Texas

Early in my academic career, I really came to appreciate Texas. I taught Law and Public Policy, and on those rare occasions when Indiana failed to provide a “teachable moment”– an example of truly awful policy– I could always count on Texas.

I still remember Molly Ivins’ wonderful explanation of the logic of the Texas “lege.” She noted that when gun deaths exceeded highway deaths, Texas lawmakers sprang into action–and raised the speed limit.

Ted Cruz (known around Twitter and Facebook these days as “Fled” Cruz) is a perfect example of the sort of Republican Texas routinely elects–arrogant, bigoted, and thoroughly full of himself. While he took off for Cancun, Beto O’Roark was setting up telephone outreach to elderly citizens who’d lost their power and access to clean drinking water, and AOC, the much-hated “socialist” who doesn’t live anywhere near Texas was raising two million dollars for relief efforts. (I note that, as of yesterday, it was up to five million…)

To be sure, Cruz has lots of company. Former Governor and Energy Secretary Rick Perry (who was Governor in 2011 and ignored experts who recommended winterizing the power grid) insists that Texans prefer an occasional apocalypse to the indignity of federal regulation, and a “compassionate” Republican mayor had to resign after telling freezing people who’d lost power and water to stop whining and get off their lazy asses and take care of themselves.

I don’t think it is at all unfair to claim that these buffoons are perfect representatives of today’s GOP–a party that exhibits absolutely no interest in actual governing. I agree entirely with Ryan Cooper, who wrote in The Week that  the blizzard nightmare is “Republican governance in a nutshell.”

After describing Cruz’s attempted getaway, Cooper wrote that

what Cruz did is emblematic of the Republican Party’s mode of governance. The reason Cruz felt comfortable leaving Texans to freeze solid on the sidewalks of Houston is the same reason the Texas power grid crumpled under the winter storm. Theirs is a party in which catering to the welfare of one’s constituents, or indeed any kind of substantive political agenda, has been supplanted by propaganda, culture war grievance, and media theatrics. Neither he nor anybody else in a leadership position in the party knows or cares about how to build a reliable power grid. They just want to get rich owning the libs….

People have known for decades how to winterize electrical infrastructure — after all, there is still power in Canada and Finland. The reason those investments haven’t been made in Texas is because it would have cost a lot of money, and nobody wanted to pay for it — especially because the deregulated Texas energy grid makes it hard to pay for upgrades or extra capacity.

The reason the Texas grid isn’t connected to the national system is pure GOP ideology; the grid was purposely kept within the state in order to avoid federal regulation. (It’s notable that a couple of small parts of the state that aren’t connected to the Texas-only grid–places that were subject to those hated regulations– have mostly been fine.)

Unfortunately for Texas politicians, it’s hard to blame the “libs” for this debacle, although they’ve tried; after all, Republicans have run the state since 1994–and they’ve pretty much been owned by the state’s fossil fuel companies–especially Governor Abbott.

When the Texas power grid buckled under the strain of worse-than-expected winter cold, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) went on Fox News and blamed frozen wind turbines for what was mostly a problem with natural gas–fueled power supply. Then he savaged the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the Texas-only power grid. But he has notably “gone easier on another culprit: an oil and gas industry that is the state’s dominant business and his biggest political contributor,” The Associated Press reports.

Abbott, in office since 2015, has raised more than $150 million in campaign contributions — the most of any governor in U.S. history — and “more than $26 million of his contributions have come from the oil and gas industry, more than any other economic sector,” AP reports. In a news conference Thursday, Abbott mostly blamed ERCOT for assuring state leaders Texas could handle the storm.

ERCOT, of course, is managed by people appointed by Abbott…

Today’s Republicans may not be good at–or interested in– governing, but they are absolute masters of shamelessly lying and blaming others when they are threatened with the consequences of an ideology that translates into “let them eat cake.”  

 

26 thoughts on “Texas

  1. If Texans at Mission Control, when empowered with competent leadership and resources, can land a remote control rover on the surface of Mars that sends images within minutes from 392 million miles away … you think they can keep the heat on for mortals here at home.

  2. Thank goodness the nasty old US government was prevented from getting involved in all of this Texas electric power business. “Let private enterprise run free of regulation and wonderful results will occur.” Yep – that’s how it works. I bet Indiana can copy them.
    I also heard that they were blaming AOC and the Green New Deal for their problems. They really need a boogey man in times like these. Maybe Texas genius Louis Gohmert will have a good solution.

