Ted Cruz: Selective Socialist

In west Dallas, Texas, there is a burial ground called La Réunion Cemetery. Most of the people interred there were European colonists who started a socialist community and tried gallantly to maintain it. At the time, 1855, Dallas was “a shabby little frontier village” next door to the community of hope-filled socialists. Today it is the ninth largest city in the country.

The La Réunion colony failed. And it failed for many reasons, beginning with the fact that, as Public Radio International put it, the colonists didn’t have “a very clear idea of what they were getting themselves into”:

The Texas heat. The lack of a navigable river. Slavery, and the violent politics around it. Land speculators and hucksters. And lots and lots of snakes.

To make matters worse, most of the European colonists had no farming skills. They were artisans and thinkers who mostly expected paradise, not frontier misery. They were no match for the harsh environment they’d unwittingly entered.

Those starry-eyed Europeans did not realize their utopian socialist dreams, but the hardy souls who eventually moved to that shabby little village next door did make a difference:

…historians credit Dallas’s early growth to the sudden arrival of these people, among them architects, musicians, builders, bankers and editors. When the Civil War broke out, many of those immigrants tried hard not take a side — some even hid out in Mexico to avoid the Confederate draft. After the War, the Reconstruction government needed non-Confederates to run the town: there they were, these battered idealists.

Some believe Dallas would never have become the city it is without those folks. Those socialists.

Which brings me to what’s going on in Texas today. No, I don’t mean the godawful storm that is still doing terrible things in and around Houston. And I don’t mean Agent Orange flying in to vainly attempt a rescue of his administration from abject failure. What I mean is the idea that all of us, as Americans, are expected to assent to helping devastated Texans with our tax money. But should we?

As has been widely reported, all but one of the Texas Republicans in the House and both U.S. Senators essentially said “Eff off!” to victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, as those right-wing anti-socialists voted against the aid package to help folks in the northeast. Suddenly, though, Hurricane Harvey has washed ashore and brought with it a new fondness for socialism. Suddenly, it is time to redistribute the wealth. Suddenly, La Réunion lives again!

Ted Cruz, whose father probably helped kill JFK and who has an ugly wife—unretracted claims of Tr-mp, not mine—defended his drop-dead-Sandy-victims vote this way:

The accurate thing to say is that I and a number of others enthusiastically and emphatically supported hurricane relief for Sandy. Hurricane relief and disaster relief has been a vital federal role for a long, long time and it should continue. The problem with that particular bill is it became a $50 billion bill that was filled with unrelated pork.

Image result for hurricane sandy and ted cruzNow, I’m not that interested in whether Cruz is lying about having been “enthusiastically and emphatically” supportive of pork-less hurricane relief five years ago. My default position on people like Cruz is that they are lying every time they speak, so no biggie here. What I am focused on is the casual way he says, “Hurricane relief and disaster relief has been a vital federal role for a long, long time and it should continue.” That sentence rolled off his tongue so smoothly that it sounded like he meant it. So, let’s pretend he did and ask ourselves, What does it mean?

It means that Ted Cruz has endorsed socialism. There is no other way to look at it. Ted Cruz is a socialist. He is as red as any La Réunion colonist ever was. He essentially said the United States is just one big La Réunion-like settlement. But, of course, we all know Ted Cruz doesn’t see it that way. Houston is a special case. It is a limited case. We shouldn’t get carried away with this socialist talk, he would insist.

But he’s wrong. What he advocates is a form of socialism. It is the government taking something from one citizen and giving it to another. And that idea is, theoretically, what conservatives have always hated. It is, theorectically, what they want to erase from American life. It is, theorectically, why they constantly attack New Deal thinking and programs.

But the still-developing disaster in Houston and elsewhere isn’t theoretical. The cloak-room purity of free markets and rugged individualism has surrendered to the stark reality that we all are necessarily in this together. Or at least we should be. My problem is not with sending whatever is necessary to help folks in Texas and Louisiana recover from this tragedy. Of course we should assist them, even if their Republican politicians are horrible legislators.

