The Fault, Dear Governor Perry, is Not in Our Stars, But in Ourselves
In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Cassius stiffens Brutus's resolve to carry out the assassination of Caesar by saying, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves that we are underlings" (I, ii, 140-141). By this, he means that it is within Brutus and the conspirators' power to end the tyranny that they see in Caesar's reign. The gods gave humans the power to control their own destiny, and Cassius urges Brutus to take control of his own fate. Texas Governor Rick Perry would do well to heed this lesson.
Last week, Governor Perry invited fellow governors to join him in a national day of prayer to "call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles" facing the country, including "financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters." Infusing the event with blatantly sectarian language, Governor Perry effectively excludes all non-Christians from participating and raises serious questions about his commitment to separation of church and state. The Union for Reform Judaism's 1987 resolution on Sectarian Prayer in Public Settings calls on leaders to "avoid sectarian references" in public settings and to "sensitize [those delivering invocations] to the need to avoid sectarian references in public prayer." It appears as if Governor Perry needs to be sensitized to the alienating effect of his words.
But the entire premise of the event is disturbing on a much more fundamental level. The budget crisis that Texas faces is not in its stars, but in its own willingness to lavish billions of dollars in subsidies on the state's corporate interests while not raising sufficient revenue to contend with its exponential population growth. Governor Perry's budget addresses the state's fiscal challenges by making deep education and social safety net cuts, including an immediate $4 billion cut to Texas public schools and a $4.8 billion Medicaid cut, as well as large cuts to higher education. Texas is not fated to make such wrongheaded decisions, but its politicians appear poised to do so. Even if the state refused to close its myriad corporate tax loopholes, it could, at the very least, tap its large rainy day fund ($6.3 billion and growing) to avoid some of the worst cuts.
Governor Perry should stop praying for a resolution to his state's fiscal challenges and start exercising leadership to close the state's budget gap in a responsible manner that does not ask the most vulnerable Texans to shoulder the burden of deficit reduction or jeopardize the state's future. If he requires divine guidance to make the right decisions, he should seek it in the privacy of his own home or in a more inclusive public fashion.