  3. Several thoughts: First, I think we should call him “Flyin’ Ted” now, and change the spelling of his last name to “Cruise”.
    I love that you mentioned Molly Ivans. I have been looking at her quotes and she was a true treasure.
    The one thing that liberals and conservatives can agree on is that we both expect the government to fail when we need it to function the most. We have been lucky so far in Indiana because there has not been a far-reaching disaster here, yet, but one will come, and when it does I fully expect our government to fail. It is important for people to be prepared to survive a week or more without government assistance.
    The other side of that argument is that when government works the way it is supposed to, it is invisible to most of us. It is only when it fails that we begin to notice its absence.

  4. A portion of the lyrics of the University of Texas school spirit song came to mind as I read the blog and connected it to Gov. Abbott:

    “The eyes of Texas are upon you,
    All the livelong day.
    The eyes of Texas are upon you,
    You cannot get away.
    Do not think you can escape them
    At night or early morn,
    The eyes of Texas are upon you
    ‘Till Gabriel blows his horn.”

    Has Gov. Abbott been found yet? We can include Ted Cruz as he seeks to cover up his cowardly escape from the polar vortex and the ERCOT collapse in Texas.

  5. James’s last sentence says it all. When government is working as it should, we don’t notice it. Unfortunately, that leads to us taking it for granted, instead of giving credit to those who make it work properly.

  6. Sorry James, but I sure don’t need a disaster to expose government failure. I’m also not quick to call what happened to Texas’ power grid a government failure. As pointed out in the article, Big Energy has run Texas for a very long time. The buffoons elected to office are a result of gerrymandering or anti-democratic power grabs. These strategies aren’t organized by the same buffoons hired by the Texas Oligarchy – they follow orders. They suffer from the same inconvenience of many middle managers when upper management consists of manipulative saps.

    When our country is an oligarchy, we need to blame the oligarchy when the people they hire can’t manage the system.

    Look at who Governor Abbott blamed first for the power grid’s failure – socialism and the Green New Deal. Worse yet, did Tucker Carlson let him rant, or did he follow up with questions clarifying his facts or correcting the Governor with facts?

    No.

    The Governor ran to Fox News to spread propaganda, and it worked. It always works, and that’s why our country is failing. Abbott is in the pocket of the oil & gas industry like most Texas lawmakers. They should be registered lobbyists, but instead, they have official government titles.

    There was an East Central Indiana group on Facebook discussing expanding wind energy, and 75% of the posts pointed to what happened in Texas as their evidence that alternative energy is a failure. And, and, and, they have existing wind turbines in the county. All they had to do was go check to see they were turning just fine, producing energy. Instead, they were tuned into Fox News and believed cold weather would cripple the wind turbines and freeze up solar panels. #SMDH

    So, failure and ignorance are driven by propaganda. If we had a legitimate democratic government and an independent press, the lies and mistruths would be buried with Rush Limbaugh.

  7. In making a timely assertion what can be achieved when a group of people are empowered with competent leadership and adequate resources, I have been corrected as to the distance between our planet and Mars. As all of you know, we travel in elliptical orbits so that actually the closest we come to Mars is about 38 million miles and the farthest being 250 million. How I came up with 392 million can only be attributed to incalculexia due to in satiated early morning caffeine deficit. However you care about incidental observations to the point being made, if they discover life on Mars, more than likely it will be an obnoxious factoid in the form of mold.

    I grew up in Texas schools. Every child of Texas knows about bravery and courage demonstrated by the Fall of the Alamo. 138 Texas freedom fighters were surrounded by 5,000 of General Santa Ana’s regulars. No one in The Alamo took the next wagon for an escape to Cancun. That is the cardinal sin committed by Senator Cruz not lost on Texans who stood their ground to fight freezing cold, food shortages and now broken pipes and contaminated water. Texas was born to a narrative of overwhelming odds. Texas will recover and be better due to lessons learned during current overwhelming odds. Our destiny was never shaped by the fools we elect. Our destiny is shaped by the brave and courageous despite the fools we elect.

  8. Texas is an essential part of the cadre of red states that are fighting tooth and nail to prevent Covid-19 relief funds from reaching the state and local governments of “failed” blue states, the very governments that need funding to continue to operate to the benefit of the citizenry. Texans are receiving very hard object lessons, not just in winterization of infrastructure, but more importantly in climate change, taxation, federal governance, federal bail-outs, and hopefully humility. The “all hat, no cattle” bravado of the Republic of Texas now rings even hollower for the rest of the country, which will make significant contributions, once again, to the state’s recovery.

