“The purpose of government is to enable the people of a nation to live in safety and happiness. Government exists for the interests of the governed, not for the governors.”
In this simple quote, Thomas Jefferson captured the essential purpose of government. Yet time and again, many elected officials lose sight of this critical, basic focus. The disaster in Texas is the most recent example.
In Texas, all 254 counties were recently under a deep freeze, the likes of which haven’t been seen in generations. Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott blamed renewable energy for power shortages during the recent arctic blast. However, this was a bald-faced lie. The truth is that solar and wind account for only 7 percent of the winter power grid in the Lone Star State.
The real problem lies in the fact that Texans like their fossil fuels and the profits that come with them. Oncor, the huge utility which provides electricity to Dallas, made $651 million in net income in 2019. Utility companies are more profitable when they purchase energy directly from the pipeline vs. storing it and using it as needed. And they don’t want to spend the extra money to winterize their power plants or build the infrastructure to get power across state lines. Because of this, Texans are suffering without potable water and dying from the cold without power for heat. And let’s not forget Sen. Ted Cruz’s lack of leadership, as he fled to Mexico during this catastrophe, while over 13 million Texans had disruptions in water service and several million had no power.
And who can forget our former president’s lack of leadership, when he told Americans the pandemic would be gone by Easter 2020? Trump reinforced this by naming COVID-19 the China flu. As the pandemic exploded, he left it up to the states to handle emergency protocols. Without a national approach, the pandemic spread like wildfire across our country, leaving us with the highest infection rate in the world. To date about, 28 million Americans have contracted COVID and 500,000 have died. Just like Gov. Abbott’s deflection of blame from the lack of water and power in Texas, Trump abdicated responsibility on protecting Americans from the virus and blamed others.
As further support that lying and not protecting constituents should be seen as a non-partisan issue, Gov. Cuomo is now taking deserved heat for his administration’s disingenuous reporting of deaths in nursing homes during the pandemic. If it were not for New York Attorney General Letitia James releasing a report that found the state’s nursing home deaths from the pandemic underreported by roughly 50 percent and state Assemblyman Ron Kim candidly sharing that he was yelled at and threatened by Cuomo after he criticized the governor’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, the public would never have known of the lies and misinformation. With the truth now out, who is going to purchase Cuomo’s book entitled, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic?”
Politicians love to call for hearings to uncover how crises happen, and undoubtedly there will be hearings on strengthening Texas’ electrical grid, national and state pandemic protocols, and new guidelines on the reporting of death statistics. Instead, I’d prefer hearings, with expert testimony, on how to prevent the next crisis from happening.
Elected officials should call for hearings on how to harden infrastructure to stop a bridge or highway from collapsing, prevent a water supply from getting tainted, mitigate homegrown terrorism, avoid financial disaster from runaway national debt, squash a new pandemic before it happens or thwart a future cyber attack.
Unfortunately, politicians seem to prefer to blame someone else when things go wrong, rather than take responsibility or invest in preventions. Responding to disasters always costs much more financially and often results in a greater loss of life than preventing them. If elected officials followed Thomas Jefferson’s view on the purpose of government, we’d all be better off.