Of course, there’s nothing funny about the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas that claimed the lives of at least 14 — many of them first responders — and injured more than 100.
Texas governor Rick Perry immediately declared McLennan County a disaster area and asked for an emergency declaration from the president, noting, “It is unfortunate for us that we face both natural and manmade disasters too often in this state.”
Since 2009, Texas has far more Federal Emergency Management Agency-declared disasters — 75 — than any other state. This nearly constant need for federal intervention belies Governor Perry’s nearly constant bellicose rhetoric attacking big government.
Actually, much of what’s going on in Texas belies Perry’s nearly constant rhetoric attacking big government. The governor likes to brag about a “Texas miracle” without mentioning how taxpayers have subsidized much of it — indirectly through tax breaks to the oil industry and directly via military and government spending. As of 2011, private sector jobs had grown 9 percent since 2000, while public sector jobs were up by 19 percent.
In April of 2009, as the nation faced the worst economic crisis since the last Republican Depression, Perry blasted Washington’s big government overreach. “We’ve got a great union,” Perry said. “There is absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what may come out of that?”
What had Washington done to deserve Perry’s thinly veiled secession threat? It had passed the economic stimulus that saved millions of jobs and prevented a greater Depression, as anyone who can read a graph can clearly see:
Perry used that money to balance his state’s budget — something he often bragged about as he attacked Washington’s “insatiable desire to spend our children’s inheritance on failed stimulus plans.”
But Perry is happy to spend federal money when headline-grabbing disaster strikes his state specifically. But he does stick to his “principles” when it comes to Texas’ ongoing health care disaster.
Texas has the highest uninsured rate of any state in the union. Families USA estimates that in 2010, 57 Texans died each week for lack of health insurance. How does did Perry respond to this emergency? By turning down millions in health care just to punish the state’s Planned Parenthood organization. He also joined state Republicans in cutting family planning funding, a choice that could easily end up costing taxpayers more than $100 million.
And Perry could instantly cover as many as 1.8 million Americans and save a huge chunk of those 57 lives needlessly lost every week, if he would just say yes to Medicaid expansion.
But he won’t.