  9. El Paso is one of those smaller communities that opted out of the Texas only plan and partnered with New Mexico, keeping their lights on throughout. Guess what? Yep, Democrats run El Paso, home town of Beto O’Rourke.
    As for Indiana, news just came out that’s arguably worse than what happened in Texas: we have the highest nursing home Covid death rate in the nation. The high cost of no real regulation and terrible funding for public health is now revealed.

  10. Out of control de-regulation and total free market forces crippled the Texas energy sector in predictable and predicted weather event.

    If you don’t think Republican mismanagement in Texas does not effect you, take a look at your local gas prices. Gas prices shot up all across the country last week as refineries in Texas shut down and went off line. There should be a national push to bring Texas in line with Federal regulations just so their stupidity does not endanger the rest of the country.

    I wrote a fairly lengthy (1000+ words?) but factual Facebook post about how power grids work and how Texas is different than most of the rest of the country, and then some of the root causes of failure. It got shared 306 times. That might mean 30,000 people might have seen it. I talked to my brother about it, and he was speculating that it might have been the counter point to the “Blame Green Energy” memes that he is seeing.

  11. The moral of this story seems to be, “Don’t elect people who don’t like government to govern.” As much as I would like to think that “Fled” won’t be re-elected, I have seen Republicans elected over and over again when they should be in jail. Their voters either have short memories or they have a love for “bad boys.”

  12. De-regulation. Karl Marx said that it would destroy capitalism and the countries that embrace it. Even Marx told the world that capitalism needed to be regulated. DUH!

    Yes, Texas Republicans are the world’s largest clown car, filled with fools, criminals (Paxton) and the most corrupt politicians a little money can buy. And the people of Texas who vote, mostly white “conservatives”, keep electing them. They are all-in for corruption, stupidity and graft. It’s their way of life. As long as the propaganda mills are available to blame Democrats, nothing will change there.

    BTW, Molly Ivins was still alive and writing when I lived near Austin. I was humbled and proud to have her columns appear in the Oklahoma Observer when I was still getting published in it. Her finger-in-the eye to Texas Republicans of that era worked, sort of, but today no such scribe exists. The Republicans in Austin today wouldn’t allow it.

  13. From here in San Antonio, “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” let me say, Sheila, that your post is right on the money. (pun intended)

  14. The question is whether the citizens of Texas will have learned the cost of voting for people like Rick Perry, Gregg Abbott, Dan Patrick and Cruz? Unfortunately, unlikely.

  15. Flying Ted Cruise, is the epitome of the GOP when caught with his pants down, he knew where to go – FOX News and try to “explain” he went to Mexico for his family, then that lie caved in when his wife’s texts were made public.

    Former TX Governor and Trumpet Energy Secretary must be having a serious contest with Louie Gohmert for who is the stupidest.

    Actually Flying Ted, Gov. Abbott, Rick Perry and Gohmert are not stupid. They know who brought them to Electoral Rewards -The Fossil Fuel Industry.

    They also know their base fears losing Gawd, and their Guns. They stay on message for the base – The Democrats will bring Socialism (read Gawdless Communism) and take away YER GUNS.

    I am sure the song from Flying Ted, Gov. Abbott, Rick Perry and Gohmert, will be Texas survived this Arctic Assault all by themselves.

    Biden and his crew, plus AOC and Beto needs to make sure the message is loud, clear and enduring- We are here to Help You Texans and leave the platitudes to the GOP.

  16. I would feel sorry for Texans but since they have not become enlightened about how Republicans do not serve those who vote for them, I am disinclined to feel sorry for them.

    What has happened in Texas with the electronic grid is a perfect example of what deregulation does to the people on main street. Some of the main street citizens of Texas now have 10 thousand dollar bills that they have to pay even though their power was off!

    There is a fine line between doing something brave versus doing something foolish. Evidently Texans believe they are invincible as is evidenced by the way they keep voting in Republicans. That’s a foolish belief.

    So now the question is whether or not Texans will decide to vote for a power grid that is weatherized despite its cost. It probably would have cost everyone much less had ERCOT weatherized its grid. Oh but that was too expensive.

