Texas has been hit by a disaster of its own making and its Republican office holders expect the rest of the US to pay to clean up the mess. To quote Dana Bash of CNN questioning Michael McCaul, a veteran GOP congressman, on Sunday: “That’s kind of rich, don’t you think?”
For all of their bravado and anti-government rhetoric, in the aftermath of calamities like last week’s deep freeze Lone Star Republicans make a habit of passing the plate. Their suffering is ours too.
But when the shoe is on the other foot, they begrudge kindness to others. Said differently, Ted Cruz is merely a grotesque illustration, not an exception.
Take a walk down memory lane. In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hammered New York and New Jersey. As the north-east reeled, Texas Republicans stood back, treating the region as if it were another country. As if the civil war had not ended.
After the turn of the year, Cruz, his fellow senator John Cornyn and 23 of two-dozen Texas Republicans in the House gave a thumbs down to Sandy aid. Less reflexively hostile heads prevailed. The relief bill cleared Congress. But the GOP’s Texans had left their mark.
Peter King, then a Republican representative from Long Island, understood malice and stupidity when he saw it. He called for a halt to donations to Republicans who opposed rescuing sister states.
“These Republicans have no problem finding New York when they’re out raising millions of dollars,” King said. “What they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. It was an absolute disgrace.”
Ted Cruz is nothing if not performative, ever Janus-faced
But Cruz in particular is nothing if not performative, ever Janus-faced. After Hurricane Harvey slammed Houston in 2017, he offered this explanation for his vote four years earlier: Sandy relief had become “a $50bn bill that was filled with unrelated pork”.
Cruz also intoned: “What I said then and still believe now is that it’s not right for politicians to exploit a disaster when people are hurting to pay for their own political wish list.”
Other than possibly Cruz’s long-suffering wife, it is unclear whether anyone believed Flyin’ Ted even then.
Cruz may have flown home alone, leaving his family in Cancun, but he is not alone among Texas Republicans in hating Blue America. He is just the most notorious. Unlike congressman Louie Gohmert, Cruz went to Princeton and Harvard. He should and likely does know better.
In 2019, as part of Donald Trump’s overhaul of the tax laws, Kevin Brady, a Texan then chair of the House ways and means committee, virtually eliminated the deductibility of state and local taxes from federal tax returns, in order to pay for an upper-bracket and corporate giveaway. New York and New Jersey are still feeling the bite.
Under Trump, the economy failed to pass 3% growth annually and a much-touted manufacturing renaissance failed to appear. Covid made a bad situation worse.
And now, lo and behold, Texas is forced, cap in hand, to pucker up to a Democratic House, Senate and White House. Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader and a native of Brooklyn, must be suppressing a smile.
To be sure, the federal government and Congress must help Texas. No ifs, ands or buts. Joe Biden is treating the state a whole better than Trump did Puerto Rico. That’s a good thing.
Innocent lives have been lost and upended in the name of retrograde ideology masked as policy. Real people, families and business have been destroyed. Climate change denial comes with a high human cost. Standing apart from the national electric grid isn’t independence. It is a death wish by another name.
Alexander Stephens, vice-president of the breakaway states, summed up this attitude in 1861: “If Charleston harbor needs improvement, let the commerce of Charleston bear the burden. If the mouth of the Savannah River has to be cleared out, let the sea-going navigation which is benefited by it, bear the burden.”
Other than when it came to repelling Abraham Lincoln, the Confederacy was not a mutual assistance pact. Before this latest man-made debacle, Republicans were dreaming of drowning government in a bathtub. Hopefully, in Texas that may change.