My problem is that some people can only see the need for socialist-like responses during large-scale disasters like this one. These types of events clearly demonstrate the foolishness of drown-government-in-the-bathtub ideology. Everyone can see that the future of Houston and other communities will depend on a large distribution—redistribution—of federal dollars, just like what happened here in Joplin. Ted Cruz can see that. All Republicans in Texas can see that. What they can’t see is that the same application of socialist thinking—the democratic variety—ought to be applied even when parts of the country haven’t been shellacked by a massive storm.

Every day someone experiences their own personal Hurricane Harvey. It may be a lost job or a devastating medical diagnosis. It may be the reality of being trapped in poverty, without a means of escape. It may be a drug addiction. It could be any number of things. And our reaction to these individual storms should be the same as if they occurred on a massive scale in a matter of a few days. There’s no reason to think otherwise. If democratic socialism is good during collective disasters, it is good during individual disasters.

And the theoreticians on the right know this. Back in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina hammered New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, the Bush administration proposed a post-storm aid program that bothered the puritans of parsimony, the ideologues of individualism. Writing for Reason magazine (“Bush’s Disaster Socialism“), Shikha Dalmia explained her opposition:

Conservatives care not just about the size of government but about its scope as well. Direct federal aid—aid disaster victims don’t even have to justify to a bureaucracy—would inevitably expand Americans’ sense of individual entitlement, establishing a dangerous precedent. On Bush’s principles, why not have the federal government pay for health insurance, job training, and child care for victims of any calamity? After all, why are people who knowingly live in a hurricane-prone area more worthy of federal largesse than those who meet with random, unpredictable accidents? In short, how can Bush resist any suggestion to launch an all-encompassing national accident insurance program?

 You can see that, like George W. Bush’s proposals in 2005, Ted Cruz’s embrace of “disaster socialism” throws a wrench into the intellectual machinery of anti-welfare, anti-statist, ideologues. They see what it really means to embrace federal aid to hurricane victims. They see the socialism at the heart of it.

Shikha Dalmia asked the right question: “why not have the federal government pay for health insurance, job training, and child care for victims of any calamity?” Why not? Because Ted Cruz and others like him, hypocrites hungry for collective dollars today, will lose their appetite for those dollars when it comes time to hand them out to victims of “random, unpredictable” misfortunes that happen in everyday life.

That’s why not.

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19 Comments

  1. Many (not all) conservatives have a stunted empathy response, or don’t have one at all. They are OK with telling people that they should “get off their ass and WORK” to solve all the problems of a very uneven playing field. When they personally experience that unevenness, well, then, “someone should help me!” They seem unable to extrapolate events that could effect them individually to some future date when they might need help. The ultimate irony is that those of us who CAN see ourselves in a huge bind in the future, and needing help, will help these empathy-blighted assholes anyway.

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  2. Anonymous

     /  August 29, 2017

    I think the economic disaster in Detroit and the auto bailouts are a very good example of what you are saying here. The regulars here probably recall our past debates here on the subject. While the auto industry helped our country survive world war 2 and provided hundreds of thousands of middle class jobs to Americans, Houston has also played a large role in our energy/employment needs for decades. Both deserve our attention in the name of our best interests as a country. But just watch the difference of the of Cruz and company when it comes time to hand out money to the energy companies affected by the hurricane versus their comments and actions concerning the auto bailouts in the past. Republicans will not demand cuts elsewhere as they have done to other regions in time of need. And also watch as Democrats WILL NOT hold up funds to assist the Texas coastal region.

    Kevin Beck

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  3. Well said, Duane.

    The ability of the public to ignore reality is not to be underestimated. Copies of the Globe and The National Enquirer are still selling well, judging by the racks at the checkouts. Trump’s core supporters are still defiant at his rallies. Meanwhile, they don’t seem to realize that their share of “voodoo economics” never did trickle down their way. Also, the irony is perhaps thickest in the healthcare debacle where preventive care by government would be cheaper in the long run rather than waiting for conditions to become acute. If the Ted Cruz’s of the country revealed their true colors by repealing the law requiring ER’s and hospitals to take patients regardless of ability to pay, the issue would suddenly become clear to everyone. But they don’t have the guts to do that. Fixing stupid is an unrewarding battle.

