Nel's New Day

February 18, 2021

Faulty GOP Governance Destroying Texas, Killing People

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) carries his luggage at the Cancun International Airport REUTERS/Stringer

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) went to the top of the news on Thursday, and not in a good way. His trip to the sunny, warm Ritz-Carlton in Cancún ($309 per night) roiled his constituents, many of whom were freezing—sometimes literally to death—in Texas with below-freezing temperatures and no electricity or water. Cruz claimed he was being “a good father” by taking his children on a well-deserved vacation because of a “tough week”; his wife’s texts give a different story of escape from their “FREEZING” house. Heidi Cruz invited friends to come along on their getaway. Not until photos of Cruz and stories of his runaway dominated the media did he decide to return on Thursday. Critical hashtags included “#FlyinTed” and “#FledCruz,” and he was called Ted “Cancún” Cruz. Winning his 2018 election against Beto O’Rourke with under 51 percent of the vote, Cruz has indicated a goal of again become a presidential candidate in 2024. Opponents will have lots of material for response.

Because of regulations at the private school where Cruz’s daughters attend, they are not permitted into the classroom for a week after international travel unless they take a COVID-19 test three to five days after returning. Either way, they cannot go back to school next week. Before Cruz left on his trip, he said as many as 100 people could die this week. His advice before his departure:  

“This storm is dangerous, and there’s a second storm expected to hit this week, which will make things even worse, so if you can, stay home. Don’t go out on the roads. Don’t risk the ice… We could see up to 100 people lose their lives this week in Texas. So don’t risk it. Keep your family safe and just stay home and hug your kids.”

Cruz also commandeered Houston police to get him to and through the airport as he headed out on his vacation.

Exhibiting the attitude among millions of far-right Republicans, Tim Boyd, the now-resigned mayor of Colorado City (TX), posted on Facebook about people with no power:

“The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING! I’m sick and tired of people looking for a damn handout!… If you are sitting at home in the cold because you have no power and are sitting there waiting for someone to come rescue you because your lazy is direct result of your raising! [sic]…. This is sadly a product of a socialist government where they feed people to believe that the FEW will work and others will become dependent for handouts…. I’ll be damned if I’m going to provide for anyone that is capable of doing it themselves!… Bottom line quit crying and looking for a handout! Get off your ass and take care of your own family!” “Only the strong will survive and the weak will parish [sic].”

After loss of electricity and running water came boiling advisories for seven million Texans, empty grocery shelves, and canceled deliveries to food banks and schools. According to Austin resident Jeff Goodell, “People wandering around with handguns on their hip adds to a sense of lawlessness.” Lack of power made ranchers and farmers destroy tens of millions of dollars of goods. Fruit and vegetables have frozen in the Rio Grande Valley, and dairy farmers daily pour $8 million worth of milk down the drain because they can’t get the milk to dairies. Hospitals face deadly horrific conditions, and last Monday, Harris County, including Houston, reported over 300 carbon monoxide poisonings.

Even with a thaw in Texas, which isn’t happening for a few days, people will suffer from lack of running water. Disruption in about 590 public water systems in almost 60 percent of the state’s counties affect almost 12 million people of the state’s population of 29 million. Houston asked people to not run water because “it is needed for hospitals and fires,” according to the city’s mayor. Earlier in the week, people were told to leave faucets dripping to keep pipes from freezing, but now they are asked to turn them off, leaving pipes to burst. Only 135 labs in the state can test water to determine when people should stop boiling it, if they are fortunately enough to have power to boil water.

For losing presidential candidate Rick Perry, death is better than have federal government involved. He reassured people that “the sun will come out.” Texas conservatives find regulation unacceptable, but they asked for charity from U.S. taxpayers for the disasters they personally cause. President Joe Biden sent generators, diesel, blankets, and water to Texas “at their request,” according to Jen Psaki, Biden’s press secretary.

Publicity probably forced Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to stop blaming the loss of wind power—seven percent of the missing energy from the big freeze. Of the total power shortfall of over 30,000 megawatts, only 2,000 came from wind. Instead, Abbott moved on to attacking his own energy department who maintain the missing energy comes from lack of winterizing power-generating systems, primarily from fossil fuels. The state refused to provide any fiscal incentives to power plant operators in preparation for winter: the state’s power companies get more money if they don’t weatherize all their plants and shut down some of them in winter.  

According to Texas Democratic Party chair Gilberto Hinojosa, Abbott is following a “pattern” of “lack of foresight and inability to manage.” Hinojosa cited lack of action for displacements during Hurricane Harvey, no planning for the coronavirus crisis, and “abysmal” handling of vaccine distribution. The loss of energy supply is being compared to the fallout from Hurricane Katrina. Lack of deregulation, i.e., mandating electrical equipment upgrades or weatherization, comes from reliance on free markets.

Deregulation in the 1990s created a grid emphasizing cheap prices instead of good service. Last summer, Cruz said California couldn’t “perform even basic functions of civilization, like having reliable electricity.” Now he tried to run away from the disaster in a state with the highest rate of uninsured, double the U.S. average in child poverty, and a greater unemployment rate than the federal rate.

Mayors in Texas cities are lobbying for the Democratic stimulus plan, writing Congress about “budget cuts, service reductions, and job losses. Sadly, nearly one million local government jobs have already been lost during the pandemic. … The $350 billion in direct relief to state and local governments included in President Elect Biden’s American Rescue Plan would allow cities to preserve critical public sector jobs and help drive our economic recovery.” Cruz opposes “blue-state bailouts” even for his red state and voted in December against the stimulus package.

Texan GOP leadership so adamantly refuses any involvement with Democrats that the 60 generators and fuel stays at the airport because Republican officials refuse to distribute them.

Proving that governments can manage reliable energy with regulation, the ten percent of the state not under the control of the mis-named GOP-appointed Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has had minimal outages despite also being hit by the storms. For example, El Paso, at the extreme left side northwest of Alpine, had about 3,000 outages, 1,000 of them for about five minutes. Outside ERCOT, regions invested in cold-weather upgrades after the 2011 big freeze while ERCOT assumed that cold weather wouldn’t return. The GOP control in Texas opposes regulations, but almost 70 percent of people in El Paso voted Democratic.

Fox network’s Tucker Carlson was an early spreader of the lie about Texas being “totally reliant on windmills” because “the Green New Deal came to Texas.” The much maligned “Deal” was only a proposal pushed to a 2019 vote in the Senate by Republicans so they could vote it down. Carlson may end up in court over his falsehoods: Bloomberg News is calling for lawsuits like the ones for Fox’s lies about the 2020 election.

More information about the Texas debacle. 

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