The state of Texas prides itself as a bastion of independence and free enterprise. Business thrives without government regulation and fiercely opposes government interference in capitalistic enterprises. Except when it does want the government to interject itself into business. In a state with abhorrence for tax money subsidizing health insurance and the highest percentage of citizens without coverage, but where the Oil Depletion tax giveaway is sacred, Texas is now seeking a new federal subsidy for its favorite industry. The state wants government funding for oil and gas installations and it wants all U.S. taxpayers, not just Texans, to pay.
After more than a century-and-a-half of contributing CO2 to the world, the fossil fuel industry wants taxpayer-funded protection for the increasingly powerful storms and higher tides, effects of the changing climate. Climate-change deniers and fiscal conservatives – except when the money flows to their state – Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are pushing a scheme for $12 billion of federal money to build sixty-miles of concrete seawalls, earthen barriers, floating gates and steel levees on the Texas Gulf Coast. Petrochemical plants, including most of Texas’s thirty refineries, want us all to pay for protecting their facilities. (And if you believe $12 billion will be enough, well, you know…)
Texas has an $11 billion dollar “rainy day” fund, but the Republican controlled legislature opposes spending its own money to protect infrastructure in its own state.
Our President’s budget proposal designates $2.6 billion to design and begin to build the wall along the Mexican border. Estimates of cost to build the whole thing range as high as $25 billion. So far, no details on Mexico’s paying for it. (The simplest way, based on the history of Trump projects, would be to hire Mexican contractors and then not pay them.) The budget also requests money to hire twenty additional attorneys to pursue condemnation of privately-owned land for the wall. Some landowners in Texas have already received notices.
Congressman Henry Cuellar, whose district includes 180 miles of the Texas-Mexico border has been hearing from his constituents, and they are not happy. Ninety percent of the Texas border is in private ownership. One constituent property has been in the family since a Spanish land grant in 1767. “Once the land is destroyed, it will never be the same,” the owner said. “We have oaks and mesquite that have been there for generations, foxes and other animals and an ecosystem that has been untouched.”
At the present, 670 miles are fenced. Only 1,263 to go.
The Texas State Board of Education approves the textbooks used by five million students in its public schools. Because of the size of the Texas market, many textbook publishers print the Texas-approved books to sell in other other states. (Advances in technology are making it easier to publish other versions for other markets.) This is particularly problematic with history texts, as the politically-charged Texas board is firmly controlled by right-wing nutcases.
Students are taught that slavery was only an incidental cause of the Civil War, after states’ rights and sectionalism. (The state’s right being the right to own other human beings.) Textbooks make no mention of the Ku Klux Klan.
Texas students learn that slavery was simply part of immigration patterns that “brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.” As part of the effort to purge liberal bias from curricula, Thomas Jefferson is ignored, but the purported “Christian” foundation of our country’s beginning is emphasized. Textbooks also stress the importance of guns to our freedom. After a heroic battle, the Texas board allowed evolution to be broached as a possibility.
With our new president and a new Secretary of the Department of Education who is no friend of public education, we’ll see how things go. For now, historians in higher education are concerned about the teaching of U.S. history. In the radically changed political climate, revisionists are becoming much more emboldened, eager to flaunt their ignorance.
“In 2011, the state Legislature cut Texas’ family planning and women’s health program, which provide care and routine screenings for low-income women. Lawmakers slashed its budget by two-thirds—and kicked out women’s health providers that also provide abortions.”
“Within a two-year period between 2010 and 2012, the rate of pregnant women dying in Texas doubled – and it’s not entirely clear why.”