Texas Shows the Dystopian Future Craved by the GOP
Massacres, deaths by ignorance, political medical care, uninsured, uneducated. But hey, taxes are low.
(DALLAS) — The woman listened to her obstetrician in horror and fury. Her wanted pregnancy was effectively over; her water had broken, and the 19-week-old fetus could not survive. But it still had what state politicians defined as a heartbeat, the doctor said, so he could not perform an abortion. Texas law required them to wait until either the fetus died, or the woman was near death herself. The woman decided to fly to another state for proper medical treatment, even though she knew the trip was dangerous.
“If you labor on the plane, leave the placenta inside of you,” the obstetrician advised. “You’re going to have to deal with a 19-week fetus outside of your body until you land.”
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This event, recounted in the New England Journal of Medicine in August, underscores what Texas has become because of GOP rule, based on a twisted philosophy that Republicans want to spread all over America. They fight for the life of blastocysts while caring little for children and mothers, creating a post-Roe state even before the Supreme Court struck down the precedent. They ignore that the state has the country’s eighth highest rate of death from pregnancy complications, and infant mortality and childhood death rates that both exceed the national average. It is the state with the most uninsured; the percent of uninsured children is twice the national average. It is forty-fifth in child well-being. Fiftieth in access to mental health care for children, despite a higher rate of children attempting suicide than the national average. It is 33rd in the quality of education, with 70% of fourth graders not proficient in reading and 70% of eighth graders not proficient in math.
Then there is child safety. Texas is number one of all fifty states for school shootings in the last decade, with 43. More than four school shootings each year on average. Whenever they happen, Republicans say guns are not responsible, and that the country just needs more mental health care for kids. Then they do nothing, even though the state remains fiftieth in access to mental health care for children, despite a higher rate of children attempting suicide than the national average. First in school shootings, last in access to mental health care for kids.
Texas is also number 5 in any kind of mass shootings, worse than New York, the one that Fox always holds up as the most dangerous place in the world. And Texas is likely to get far worse. When state lawmakers came back in session last year for the first time since back-to-back was shootings in El Paso and Midland-Odessa (30 total dead), there was hope they would pass at least some gun restrictions. Instead, they worked to make it easier to get more guns.
They passed a bill, signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott, allowing people to carry guns in public - openly or concealed - without a license or safety training. I lived in Texas then, and everyone I knew talked about how we just had to assume everyone around us was armed.
They expanded access for more teachers to get guns, expecting that people without training would have the aim during chaos to only hit a shooter - who likely was a student - as opposed to people running for cover.
The state is third in the number of hate groups and the number of residents below the poverty line. Yet it is first in the number of billionaires, with 337, and second in millionaires, with more than 650,000. But the presence of all those millionaires and billionaires does nothing for struggling Texans: Despite the desperate need of funding for everything from health care to education, the hordes of wealthy households contribute not a dime: There is no state income tax.
The hypocrisy of the state is almost breathtaking. Here, 77% of the population reports being religious Christians. As a resident for 38 years, I can tell you: They are not just “Christians,” but in the last decade, they have become obnoxiously so. The words “Ahm a Chreees-tian,” is uttered almost as frequently as “hello.” That wouldn’t be a problem if they didn’t wear their Christianity on one sleeve and their overwhelming hate on the other.
For far too many of these Texans, Christianity is about nothing more than knowing who to hate. Charitable Jesus, meek and mild, would be crucified by these people as a brown-skinned, socialist, illegal immigrant. More than a few times, I have asked Chreees-tians: Should Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus have been arrested and sent back home when they crossed the border into Egypt to escape Herod? Their first answer, every single time, is that Egypt didn't have strict laws enforcing requirements to cross the border. When I follow up with, “Suppose it did. Should Jesus and his family been sent home, back into danger?” these Chreees-tians always answer, “Yes.”
