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Good ol’ Krugman,  once again leaving out important facts in order to wiggle his way into finding some Republican fiscal responsibility for any and all messes.

In his usual way, Mr. Krugman gets straight to the point with this:

And in low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right. The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings. Nationally, the state ranks fifth in child poverty; it leads in the percentage of children without health insurance. And only 78 percent of Texas children are in excellent or very good health, significantly below the national average.

What he fails to point out is that the majority of the Texas budget is spent both on healthcare and education. How do I know this? Texas conveniently publishes a fact book that you can find here (2010). Page 33 is what you are wanting to read, of $77.6 billion in state revenue, 56.3% was spent on education and 22.8% on health and human services. That amounts to around $43.6 billion spent on education (higher education and public education) and $17.7 billion spent on health and human services. The next closest item on the budget is criminal justice and public safety, which received 9.4% of the state’s budget or $7.3 billion.

Krugman is insinuating that we do not spend enough and that budget cuts will have a deep impact across the state. There’s no doubt that there will be a hit on health and human services but I think the problem is how the funds are being spent within their different agencies, not in the amount the agencies have received before. A lot of mid-sized school districts are estimating $14 million to $20 million a year being cut from their budgets if the plan goes through. If 85% of a district’s money is being spent on personnel, I’d like to see who’s earning what. My money is on the admin side making a decent chunk of change. Maybe some cuts can be made in the admin buildings without making a dent in teacher numbers.

The Texas budget crisis is this, they could cut all other department funding completely and would still have to cut some out of education and health and human services. Tax revenue for the state has dropped to around 2006 levels, which begs the question, why can’t we return to 2006 spending levels? Technically we could, but it would still require personnel cuts in education. The real question is, would it have dire consequences on your children if their classroom size jumped to 30? The research says that the jury is still out on class size having anything to do with graduation rate. Krugman is simply echoing what school districts are screaming across the state which is, “Call your representative! Education is going to die in Texas!”. It’s a little extreme isn’t it? Especially since the estimated budgets for the schools would simply return to 2005 numbers. Have our graduation rates really gone up that much since then? No.

On the chopping block for education are a litany of programs, including parts of the TELPAS program, an assessment for English language learners. While I’m sure the motives behind the program were good, the program has grown to be a beast both in terms of money and in time. And it’s what we are doing with the information we glean from the assessment that is so worrisome. Rather than spending extra time specifically with students who are not English proficient, a lot of districts simply slow the entire class down, in order to avoid the student from feeling awkward. Education’s role is not keeping a student’s social life intact, it’s to educate them.

Another item that people keep insisting would help us is dipping into the state’s rainy day fund, which sits around $9.7 billion. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, knock down our deficit to $18 billion with our entire savings account, sounds like a stellar plan. Instead, let’s keep that money for a time when we really, really need it.

One of the things I am actually in agreement with Krugman on is the issue of taxes. Most of the state’s budget comes from sales tax and I would be alright with a 1% increase in the tax, taking the rate up to 9.25% (includes local and county collection). Before you tell me how I’m not conservative, let me just explain why this is an acceptable compromise. By raising the sales tax rate, you are not increasing franchise fees or “punishing” the poor, you are simply making it a little more expensive for people to consume. Since a lot of items are not taxable, people have the ability to avoid the taxes or significantly minimize them. The other plus is that sales tax is easy to roll back, while things like franchise taxes and property taxes have a nasty way of sticking around after being implemented.

In the end, something has to give. Either a slight tax increase, budget cuts, or a little bit of both is necessary to get this thing under control. Go to your school board meetings, look at their budget. If they are spending a lot more on administrators than on teachers, call it in to question. Maybe they can make cuts around your district without actually affecting the class room.

Asphalt Paver

You may not have noticed but the site went down for around 20 minutes today as I did some much needed maintenance to the behind the scenes workings. Seven years of writing slowly starts piling up and a housecleaning needed to take place.

There was a tad bit of data loss due to me forgetting to back a particular folder up. It appears it was only a few pictures and I think I have a backup somewhere, so it may not be an issue anyway.

Over the next few weeks I am hoping to split out my blogging into more compartmentalized areas, with my photography having its own place. That’s not to say that no photography will be posted here, I just want a place where I can showcase it and have it easily referenced.

My other plan is to play with the visual styles a little and maybe incorporate “link” posts, or posts that simply contain a link to something I find interesting. I am still going through the details in my head and have yet to finalize anything. I would actually really appreciate any thoughts my readers have. A comment here or a simple e-mail through the contact form would be awesome.

Niall Ferguson, Professor of History at Harvard University and columnist for Newsweek, spoke his mind on the foreign policy decisions by the Obama administration and it seems, took the MSNBC hosts off guard. Professor Ferguson is by no means a conservative so my guess is that the MSNBC personalities were looking at the interview as being easy going. His description of the Obama administration’s attempt at foreign policy is spot on:

As far as I can see, President Obama’s strategic concept is “I’m not George W. Bush. Love me.”

If you can’t see the video, you can visit MSNBC and watch it here.

It should be noted that the one host seems a bit disgusted with the whole interview and you can hear her choke a little after Niall so bluntly states his case.

The Nothingness

There is something about visiting places with few inhabitants. Maybe I just get tired of city life and I’m simply drawn to the middle of nowhere but some of my favorite places in the world are far away from any kind of city. Sure, everyone wants to go see sites, eat the food, etc. in big cities, but I urge people to take some time to visit the less beaten path. Far west Texas and New Mexico, rural Alaska, Montana, and the Appalachians are just a few of the places in the United States that I recommend.

It’s hard to describe what it is. I just know I love it.

Alaska