Nearly four years ago, the “TEA Party” movement launched as ordinary citizens across America decided they were fed up with profligate spending at all levels of government and wanted to do something about it. There was plenty of reason to be angry, as federal officials spent billions on bailouts, “stimulus packages” and other types of corporate welfare.
Conservatives rallied together because it is not the proper role of the government to pick winners and losers, decide who is “too big to fail”, and otherwise interfere in the free market. While the abuses of the Obama administration and other DC politicians were the target of these original protests, it was also understood that Republicans and Democrats alike were both guilty of fiscal irresponsibility and that ideas were more important than party affiliation.
Here in Texas, leaders in the “TEA Party” movement have vocally opposed these same kinds of “Crony Capitalism” programs disguised as “economic development incentives” that Texas taxpayers spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on. JoAnn Fleming, chair of the Texas Tea Party Caucus Advisory Committee put it best when she said “The free market will take care of itself. These companies don’t need money. They’ll take tax dollars as long as you have elected officials who dole it out.”
Some of the most notorious corporate welfare programs in Texas are the “Texas Enterprise Fund” and the “Texas Emerging Technology Fund.” The biggest proponent of these handouts here in Texas is not a liberal Democrat like President Obama- it is none other than Governor Rick Perry.
In a recent interview with the Texas Tribune, Governor Perry went so far as to say that new businesses would not come to Texas if it were not for taxpayer handouts. This is the kind of language we expect to hear from the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Timothy Geithner, not the Republican Governor of Texas. This is also exactly the kind of attitude from our elected officials that the “TEA Party” rose up to fight.
While it is easy for conservatives to criticize President Obama when he doles out taxpayer cash to companies like Solyndra, many prominent voices on the right in Texas are nowhere to be found when Governor Perry does essentially the same thing with the “Texas Enterprise Fund” and similar programs. Perhaps the most glaring example of this is Austin activist Michael Quinn Sullivan and his organization, the so-called “Texans For Fiscal Responsibility.” While Sullivan’s organization proclaims itself to be an independent taxpayer watchdog group, Sullivan and TFR are nothing more than propaganda tools for the Governor.
After every legislative session, Sullivan’s organization publishes a “scorecard” that purports to rate members of the legislature based upon “exemplar votes on core budget and free enterprise issues that demonstrate legislators’ governing philosophy.”
Notably lacking from this scorecard, however, were votes (Record Votes 798, 799, and 800, 81st Legislative session) on motions by State Representative David Simpson to use funds budgeted for the Texas Enterprise Fund, the Emerging Technology Fund, and film and music marketing for public education, nursing homes, and libraries instead.
Even there is no clearer example of fiscal irresponsibility in the Texas budget than these Solyndra style handouts, the “Texans For Fiscal Responsibility” gives the Governor and the supporters of these handouts a pass. Thankfully, many true grassroots “TEA Party” leaders are willing to stand on principle and work to end this egregious waste of taxpayer dollars and intrusion into the free market.
UPDATE: Shortly after publishing this post, employees of Texans For Fiscal Responsibility took to our Facebook page taking exception to our comments and posting examples of their purported opposition to “corporate welfare” programs. In particular, TFR social media coordinator Dustin Matocha pointed out that while the votes on Rep. Simpson’s motions regarding the enterprise fund, emerging technology fund, and film and music marketing were not used in their ratings, their ratings did include a motion by Sen. Dan Patrick to remove a subsidy for Formula One racing. The fact remains that Gov. Perry is by far the biggest cheerleader for these wasteful programs and their organization refuses to aggressively fight the Governor’s support of these handouts and his absurd comments justifying them.
We stand by our comments, but hope that TFR and other organizations will join us in encouraging our elected officials to put an end to crony capitalism in Texas.
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