Friday, December 31, 2010

Welcome, Republican Governors

Most news accounts I have read focus on the incoming Republican Congress and do not say much about all the incoming Republican governors. Newspapers in each states may discuss their individual governor, but I have not seen much national coverage on Republican governors in general. This is a shame because I believe that Republican governors are significant as a general phenomenon. They come to power at a time states are facing severe budget cuts, and they will have to determine how to make them.

While I rejoice in seeing some truly crazy candidates, I am glad, really, to see so many mainstream Republicans elected as governor. My reasons for rejoicing are obvious. States are facing enormous budget shortfalls. Thus far, the federal government has spared states the worst by offering stimulus money, but Republicans (except for ones in state government) have made clear that this is no longer politically acceptable.*

(NOTE: These maps differ substantially in the deficits they show because one refers to total deficit and one to deficit in the general fund. The states with general fund deficits much larger than total deficits are ones that segregate large portions of their budgets as unalterable).

So Republican governors are stuck. This is, after all, what they wanted. In fact, Republicans have been working for the past three decades to bring this about. Republicans have learned the hard way that, although everyone applauds the general proposition of cutting government spending, no one likes any actual cuts. So they have spent the last three decades cutting taxes without offsetting spending cuts in hopes of forcing a future fiscal crisis that could force the spending cuts they could never get through on the merits. And now their day has finally arrived. The budget crisis they wanted has come to pass. No doubt they had hoped the Democrats would be in power at the time to be blamed. At least three exceptions (Colorado, Minnesota and New York) have Democratic governors facing major cutbacks, but only because the Republican alternative was completely insane. Most states, however, will have Republican governors to deal with the fruits of thirty years of starve the beast policy. And now the beast is starving. I can't wait to see what happens.



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