Perry fades away

A story in the Austin American Statesman makes the case that Perry will remain in control in Texas even if his campaign fails. The story is both right and wrong and I think that the headline should be “Even if Perry’s campaign succeeds, his hold on state power will fade” instead of “Even if Perry’s campaign fails, his hold on state power likely won’t.”

I am not criticizing Perry personally. I am talking about a basic dynamic of electoral politics: the problem of becoming “lame duck.” Dwight Eisenhower, the first president to be subject to the term limits created by the 22nd amendment, described the problem this way:

It is a tradition in this country that the moment a President publicly announces his determination not to seek re-election, his political influence disappears.  From that day onward the leaders of his own party jockey for position in the hope of becoming his successor in the Presidency, while newspapers and the opposing party alike lose interest in him because of his self elimination from the political future of the country.

Eisenhower knew that once he was not part of America’s political future people would look past him and his influence would inevitably wane. Unless Perry suddenly announces that he will run for another term as governor the forces that diminished Eisenhower will gradually push Perry aside as the state’s political forces look for their futures elsewhere. It does not matter if Perry win or loses in Iowa and New Hampshire since Perry would not have much time for Texas government if he wins the GOP nomination.

The article is correct that Perry will continue to have a big impact on the state. Presidents and governors may see their political power slowly ebbing as their time in office winds down. That does not mean that they do not still hold the power to inflict harm on their opponents when cornered.

It will become harder for Perry to lead Texas. Leadership is about the future and opponents will figure that they should wait out Perry to see who is next. That being said, he’ll still have a the power to veto legislation or otherwise disrupt someone else’s plans.

Perry is not going to talk about this. The Eisenhower quotation above was taken from a private letter to a good friend and Ike was not anxious to public discuss his political fate. Smart politicians talk about their strength and not their weaknesses. However, it does not change the fact that launching a presidential campaign was the beginning of the end of Perry era in Texas.


Who pays taxes in Fort Worth

The Fort Worth Star Telegram has a story (“Helicopter maker seeks $13.5 million tax break“) about the city’s plan to abate 80 percent of the real property and business personal property for Bell Helicopter taxes for 20 years.

Basically, the city is putting up the equivalent of about 6% of the $235 million to Bell will spend to consolidate its facilities in the area. The argument is that this will help create jobs. Of course, this really means that it will keep those jobs from going some place else.

On one hand, this sounds good. Bringing job to a city always sounds like a good idea.

The dilemma behind selective tax breaks is that giving one company a tax break shifts the tax burden to someone else. Bell saving $13.5 million does not diminish the city’s need for revenue and other property owners will pay higher taxes to cover Bell’s share. According to another story, In-N-Out Burger (from California) got its own tax break. That would mean that Whataburger (a Texas institution) is paying higher taxes so that the city can bring in competition.

Companies play cities off each other. They threaten to leave unless they get a what they want. It’s not the healthiest relationship but a lot of cities play the game.

These are good examples of “tax expenditures,”  subsidies that the government gives via a tax break. It is different from simply lowering taxes in that only a particular company or type of company gets the break. It is not spending in a traditional sense. However, failing to recognize the costs of these tax breaks is misleading. Their impact on the budget is the same as giving a company money.

Both parties use these. One common example is the tax deduction many homeowners get on the interest paid on their home mortgage. That is one way the federal government encourages home ownership through tax  policies. It does not show up on the budget a spending. However, it lowers federal revenue over $100 billion a year.

Needless to say, tax expenditures are a part of the federal, state, and local budgets you should not ignore.

Photos from the SMU Libraries

The Libraries at SMU have been posting old pictures from their archives on flickr. Here are a couple of highlights (linked to the originals)

Of course, I love old pictures of the Alamo. This one is from the late 1880s.

The AlamoAnother favorite from the most recent additions is this picture of a family in front of their ranch house in Henrietta, Texas sometime around the start of the last century. Note the large family and the small house.

The collection includes a few stereoscopic slides from the Galveston Hurricane. One gives you some sense of the scale of devastation that extends to the horizon.

Sometimes there’s no substitute for a picture’s ability to tell a story.

News you should use

Cover of Niche NewsUniversity of Texas professor Talia Stroud has a new book out (Niche News: The Politics of News Choice) talking about how people use the news. I’m looking forward reading it because citizens’ media use has become an important factor in national politics. Stroud’s argument is that citizens’ selection of new sources often results in people choosing sources to confirm what they already believe. Stroud is not the first scholar to observe this. However, it is a topic that is especially important given the tremendous number of media sources available and the increasingly partisan nature of some of them.

So, where should you turn every day for news? Thanks to our friends at the Internet we have lots of choices. I start my days at the kitchen table checking my favorite news sources to see what’s up in the world. I check national sources pretty closely because I teach both national and Texas politics.


National news

  • The Hill – The Hill focuses on Congress and it’s a great source if you want to see what  is going on inside Congress.
  • Roll Call – Roll Call employs one of my favorite analysts, Stuart Rothenberg.
  • National Journal – One of the best places to find in-depth stories on policy and the politics behind them. George E. Condon Jr. does a great job of covering the presidency for them.
  • Washington Post – Good all-around coverage of politics.
  • New York Times – Good coverage of national and international politics.
  • RealClearPolitics – RCP’s Washington editor, Carl Cannon, has the best sense of history and politics of anyone writing today.