In both Washington and Texas, lawmakers are struggling to provide services, but find realistic ways to pay for them. There's an increasing awareness that free lunches are rare.

Some of these efforts bring to mind a term coined during the 1980 contest for the Republican presidential nomination.

In April that year, George Bush of Texas, the lone remaining contender against former California Gov. Ronald Reagan, was falling behind.

Just before the Pennsylvania primary, Bush's press aide Pete Teeley and assistant Ken Bastian were up late, desperately trying to come up with a catchy phrase to debunk Reagan's claim he could increase defense spending, cut taxes, and still balance the budget.

"Pete and I were trying to think of some term to describe what we thought was a faulty economic policy," Bastian recalled in a 1986 interview. "And we came up with different things, like 'witchcraft,' and I mean, all kinds of different terms.

"And I think it was about three in the morning. Pete finally said, 'Hey, I think I've got it: 'Voodoo Economics.'"

So Bush dutifully used it. It didn't get much publicity then, Teeley said later, and Reagan went on to win the nomination.

However, after Reagan chose Bush as his running mate during the Republican National Convention in Detroit, the Democratic incumbent, President Jimmy Carter, picked it up.

"The Republican alternative is the biggest tax giveaway in history," Carter said in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in New York. They call it 'Reagan-Kemp-Roth.' I call it a free lunch Americans cannot afford.

"The Republican tax program offers rebates to the rich, deprivation for the poor and fierce inflation for all of us," Carter continued. "Their party's own presidential nominee said that 'Reagan-Kemp-Roth' would result in an inflation rate of more than 30 percent.

"He called it 'Voodoo Economics,'" Carter said, "He suddenly changed his mind toward the end of the Republican convention, but he was right the first time."
It wasn't enough to re-elect Carter. But Bush – and Teeley and Bastian -- were right about the Voodoo. Reagan added a trillion dollars to the national debt, doubling it.

Now, we see the Republican-ruled Congress and Republican President Donald Trump floundering over a health care bill. They've been trying to accomplish their goal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act – nicknamed ObamaCare.

But to do so while keeping Trump's campaign pledge to have health care which is better, and less expensive, than ObamaCare, and won't cut Medicare or Medicaid, has proven much more difficult than the fledgling president had predicted.

The numbers just won't add up. The senators are realizing that trying to cut costs, without throwing 20-plus million people off health insurance, amounts to Voodoo Healthcare.

Meanwhile, at the special legislative session in Austin, lawmakers are struggling to get more money to teachers, and to their underfunded Teacher Retirement System.

Their problem is how to pay for it.

For school finance, House Speaker Joe Straus has advocated what the House did during the regular session: take $1.8 billion dollars for schools from the $10.3 billion Rainy Day Fund.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick didn't want to do that, and still doesn't, considering the fund for one-time emergency expenditures, but off-limits for continuing programs like school finance.

He, and Gov. Greg Abbott, wanted to force school districts to pay the higher salaries, but that was dropped after school administrators damned it as an unfunded mandate.

As for otherwise paying for his education-related proposals, Patrick advocated re-purposing lottery proceeds -- already earmarked for education -- for teacher pay hikes.

Gov. Abbott has called for teacher pay hikes and retirement benefit increases and private school vouchers, but hasn't put forward a plan to pay for it.

Will this qualify as Voodoo School Finance? We'll see how it comes out – if it does.



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