It’s a new year and a new legislative session in Texas.
Happy New Year, everyone! Almost everyone in America is happy that 2020 is over. This was Living Blue in Texas’ first holiday season, (the blog, not the Facebook page), and we’re happy one of the most bizarre years that most of us will ever remember is now over.
This holiday season, more than any other year before, I did a lot of reflecting on the American experience and more so, the Texas experience.
When I began this blog, it was fuel for me to get through how Covid was exploding in America and how no one could get tested. The anger that millions of us had felt this year, from Trump’s response to coronavirus, Abbott’s response, too. Posting Facebook posts just wasn’t cutting it, to get the information out there. I never expected this blog to blow up as big as it has.
I want to thank all of the readers who come back again and again to read my work. Thank you to all of you who have sent me kind words and messages. Y’all have helped me on some of the hardest days. I appreciate every one of you.
The truth about living BLUE in Texas, after two decades of Republican control.
During the Trump regime, many of us learned that the differences between us and the right were not political, but a difference of morals. Nearly all of the elected Republicans from Texas fall in line with Trump’s morals and ideology.
The BLUE vote represents our core principles, equality and equal opportunity for all Texans, and protection for civil liberties and human and individual rights. No one in America should be hungry, a woman’s medical procedures are nobody’s business, and no one should have to die without access to medical care.
People are more important than corporations, employees should earn a living wage, and our earth and environment are in danger and we must do what we can now for the preservation of the generations to come. Most importantly, Black lives matter.
The Republicans in Texas and in DC representing us are fighting against everything we believe in. This is why we can’t give up.
Healthcare is still a top priority.
This is humanity, social, and economic crisis. Before Covid-19, an average of 730 Texans were dying every year because they didn’t have health care.
From the Republican Texas Comptroller’s office, due to the mass amounts of people who are uninsured in Texas, the lack of access to healthcare is causing long-term damages to our state economy. While Republicans paint themselves out to be “fiscally conservative,” they are putting our state and our nation in debt, all while they kill us off.
Texas needs to expand the Medicaid Option, so why are Republicans resisting?
Insurance companies in America spent $110 million during the last campaign cycle. The top Texas recipient of that was John Cornyn for $458,526. Kevin Brady, Jodey Arrington, Lance Gooden, Van Taylor, Roger Williams, and Dan Crenshaw ALL of these congressmen got over six-figure donations from the insurance industry. They took those donations while millions of Texans are uninsured, sick, and dying.
It’s important to remember that as we are going into this next legislative session, these congressmen will not be fighting to help the people of Texas. Each one of these men won’t support making sure that that Texans have had affordable healthcare, it goes completely against “their principles of liberty” and leads to “socialism.”
How do we know, in a time when millions of Texans are suffering, that these men will vote against helping the people of Texas and saving America money?
Because they’ve done it before.
John Cornyn voted against reauthorizing CHIPS (Medicaid for children) four times. He voted against a bill that would require health insurance companies to cover preventative services. Cornyn voted against the Affordable Care Act when it was first introduced and then voted to abolish the Affordable Care Act at least 20 times. Not to mention he voted against TRICARE coverage for autism and against protection from employers blocking coverage for birth control.
Kevin Brady’s voting record against the people of Texas is much like Cornyn’s. He’s voted against reauthorizing CHIPS every time it came up, against health coverage for veterans, against protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions, and against lowering drug prices.
Did Brady vote to abolish the Affordable Care Act? He co-sponsored several of those bills. But, my favorite healthcare bill Brady co-sponsored was the “Save American Workers Act.”
It wasn’t actually about saving American workers, it was about changing the qualification of what labels an employee a full-time worker from 30 hours per week to 40. He did that so an employer can make an employee work 39 hours and still be considered part-time, so they wouldn’t be obligated to provide health insurance.
Don’t count on any Texas Republican in Washington D.C. to do any of us any favors regarding healthcare this year. The only hope we have is if we win both seats in Georgia on January 5.
Expanding Medicaid would be up to the state legislators, though.
Democrats will push for it this year but there is a reason that Texas is one is still one of the 11 states that haven’t implemented the Medicaid expansion.
Because Republicans have been in control of Texas for the last 20 years. The reason millions of Texans are uninsured and the reason 730 Texans die every year because of it, is Republicans have been in control for the last 20 years.
Republicans will tell you, they’re worried about “the free market” or “competitive wages for doctors,” that’s bullshit, too. In every single country in the world, even the ones with socialism, doctors work longer hours and face significant stress. They are also among the best-compensated professionals, but they will never be really rich. In fact, studies have shown that moving to a universal healthcare system would have very little impact on doctor’s incomes.