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  4. ansonburlingame

     /  August 30, 2017

    Helping others in need is not socialism, it is being human. But defining “need” and deciding how much help is needed is a whole different discussion.

    Before reading this blog and thinking of Harvey, I wrote Carol (our local editor) an email. Within I asked the Globe to do an in depth story of how much money Joplin actually received to recover (and will need to continue that process), from both government and private funds.

    Recall first estimates of $ needed was about $2.5 Billion. How much we have actually spent is totally unknown to me. Did we get enough, too little, etc., I have no idea as well other than to look around the city now and see that things are “pretty good 6 years afterwards”.

    My point of course is that I recalled arguments on this blog, after tornado, that government might not step up to help, enough. But sure seems like it did do exactly that. Will a different administration do likewise, regardless of party? Probably but everyone will still argue about what will be enough.

    Can Joplin now honestly say enough was, in fact, enough? Or will some still scream for more. On different tack, we VOTED to increase taxes for schools and the superintendent was later fired over issues related to money as part of that argument. Hmmmm?

    Schools, according to some I suppose, think Joplin got too much money from local sources for new schools but they might still argue we have not yet gotten “enough from government”???? Guess they did not hear Sec of Ed (OBAMA ADMINISTRATION) praise Joplin for building a 21st Century High School. Na, too much money spent on such they seem to think. Also “they” (meaning government) got the color of some seats in a gym wrong!!!!!

    Anson

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  5. Anonymous

     /  August 30, 2017

    Anson,

    Revisionist history on the tornado? The total damage was $2.5 billion with most covered by insurance. FEMA assisted renters and people with no insurance. They also provided clean up if you gave them ROE (right of entry) to your property. However, insured homeowners that did this saw the city go after their insurance proceeds if the generous amount provided by insurers was not entirely utilized. Most assistance was provided to the city via CDBG (community development block grants), infrastructure repairs, and other grants. The city wasted over a million on a Master Developer (the one that you looked into his eyes and saw a good and honest man) that went bankrupt.

    As far as the Superintendent of Schools that was dismissed (retired, haha) for gross financial incompetence, and earned the R8 a “fair” rating by the State Auditor only because they couldn’t prove criminality. The CFO referred to the Superintendent building back items that didn’t exist prior to the tornado as “might as well” spending. Gross incompetence on his part as well. You also spoke highly of the Superintendent, who remains unemployed by any self respecting district to date. Not to mention the City Mgr. that required police intervention in a domestic assault on his pregnant wife, or the Mayor that assisted a developer in acquiring 20 properties to resale to the city at a 300% profit. All good men per you.

    The situation in Houston is totally different, this is a result of flooding. Of the 1.6 million homes in the Houston area, only 15% have flood insurance. Damages from the flood are not covered under standard wind and hail insurance, only the “lucky” folks in Rockport that had homes destroyed by the hurricane will recover monies. There are well over 30,000 people in shelters, not counting those sheltering with friends, family, and complete strangers. What do you tell those people, Anson? Sorry that your home wasn’t in a flood zone and that you didn’t need to buy flood insurance, but we believe in self reliance? Could you replace everything you own, including your mortgage without assistance?

    Cruz has been exposed as a hypocrite, as have many in the Freedom Caucus, that believe assistance for these types of catastrophes are not a responsibility of the government. Who the hell designated and printed the flood zone maps that insurers work from? The Corps of Engineers. Who is responsible for lakes and levees breaching? The same people that built them or the homeowners downstream? I would hazard a guess that the damage is close to $100 billion, with most unable to recover anything from insurance. I assure you that Trump industries will not assist one homeowner. It is the job of our government to assist these citizens, and if it results in higher taxes, and not the corporate tax breaks the pervert in chief has promised, so be it.

