand people a day are moving into the state from the tax-and-spend basket cases such as Michigan, New York and California - something that now has Texas leaders planning for extra demands on this state's infrastructure.
I was surprised that Mr. Beck seemed to know little about the reasons for the economic success of the Lone Star State, however he had invited a panel of three "eggheads" (his term) who enlightened him somewhat on the keys to economic progress, even in bad times.
The experts made an interesting point: Economic success is rooted in the state's culture and economic policy flows from that.
Texans are by nature, frugal, and they have a long tradition of distrust of government, especially centralized government. Therefore, the Texas Legislature sits only every second year, for a period of six months. (Occasionally, a special session is called if required to settle any unfinished business.) Texas legislators receive only a very modest salary, thereby requiring them to return to their usual work when the Lege is not in session.
Texas has no personal income tax and compared to many states, our property taxes are very modest. Texas has also implemented policies that are "business friendly", so our economy has become diversified.
Of course, we do have the advantage of being blessed in terms of natural resources. Texas does not hesitate to plumb its deposits of oil and natural gas. A thriving agricultural sector also makes a huge contribution to the state's economy.
The state collects the sales taxes and these revenues are shared monthly with the counties and cities. The state sales tax is 6 percent and 2.5 percent in most towns and counties.
The Texas constitution requires a balanced budget. It also requires that any tax hike must be put before the voters in a referendum.
Texas keeps a "Rainy Day" fund. Right now, this contains about $10 billion.
Additionally, Texas has a "Sunset" commission. This board looks at all programs, with a view to ending any program that has become redundant, irrelevant or wasteful.
The Californian on the Beck program was a man who has been fighting the good fight for years in his state against lavish spending and ever-growing taxes. He said he didn't see any change in the mindset of California voters, even though the state is heading off the cliff.
When asked by Beck which state would be the model, the Californian said it would have to be Texas. The other two panelists agreed.
One wonders, if the federal government had been following policies over the past two decades that Texas has followed, how much better the nation would be faring in the current world-wide crisis. I'm inclined to think that our IRA and 401k accounts would be in better shape and our children would be looking at a far better future than they now face.
I don't have a degree in economics. But if someone asked me what I would do, my first inclination would be to stop the bleeding. This at lease would give the international community some confidence that we are coming to our senses. The widespread Tea Party movement is basically a common sense stop-the-spending grassroots sentiment. Beyond that, it remains to be seen if anyone has the political courage to really address the really deep problems.
These include the reform to Social Security and Medicare and the cutting of literally hundreds of non-essential programs that Washington has its fingers in, taking a cue from the Texas sunset commission.
Courage will also require slashing earmarks, and allowing public service unions to share some of the pain by reducing their incredibly luxurious retirement benefits which are going to bankrupt many towns, counties and even states.
Also, we need a total reform of our tax system. Perhaps it is time to listen seriously to the proponents of the flat tax.
Certainly, now is the not the time to take on huge expenses such as the Democrats' healthcare takeover and the cap-and-trade bill. We simply can't afford these and the people know it.
But this Congress shows no sign of waking up and really listening to the people. They will find themselves among the unemployed come November.