It's written that Nero, the debauched ancient emperor, fiddled while Rome burned. Whether or not that's true, it certainly is true that Ted Cruz, the self-indulgent Texas senator, fiddled around while his state froze.
While Ted fled Texas for the sunny clime and luxury of the Ritz-Carlton resort in Cancun, Mexico, dozens of his constituents died in the five-day deep freeze, and millions more suffered physically and financially. They had no heat or water, thanks to the 25-year failure of Texas Republican leaders like Cruz to protect the state's electric grid from such a predictable weather crisis. This deadly, frigid, multibillion-dollar chaos in energy-rich Texas was not the result of a polar vortex but a small-minded vortex of right-wing political hokum that puts the interests of a few corporate profiteers over the well-being of the people.
Among those who now must pay the price of the GOP's fealty to corporate interests is a hard-hit group that gets little media notice: small, local farmers. As a regular customer of farmers markets, I know many of these hardy, innovative people, and I've had the privilege of working with them since my days as Texas Agriculture Commissioner. They are America's most productive, most ecologically conscious and most community-spirited ag producers, yet state and national farm policies work against them, even trying to displace them with industrial farm giants.
For example, massive federal farm programs pay tens of billions of our tax dollars each year in crop insurance and direct subsidies to offset the vagaries of agriculture, but they don't cover local organic and sustainable food producers. Indeed, the bulk of payments go to those least in need — the multimillion-dollar agribusiness operators, including Wall Street syndicates.
So, in my area of central Texas, such efficient, enterprising farms as Boggy Creek, Eden East, Green Gate and Hat & Heart had row after row of veggies turn to greenish-black glop by the killer storm. Through no fault of their own, they lost the money they invested to produce those crops, lost the money they would've gotten by selling them, and will have to find money from somewhere to put in a new crop and then tend to it for six weeks or so with no income.
Not only must our corporate-controlled electric grid be replaced; so must our corporate-controlled ag policy — and our corporate-controlled elected officials.
There is a weasel word that politicians have taken to using in the past few years whenever something goes wrong on their watch: "unacceptable."
We just heard it slither out of the mouth of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Responding to withering public criticism of the state's chaotic and disastrous response to a killer winter storm, Abbott fumed, "What happened this week to our fellow Texans is absolutely unacceptable." Well, gosh, Guv, it surely is, but wait — aren't you the governor, the guy in charge? But a detail like that can't get in the way of a weaselly political rant, so Abbott pointed his outrage at ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the agency charged with maintaining a reliable flow of electricity to Texas homes, schools, businesses, etc.
But wait again: ERCOT merely administers policies set by the Public Utility Commission, and that corporate-cozy body has failed for years to mandate that the state's privatized, for-profit electric utilities weatherize their power generators to prevent freeze-ups. And who appointed the three members of that commission? Why, Greg, it was you! In fact, the chairwoman and one of the two other members of PUC are former top staffers of the governor.
Also, Abbott has been governor for six years, and not once has he proposed legislation to require that the corporate owners of electric utilities protect the grid from freezes, as is commonly done in North Dakota, Vermont and other subzero, icy places.
Oh, he also claims that the 2021 winter vortex was unprecedented and therefore couldn't have been anticipated. Oops ... wait again. A notorious rolling grid failure in a 2011 snowstorm left millions of Texans in deadly darkness — a disaster that was also called "unacceptable." But then, Abbott and other GOP officials did accept it, quietly refusing to require winterization, even as they accepted big campaign donations from those corporate giants that caused the breakdown.
We're now treated to the clownish spectacle of Abbott, other GOP politicos, and even the PUC fulminating about the "unacceptable" failure of the state to provide power, demanding a legislative investigation and calling for heads to roll!
But wait once again: Aren't they the heads?
To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com
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