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  6. Anonymous

     /  August 30, 2017

    Sorry Anson, but the Texas Republicans were just being plain evil spirited f—— ass—- hypocrites when delaying Sandy relief for 3 months. 20 of them, and some did call it socialism or subsidies. When Gov Chris Christie calls you out for being a hypocrite, that is saying something. I won’t even get into the religious aspect of these folks. Fortunately for Texans most of the country, particularly the North Eastern politicians, will not conduct themselves with such open hostility towards fellow Americans in need.

    Kevin Beck

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  7. ansonburlingame

     /  August 31, 2017

    Kevin,

    We can argue forever whether or not C. J. Huff and David Wallace were good, honest men or incompetent, perhaps even criminal men. Met with them both extensively, talked with them for hours on end, reviewed documentation, etc. and came to my own conclusions. No reason to continue argument over “character” issues. It is history, but still there are lessons to be learned from Joplin’s own substantial, but small compared to either Sandy Hook or now starting in Houston, etc.

    Such an effort to see what HAS actually happened, just for Joplin, would add value to our never-ending political arguments over people and money. How much money did Joplin really need and how much was received? Was all the money actually received, particularly from “governments” used wisely, efficiently, etc. If waste was found, can that be a lesson learned for others now suffering from disasters?

    Most important, to me, was why our several efforts in Public-Private Partnerships seem to fail, repeatedly. When insurance proceeds were collected by private entities, homeowners and businesses, it seems that money was put to good use. Just look around and see the results. Things destroyed have been largely replaced now. Insurance, private insurance, worked or so it seems to me. I see no reason to “bitch” about that kind of relief, macro-scopically at least.

    Now show me a public-private effort that has worked well in Joplin? Hard to find if one looks just at things destroyed and now restored as a result of that effort. That is why the Master Developer effort failed. Sure W/B failed, but so did the City of Joplin, in my view. You want to blame W/B (and C.J. Huff). I want to look at something I can now influence, the public side of such failed efforts. As well, I don’t criticize any of our new schools, a totally “public” effort and I don’t believe that we wasted money, overall, in that effort to spend voter approved taxpayer $ for a 21st century school. Helluva lot better than rebuilding a 20th century school.

    How about TIF? Has that worked, as it is related to “recovery”. No way. We borrowed some $18 Million to “recover” and all we have are empty lots looking now for buyers, it seems to me. At same time schools have been short changed by at least $16 Million and BOE just raised property taxes to keep up with normal operating expense.

    In Joplin the “private” recovery seems to have worked. Not so the “government” side of recovery in some cases. Why and what could have been done to prevent such failures on the part of “government”? That is a constructive question, not a witch-hunt and the lessons learned might help ongoing recoveries today.

    Consider a glaring example in New Orleans today. I visited NO three times, post-Katrina (3 months, 2 years and 5 years afterwards) and saw ongoing recovery. One thing leaps out of headlines in NO, recently. Taxpayers spent some $10 Billion to “fix” dikes and pumping systems, post-Katrina. The Corps turned over those rebuilt systems to city, heavy rainfall happened and City of NO recently flooded, again, because pumping system did not work right. Why? The Mayor himself is firing civil servants right and left after that new “disaster”. Why? Is that a “horse already left the barn” reaction, again?

    Finally, in terms of recovery in Joplin I still see, clearly, two men, Rohr and Huff, that stood tall in the hours and days following tornado. As well if I had to pick a set of those that failed I would point directly at the “Gang of Five” on the old City Council. If “Joplin, “with the Globe doing a credible job of “looking back, now” reviews, constructively, lesson’s learned from 6 years of recovery, then value might well be added to our ongoing discussions of both how to prevent huge disasters and how to recover when they happen. It would be a timely “post action report”, just as the Navy is trying to do now with collisions.

