Anyone else would be embarrassed about the timing. But not Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Hell, he hardly turned red over his inability to remember three federal agencies. So, why should he be bothered by the awkward juxtaposition of his Texas ad campaign in Illinois launching just as a damning report on the state of his state is released by the Texas Legislative Study Group (TSG)?
Perry, who annoyed Californians briefly with a radio ad trying to lure businesses to Texas, has just published a print appeal to Illinois companies. He brags about how great it is in Texas and urges the Illinois businesses to "get out while they still can" after equating their situation to being in a house afire. Unfortunately, the ad goes up in Chicago just as the "Texas On the Brink" report is issued in Texas by the Texas Legislative Study Group.
And it ought to scare away anyone thinking about moving to Texas.
First, don't consider failing. There is no safety net. If you remember nothing else from the "Texas on the Brink" report, take with you two simple facts about the Perry administration's generosity to help the unfortunate: The average monthly benefits, per person, for Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) recipients in Texas were $29.30. Worst in the nation. Not enough for tuna and crackers from a governor who spends millions on his traveling security entourage. And, second, the maximum Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grant for a single-parent family of three is $263 per month. If you want to eat Ramen noodles and live in a refrigerator box, Texas has you covered.
The "firsts" and "worsts" that have occurred during the 13 years of the Rick Perry administration in Texas are more astonishing than Perry's obliviousness to the problems of his state. In his last legislative session, the Texas governor led a reduction of $5.5 billion in public school funding even though the state ranks dead last in the percentage of population that graduates from high school. According to the "Texas on the Brink" study, Texas also leads the nation in the percent of the population uninsured as well as the percent of non-elderly that are uninsured.
There are only two other states where the percentage of the low-income population covered by Medicaid is lower than in Texas. (Hint: Unofficial Texas state motto is, "Thank god for Mississippi.") Those numbers make it even more absurd that Gov. Perry continues his intransigence with regard to accepting federal expansion of the Medicaid system into Texas. Analysts say the money from Washington would provide coverage for up to 3 million more uninsured. Instead, standing on his quivery, semi-flaccid principles, Perry refuses to take the $100 billion from D.C. over 10 years and instead allows federal tax money from Texas to be used to provide health care in other states, and he has the cowboy cojones to call that good government.
Texas may be on the brink, but Perry and his political playmates are doing just fine; they are busily looting the bank before riding west in the night. His scandalous use of taxpayer-funded programs has delivered wildly profitable benefits to his campaign donors and right wing ideologues. Although Texas taxpayers receive little in the way of quality services from their state, their money has, nonetheless, been used to build up three lucrative investment funds that are controlled by Perry, the Lt. Governor, the Texas house speaker, and governing boards of political cronies.
The Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), for instance, was funded by a $3 billion bond vote and was supposed to provide grants for companies seeking cancer treatments and cures. Instead, as much as $56 million in early grants was awarded without proper business or scientific review. Numerous top scientists resigned from CPRIT because of a failure to conduct due diligence and they publicly indicated awards were being granted for political favor. The top three officeholders in Texas received millions in campaign donations from recipients of CPRIT grants. The Austin district attorney's office and the state attorney general have both launched criminal investigations.
Although the health care system in the state Rick Perry governs is last in the percent of women receiving first trimester pre-natal care, and almost 20 percent, 4.8 million of its residents, live in poverty, the state's leadership has ignored those problems and their costs to spend hundreds of millions on speculative business development funds. The Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF), and the Emerging Technology Fund (ETF), have both provided venture capital to corporations and startups promising jobs and growth, which have largely gone undelivered.
According to Texans for Public Justice (TPJ), the biggest beneficiaries of those grants have been Perry and pals, not the Texas economy. In 2011, TEF award recipients gave $7 million to Perry and the Republican Governors' Association, and the latest report for 2012 from TPJ shows that the "GOP officials who oversee the TEF have collected $3.6 million in campaign cash tied to recipients of $307 million in Enterprise Fund Awards." The ETF, meanwhile, has spent money on numerous startups that got cursory review and millions of dollars because of founder connections to Perry.
These are the types of disclosures that chasten most politicians. But not Rick Perry. His latest news conference was to announce that Texas would allow companies to deduct the costs of moving their businesses to the state from places like Illinois. That means more millions out of the general revenue fund, and even less money for schools. And roads. And health care. And the hungry. And the unemployed. And those struggling with poverty. But more money for businesses.
As Rick Perry would say, y'all come on down to Texas.
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*This post has been updated to correct the number of Texans living in poverty. A previous version incorrectly stated 20 million, not 20 percent.
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