We haven’t moved to universal healthcare because Republicans have blocked it from happening, even though it would help people and even though it would save us billions of dollars. Texas Republicans have not been working for the people that they represent, they work for the highest bidder, and in healthcare, that’s insurance companies.
How else is Texas failing in healthcare?
We have the highest maternal mortality rate in America and the highest infant mortality rate. It’s flat out dangerous to be pregnant in Texas if you’re poor. 34% of our population is obese and nearly 47,000 Texans are dying each year from heart disease.
On top of all of that, Texas ranks #3 in the nation for the worst air quality. The poor air quality in Texas has led to people having decreased lung functions, asthma, bronchitis, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, and even premature death. That’s why we have an air quality alert system to tell us about the days when the air quality is orange or red and if you stay outside too long, you could prematurely die.
Ah, Texas. The freedom that we have. Go outside and take a deep breath. Smells a lot like liberty and death, with a small hint of petroleum.
Speaking of petroleum… No matter how much money Texas Republicans rack in from making sure Texans stay uninsured and sick, it pales in comparison to the money that they’re raking in from the oil and gas industry.
Oil billionaires hold the strings to each elected official of the Texas GOP.
That’s not a secret. It’s never been a secret. Everything is bigger in Texas, even the amount of political corruption.
In this last election cycle, companies in the energy sector accounted for six of the top highest donors. Texas produces 40% of the world’s oil and 25% of its natural gas. Even though Texas has a $1.7 trillion GDP, oil and gas only account for roughly 9% of that.
(To put that in perspective, California has $3.1 trillion GDP, but only produce 10% of the oil and gas that Texas does. Remember that statistic next time a Republican brags about Texas having the greatest GDP or California being a shithole.)
Below are some interesting charts you should see, while we’re on the subject.
The one on the left in blue is the oil and gas industry employment of the county percentage. The darker the blue is, the higher the percentage. The picture on the right in red is the cancer risk from pollution. The darker the red is, the higher the cancer risk.
Good, so we all agree the oil and gas industry in Texas is killing us?
There are several areas in Texas, where environmental racism is taking place. Deer Park, for example, has large quantities of benzene were in the air after multiple chemical fires in the area. Yet, the legislators who represent them, Congressman Brian Babin, State Senator Larry Taylor, and State Representative Briscoe Cain take in more money from the oil and gas industry each election cycle than the average American makes in a year. None of them have ever introduced bills or voted on bills that would limit this pollution.
Multiple Black and brown neighborhoods in the Houston area are also victims of environmental racism. These include Harrisburg/Manchester, Galena Park, Kashmere Gardens, and Sunnyside. In both Kashmere Gardens and the Fifth Ward, cancer clusters due to oil and gas pollution have been found in recent years. Elected Republicans in Texas take large donations from the oil and gas industry and then do nothing to protect the Texans that are being killed by the oil and gas industry.
It isn’t just the Houston area. Donna Lake in the Rio Grande Valley is full of toxic fish. Texans in East Lubbock have been fighting for cleaner air. And Port Arthur and Texas City are just waiting on an industrial disaster.
In 2020, the illegal air pollution in Texas was up 155%.
Everything is bigger in Texas, including corruption.
It’s well known that Greg Abbott may be the most corrupt of them all. Earlier in 2020, we covered how his coronavirus task force primarily consisted of billionaire campaign donors. But Abbott has always been corrupt before he even became Governor.
The Center for Public Integrity had previously given Texas a D- for state integrity. We can’t forget the scandal which surrounded now-ousted Dennis Bonnen, or how Greg Abbott had Bonnen by his side in almost every press conference regarding Covid-19, even after he was ousted.
Not long ago, the Texas Observe wrote a piece in which they outlined how Texas’ ethic laws allow corruption to flourish.
The ethics laws in Texas which politicians are supposed to abide by need an overhaul. The mass amounts of money that Texas legislatures get from PACs are directly contributed to Citizens United. Until Citizens United is overturned, our elected officials will likely continue to rake in mountains of cash from special interest groups and work in their interests and not the people of Texas’.
Racism in Texas.
In 2020, Texas still has hundreds of sundown towns. This list was started by James W. Loewen, a historian, sociologist, and author who has written several books about racism in America. It’s an incomplete list. While some of the more well-known sundown towns, like Vidor, are on the list, lesser-known towns like Nocona and Cumby made the list.
Before this year many of us never knew the extent of how bad things have been for Black and Hispanic people living in rural Texas. Maybe it’s because we have been paying more attention or maybe it’s because of the George Floyd uprising, but our eyes have been opened to how different things are in places that have a small population and are more than an hour’s drive from the closest big city.
