When tough economic times arrive, it always seems the first people who get laid off are the librarians. Then library hours are cut. Then public radio stations cut their broadcast hours to a minimum. Then teaching jobs get cut. Then schools close. Then … Well, you can put in your own job description, if you have one, with the rest of the people looking for work. Actually, the tough economic times result in real, live taxpayers losing their jobs, thus being unable to contribute to the welfare of all.
The middle-class has been under attack for a couple decades and it shows everywhere. When a company takes a highly skilled but relatively uneducated worker and eliminates that skilled position, the worker is forced to take other work that is less skilled and therefore pays less.
When the worker earns less, he is taxed less.
When his taxes are less, there is less for the society to use for its general welfare, such as educating children. I know this is basic stuff, but sometimes we need to "see the movie again" to remember its impact. When a whole generation of skilled workers are displaced, the middle-class and, perforce, all of society suffers.
The poor get poorer while the rich get richer; you know, the traditional path to anarchy and revolution.
Here in Texas we are seeing a classic example of the economic downturn’s effect on what is and is not important. School districts are talking about closing schools and eliminating about 10 percent of their teaching and staff jobs while they build new, state-of-the-art football stadiums.
Annual raises? Forget it. New industries are very reluctant to move here because the quality of the workforce has deteriorated due to so many jobs going elsewhere and our poor educational system. Even the great and giant Dell Computer company has been forced to "compete" by sending its jobs and work to other countries.
Here are some more chilling numbers (Well, they’re chilling to me because I think our children are our future. Silly me.)
After 20 years of high-stakes "accountability" testing and additional actions required by No Child Left Behind, SAT scores in Texas rank 47th out of 50 states. Mind you, we spend $100 million per year to do these things or else we won’t get federal money from NCLB.
Add to that the fact that 20 percent of Texas children are without health care. Our Legislature voted to extend Children’s Health Insurance Programs, but somehow the extra money doesn’t go to help lower that number of uninsured children. Where it goes, I know not.
Texas ranks last, some would say "dead last," in taking care of its children. The unemployment rate is less than the national average, but that is mostly attributable to Texas being an agricultural state and an oil-refinery state. People gotta eat and put gas in their cars.
With that all said, why do we keep saying "No" to our children? I don’t know.
Our current governor reluctantly took economic stimulus money. I say reluctantly because he is under the delusion that businesses would have had to pay higher taxes. What he didn’t get was that if he refused the money, the businessmen would have had to pay even higher taxes in order to comply with state unemployment funding laws. Duh! Our governor has turned down $700 million to help our impoverished schools. Why, that’s almost seven years of Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills testing.
So, naturally, incumbent Rick Perry will be the Republican nominee for governor in November. Whoopee! Texas Republican politics defines the party of NO.
They, the Republicans, say NO to their children and they say NO to their unemployed and employed workers.
In closing, I wonder where we are going as a state and as a nation? I wonder if Texas will be the first to become last with its children and its poor?
I wonder if America will last as a first-class society? Do you ponder these things? No? Well, never mind. Just be sure you vote for somebody in November.
You will then have discharged your civic duty and reserved your right to complain.
Turner is a retired teacher and industrial engineer who lives near Marble Falls.