    Anson

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    • Anonymous

       /  August 31, 2017

      Anson,

      You called all four men that I, not Kevin, described above Heroes of the Joplin tornado in your blog. I advised you then that you were so far off base you were AWOL for civic duty. Huff hasn’t found employment, Rohr was fired again for the umpteenth time, Woolston resigned in disgrace to avoid an ethics hearing and is under FBI investigation because the County DA didn’t prosecute for fear of losing election as a judge. As for Wallace, he is named in numerous lawsuits and bankrupt. If you refer to these men as heroes, you are morally bankrupt. I expect you didn’t bother to read the facts regarding FEMA coverage, flood damages, and the government’s responsibility for these citizens losses, but its there, could you only comprehend.

      Ben Damm Field

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      • Anonymous

         /  August 31, 2017

        Anson,

        Just to clue you in on how disasters work, if you care to research the news. Cities get grants and development funds from the Feds to make necessary repairs. If that city chooses as Joplin did to utilize $20 million dollars of grants to rebuild a new city library on rented property that possibly reverts to the landowner if the city fails to meet terms of the lease, that’s okay with the Feds. The fine Republican leadership of our city chose to do that. Lease the land for $13,500 per month for four years with the rate increasing each year. After four years the option to buy the land becomes available should the city have $4 million for the two acres as agreed upon. If not the lease continues and ultimately costs the taxpayers tens of millions of dollars or abandonment of the building.

        My union, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, out of St. Louis donated $100k to the Salvation Army in Joplin with the stipulation that the money remain in Joplin for Joplin residents. In 2015, St. Louis Today, reported the Salvation Army had failed to utilize those funds. The Salvation Army then paid the money to J-HAP (a home buying program that paid up to $30k of the cost of the home in the affected area, whether or not the buyer was a victim) and that’s where that was utilized. Most of the “private” aid money that Joplin received wars donated to civic organizations I.e. Ozark Center, Community Clinic, etc…it did not go into the hands of those affected, but to organizations which serve the less fortunate.

        So please save us the wise conservative prudence spiel and try to pay attention to the real world, not what is reported by Fox News. There are not money hungry liberals running around in Houston trying to scam your tax dollars, they are even conservatives there that lost their property because of a catastrophe that was as much the governments fault as it was Mother Nature’s. If you don’t want to assist by donating, at least shut your pie whole while responsible men do the government’s business by assisting those in need.

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        • That’s very interesting about the financial arrangement for the city library. I didn’t know that. If true, it sounds outrageous to me. Who owns the land?

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          • Anonymous

             /  August 31, 2017

            Jim,

            The Jennings family, the McDonald’s franchisee for Joplin. It’s a family trust. Old money, old friends here.

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            • Anonymous

               /  August 31, 2017

              Jim,

              FYI, you can call the Joplin City Manager, Sam Anselm, and he will provide you a link to view the contract on the land rental. It is available for public inspection.

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        • So please save us the wise conservative prudence spiel and try to pay attention to the real world, not what is reported by Fox News.

          You might as well ask him to stop referring to “the Democrat Party”, or to do something even easier (for him) than either of those, like unscrambling an egg.

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  8. ansonburlingame

     /  September 1, 2017

    Jim,

    You would be surprised over local political matters. The above reply dealing with new library is accurate. Unmentioned was the $25 Million spent to build new library but the old one was not in any way damaged by tornado. As well City now has empty building and anyone with interest wants City to foot a bunch of bills, if they they agree to take it over.

    Add in trying to get prof. baseball to Joplin and debt incurred but no new income to service the debt, now. Then there is new Art Center efforts. Private donations will cover construction IF City provides land and budget to support operations for 4 years to tune of $750,000, money City does not have to help operational costs.

    And of course TIF, leaving schools short some $16 Million and BOE just had to raise property taxes to keep up with operating expenses.

    The stories, all somehow related to a degree to tornado recovery, are examples of mistakes. Thus why not do a good lesson’s learned, not as a witch-hunt but as value added to others suffering disaster and recovery efforts.

    I hasten to add that our City Council is made up of people trying hard to do right things, mostly. There is one that echoes good ole boy things of past, in my view but I don’t write about it now. As well our City Manger and Treasurer are both good and honest civil servants today. Having said that I am sure Fields will once again get in my face!!

