We have experienced over the past week a colossal failure of government.  

Sadly, this failure was both perfectly predictable, inevitable while also almost completely preventable.  

It is the direct consequence of decades of Republican government, grounded in the beliefs government is the enemy, and it is incapable of providing services efficiently. So the belief goes, the Federal government is more inept than State governments. This past week exposed the lies.

In what is supposed to be a democracy, government is supposed to be the servant of the people. Government employees routinely are referred to as “public servants” even though many people, particularly Republicans, do not see them that way.

However, “public service” is not the philosophy of today’s Republican party—yes, in the past; but not today. Today’s Republican philosophy was clearly enunciated by the now former mayor of Colorado City, Tom Boyd, who, among other things, said this in response to citizen requests for help from Colorado City government:

“No one owes you or your family anything; nor is it the local governments (sic) responsibility to support you during trying times like this! Sink or swim, it’s your choice!”  …  “The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING! I’m sick and tired of people looking for a d— handout!”  …  “If you don’t have electricity you step up and come up with a game plan to keep your family warm and safe If you have no water you deal with out and think outside of the box to survive and supply water to your family.”  …  “If you were sitting at home in the cold because you have no power and are sitting there waiting for someone to come rescue you because your lazy is direct result of your raising. 

Boyd added: “Only the strong will survive….”  

Former Mayor Boyd has taken a lot of criticism for his words. The reaction was so strong and immediate, he resigned as Mayor. But we actually should commend Mr. Boyd for his honesty, and for enunciating the Republican philosophy clearly and succinctly: Government has no responsibility to the people, including in times of crisis. Just because people pay for electric and water services does not mean the providers have any responsibility to provide those to paying customers.  

Then, what is the responsibility of government? We might consider Boyd’s statement “only the strong survive” as a small misstatement. Perhaps it is more accurate to say, for many Republican officials, a more accurate philosophical statement would be “only the rich survive”.

It wasn’t always this way. We can look at many Republican leaders throughout history and even today who believed the purpose of government is to be of service to the people. Teddy Roosevelt and Robert La Follette to name only two. More recently, even Richard Nixon believed in public service. He did several good things as President, including establishing the Environmental Protection Agency, improving social welfare benefits, and expanding the role of the Civil Rights Commission to include sex discrimination.

Most of today’s Republican officials just don’t care. Their job is not to make government work, but to dismantle government and monkey-wrench it to make Reagan’s claims about the ineptitude of government a self-fulfilling prophecy.  

These contentions are lies as demonstrated by our government just landing the Perseverance rover on Mars—34.8 million miles from earth. If the U.S. government can do that, it can effectively and efficiently address and resolve any problems we have here, including maintaining power during a severe freeze.

We can see Republican officials don’t care not only in the words of Mr. Boyd, but the actions of Senator Cruz. His power was out and his house was “freezing.” So, perfect time for a get-away to Cancun. After all, rooms were only $309 a night at the Ritz Carlton.

However, why did we have such a massive power failure? There are two answers; one real and the other typical Republican lies. According to Gov. Abbott and other Republican officials, the cause was the non-existent Green New Deal and wind turbines that provide somewhere between 15-20% of Texas’ electricity. The amount varies in accordance with numerous variables. Some wind turbines did fail, but the percentage was a relatively small. The primary failures were gas, coal and even nuclear fired power plants. That is, unsurprisingly, Gov. Abbott lied.

The second answer is Texas has been ruled by Republican officials who believe, just as Mr. Boyd said, the function of government is not to serve the public. Instead their job is to shrink government so it can be drowned in a bath tub. 

Texans might not be drowning; but we have been freezing, with at least 22 deaths in the Houston-Galveston area. Statewide deaths are unknown, but in the “dozens.”

After backtracking on the non-existent Green New Deal being responsible for the outage, Gov. Abbott blamed ERCOT (Electricity Reliability Council of Texas). Yes, blame anyone, everyone, but “never take responsibility for anything.” That is the new Republican mantra. Certainly, ERCOT bears some responsibility. But ERCOT is a State agency overseen by the Public Utility Commission (PUC). Commissioners are appointed by and responsible to the Governor.

The problem is, despite multiple warnings, the PUC and ERCOT did not properly winterize the State’s power grid, not even after experiencing the 2011 deep freeze. Rather than be a part of the national power grid, Texas operates independently to dodge Federal regulations. Even State regulations were lifted in 1999, leaving utility companies free to do basically as they please. Winterization costs money and cuts into profits. Profits are more important than people.

This is a part of a larger problem of the deterioration of infrastructure in Texas in general. Since the purpose of government is not to serve the public, there is no need for government to do much to repair, replace, and upgrade infrastructure. Hence, we had massive power failure during this freeze.

Some might think, maybe the State should re-regulate utilities; or, better still, join the national power grid and conform with Federal regulations that would have prevented massive power failure. But, former Governor Perry explains we “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business” (sic). It is so nice to have someone tell us what we would be willing to do so we don’t have to think about that ourselves.

That appears to be another purpose of Republican government—telling us what we are supposed to think and do. But, hey, we have to make sacrifices—apparently including our brains—to stave off “socialism.” The problem is, Gov. Perry wouldn’t know a socialist if God introduced him to one.

So, millions of people in Texas have been without electricity—some for five days. We now have a massive water problem. It’s all because of the dominant Republican philosophy is government is not supposed to serve the people. When disaster strikes and we lose electricity and water in a killing freeze, thankfully, we have Mr. Boyd to guide us:

“If you don’t have electricity you step up” and apparently find a way to make your own electricity. If you don’t have water, “think outside of the box to…supply water to your family.” Maybe dig a well in frozen ground, preferably with your bare hands.

Or, you can think for yourself and possibly conclude, Republican excuses and lies notwithstanding, this was a colossal failure of government.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by writer and retired Rio Grande Valley educator Samuel Freeman. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the permission of the author. Freeman can be reached via email at: [email protected].

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows people waiting in line to fill propane tanks Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo credit: AP)

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