Sunday, January 16, 2005

"That's right, you're not from Texas..."

Maybe the "blogosphere" should consider specializing, now. Rather than a proliferation of "left wing" blogs that all analyze a news story ad nauseum, and all chatter in thrumming chorus everytime "we" are disparaged by "them," maybe we the bloggers should be paying attention to what "they," the right wing politicians, are doing. Particularly what they are doing at the local level. Maybe the blogosphere needs more blogs about state politics and politicians. The famous dictum of Tip O'Neill was that: "All politics is local." And the local has a way of becoming national: as a case in point, consider Texas.

The Texas Legislature, in its last regular session, faced a huge revenue shortfall. One problem was state funding for education, a problem the "Lege" never solved. In four subsequent special sessions, it still didn't solve it. But Gov. "Goodhair" Perry made sure it solved one pressing problem: redistricting. It's not about governing. It's all about power.

Sound familiar?

Consider that, as goes Texas, so, at least the Bush administration hopes, goes the country. Bush is from Texas, but so is Cheney (he lived here while running Halliburton). Gonzalez is from Texas (execution capital of the world; no wonder torture isn't so bad). Rod Paige came from Houston. Scott McClellan's mother is the State Comptroller. And almost the entire Texas House delegation, one of the largest in Congress, is GOP now, thanks to Tom DeLay. Texas, like it or not, rules.

And now, Texas wants to privatize every major public roadway in the state. Just ask Ric Williamson, chair of the Texas Transportation Commission, and Rick Perry's good friend: "In your lifetime, most existing roads [in Texas] will have tolls."

The Legislature has passed a law allowing private companies to build toll roads in Texas, and one from Mexico already wants to build a toll road paralleling I-35 between San Antonio and Dallas (the major interstate up from Mexico). Part of the deal would include not only condemnation of private property for the road, and toll revenues, but the exclusive right to rent the property along the toll road, a right to run for at least 50 years. Imagine the possibilities.

How does this affect you, a non-Texan? " 'The federal government and other states are carefully watching to see how we do this,' says Williamson. He adds that the next project likely to attract investors will be the I-69 corridor, which will run from Laredo through -- or maybe around -- Houston."

When the budget crunch hit Texas 2 years ago, the Legislature didn't do anything for public school funding, causing a crisis in many public schools; and it lowered the already stingy CHIP payments, throwing many poor children onto the tender mercies of financially strapped county hospitals. The national echo of that sentiment, which Molly Ivins has documented was intentional, not accidental (Grover Norquist finds a very receptive audience in the Texas GOP) is the current Social Security "debate." Now, when Ric Williamson says "The federal government [is] carefully watching to see how we do this," it's time to pay attention. And perhaps to be afraid.

Because: "That's right, you're not from Texas. But Texas wants you anyway."

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