Republican policies can be deadly. Literally.
Flint, MI and West, TX share several things in common. First of all, both cities have suffered human imposed devastating catastrophes that have caused death, disease and life long health challenges for many of their residents. As we’ve learned in the recent reports in the media, thanks to Rachel Maddow's exhaustive reporting, Flint’s water supply is contaminated by lead. A natural disaster, such as a tornado, hurricane, flood or other severe weather event did not cause this human catastrophe. Man made decisions, driven by austerity measures and conservative politics are directly responsible for the city’s poisoned water supply.
In 2013 a fertilizer plant in West, TX exploded. Fifteen people were killed, two hundred and twenty six were wounded. Ten first responders are included in the death toll. The explosion destroyed three nearby schools, a nursing home and 37 of the town’s blocks.
The Chairman of the U.S. Chemical Board said this accident should have never happened. As in the case of Flint, a bolt of lightening or extremely dry weather did not ignite this disaster.
A volatile chemical, man imposed negligence, the failure of the state to regulate dangerous chemical plants and the Texas Republican ethos of “job killing regulations are bad for business” contributed to the town’s death and destruction. In the case of West, lack of regulation is the real killer. The plant did not possess a water sprinkling system. The state does not require one. Texas doesn’t even have a fire code. Worse, small counties are forbidden to implement them. In the state of Texas the interests of business, profits and subsequent campaign donations rule over a community’s safety.
The Governors of Michigan and Texas are Republicans. Both embrace small government, low taxes, little regulation and lean and mean state budgets. Both Rick Synder and Greg Abbott have slashed budgets for their states’ infrastructures. And the two Republican Governors are cheerleaders for ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Commission), an organization that promotes business interests and profits over the rights and protections of consumers. It is anti-union. It supports the NRA and its Stand Your Ground law. ALEC has dabbled in voter suppression efforts. In other words its agenda is pro-corporate fascism vs. the democratic process and individual rights. Both the Governors of Michigan and Texas are among the favorites of the Koch brothers who are heavily invested in ALEC.
And so these small government, pro-business, anti consumer, anti-voting rights, pro-lax gun law Governors are guided by ideologies that are downright dangerous for the well-being of their constituents. Which is why one should consider voting Republican as a threat to one’s personal security.
I am not exaggerating.
In the case of Flint, the Governor fired the elected officials because the city is broke. Formerly known as Vehicle City, Flint is only a shadow of its past when the auto industry thrived. This is no longer the case and the state did nothing to plan ahead for a more diverse economy after the auto making industry crashed.
Rick Snyder instead nullified the democratic process in Flint, he imposed austerity measures and appointed a city manager that answered only to the him. The city manager was not accountable to residents. In short, the Governor robbed the people of Flint of their voices in government.
In order to save money the city manager changed the city’s water source from Lake Huron to the toxic Flint River. Life has been pure hell for the city’s residents ever since.
If you would like to know exactly why pro-ALEC, pro-corporate, anti rights Governors are bad for your health, just check the well-known documentary film maker and Flint native, Michael Moore’s expose below.
1. While the Children in Flint Were Given Poisoned Water to Drink, General Motors Was Given a Special Hookup to the Clean Water. 2. For Just $100 a Day, This Crisis Could've Been Prevented. 3. There's More Than the Lead in Flint's Water. 4. People's Homes in Flint Are Now Worth Nothing Because They Cant Be Sold. 5. While They Were Being Poisoned, They Were Also Being Bombed. 7. In Michigan, from Flint water, to Crime and Murder, to GM Ignition Switches, It's a Culture of Death. 8. Don't Call It "Detroit Water" -- It's the Largest Source of Fresh Drinking Water in the World. 9. ALL the Children Have Been Exposed, As Have All the Adults, Including Me. 10. This Was Done, Like So Many Things These Days, So the Rich Could Get a Big Tax Break.
As far as West, TX is concerned, the town is not any safer two years after the explosion. The plant can easily blow up again.
Two years after this catastrophe, the Center for Effective Government has taken a look at the disclosure practices around such hazardous chemicals—and found what’s required of these facilities to still be “inadequate and insufficient.”
In a report released this week, the Center for Effective Government, a non-partisan government watchdog, examined emergency response planning and reporting on chemicals required of plants like West Fertilizer under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA)—enacted in response to the 1984 release of deadly methylisocyanate gas from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India that killed thousands and injured many more—and the Clean Air Act. Instead of comprehensive and coordinated reporting and planning that could help prevent the loss of life and injuries, CEG found “a patchwork of laws and regulations that cover chemicals and are supposed to be safeguarding the public,” says CEG Open Government Policy program director Sean Moulton.
