Texas Tales: Speech Police in Austin, Welfare Creep in Laredo

Rewarding hard work and empowering the individual to make his own way in the world and keep what he or she earned through their labors were also once classically liberal values.  If the actions of the City of Laredo are any guide, they're not anymore.  Welfare creep has rendered what was recently a luxury item ... a taxpayer-funded "necessity":

15 years ago cell phones were a luxury that very few people had, but now it seems everyone, even kids have the ability to communicate wirelessly. There are still some elderly and less fortunate that cannot afford cell phones and the city (Laredo) is looking to get these services to them. They are hoping to strike a deal with assurance wireless that would give phones and 250 minutes a month to people that meet specific guidelines for one year.

This program isn't just for the allegedly poor. Folks well above the poverty line can qualify.

You're paying for this, whether you're in Texas or not, via taxes on your phone service. Poke around the Assurance Wireless web site a bit, and you find that this program, which is already available elsewhere and similar to existing programs, is made possible by the Universal Service Fund. That was set up in 1996, ostensibly to expand communications networks. At the time, some predicted that it would end up as some sort of welfare. And so it has.

Juxtapose this Laredo program with this recent comment from a Rio Grande Valley state representative, Democrat Veronica Gonzalez (unfortunately won re-election in November against Republican challenger and rising star Rebecca Cervera), in the South Texas Oracle:

Commenting on topics ranging from the state budget to gambling, Gonzales called on her constituents to "stand together and fight" cuts in funding for the things the Valley relies upon. She explained that last session the state budget was boosted by $12B in federal stimulus dollars but that those dollars will not be made available during the upcoming session.

Gonzales stated "If you do not raise taxes, what do you do?  You have to make cuts...tremendous cuts." She noted: "The Valley is about 70%-85% (dependent on) Medicaid, Medicare, or some type of government assistance.”

That extreme level of dependence on government isn't accidental, and if it were up to folks like Gonzalez, it would only and always increase, at the expense of local sovereignty and individual freedom. Laredo's cell phone giveaway is an example. The city is going for a one year grant from the USF, under the full and reasonable assumption that once the federal spigot is turned on, it won't be turned off no matter how dire our deficit situation gets. Any threats to the free phone program will be blamed on the horrible, heartless Republicans, of course.  Democrats like Gonzalez believe that this is their party's route back to power: drive up dependence, smear the Republicans for resisting, secure the Hispanic vote to the Democratic Party forever.

The evidence says that, at least so far, that plan isn't working in Texas. Democrats are ignoring voters' values and it's costing them more and more votes. Democratic state Rep. Aaron Pena has been saying so for years, but his party's progressive leadership isn't listening:

Peña was asked where the State Democratic Party was failing when it comes to public policy issues. He gave three examples.

“Many Hispanics, and especially rural Hispanics, support gun rights. The Democratic Party, traditionally, has not been very receptive to Second Amendment Rights.

“Many older Hispanics are Pro-Life yet the Democratic Party does not seem to be very reflective of that or respective of that position.

“Many Hispanics are pro-small business and many open and run small businesses, yet the State Democratic Party and those who say they speak for it do not stand with small businesses on many issues."

Pena is right. Take these issues together -- attempting to crush free speech, growing the welfare state inch by inch year after year, ignoring people's values while only appealing to their less better angels -- and you get a picture of the progressive plan for Texas.  It's a vision that the voters here consistently reject.

It's very Texan to say what I'm about to say next, but if only the other states would follow our lead ...