    Good reasons Duane doesn’t delve into local politics.

    Anson

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    • Ben Damn Field (no S required)

       /  September 1, 2017

      Jim,

      Anson won’t respond to me or the teachers that chastised him until he shut his blog down. Under bellies of Joplin is what he calls us. But, to correct what he said, the library did not cost $25 million, just 20, lol. The loss to income to schools for the TIF he laments,was signed off on by the Superintendent of Schools. He met with city officials and agreed to it, not sure how you can define such ignorance as heroic. The Finance Director, not Treasurer, just made the news for her lack of concern for the city’s interest in the newest TIF, Hope Valley on I-44 at Richard Joseph Blvd. That TIF, not the one Huff signed off on, has a treasurer that also managed a TIF in Neosho where public funds were transferred to his account. The Finance Director may be honest, but she is dumber than a box of rocks if that is not a concern.

      As far as Anselm, the city manager, I called him a liar in front of the Building Board of Appeals court and was granted relief by the Board from his assertion. Honest he is when you call him out. The “good ole boys” he referred to consisted of Dr. Benjamin Rosenberg, William Searce, and Howard Golden that terminated Rohr after hearing sworn testimony from a city employee that saw Rohr assault his wife in public and this is not even the occasion that Police intervention was required, another instance. Yes, I would to them as good old boys that don’t tolerate such conduct. Huff and Rohr have both been proclaimed heroes by Anson to this day. I refer to such men as losers that are beneath contempt.

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    • @Anson,
      No, I am not surprised by what you say about local political matters. I haven’t commented on them in blogs because my only source of info is the Globe and I assume others know more because of local involvement. That said, it seems to me that the new library was a huge boondoggle and a waste of taxpayer money. Our “old” library is a beautiful building and was very well suited to its purpose as far as I can see. Its replacement had nothing to do with the tornado!

      Same goes for the restructure of south Main most of which wasn’t damaged by the tornado. Obviously, Republican pols care nothing about government waste when filling their own troughs. I thought about this again upon reading in this morning’s Globe of Crowder College naming their alternative-energy center for none other than Roy Blunt. Now that’s a political oxymoron if I ever heard of one! As Bugs would say, what a maroon! Shameless!

      I think you’re right about the Art Center too. This decades-long obsession with bringing back Main Street reeks of cronyism. I think that you are way too easy on the city council and management for all this. Ben Field makes some good points about it.

      Jim

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  9. Ben Damn Field (no S required)

     /  September 1, 2017

    Jim,

    If you want to know Carol Stark’s role in this, she like Anson, championed Rohr. She went as far as to write a Page1 story on Dr. Rosenberg being issued a citation for driving with a dog in his lap. Like anyone the good doctor took exception to the officer’s priorities, and the Globe inferred he was abusing his authority as a council member.

    Stark also wrote numerous stories on William Scearce trying to convince the public that he was somehow involved in a gambling operation ran by man who leased property from Scearce. Stark was advised by Tom Loraine, a former federal prosecutor, that investigated Woolston, Rohr, and the Master Developer that any future salacious articles by her regarding Scearce could result in a lawsuit. She has not published another.

    Stark and the Globe had the 911 call to police from Rohr’s stepdaughter in which she stated he was assaulting her pregnant mother, but chose to not report on it or the incident report. As Rohr was the supervisor of the police as well, an independent agency, Sheriff’s Dept. or Highway Patrol should have been called. Stark has never published The Loraine Report as it concurs with the Mo. State Auditor’s findings. I no longer read the rag.

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  10. Anonymous

     /  September 2, 2017

    In 2016, Texas Republicans came up 2 votes shy of secession. Although I strongly believe that Texas citizens deserve any and all help to get back on their feet, I think we need to ask their politicians to agree to some sort of collateral if the Federal Government (which they hate) is giving them money. How do we protect our interests against radical Texas politicians while helping our fellow US citizens? Texas politicians cannot continue to have it both ways. We need to have in place an agreement that states they owe this money back if they any such votes in the future.

    Kevin Beck

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