Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Government is evil, until . . .

     It's easy to deride Sen. Ted Cruz's double standard. In fact, he is only observing a tradition of great duration.

     Former Sen. Phil Gramm was truly a mythical bird, decrying federal spending at every stop, then racing at the speed of an arclight to the nearest microphone to take credit for any federal dollars trickling Texas' way. Such a phenom was he that the tactic earned its own term: Grammstanding.

    Now, a new term of similar feather: hypocruzy.

    Cruze is a tea party darlin', he who in one of his first votes in Washington opposed federal emergency aid after Hurricane Sandy. Now he stands before you now as Sen. Two-Face, saying he'll pursue: "all available resources" to assist after the explosion that struck the Texas town of West.

    Was Cruz careful not to mention the word "federal" when speaking of said resources? One angry observer from New York presumed so. He said Cruz and his Texas fiscal disservatives "should ask the NRA" for disaster funds.

    (Won't happen, of course. NRA funds are committed to keeping an obstructionist bloc in Congress. That investment grows pricier each year when 10 times more Americans die from gun violence than perished on 9/11.)

   This commentary could be all about the two faces of Cruz, and the principle it takes to toss one's principles out the limo window. Actually, it's about the thing that he and fellow tea partiers assail daily: that evil thing called government.

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry is a fine fiddler to that tune. Just the other day he was in Chicago beckoning businesses to Texas, where the regulatory climate is as barren as a gila monster's habitat.

     But let's be honest, because Perry won't be: While many companies would be drawn to "less government," more are interested in good schools for employees and effective public services, like highways that work. Each of those involves government. Texas lawmakers have dedicated themselves to less of that.

    As a presidential hopeful, Perry said he would eliminate up to three federal agencies, one of which he could not name. That comment makes him the embodiment of fiscal disservatism — making sport of cutting government first, and figuring out how it affects people later.

      Perry says that a lack of regulation didn't contribute to the West explosion. So, we can assume he and "anti-gummint''" Texas policymakers will do nothing to prevent the next disaster. 

     To that end, let's think of another disaster that affected the region in many ways, Hurricane Katrina.

      When almost nothing went right with the response to Katrina. we were to assume it to be an indictment of bungling government. In fact, it was an indictment of bunglers who didn't believe in government.

     Katrina was a test-run, for instance, of a wholly privatized Federal Emergency Management Agency. Talk about system failure. A chain of featherbedding good ol' boys assigned to be responsive to human needs turned over in bed and hit "snooze" when the alarm sounded.

   Now we have the disaster in West, at a fertilizer plant that, reports the Houston Chronicle, contained substances that would have brought federal inspectors if state agencies had notified them.

  In the aftermath, Republican Congressman Bill Flores, in whose district the disaster occurred, has asked for federal help. Like Cruz, to earn his own tea party merit badge, Flores also opposed Hurricane Sandy relief.

   So Texas' junior senator isn't the only one guilty of hypocruzy.

   Without question, the taxpayers of Texas and West deserve the help. They pay federal taxes. Unfortunately, they are represented by a breed of  posers and posturers who denounce and despise government, until they need it. 

   Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

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