By Jennifer Rubin [February 17, 2021]
Incompetence is not the purview of one party. But when you view politics as theater and grievance-mongering, chances are you are going to shortchange governance. Elect a president with no public-sector experience, no interest in learning, no desire to hire competent people and no ability to accept responsibility, and you get something like the covid-19 debacle. Moreover, if your party is hostile to government and exercising regulatory power because it is beholden to a donor class and right-wing ideologues, you will not be prepared for disasters when they strike.
And that brings us to Texas. The Post reports, “As millions of people across Texas struggled to stay warm Tuesday amid massive cold-weather power outages, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) directed his ire at one particular failure in the state’s independent energy grid: frozen wind turbines.” There is one problem: That is not remotely true (as you might have guessed from a state with an enormous oil and gas sector). “The governor’s arguments were contradicted by his own energy department, which outlined how most of Texas’s energy losses came from failures to winterize the power-generating systems, including fossil fuel pipelines.”
In other words, rotten policy and management are to blame. “What has sent Texas reeling is not an engineering problem, nor is it the frozen wind turbines blamed by prominent Republicans,” The Post reports. “It is a financial structure for power generation that offers no incentives to power plant operators to prepare for winter. In the name of deregulation and free markets, critics say, Texas has created an electric grid that puts an emphasis on cheap prices over reliable service.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who had declared during last summer’s wildfires that California is “unable to perform even basic functions of civilization, like having reliable electricity,” had to eat crow:
[The Hill headline: “Texas lawmakers’ tweets mocking California power outages resurface amid winter storm.” Ted Cruz tweet: “I got no defense. A blizzard strikes Texas & our state shuts down. Not good. Stay safe!”]
Not good?! One might hope that instead of spending time on right-wing media and engaging in the politics of White resentment, the senator and the state’s dominant political party would show greater concern for providing essential services to its people, especially as they face a pattern of natural disasters stemming from climate change, the highest rate of uninsured residents in the country, double the national average in child poverty and unemployment higher than the national average (7.2 percent vs. 6.7 percent).
Mayors from Texas cities — including Arlington, Austin, Beaumont, Brownsville, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Plano and Port Arthur — are begging for passage of the Biden administration’s rescue package. In a joint letter with the Conference of Mayors to congressional leaders, they write: “The lack of adequate support has resulted in 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 is part of the crowd that opposes “blue-state bailouts” (though he had no problem taking relief for Hurricane Harvey). He was also one of six senators to vote against the December stimulus package.
Instead of working on getting rescue funds to his state, Cruz will certainly oppose the Biden plan (although once again, he might be all for emergency disaster relief). He spends his time ginning up the base. He led the charge to overturn the election results, a quest that resulted in the deadly insurrection on Jan. 6, and he voted to acquit the instigator in chief.
Republicans such as Cruz need to stop looking for ways to disenfranchise voters, engaging in climate change denial, fanning the flames of anti-immigrant hysteria and sustaining an economic environment that puts millions of his constituents in peril year after year. Abbott needs to take responsibility for a natural disaster made worse by a governing fiasco. Right now, Texas is not looking good. If only someone there could step up and govern.
Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post.