Love and War in Texas

Love and War in Texas isn't just a good restaurant in Plano or a Rusty Wier song, it's a pretty good description of what's happening around here these days. Everyday people and businesses love Texas and the economic and social environment it provides. The Obama administration, however, has all but declared war. Texas occupies a large part of this blog and my life. It is my home and my heritage and when someone attacks, it pisses me off, just like it would anyone when their home is threatened. Thank God and the U.S. Constitution that there's an election next year.

Twenty-five million people live in Texas and the population is predicted to grow anywhere from 9 to 18 million in the next 20 years, a pretty good indicator that it's a good place to live. The rest of the country is probably sick of hearing about jobs in Texas so quoting the statistics probably isn't helpful. What most people are not aware of is that Texas (the cheap bastards), despite what you've heard, is actually pretty darn good at public education and improving the environment. More interesting than any of this is why.

Yes, Texas has benefitted from increased oil prices, but they don't control the market. And yes, Texas managed the housing bust better than most because of better lending (and regulation) and realistic valuations. It's not just a lucky coincidence, though; the environment needs to be right for good things to happen. Individuals need the freedom to make decisions in their own best interest. That includes families and businesses, too. Texas is far from perfect, but based on how it is surviving economically and future prospects, it must be doing something right. Among the things Texas gets right ...

  • it's a right-to-Work state with marginal political influence from labor unions
  • operating costs are low, taxes are reasonable and regulation is relatively fair
  • there is a generally pro-business attitude 
  • housing and the cost of living are relatively low and fair
  • the industrial base is diverse
  • there is a culture of independence, self-sufficiency, competition and personal responsibility

There are quite a few states with these characteristics, and I would be happy to live in any of them, though Texas will always be home. Some states, however, don't look like this and I would not live in them because I like living in America. If I wanted to live in Europe, I'd move to the real place, not some Democrat euro-wannabe fantasy-land facsimile.

This is where the conflict begins. Obama proclaimed he wanted to fundamentally change America, and it appears he is attempting to do it by taking down Texas, a great example of what America can do. The Obama administration has clearly demonstrated what he meant by "fundamental change" and it is actually worse than I feared. If he doesn't believe in Texas, if he somehow thinks Texas is wrong or an outlier or the enemy, then he doesn't believe in America. To borrow a phrase from Mark Levin, "That's right. I said it."

Texans voted against Obama in 2008, as everyone, including Obama, knew they would. No one would have expected, however, that Texas would get targeted for punishment by the new president especially considering that Travis County, home of the liberal bastion Austin, had the second largest amount of contributions by county to the Obama campaign, second only to Cook County, Illinois. Is "targeted" too strong? It certainly doesn't seem too strong from here in sunny North Texas.

Google "obama texas vindictive" and you'll get nearly a million hits so obviously the idea of Texas being a target is not new or original. There are plenty of news items describing how this administration treats Texas. Let me save you some trouble. None of the items describe this treatment as fair or equitable. When you connect the dots all lines point to Obama, his statist ideology and his obvious dislike of my home.

Some would say these things are simply a return to 'normal' after the (highly debatable  and supposed) advantages Texas received under the Bush administration. Others argue that these things are deserved punishment for non-compliance rather than political retribution. Admittedly, Texas has always been a non-compliant kind of place. And some, of course, simply applaud and say "Well played, Obama!" To a Texan these stories are the poke, poke, poke in your chest from a school yard bully. Will the bully cross the line? Will the persecuted finally bow up ?

If the latest poke doesn't do it, it should.

The EPA has decided to include Texas in a new rule regulating sulfur dioxide emissions. Texas will be included despite the fact that the EPA's own studies showed that Texas was not contributing to higher SO2 levels in 'downwind' states. This was an 11th hour change, with no notification, no scientific justification and no opportunity to participate in the legally required public review and comment process. In short, the EPA, which is without question under the immediate and close direction of the Obama Administration, has chosen to arbitrarily enforce a puntive and undeserved regulation on Texas.

You may think, "What's the big deal? It's just another regulation." This one, however, is especially pernicious. It directly affects several key aspects of Texas' economic success. The significant details of its impact are described here and here, but the short version is that this new mandate will ...