Think about the mindset: Supposed devotees of Jesus would rather that Christ have been sent home to be murdered as an infant than to be allowed to stay in Egypt unlawfully. That tells you everything you need to know about how hate and politics often outweighs their purported beliefs
Christianity may be their religion, but selfishness is their faith. The refusal to wear masks or be vaccinated by so many Texans has been portrayed by their political leaders as an exercise in “freedom,” when the proper term is “self-centeredness.” In my last phone call with someone who is now a former friend, I challenged his refusal to wear a mask. He replied that, if he was willing to take the risk, that was his choice. I replied, he wasn’t just taking a risk for himself: If he was asymptomatic or presymptomatic, he could infect someone who infected someone who infected someone who died. The last words I heard from this now-former friend still echo in my head: “That’s not my problem.” I immediately hung up and have never spoken to him again.
The true values of this state were laid bare by COVID, when the figurative mask that had been slipping off after the election of Trump was fully ripped away, revealing people with truly twisted values. Amid the 2020 outbreak, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott convened a task force to determine when the state could reopen. Composed primarily of his campaign contributors and other businesspeople, the task force retained a consulting firm to put together a plan on how to reopen the state. According to people with knowledge of these events, the firm returned with a plan that entailed using a complex data analysis to open county by county, establishing best-practices, stopping reopening when necessary, and ultimately - when the safest way to do this was determined over the coming months - move slowly toward a full reopening one county at a time. The task force didn’t like that: After all, these rich Chreees-tians and all their friends could work from home; the hordes needed to get back to work. So, Abbott threw out the consultant report, announced he was reopening the state in May 2020, and then presided over a state-wide massacre that he had been told would happen. If you read this and think that Abbott should be charged with second degree murder, I would vote for voluntary manslaughter. But there is no doubt, the man should go to jail for a long time.
Because of the selfishness of this deeply religious state, the intentional slaughter was extreme. Texas, a state with some of the finest medical centers in the country, saw 90,000 people die so far, a far higher number than any state other than California. But two things to remember: California was hit early in the COVID outbreak (that happens with pandemics and coastal states.) Also, Texas has a population of 29 million, compared to 40 million in California, making the proportion of Texas deaths significantly higher. As TK wrote in a recent paper, Canada with a population of 36 million people suffered an estimated 43,000 deaths, while 12,000 people died in Australia where 25 million live. So, Texas not only experienced far more per capita deaths than other populous states, it also exceeded other countries with economies of about the same size gross domestic product.
And let’s not miss the power grid. In 2021, Texas experienced the worst energy infrastructure failure in state history when the grid essentially collapsed because it was cold. There were huge shortages of heat, water, food, and other necessities. As one of the 4.5 million homeowners who went through that, I can tell you, the freezing weather inside the houses was beyond dangerous. A lot of people were forced to take actions that were dangerous, to stay alive. We used fireplaces and turned on our gas stove at full blast through all burners. Dangerous, yes, but we figured turning them off was even more risky.
The water shutoff lasted for days, so we took about a dozen plastic totes and filled them with snow so that we would be able to use that to flush toilets and cook. We boiled water constantly. We survived, but everyone was so lucky. At least 246 people were killed, with some estimates of the number of dead as high as 702 killed. Police went door-to-door looking for bodies.
What did the Republicans do? Lie and blame. Governor Greg Abbott lied that the grid collapse was caused by wind turbines and solar panels - about the only things in the state that still produced power. Why did he lie? Why else? Gas companies pay him the most money. The true villain here was natural gas plants that were not winterized and froze. Add on to that, the Republicans passed laws earlier that allowed gas pipes to be buried far shallower than is safe, a move designed to save Republican campaign contributors in the gas business from having to spend more money to dip deeper. So, the pipes, all near the surface, froze. (Even gas in power backups owned by rich people throughout the state failed, because the pipelines froze.)
