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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Rick Scott, Redistributionist

The pious claim of many Tea Party and other conservative movement activists and apologists is that they simply want to rein in runaway government spending and reduce disastrous levels of public debt. In practice, of course, they don’t care about debt if it’s created by corporate or high-end tax cuts, and they are often less interested in reducing government spending than in redirecting it to their favored constituencies.
A very good example of this phenomenon is coming to light in Florida, where newly elected governor Rick Scott, the famously controversial (that’s putting it nicely) health industry executive who bought himself the Republican nomination last year and then won a very close general election, has rolled out his budget proposals for the economically battered and nearly dysfunctional Sunshine State.
Yes, Scott is proposing $5 billion in state spending reductions (in absolute terms, not reductions from some sort of current-services budget). Many of these cuts seemed to be ideologically driven, such as the decimation of the state Department of Community Affairs, which runs growth-management programs hated by developers; and a (roughly) ten percent cut in K-12 education, part and parcel of the state GOP’s war with teachers and other state employees.
But the size of the cuts wouldn’t be nearly so high if Scott were not also insisting on major tax cuts, notably in corporate taxes (due to be phased out entirely in a few years) and in state-controlled property taxes that support public schools.
Moreoever, nestled in his budget proposal are spending increases that are designed to redistribute resources according to conservative ideological prescriptions. Most remarkable is his request for $800 million (over two years) for “economic development incentives,” which almost certainly means a gubernatorially-controlled slush fund to be used to bribe companies to relocate to Florida through tax abatements, free government services, and other subsidies. And even as he sought major cuts in public school funding (in a state already facing something of a school financing crisis), he managed to find room to propose $250 million in private-school vouchers.
Scott seems to be exulting in the radicalism of his budget, which he chose to announce not at the state capitol but at an actual, billed-as-such Tea Party rally at a Baptist Church (!). He may or may not get his way on the details with a Republican-controlled legislature, but he has certainly initiated class warfare, and a redistribution of public resources to those “job creators” at the top of the income and power pyramid, with a vengeance.
UPDATE: Steve Benen hit the publish button about the same time as I did on a similar piece on Scott’s budget, though he provided more detail about the cuts, while I really focused on the ideological meaning of the increases Scott sought. Steve also linked to an Atrios tweet that noted Scott’s resemblence to the Superman uber-villian Lex Luthor.

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