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Differing attitudes on the government's role

East Bernard Express of East Bernard, Texas

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We continue to re-live, in Texas and nationally, culture wars about how much government should take care of people, and how much they should take care of themselves.

There are also questions about those areas in which the government should be involved, and to what extent the responsibilities rest with the national, state or local governments.

Many think there's a significant role for the governments at all levels, to do collectively those things that may be too big for us to handle individually.

That said, a number of folks — like U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, who's running for president as a sort of Republican Libertarian — think the government at any level should do very little, and back out of people's business, at home and abroad.

Others, like U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, think there are plenty of things that the government at all levels should be involved in, particularly including taking care of people in need.

Passionate people on all sides of these arguments often are outspoken about their opinions.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry has spent much of the last few years blasting the federal government. It got into high gear when he was facing off U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary.

It went into overdrive when he was running for president.

Some of these arguments are represented by the attitudes of two former presidents of the United States, both now deceased.

The late Democratic President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s pushed through Congress programs that, essentially, used the bait of federal matching money to do what he thought they should have been doing anyway — including especially his home state of Texas.

As a former teacher in a school in South Texas, Johnson thought government ought to supply education for young kids, and health care for senior citizens through Medicare.

His administrations called those efforts, and others like voting rights, "The Great Society." Fortunately for Johnson's goals, his 1964 election in the wake of John F. Kennedy's assassination in Dallas in 1963 brought in a huge majority of Democrats in Congress who agreed, and passed the legislation to make it happen.

It was during that period that many of the buildings that surround the Texas capitol were built. They house the state administrators of programs about water, the environment, education, health care and others, funded with a significant amount of federal money.

In the 1980s, the late Republican President Ronald Reagan, a former governor of California, had taken the states at their word: Let us run the show in our own states.

But along with that, Reagan also advocated giving the states more responsibility for raising the money for the programs they considered important.

These different approaches are at the heart of some of what's happening in Texas government today. Perry, while ramping up for a run for the presidency and long before, had argued that Texas could handle its responsibilities by itself— even though a large amount of the money that the state legislature allocates comes from the feds.

Too many strings attached, the governor contended — even as he accepted some $16 billion in federal bailout money in 2009, without which the state's budget wouldn't have balanced.

Now two of Perry's heads of state agencies that deal with the top priorities of pub-He schools and public health have stepped forward, saying their areas of responsibility need significantly more of the money that the governor and Legislature didn't fund in their budgets if they are to meet their assigned tasks.

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Robert Scott manned up, and said to the applause of many school administrators and teachers that he wouldn't enforce the ban on social promotions unless the state come up with significantly more resources for schools.

He said additional money is needed if indeed the Legislature wants the new test that's been devised to check students' academic progress.

Remember, Perry and the Legislature trimmed the state aid that had been promised to the schools by $4 billion in their 2011 budget for the next two fiscal years.

Tom Suehs, the respected Health and Human Services commissioner, says there's at least a $15 billion gap in what's being spent on Medicaid and what needs to be spent. State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said the only surprise about this is that people in the Perry administration are speaking out.

"We have known Texas' revenue system cannot meet and does not meet its growing infrastructure needs in education, health care, water and transportation," Van de Putte told the San Antonio Express-News.

"What's new is that we finally have two state officials with enough courage to say the truth."

Contact Dave McNeely at or 512-458-2963.

Copyright 2012 East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: February 16, 2012

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