Gainesville is the first town that we wrote about, regarding what was happening surrounding Pro-Gainesville’s protests over the Confederate statue. It shocked a lot of us. How are we living in 2020 and people are fighting so hard to keep racist symbology on their courthouse lawns?
The Confederate state of Texas.
Not long after the first Gainesville protest, the incident in Weatherford happened. Both of those places have been actively and consistently working for the removal or move of their statues. They aren’t alone. Living Blue in Texas has also covered Georgetown, Kaufman, Amarillo, and even the Confederate Youth Camp we have here in Texas. We’ve barely even scratched the surface. Other towns that have been fighting for the removal of their statue, but we haven’t written about yet are Bastrop, Waxahachie, Sherman, Paris, Victoria, Tyler, Vernon, and we just found out about Huntsville this week.
There are active and organized groups in each location fighting for the removal of white supremacy, in most cases on their courthouse lawn. How many more do we not know about? We don’t see it on social media or it is only covered in the local paper, which doesn’t reach beyond its county’s borders.
Despite this, Drew Springer and Steve Allison have both introduced bills to make it more difficult for municipalities to move their racist statues. Why would they do this? Why would these elected officials, who both happen to be older and white, want to keep all of the white supremacist statues in place?
In 2020, there were 1,066 people killed by police, 264 of them have been unarmed.
In previous studies done the victims were majority white (52%) but disproportionately black (32%) with a fatality rate 2.8 times higher among blacks than whites. Most victims were reported to be armed (83%); however, black victims were more likely to be unarmed (14.8%) than whites (9.4%) or Hispanic (5.8%) victims. Fatality rates among military veterans/active duty service members were 1.4 times greater than among their civilian counterparts.
It isn’t just that the police that are killing Black Americans.
Because of systematic racism within the American healthcare system, Covid-19 disproportionately killing Black and Hispanic people. In Texas BIPOC pregnant women are two to three times more likely to die in childbirth, despite it being avoidable 4 out of 5 times.
Hate crimes have been on the rise in Texas for several years. It’s an endless cycle. Keeping the racist statues up is a shout from the racists in rural Texas that Black and brown people will not have the same opportunities or be treated fairly in that town. Even in Texas school systems, white supremacy and Lost Cause ideology are still taught to Texas students.
(The state of education is in dire straights in Texas, which is why you should be looking for a special report about it from Living Blue in Texas later this week.)
It is no secret that Texas is a severely gerrymandered state. Republicans gerrymander intentionally to disenfranchise Democrats and Black people.
In a 2011 briefing from Greg Abbott, he wrote that Republicans gerrymandered intentionally to disenfranchise Democrats, and it isn’t their fault if most Black people vote for Democrats, (it was about Democrats, not Black people).
Then in 2013, with the Shelby County VS Holder decision, the majority of conservative justices decided that racism was no longer a problem in America, which paved the way for Texas to partake in more extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression.
In 2021, the state legislator is set to redraw the maps again. You can guarantee that the maps will be drawn to keep Republicans in power and Democrats unrepresented in Texas.
On top of it all, Texas Republicans want to secede from the Union.
Secession is nothing new here in Texas, this Neo-Confederate cause has been in the hearts of white Republicans for over 100 years. Each time the president is a Democrat, the Republicans reinvigorate their efforts. Unless they plan on going to war with America, it won’t happen. However, we should all be outraged that knowing how bad things are in Texas for women, children, Black and Hispanic people, that Republicans want to remove any federal protection they have. Secession won’t happen, but the intent says a lot about who Republicans are.
But you thought Texas was great for businesses?
It sure is, but it’s terrible for the workers. Texas is #1 in America for minimum-wage jobs. Over 4 million Texans were living in poverty before the coronavirus. Lack of regulations has made Texas the most dangerous state to live in for workers. In Texas, a worker dies every 16 hours from electrocution, asphyxiation, falls from roofs, exposure to toxins, equipment malfunctions, heatstroke, and automobile collisions.
Our elected Republicans are not fighting for the people of Texas to have fair wages, healthcare, or safe work environments. They are fighting to make sure Texas businesses receive the most profits, regardless of the human costs.
Republicans like to brag and boast about the Texas economy and the GDP, but millions of Texans are hungry and living destitute. Only weeks ago, Republicans held up aid while Texans waited for hours in line for food.
A lot of work has to be done.
Whether an elected official is a Republican or a Democrat, they work for us. It’s important to remind them at every turn, they represent the people. When they introduce bills and vote on bills that will hurt Texas citizens, we have to raise our voices and let it be known we oppose their efforts. Each and every time.
2020 is over, but we’re going into 2021 with the same problems we left 2020 with. It’s important now, more than ever, to pay attention to the words and actions of Texas legislators.