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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The Wisdom Of Ozark Billy Long

In all the excitement over what freaked-out conservatives are calling President Obama’s “gun grab,” we perhaps lost sight of what Republicans actually tried to do to the citizens of the Northeast, those who suffered from the ravages of Hurricane Sandy.

A staggering 179 Republicans voted against helping those folks affected by the massive storm. It’s a wonder that there are any members of the Republican Party left in New York or New Jersey, but I saw plenty of them thanking “Congress” for helping them out. But, once again, it was Democrats who saved the day, with all but one of them in the House voting to help (that one nay vote by a Democrat was scandalous, by the way).

But perhaps the biggest scoundrel of all the 179 Republicans who voted against aiding storm victims was our own Ozark Billy Long, who, after bragging about all the help he secured for Joplin after our tornado, couldn’t muster support for equally needy folks in the Northeast.

Look at this headline from NPR in 2011, after our killer tornado:

A Foe Of Big Government Seeks Aid For Joplin

That article ended with this:

Long says he’s confident that whatever tough choices may have to be made, Uncle Sam’s not going to skimp on helping people laid low by a natural disaster.

As for the government, there are still a lot of things Long aims to change, but it’s less likely you’ll hear him complaining any more about being “fed up.”

Ozark Billy earned from the American Conservative Union a 92 rating, which made him “the most conservative member of the Missouri delegation in 2011,” said Billy. Congratulations to him. And with the “no” vote on help to victims of Hurricane Sandy, he is on track to be a hero of reactionary conservatives again in 2013.

But he is, without a doubt, a hypocrite, a self-serving scoundrel who takes credit for helping the local folks with dollars from others, including dollars from people in the Northeast, but is unwilling to do the right thing when those other folks need our help.

The people who voted for Billy Long should, but won’t, be ashamed of themselves. He could run and be reelected a thousand times in this sense-forsaken area.

And, by the way, who could have guessed this:

Rep. Billy Long said he is categorically opposed to the new gun restrictions proposed by President Barack Obama on Wednesday, arguing they would interfere with Americans’ ability to defend themselves.

The Springfield News-Leader also reported some Ozark Billy folk wisdom:

“People need to be able to defend themselves, as crazy as this world’s getting,” Long said.

When he was a child and learned about some tragedy like a shooting, Long said, his grandmother would tell him “there’s just a lot of meanness in the world.” That still resonates with him today, he said, adding “we need to figure out as a society what we’re doing to augment that meanness.

Meanness. It comes in all forms, including withholding help from folks in need in a part of the country that would, because they are sensible Americans, laugh Billy Long off any goddamned ballot.

“Stupid FEMA Trucks”

By now we have all been reminded, through various statements he has made in the past, how Mitt Romney feels about FEMA and firemen and policemen, about those faces of government that folks in a heap of storm trouble rely on, in this complex society, whether the need is rescue, recovery, or rebuild.

We know all about that in Joplin. More than a dozen federal agencies were on the ground here after our tornado, and in our community of about 50,000 folks, more than 800 FEMA employees were doing their thing here, so much so that people normally a little suspicious of government, like the president of our Chamber of Commerce, said,

FEMA was an absolute champion.

Millions upon millions of dollars from American taxpayers have flowed into this area for all kinds of purposes, from housing to debris removal. President Obama has been here two times, pledging each time to keep government’s commitment to partner with private efforts to get Joplin back on its feet.

As we see the horrendous pictures on television of the destruction brought on by a much larger storm than the devastating Joplin tornado, as we see government workers of all kinds on the ground doing what it is they do in the wake of such destruction, we should remind ourselves of how strong is the anti-government spirit that animated Mitt Romney to say “we cannot afford” to do the kinds of things that those government workers, firemen, cops, and, yes, FEMA folks, are now doing all over the Sandy-ravaged Northeast.

Or animated Romney to say, in the context of FEMA and disaster relief:

Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. 

That anti-government spirit is strong, indeed. Last year, the popular conservative, Glenn Beck, announced that he was going to bring ordinary people, including religious leaders, together to, as one report put it,

step up and help the less fortunate by providing goods and services for the poor and for people who are faced with a disaster like Hurricane Katrina or the Joplin, Missouri tornado.

“God forbid if there is a Joplin or Katrina,” Beck said. “If we have done our job so well that when the stupid FEMA trucks come rolling down, we say ‘Man, turn around, push off,’ that’s when Man will be free again.”

Stupid FEMA trucks.” I wonder how many Glenn Beck, anti-government conservatives in the path of Hurricane Sandy feel that way about FEMA trucks today?

Locally, here where FEMA and the federal government has played such a crucial role in our post-tornado recovery, a local blogger, a man who sometimes writes the in-house editorials for the Joplin Globe , a man who is often a guest Globe columnist, wrote earlier this year:

America was great because of the lack of government controls, by and large. I want to go “back” to that principle and simply allow government to do the minimum needed to prevent anarchy. Otherwise let the “people” sort it all out on their own. I don’t care how “complex” society becomes. The Constitution is so basic to any society that it will work fine regardless of new technology.

As for “needs” of people, That has NEVER changed in history. And by and large the Constitution ignores those needs other than defense against foreign “needs”.

Give people freedom and they will by and large as a nation do fine.

This writer, again a man with a voice on the Joplin Globe’s editorial page, including authoring some of its own editorials, said he wants to go back to a time when there was just enough government to “prevent anarchy.” Let people “sort it all out on their own,” he said, no matter how “‘complex’ society becomes.”

Hmm.

Give people freedom,” this writer says, and “by and large” they’ll do just fine.

By and large. I wonder, as I see folks all over the Northeast in shock at what has happened to them, what has happened to their communities, if they are by and large doing just fine. I wonder if all those storm victims, including conservative ones, want to sort it all out on their own. I wonder if those victims long for a shoestring government just big enough to prevent anarchy.

Yes, I wonder.

Hurricane Sandy: Union Thugs At Work

After The Storm Is Over

In my reaction to the Joplin Globe’s why-should-the-rich-pay-more reasoning in its editorial endorsing Mitt Romney, I wrote:

…let’s just let the moochers and their mooching kids in Romney’s “47%” starve to death here in our lovely Joplin community, a community propped up by a lot of government money after the tornado paid us a visit. Now that houses and businesses are going up all over the place, now that there is plenty of money floating around this FEMA-blessed area, to hell with everyone else.

I had forgotten, when I wrote that, that Mittens had something to day during a CNN Republican primary debate about the kind of federal disaster relief that benefited folks here in Joplin:

KING: What else, Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?

ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. 

Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut — we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in. We cannot…

KING: Including disaster relief, though? 

ROMNEY: We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.

The Joplin Globe, a paper that has spent the last 17 months chronicling the post-tornado recovery of Joplin, including stories on the large role FEMA and the federal government played in that recovery, endorsed a man who said that “we cannot afford to do those things” these days because neither he nor the Joplin Globe believe that the rich should pay a little more in taxes.

It will be interesting to see how many Republicans, those in the path of Hurricane Sandy, will refuse the help of the federal government after the storm is over.

I didn’t see any refusal of federal help around here in this very red Republican town after the tornado tore through the middle of it, and I don’t expect Governor Christie or any other Republican official or any other Republican voter will say after their storm subsides, “No, we cannot afford to do those things.”

 

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