Oh, now it starts.
Faced with a state budget deficit somewhere between $15 billion and $27 billion, Governor Rick Perry says the most important thing for the Legislature to do now is ban "sanctuary cities."
Those are cities where the cops don't ask people about their immigration status, because if they do ask, nobody will call the cops the next time to report a crime. Nobody will tell the truth. And what are the cops going to do about it, anyway?
So it's like this: We ask, "Mr. Governor, what are you going to about the huge deficit that's going to screw up our kids' schools and toss our grandparents out in the street and mess up the whole state?"
And he says, "LOOK OVER THERE! A MEXICAN!"
It's not just Perry. It's all of the Republicans now. Ask state Sen. Florence Shapiro what she's going to do to protect colleges and universities from the shortfall. She'll start talking about how we need "voter ID"
"LOOK! LOOK! A MEXICAN TRYING TO VOTE!"
And if that doesn't work, the Republicans will point toward San Francisco and say, "LOOK! LOOK! TWO GUYS KISSING!"
Or, "LOOK! LOOK! A SLUT GETTING AN ABORTION."
The stuff the Republicans are pulling on us now wouldn't have fooled anybody at a county fair 20 years ago. This used to be a smart country. When did we turn into such a nation of yokels?
In 20 years America has gone from being a balanced economy dominated by the middle class to being a banana republic with absurd mountains of wealth at the top and nothing but unemployment and penury at the other end of the scale.
There are two books out now that tell the story of what's really happened to this country in the last 20 years. One, by University of Texas at Austin professor James K. Galbraith, is called The Predator State, and the other, by Yale professor Jacob S. Hacker and University of California-Berkeley professor Paul Pierson, is called, Winner Take All Politics.
Both books show how the super-rich have used cheap political magic-show tricks -- misdirection and sleight of hand -- to keep ordinary working-stiff Americans from noticing how badly they're getting screwed.
The Hacker-Pierson book includes a fascinating chapter on how it got done. They describe a major tactical shift by big business in the 1970s. In response to the battering American business leaders felt they had been taking from Ralph Nader and the consumer movement, business descended on Washington en masse:
"In 1971, only 175 firms had registered lobbyists in Washington, but by 1982 nearly 2,500 did," the book reports. "The number of corporate PACs increased from under 300 in 1976 to over 1,200 by the middle of 1980."
The new business lobby at first pursued its own business interests fairly narrowly but soon discovered that Washington politicos, Democrats as well as Republicans, would sell anything and anybody down the river in exchange for cash.
Faced with success beyond its own wildest imaginings, the business lobby turned to the tax code and tipped it grossly in the favor of people at the tippy-top. They turned the Christmas tree upside down.
The results are staggering. From 1979 to 2005, 20 percent of all new after-tax income in the country -- take that as 20 percent of all personal in-hand spendable income growth -- spilled into the hands of the top 0.1 percent in income level. That's one in 1,000 households scarfing up 20 percent of national income growth.
The bottom 60 percent -- that would be most of the rest of us -- had to share 13.5 percent of new income.
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In 2007, the top 20 hedge-fund managers on Wall Street had an average personal income of $892 million -- the better part of a billion dollars a year. Each.
But, no, don't look at that! Oh, no, don't waste your time looking in that direction. LOOK OVER THERE! IT'S TWO MEXICANS, VOTING AND KISSING! IF WE DON'T STOP THEM, THEY'LL GET AN ABORTION!
Next time somebody asks Perry what he's going to do about the deficit, he should just trot out a stuffed two-headed calf. "LOOKA THERE! THAT SUCKER'S GOT TWO DANGED HEADS ON 'IM."
At least that way he could let the Mexicans take a 10-minute break.