  • increase electricty rates by $1 billion per year
  • significantly reduce electricity production capacity, hamstringing economic growth
  • cost 14,000 jobs in coal and related industries inside Texas
  • reduce state revenue
  • increase the cost of living
  • further destroy the line between state authority and federal demands

Call me part of the vast right wing conspiracy, but here's how I read it. Texas has demonstrated economic success with policies that are the anti-thesis of the Obama administration's. Obama does not tolerate alternative ideas or having his policies and ideology questioned. He is not going to win Texas regardless of what he does between now and the general election. The only way he can reduce the impact that 'The Texas Way' narrative will have in the 2012 campaign, which could be crucial in swing states and with independent (mainstream media, unthinking) voters, is to take the legs out from under the Texas economy, force it to stumble in time for the election. This under cutting can't be too obvious, there's no sense in creating a public dust-up on something major that might grab headlines, so why not use the minions at the EPA to provide distance and cover? It can be implemented quickly (an 11th hour change), without discussion or coverage (no public review and comment) and few outside of Texas will be aware of it (the technical and scientific issues are too daunting for the typical 30 second story on the CBS Evening News ... as if).

Is my reading far-fetched? Perhaps, but here's another nugget of information regarding this supposedly objective EPA decision. Just as Texas was added to the mandate at the last minute several other states were dropped, including Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, despite all of them being part of the initial reports and plans and despite them collectively contributing much more to the problem. Four blue and two swing. Imagine that. An unexpected turn of events, don't you think?

Am I too cynical, too paranoid? Maybe. Are there any blue states that have received treatment similar to Texas under this administration? If so, that still doesn't justify Obama's treatment of Texas, and it would only prove that Texas has not been singled out, that there is more than one target in his undeclared war. These incidents, and my interpretation of them, prove nothing except for the fact that Texas has and will suffer under this administration. Given this fact, I can see only a few possible explanations for Obama's actions.

  • The suffering is entirely unintentional, an unforeseen consequence of policies that were truly intended to be a benefit. If that is the case, Obama is incompetent.
  • The suffering is entirely intentional and the punishment is deserved. If that is the case, Obama is a ruler, not a leader of free people, enforcing his will through bureaucracy and executive order, ignoring the people, eroding the republic and denying our God-given rights.
  • Some of the punishment is intentional, some is incidental. If that is the case, Obama is simply arrogant and petty. Arrogant because he is unconcerned about the incidental suffering, and petty because he, like every bully, builds himself up by keeping someone else down.

My Texas sensitivities obviously affect my perspective. Putting those aside it's easy to see that Texas is not the only target. Israel, Rush Limbaugh, small business owners, non-union workers, women, the unborn, the insurance industry, doctors, Fox News, Great Britain, the Cambridge police, Republicans, corpsmen, Sarah Palin, clingers, minority students in DC, citizens living on the border, double income families, those who like their health insurance, those who believe marriage is between one man and one woman, tax payers, Supreme Court Justices, Las Vegas, white voters in Philadelphia, market proven energy companies, those affected by the individual mandate, medicare and medicaid recipients, those counting on Social Security, children and grand-children ... all of these and more have been in Obama's cross-hairs  The question is, do they know it and are they willing to win this war by voting him out of office.


A Larger Piece

A week ago I attempted to distill my thoughts on Ann Coulter's new book Demonic. I thought it would be easy, I mean, who doesn't love a good smack down of the opposition, especially when the writing is engaging, the thesis presents 'the enemy' in a unique perspective and the arguments are made with such passion and snark? But there is a part of me that shies away from confrontation, that makes me look at it from the opposition's view and think, "Now THAT, is over the top." It was difficult because as much as I enjoyed it, I couldn't recommend it to people who might be trying to undertand conservatism. I felt that most people, the center-right that don't admit to their conservative bent, would not be able to get past the broad generalization of the liberal 'mob' while moderates and liberals would just dismiss it as a bitchy Coulter rant.

That same evening some liberal acquaintances felt that a piece on the huffingandpuffington post was so definitively insightful that they had to share it. It was titled The Republican Spectrum of Ignorance. It was, of course, a poorly written and barely intelligible lefty diatribe on the stupidity of Republicans. I can say 'of course' based on the source alone. There was no allowance for any even potentially 'smart' Repbulicans; all conservatives, according to this author, are stupid. Reading it made me want to shout, "Amen, Sister Ann!" and just like that Demonic seemed more about truth than confrontation.

I never posted what I wrote about Demonic ... it never came together. This evening, however, a headline on Hot Air  caught my eye. It said "Video: Oddly enough, David Brooks not a fan of Ann Coulter." It worked. I just had to watch. It was linked to a Daily Caller article. Here's what David had to say about Ann [caution: personally created transcript - expect some typing lapses/shortcuts].

