I want to bring this longer Jacobin post by John Carol Baker on what the state-level budget battles look like in Florida – Austerity in Heaven’s Corridor – to your attention. We haven’t talked about the Ryan Budget that was released this week. But if you want to see the general principles – cutting taxes for the rich while eliminating programs for the poor – implemented, check out Florida. Highly recommended.
I have a very short research brief to go along with an online article coming early next week about some related issues. For now, Baker has a great glimpse into what the future of conservative politics looks like by watching it at the state level. First of all, rather than govern broadly, all policy conflicts are entirely surrounded within the right-wing coalition:
A few, such as centrist Paula Dockery, have fairly consistently voiced disapproval of their colleagues’ more egregious actions, but this dissent is highly circumstantial: decisive opposition to the notorious prison privatization plan, for instance, came from two Senators with direct ties to law enforcement. And the Parent Empowerment Act, a highly controversial proposal allowing for the swift conversion of neighborhood schools into publicly-funded charters via parental petition, was scuttled not by a united front of political moderates, but by intra-Republican skepticism…
Florida narrowly dodged $100 million in cuts to mental health and substance abuse programs, once again through a last-ditch ad hoc coalition: a motley crew of law enforcement officials, Republican politicians, health care advocates, and members of the judiciary successfully lobbied for funding that approximates 2011 levels. Florida’s per-capita mental health financing is already ranked 50th in the U.S. [pdf], and deep cuts would have had immediate disastrous effects across the state. Even redneck county sheriffs recognize the apocalyptic shadings of forcing hordes of the mentally ill to roam the state’s multitudinous strip malls.
For those looking out for why Paul Ryan isn’t clear about how he wants to reform the tax code, it is worth noting that in the right-wing paradise that is being built in Florida the tax code is rewarding more and more of the GOP base:
The full list of tax breaks paints a grotesque but accurate portrait of the diverse subgroups within Florida’s bourgeoisie: faux-populist ranchers, managerial charter profiteers, neo-Confederate citrus plantation owners, still-panicked real estate swindlers eager to take a mulligan and rewind to 2005. But Scott’s plan—which may eventually eliminate corporate taxes entirely in a right-to-work state that already lacks a personal income tax—is the Hayekian wet dream everyone in Florida’s ruling class freak show can agree on. Banks got in on the feeding frenzy too.
Overall, businesses will pay $750 million less in taxes with another $2.5 billion coming over the next few years, while Medicaid funds for hospitals and nursing homes were cut by a billion dollars over two years. Cutting taxes on corporations and offsetting it with less medicine for the poor. Florida’s Chamber of Commerce noted that “lawmakers furthered the Florida Chamber’s goal of securing Florida’s future by ending the 2012 Legislative Session without a single new tax, higher fee, new regulation or union-backed mandate.” Instead of being yanked back to the center, this reactionary project we see in the states is the future of the GOP.