Welcoming a Return to Sanity

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

In the old days, specifically during the presidency of another actor, Ronald Reagan, Republican falsehoods seemed so quaint that Americans dismissed them as such, relegating them to sloganeering.

“Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem,” the conservative president charged during his first inaugural address in 1981. Nonsense.

Reagan’s phrase was right-wing bull that expressed the belief among conservatives that small government is best. Government should stay out of people’s lives as much as possible, they believe, to avoid what they refer to as socialism, a warped definition meant to infer that old bugaboo, communism.That’s the same baloney as the right-wing belief that giving corporations and the wealthy tax cuts would mean the money they saved would trickle down to the working class. It’s a debunked theory proposed by conservatives to justify lower taxes for Republican-backed big businesses and rich donors.

Tell these ideological nonsensical, nonworking theories to the people of Texas. They relied on conservative politicians and the private sector to ensure they had heat, water and the other amenities of electricity when their state sank into a deep freeze last week.

In contrast, President Joe Biden is taking a leaf from the playbook of one of his Democratic predecessors, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the New Deal president who in part battled the Great Depression with government-created and paid-for jobs.

Biden’s first big step is a $1.9 trillion relief package for those hit hardest by the pandemic, the jobless, businesses forced to close, hard-hit schools and states pleading for money. He’s pushing this and more in the face of Republican opposition to spending more money even though America is burdened with the biggest economic and social dislocation since the 1930s.

Full speed ahead, the deficit be damned. Good for him.

Fully 68 percent of Americans back the $1.9 trillion relief plan and 78 percent support receiving $1,400 checks as part of it, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. Can’t beat that for popularity. That’s why Biden wants to rush it through Congress even without Republican help.

And there’s more big government to come, including raising the minimum wage to $15, $300 tax credits to poor families to get 10 million kids out of poverty and an infrastructure overhaul to create jobs.

If government can’t do these things, who could or would?

While Biden – who is anything but “Sleepy Joe” – is rushing forward impatiently dealing with the reality of correcting years of wrongs perpetrated on Americans, Republicans in charge of Texas have been quick to lie to blame the Deep Freeze on alternative energy sources such as wind and solar, the progressive Green New Deal to fight a warming planet.

Don’t let them fool you with another Big Lie like the one about a stolen election that Biden won legitimately by seven million votes.

“It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary for the state of Texas as well as other states to make sure we will be able to heat our homes in the winter times and cool our homes in the summer times,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told Fox’s Sean Hannity.

He instead blamed renewable energy, which is nonsense. Conservatives, who deny climate change, do it to protect the fossil fuel industry. That’s why the liar-in-chief turned over the Arctic Wildlife Reserve and millions of acres of Western lands to gas and oil drilling. Biden is reversing those plans.

The bald faced lying about the cause of the loss of electric power is reprehensible. Only a fraction of Texas’ electricity comes from wind turbines and solar.

Natural gas froze in the wells, in the pipes and in generating plants when temperatures dropped suddenly in a storm because they weren’t winterized. The private sector wanted to save money by not protecting the grid against inclement weather, the chief reason electricity couldn’t get through to homes, factories and the like.

Then-Gov. Rick Perry deregulated the electric power industry in 2002. Texas disconnected itself from the national power grid, going it alone. So it couldn’t rely on getting reserve power from other states in an emergency, the way most states do that are hooked into the national grid.

“Texas’ leaders knew as of 2011 . . . when the state went through a short severe freeze, that the system was radically unstable in extreme weather,” wrote James K. Galbraith, of the University of Texas at Austin, in the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

“But they did nothing,” he wrote. “To do something, they would have had to regulate the system. And they didn’t want to regulate the system, because the providers, a rich source of campaign funding, didn’t want to be regulated and to have to spend on weatherization that was not needed – most of the time.”

That’s what happens when the private sector calls the shots. Money first.

Conservative Republican thinking:

“Rick Perry has reassured us that as Texans we’re prepared to sacrifice ourselves to avoid the curse of socialism,” Galbraith wrote. “But it’s too late now . . . we will return to New Deal style socialism” or this will happen again.

“Socialism is government, in technical matters, by engineers and others who know their stuff and not by ideologues who do not.”

So government often can be the solution.


Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.