Lone Star State’s ‘Goober’ Governor Botches Pandemic Response

Greg Abbott

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

Harking back to the embarrassing days of Gov. Rick "Oops" Perry, my state of Texas is once again saddled with a Republican gubernatorial goober. Greg Abbott is this guy's name, and he's another incompetent right-wing ideologue whose botched handling of our state's COVID-19 crisis makes President Donald Trump look like a master administrator of public health.

Unfortunately for you non-Texans, Gov. Abbott's extreme gooberness is now surging across our borders to afflict people in your state. Before we go there, though, ponder his slapstick performance here, where he's been swatting futilely at the fast-moving coronavirus.

First, as a small-minded, small-government zealot, he obsequiously followed Trump's lead of do-nothingism, pretending the bad thing would just drift away. As a result, droves of Texans were dying, so he rushed out to express astonishment and concern. Yet, he cravenly refused to offend his corporate and far-right backers by implementing such life-saving measures as business closures, masks required in public and stay-at-home orders. Worse, the petty, little potentate infuriated local officials by banning them from taking protective actions in their communities.

Bizarrely, Abbott declared he was focused not on preventing infections but on making sure there were enough hospital beds for those who get infected. He might as well have bragged that providing an adequate number of graves was his priority. For sure, enough thousands more Texans were soon dying because of his incompetence.

Finally, the relentless death toll forced Abbott the Absent to enact a stay-at-home mandate ... but he even bungled that by declaring it was not a stay-at-home order! Instead, he called its provisions "Essential Services and Activities Protocols."

Then he got really strange. After banning local officials from requiring mask wearing in public, he playfully hinted that he'd hidden a trick door in that executive order allowing locals to take action — IF they could divine the riddle. The trick was that while mayors and others could not require face masks in public, they could require stores, bars offices, factories and other businesses to require masks.

Isn't that fun?! Playing pandemic word games with people's lives. Critics who say Republican leaders have no sense of humor haven't met Greg Abbott.

Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the disease is presently raging anew in the South and southwest; in rural counties; and among young people who previously felt immune. Despite wishful thinking by corporate-serving public officials, their rush to "open the economy" has led to more infections, deaths, and loss of both jobs and health care among workaday families.

So, gosh, what to do now? Of course! Let's take away the health care coverage of some 23 million Americans!

Backed by Trump & Co., that's the brilliant health care priority being pushed by top Republican officials in 18 states. Led by the mingy Abbott, these GOP-controlled states have chosen in our time of national health crisis to file Texas v. United States, pleading with the Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. If they get their way, insurance giants (which are major campaign donors to Abbott and other GOP officials who're pushing the court action) would again be able to gouge customers, boot young people from their parents' coverage and refuse to cover people with preexisting conditions.

It's perverse that any other governor would follow Abbott's lead, for he presides over a health care disaster. Texas has the highest number of uninsured people (including a record number of unprotected children), and his government allows insurance monopolists to engage in such rip-offs as charging higher premiums to women and selling policies that don't cover such basics as childbirth. Killing Obamacare would add another million Texans to the 18% who're already uncovered. Plus, it would not be there for some 3 million other Texans expected to lose their job-based insurance policies during the growing pandemic recession.

That's the health care vision the Texas governor is now trying to force on every state with his lawsuit. It is a policy of what's been called "moral insanity," so, naturally, Trump rushed to embrace it!

However, this intentionally cruel right-wing political maneuver is so unpopular — especially today — that there was no trumpeting of the legal filing by the White House to strike Obamacare. Instead, it was tiptoed over to the court at 10:30 on a Thursday night — with the hopes you and I wouldn't notice.

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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