The workers and the surrounding community are sitting ducks, all over again. First responders and the community are not even aware of the chemicals that are stored in the nearby plant. When asked about disclosure of stored chemicals then Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled in favor of chemical plant secrecy. He used foreign terrorism as an excuse for covertness. Abbott told residents they could drive around and ask plant managers what chemicals are stored. Some residents did try, to no avail. There are such things as intercoms, security gates and guards. Chemical plants ran off inquiring residents.
In May, after the Chemical Safety Board report came out, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled that government entities can withhold the locations of dangerous chemicals listed in state records (Tier II reports) to protect the public from terrorism or other threats. Abbott, a far-right Republican who is the leading candidate for Governor in Texas, then said that people can identify such facilities with a “drive around” their neighborhoods, and that they can find out about the chemicals by asking the companies via letter or email. He originally said they could just walk up and ask, but had to backtrack after remembering those facilities were on private property.
Of course then gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott ruled in favor of chemical plant secrecy likely because Chase Koch, the son of Charles Koch, runs the family’s fertilizer division. He, the Koch family contributed generously to the Abbott campaign.
In reporting on Abbott’s decision, the Dallas Morning News wrote that “the fact that Abbott has taken thousands of dollars from political donors related to Koch Industries, a multinational corporation with extensive chemical interests, creates particularly noxious ‘optics’ for the Republican attorney general in his campaign for governor.”
That’s right, what Abbott was less willing to discuss was that his campaign has received more than $75,000 from Koch interests since the April 2013 explosion at the West Fertilizer Plant, including a $25,000 contribution from first-time donor Chase Koch, who recently became the head of Koch Industries’ fertilizer division. Koch, 36, is the son of Charles Koch, one of the two billionaire Koch brothers leading the family’s politically influential business conglomerate. Abbott also attended a Koch retreat in which he had the privilege of mingling with many wealthy donors.
Greg Abbott feigned foreign terrorism as an excuse for secrecy but as the article pointed out, he focused instead on keeping his domestic donors happy. And he did. At the peril of the residents of West.
Denton, TX is another case in which greed, politics and powerful interests have squashed the democratic process and the rights of a city's residents. Though a majority of the residents voted to ban Fracking, a former TX Agricultural Commissioner and current O&G lobbyist immediately filed a lawsuit. He won. Denton’s struggles deserve diaries of their own. TX Sharon, a Denton resident and environmental activists has been exposing the evils of Fracking for years. The process has contaminated water, sickened people and cattle and is the driver of plunging real estate values in the area. The Governor and Republican Legislators could care less. What is good for business is good for Texas even if it sickens, impoverishes or kills you.
Republican leaders clearly work for their donors, even if it is at the jeopardy of the people they are supposed to serve. Republican Governors do not see themselves as public servants. Their role, in their view, is one of a CEO. Rick Perry himself admitted as much when he served as Texas Governor.
Rick Snyder wanted to give tax cuts to his donors while slashing his state’s budget at the same time. The end result? Death, compromised health, learning disabilities and mental challenges for the people of Flint. For the rest of their lives. The Governor stuck his tax cuts on the backs of his most vulnerable and powerless constituents.
Greg Abbott, in pleasing Koch Industries, rendered the residents of West, a small Czech community, vulnerable to ongoing plant explosions, their attendant mortality, community destruction and life long disabilities for the survivors of these disasters. Worse, many of the potential victims likely have no health care insurance. Unfortunately, many working class Texans are too poor to afford Obamacare but are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid in stingy Texas. Both former and current Governors have refused federally expanded Medicaid which would have covered those stuck in the insurance gap.
Voting Republican can be a danger to one’s health and survival. The Party’s knee jerk pro-corporate, anti rights policies renders the Party as willfully and criminally incompetent.
It is up to voters to take down the corrupted and self-serving. We can empower ourselves to elect more altruistic and fair minded leadership. But it means massive turnouts at the voting polls, across the land. We must and can do this.
The federal court system is too slow in righting the wrongs. Reagan and Bush appointees gum up the process. Many judges are biased and ideologically driven. Wrong sometimes stays in place. The Texas redistricting maps are still in the courts, as is the Jim Crow Voter ID Law that disenfranchised 600,000 registered voters in 2014. The GOP goal? Shave off 1 to 2% of voters so it can squeak by a win. This is a common practice in red states. I heard it repeated on Friday night at a meet-up for a Democratic candidate for Harris Co. (Houston area) Tax Assessor/Voter Registrar. No county needs a Democratic Tax Assessor more than the biggest one in Texas.
How much longer are we willing to get stiffed by self-serving greed masters who have no respect for our rights and dignity? Not to mention our lives.