Don’t worry about the gas companies during the storm, though. As always, the Republicans looked out for them - many of them made billions off the suffering of Texans, as much as $11 billion. Many passed on absurd price increases to consumers - $9,000/MWh, typically $50/MWh - and even kept the price that high for days longer than necessary. That last trick won them $16 billion in fraudulent billings.
Republicans all safe and cozy in their homes - or Cancun (looking at you Ted Cruz) - sneered some of the most sociopathic statements imaginable. The GOP was terrified of federal oversight of the electrical grid, and of course, to former Governor Rick Perry, that was more important than the mass death, injury, and individual financial wreckage. He declared that Texans would go without power “for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.” Then-Mayor Tim Boyd of Colorado Springs demonstrated our Republican psychopathy when he criticized citizens, not the energy companies, for failing to prepare for the grid collapse, and then stated that, "the strong will survive, and the weak will perish."
What a nightmare state. But don’t think it will ever change, because Texas is leading the way in ending American democracy and creating a corporate kleptocracy.
Because billionaires do so well, Texas Republicans fight hard to make sure that people who aren’t paying them are blocked from voting. It passed SB1 in 2021, intentionally violating a 2018 injunction blocking the state from imposing rules directly intended to keep people they don’t like from voting. The judge who put the injunction in place, Federal District Judge Robert Pittman, ruled in 2022 that Texas was intentionally violating his order. First, Texas limited the ability of people with disabilities to vote - directly violating the 2018 injunction. What kind of monsters try to stop people with disabilities? Given the These…people…also tried to impose criminal penalties on those who assist the disabled - another scummy idea designed to frighten those who help those in need from having anyone help them. Given the capricious and reckless way Texas enforces its voting laws, that fear would be justified.
Then, there were the efforts going straight after populations that tend to vote democratic. They banned drive-through voting and extended voting hours, which the Texas Civil Rights Project said benefits voters of color and shift workers the most. Add in the limitation of polling places and voting drop boxes, making sure they are easily accessible to rural populations and hard to reach for urban dwellers, and you have the next level of voting obstruction.
Then they go after college students. In the past, polling places were on or near campuses so that students could vote. No more. The Texas A&M on-campus early-voting location had the second-highest voter turnout in the county during the 2018 and 2020 presidential elections - well, Republicans can’t have that, given the number of college students who vote for Democrats. Republican County Commissioner Nancy Berry, who moved the site, lied that the A&M polling place was scarcely used. Then she lied that, what she meant by voter turnout was the number of voters who turned up at A&M to vote compared with what she expected. Finally, confronted with the actual data, she essentially conceded her statements were lies, and that she somehow used the wrong voting data. So, the county commission had a new vote since their decision was exposed to be based on lies. They voted in favor once again. Gee, I wonder how that happened.
Even if likely-Democratic voters climb through the fire and floods set up to keep them away from the ballot box, Republicans still win. Why? Because Republican politicians are quite evil at how they draw political maps, making democracy a joke. They have worked hard to make sure that few of the races for either Congress or the state legislature are competitive anymore; districts are set up for either Republicans or Democrats to win. Few are competitive. And guess which party is a lock to usually win most districts, even when their party get fewer votes as a whole than the democrats. Yeah, it’s the autocratic Republicans.
The reality here is that America is being flushed away, and Republicans in Texas are showing exactly how to do it. What do they get out of it? Money and status, the same reason why Putin’s apparatchiks and corporate kleptocrats support him.
Can Texas be saved? No. The Republicans have locked it down so that the poor suffer, can’t vote, and the rich bask in their shower of cash. And that is part of the reason I recently fled the state. It’s a hellhole.
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May I suggest one correction - it's a myth to say that taxes are low. Texas gas no income tax, but property taxes are sky high. Locals have a saying - you just think you own a home, but you don't. You're simply renting it from the property taxing authorities.
There are no rational explanations for the GOP’s anti-christian, fascist, misogynistic and racist actions other than that’s the goal and the followers don’t want to think for themselves, but be told what to do. Its easier for them that way. It’s all FUBAR.