I'm not a huge fan of Ann Coulter. You can be more conservative than me and be perfectly respectable like Ron Paul and Marco Rubio, but Coulter, she's just a showperson. And I knew her back when she was a very 20-something recent graduate of Cornell, and I will say this for her, she's not faking it, that's who she really is, she was like that when she was twenty-four. But you know, one of the things you have to believe in politics is that people that disagree with you are at least as good as you are, they have at least, maybe not as large a piece of the truth as you do, but they have a large piece of the truth. The world is complicated. Yeah, I mean, the idea is if you're writing books with names like Traitor, whatever they are, and Libel, whatever they are called, you're basically assumming that people who disagree with you are morally inferior, illegitimate, and, you know, I face enough of that from the left. We live in a polarized world and the things that Ann Coulter does has a pernicious effect on that. 

Here's my paraphrase ...

I don't like Ann. She's more conservative than me, but I can't respect her. I will demean her by calling it all a show, but then temper that by saying she's sincere. But I don't want to be too complimentary so let me point out that it's an immature sincerity and she needs to grow up. If you don't believe like me, if , for instance, you don't believe that there is foundational truth in the liberal agenda, then you are too simple to understand the complexity of this world. There is no right and wrong, it's all relative, we can all be right on the same issue to some degree. If you point out where people are wrong, you're being too judgemental. Ann creates a lot of nasty disagreeableness and why can't we all just get along? Love means never having to say you're sorry.

... or some such sappy sentiment.

In the same interview he proclaims he has a soft spot for 'working class' plagarist Vice-President Joe Biden. The soft spot, apparently, resides in his pre-frontal lobe so I should probably cut him some slack. The point he makes about who owns the "larger piece" of truth is quite telling, and it helped me to resolve my difficulties with Coulter's book.

Enlightened, moderate, independent people no doubt embrace Brooks' view. They believe that the other side is "as good" and is operating from some morally defensible 'large piece' of truth. The idea that everyone's viewpoint is valid means that you really never have to take a stand, you really never have to have the grown-up discussion about right and wrong. There is comfort in wishy-washy committment. You are not accountable for an opinion, you avoid confrontation and no matter how things turn out you have the flexibility to 'go with the flow' and avoid all sorts of unpleasantness. The beauty of being a moderate is you can, in essence, always be right because you can support anything and are against everything.

And then there is the quintessential give up of 'it's complicated.' This is used to describe everything from facebook relationships to abortion. We all know it's an excuse. Human interaction, right and wrong, what works and what doesn't ... none of that is complicated except by our own inability to recognize and admit the facts. You want to have a relationship with someone, but you don't want to commit to them. It's not 'complicated', it's selfish. For abortion, do you or do you not want to terminate a life? Your reasons for saying yes may be unusual or unexplainable or unbearable, but it's not complicated. You do not say yes or no to that type of question without knowing, in your heart, what is right and what is wrong about the answer you give.

Brooks also mentions 'the left' and how they consider him morally inferior and illegitmate. My question is then why would he consider them to own 'a large piece' of the truth? Does he not have any confidence in his position? I have never, in any discussion with a liberal/progressive/statist/Democrat, heard the left acknowledge that I own ANY piece of the truth. I'm always the rube, the uninformed, the closed-minded, the heartless, the gullible, the easily-led, the unthinking, the stupid. They consistently treat me like this and yet, for some reason, Brooks thinks I must concede 'a large piece' of truth to them. Why? If the concession is only one way (when do liberals concede to conservative policy?) aren't we, as conservatives, admitting we are wrong? Do we or do we not believe in our stated principles?

A week ago I struggled with what to make of Coulter's book. I felt it would alienate moderates and antagonize liberals. Today, after being called stupid by 'friends', after realizing the inherent relativity of moderate independence and after recognizing that the opposition concedes no part of truth I can unequivocally say, Ann Coulter is doing the right thing. She concedes no piece of the truth to the opposition. She confidently declares there is a right and a wrong without excusing her positions by saying 'it's complicated.' She stakes out a strong position and challenges the mob not with superficial name-calling but with specific and direct attacks against their philosophical and intelluctual heritage. David Brooks believes he is morally superior to Ann Coulter and that is why he does not grant her any piece of the truth. What Brooks does not acknowledge is that truth, by definition, is binary. Statements, positions and actions, as related to principles, are either true or false and therefore reside at the extremes, not in the relative mushy moderate middle.