It’s not easy to burn a straw man in the midst of a biblical flood, but some on the Left are frantically trying to light the flame. The target, of course, is Texas conservatism, and the argument is old and tired. Whenever disaster strikes red America, there’s always someone standing there ready to say, “What do you think of big government now?”
Here’s the stupid, vindictive version of this reflexive take, from a Politico cartoonist. A tea-party, secessionist Texas rube praises God for the government’s good work:
.@POLITICO deleted their tweet of this heinous cartoon mocking the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Here it is for your viewing displeasure: pic.twitter.com/mqQHmGDGTo
— Amber Athey (@amber_athey) August 30, 2017
And here’s the more respectable, civil take — also in Politico — from Dallas Morning News columnist Richard Parker. He claims that Harvey will end up puncturing the state’s “famous ethos of self-reliance.” Why? It’s going to need an enormous amount of government aid:
Texans might pride themselves on their rugged individualism, but this time, they’ll have no choice but to accept years of state and federal help for the recovery. By the time Harvey leaves the city on Wednesday, Greater Houston will have been drenched with 1 trillion gallons of water and an estimated 30,000 people will be living in temporary housing. The Federal Emergency Management Agency expects to receive at least 450,000 claims for damage caused by the storm. And early estimates point to least $150 billion in total economic losses.
Where to begin? First, it’s extremely odd to argue that Texas may lose its sense of self-reliance when the crisis’s most enduring images are of the extraordinary response of private individuals: people manning their own boats, rescuing their friends and neighbors without waiting for government help. No one should minimize the indispensable role of government first responders, but the Harvey rescues represented a maximum public and private effort.
Further, the modern demand for limited government isn’t a demand for no government, and the quest to, say, rein in entitlements, limit the reach of regulations, or eliminate government waste is in no way inconsistent with the belief that the government can and should respond to natural disasters. Even outright libertarians see a role for the government in emergency relief, and the stingiest proposed Republican state or federal budgets still fund a vast government apparatus for the purpose.
Parker makes the tired and discredited argument that Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz voted against Hurricane Sandy relief, when they loudly and clearly argued at the time that they were in favor of Sandy relief but opposed to larding up the bill with unrelated or non-emergency expenses. The issue was pork and waste, not the government’s role in a time of crisis.
Part of Parker’s argument simply makes no sense at all. For example, read this statement:
I see that liberal french rag Charlie Hebo dedicated a front cover calling the Hurricane Harvey victims and Nazis Well i sure hope they loose lots and lots of readers but i dont think you’ll be seeong anyone from Texas going to france and shooting up the place where this rag is printed and blowing the cartoonists brains out