  17. Thank you Sheila.

    Having spent 23 years as a Resident of Texas, my story is that it trained me to return to my “growing up” home State of Indiana!

    Talk about Texas, critical as we seem to be with our words of “that other state”, while our state, on a smaller scale is doing much of the same. Use Texas as an example of what just might come home to roost in our own back yards. Perhaps we might be able to see how actions can be changed by looking to the other. However we might be better served by applying our better options to our own place of residency, to prevent similar results in Indiana, and other states.

    After all the Indiana State Representatives just passed the Bill to Allow Handgun Carry without license at a time that Homicides in their State Capitol are setting a new record!

    Maybe we had all better turn around and protect our own windows rather than throwing bricks at others’. Just saying.

  18. Ted Cruz was shown on camera texting on his cell phone during questioning of Capital Police at the hearing on the January 6th insurrection. Obviously he isn’t interested in his job at the federal level any more than he is at home “deep in the heart of Texas”.

  19. There are two features that define business in these times. One I have mentioned before: the one overarching rule for each individual business is to make more money now regardless of the impact on any others ever. The other is to heavily rely on advertising which is for many products in many markets nowadays so much less expensive and faster at growing demand than product development is.

    Republicans have become a business instead of a political party and just carry over those rules from business to politics even though they are close to opposite the rules of government summarized in the Preamble to the Constitution.

  20. So a license is required to paint fingernails but not to carry heat? Sounds like a menu for a Tombstone with its shootouts at the O.K. Corral to me. What’s next? Will the legislature require that all who shoot others be presumptively treated as having done so in self defense and make it a requirement for the prosecution to overcome, setting certain evidentiary requirements?

    Are the wait help at St. Elmo’s at risk if a drug-taking gun-totin’ customer’s steak is overdone? Possibly, though those who serve food may be packing heat, too, and are entitled to the presumption of self defense (perhaps deservedly with gun totin’ John Waynes) if they manage to outdraw the customer. Insanity? Deserted streets? An economic crash? Wholesale emigration? The end of civilization for Hoosiers already teetering at the brink? I’d give odds.

    Republican politicians on Fox News can say anything without fear of being called to account in a softball environment much like “the former guy” enjoyed. After all, it’s the socialists and welfare cheats (or fill in the blank) who caused the debacle in Texas, and I know, ’cause I done seen it on Fox News.

    Back to reality > If the bill Sheila called our attention to in her offering today becomes law, I for one will advise my four Hoosier kids and their kids and grandkids to sell out and quickly leave the state for saner pastures before the real estate market crashes. Where? Washington and Oregon come to mind.

  21. And to think that when I was in 5th grade, I called myself “Tex!”
    The song lyrics “When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?” come to mind, and the answer is most probably “never.”

  22. I like to call it TexASS, in honor of the the conservative extremists who usually govern the state. My favorite is US Rep. Mike McCaul R-TXASS, who suggested that Texans could pay those outrageous utility bills with the “federal assistance” which will be awarded the state for disaster relief. Yes……..we, the taxpayers, get to foot the bill for the macho mistake of eschewing the federal power grid to appear independent from tyranny, as well as the unfortunate cheapskate decision not to winterize power-producing equipment. The arrogance and refusal to take responsibility is stunning and downright expensive!

  23. Living in Dallas for nearly 40 years I came to appreciate columnist Molly Ivins’s take on her fellow Texans. She quoted George W. Bush as having said “I’ve always been misunderestimated”.

  24. When the Texans get sick and tired of being sick and tired, they will elect somebody else. Denial always extracts a terrible price. Most of the GOP voters are in serious denial.

  25. Gosh! I really miss Molly Ivins! She would have had a field day with that last ‘administration’.
    Mama had a theory about presidents who went out of office. If they had been reasonably good at their jobs, she called them ‘former’ presidents. If they were not great or even terrible, she labeled them as ‘ex’-presidents. The most recent ex-president richly deserves that title. Keep all eyes and ears on March 4th 2021. No telling what that ex-president is up to.

  26. Be it Brownbeck’s Kansas or go ol’ Texas, I keep thinking, “Let them be. This is what they asked for.” — but them I remind myself that some percentage of the people didn’t.

    As I’ve said about Indiana – the people deserve the government that they elected — but I don’t – or like the old bumper sticker “Don’t blame me, I voted for the other guy” (we may need to update it to “other person”

    Yes – I too miss Molly Ivins

    Sheila, James, and Mitch – bullseye

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