So what have we learned?
Before we begin today, I think it worthy of a moment's pause to remember the now half a million Americans that have lost their lives to Covid 19. Putting politics aside for a moment, the sea of tragedy and pain is beyond comprehension and I suspect there will hardly be a family in the country that has not been touched by this humanitarian disaster. I've watched on in horror as I have seen the pandemic so poorly managed by both the US and the UK. Both governments proved that when it came to protecting their respective economies, their citizens were considered acceptable collateral damage. We have tried this case over and over again in the court of public opinion, but none of that matters to those who have lost an loved one. My mother was one of those lost, so I have been touched personally both by the tragedy and the abject failure of government to uphold their duty of care. May the memories of all those lost, be a blessing and may those left behind take some comfort for time spent together. We can never bring them back, but we can hold those responsible for their abject failure of care, next time we go to the polls.
As we start another week, I think it's time to step back and take a look at the lessons learned politically from the events in Texas. I know that the cold snap now appears to be in the past, but the carnage left behind will impact life in Texas for many moths ahead, as families try to put their lives back together after what they have lost. There is no shortage of humanity when it comes to stories of kindness, as Texan's stepped up to help each other. If only their leaders had done the same, the events that broke a state might never have happened. If ever you needed an example as to why regulation is required to protect people, Texas is a textbook example. Governors for years have prided themselves on rejecting any federal interference in their affairs, to the point of promoting secession. Independence is one thing, responsibility it seems, is quite something else.
For a state that rejects federal interference, it was very quick to say yes to a federal emergency declaration. The unconscionable thing was, that rather than see it as an opportunity to focus the relief on the welfare of their constituents, they instead saw it as an opportunity to provide funds to unscrupulous energy companies. Customers on variable tariffs, have been charged thousands of dollars for their energy. You know greed is out of control when you are emptying the bank accounts of customers that then can't feed their children as a result. Do these monsters know what mental stress this puts on families? Frankly, it appears they don't care. their response seems to be, just as cutomers benefit from low prices, there will always be highs too. Tell that to a single mom who has just been billed $2000 for 2 days of power, or the guy that got a bill for $7,000. These are the types of bills that cause people to take their own life.
If it's one thing I have learned on my journey inside US politics, it's that there is a chasm between the ideologies of the respective parties. What astounds me even more, is how on earth did people come to accept the shift further an further right. It seems to me, that the Texas political establishment, is an insight into the very worst in politics. They call it noninterventionism, small government and light touch regulation. I call it abdication of responsibility at the alter of profit. Republicanism is clearly a state of mind. I understand the principle of pro-business politics with a counterbalance operated by the opposing party. However, in the US, this has got completely out of hand. You know there is a BIG problem, when the party in power explodes the deficit to give corporate America tax breaks, then when out of power, suddenly become fiscally conservative.
Can I point out, these corporations generate their wealth not from the top 5%, but from the 95%, driven largely by those in the middle. They have for decades paid low wages and had little regard for the foot soldiers that have shovelled coal into their fiscal engines. Republicans have long been the servants of corporate America, but it's not until you see it close up, that you see how societally corrosive it is. The GOP finds itself at a crossroads where it is diverging from public sentiment. The majority of the American people back the American Rescue Plan and I suspect, they will provide full throated support, for a large infrastructure bill too. Deep at the heart of Republican politics, there is a complete absence of empathy. Texas was a case in point. Colorado Mayor Tim Boyd posted
"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 d--- handout!"
In a piece for NBC news by David K. Li, he reported that Boyd added;
"If you don’t have electricity you step up and come up with a game plan to keep your family warm and safe. If you have no water you deal with out and think outside of the box to survive and supply water to your family," Boyd continued. "If you were 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."
If you like me, can't believe he said this out loud, it's just one example of a garage of such sentiments over the last four years. Texan leadership seems to be looking on these events not as a need to address failings, but rather as an opportunity to get the federal government to pay for those failings. However, not until they pay to cover the acts of extortion perpetrated by Texas energy suppliers. It was openly admitted on 'The lead' on CNN on Sunday by Republican
Michael McCaul. He said that was exactly what the plan was. No attempt to hide it and no sense of regret or humility, just a sense that they now had access to a slush fund as thanks for their incompetence.
I hope that the federal government is awake to this and carries out appropriate due diligence on funding provided. The irony is, that Governor Abbott has announced he wants an inquiry into events. This is a little like appointing a doctor to investigate his/her own malpractice case. You can't get the criminals to investigate their own criminality. It needs to be an independent inquiry that examines events, following recommendations from the 2011 inquiry. There needs to be full transparency on donations from energy companies to sitting state government appointees, so that Texans have a clear picture as to any legislative decisions that may have been driven by financial support. If I were to hazard a guess, I would suggest there are some systemic corruption problems within the Texas state government.
Clearly federal assistance is required and that assistance should be carefully targeted to ensure that Texans can get back on their feet after suffering a problem that was not of their making. Joe Biden was right when he said 'In my America there are no blue states and red states, it's just America' Texans, despite being abused by their state government, are still part of this nation and that's why it's called the United States of America. As to the systemic issue of variable energy plans, this clearly needs to be addressed. In the meantime, it is my firm belief that the burden of these huge bills people have received, should be shifted to the state balance sheet. The state can then take the matter up with energy suppliers, with all the associated political fallout that might bring. It is NOT for the federal government to address these acts of extortion. As for the weatherization of the energy infrastructure, again this is a state legislature issue and state laws must be passed to mandate compliance. They should NOT get their wish that the taxpayer fund any upgrade. These costs MUST be built into the business plans of suppliers.
I said it before and I'll say it again, this was a massive failure of leadership, as ably demonstrated by the antics of Ted Cruz. His pictures of himself handing out water yesterday were frankly embarrassing, given what he had done. Any man who is prepared to throw his daughters under the bus as an excuse for his behaviour, is frankly not a man at all. He said, 'I was just trying to be a dad' REALLY? So dad's normally throw their kids under the bus to excuse their abhorrent behaviour? Add to that, he had left his dog to freeze at the mercy of the weather conditions, while he looked to enjoy cocktails by the pool. This in the same country often castigated by his own party leadership, for sending America murderers and rapists. There simply is no moral compass and this has a clear negative impact on those he is supposed to represent.
Mr Cruz and his band of Republican bandits abdicated responsibility. In the meantime, the 'radical left' socialist AOC, was busy raising millions in relief for HIS constituents. It is my hope that before I die, I am able to call her Madame President, that's what high regard I hold for her as a leader. Add to that, Beto O'Rourke has been equally active in organising relief. This is where I make my point about the difference in political philosophy. Republicans are increasingly the party of sink or swim and Democrats are the party of empathy and social awareness. The optics for the GOP on this are quite simply dreadful. Once again, AOC makes them look like the uncaring monsters they are, as she rides in to offer sympathy and support. There can be no better measure of the stark contrasts that exist in US politics today. I am NOT a fuzzy liberal. I do understand the need for capitalism in a modern democracy, providing it has a key element of social responsibility at its heart. It can work.
The power might be back on, but clean water remains a major issue and this is going to take weeks to resolve for many. Texas remains at this time, a third world state when it comes to clean water. It seems that politically, it also does a great impression of a Republican theifdom. The cost of home repairs and making good fractured water pipes will be significant and it will be a long time before this vital infrastructure returns to normal.
Thanks for stopping by and stay safe out there.