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

Outsiders tend to think of Texas as the bastion of red-state principles, and for the most part that's an accurate view. Outside the big cities, of which we have five or six depending on where you draw the line, libertarian-friendly economic attitudes and socially conservative beliefs mix, thrive, and drive the state. That kind of thinking is alive in the cities too, though not dominant. But though the Democrats here have taken beating after beating over the past decade or so and are at their point of greatest weakness in memory, pockets of liberal resistance to common sense remain. Occasionally, it's worth taking a look at those pockets just to see what they're up to and what they want for the rest of us.

In Austin, the blue dot in the midst of a red sea, the University of Texas is home to the storied Longhorns, serious research, an increasingly insane tuition bill for a "public" university that was created to be free of charge (wonder if the recently uncovered faculty bloat has anything to do with the tuition hikes), and -- like just about every other university in America -- attempts to impose speech codes on conservatives.  To wit, the UT College Republicans recently hosted a speech by Michelle Malkin. The usual liberal tolerance for the ideas of others ensued, prompting a silly editorial in the campus paper, the Daily Texan, calling on the College Republicans to apologize for daring to host Malkin:

Despite the fact that the midterm elections were not kind to Democrats nationally, Austin voters continued to show their support for liberal candidates. More than 69,000 of Travis County voters punched a straight-ticket ballot for Democrats. Defeated gubernatorial candidate Bill White, who received less than 43 percent of the total vote, garnered more than 59 percent of the vote here in Travis County. And in 30 total elections that pitted a Democrat against a Republican, Travis County voters preferred the Democrat 27 times.

It’s safe to assume that, were the data available, we’d find the vote amongst Texas students even more one-sided. On campus, liberal opinion dominates the dialogue with separate protests waged in the past two weeks in the form of a hunger strike in support of the DREAM Act and a walkout to fight budget cuts to ethnic studies. Your peers, it appears, don’t agree with you. Which is exactly why, College Republicans at Texas, you shouldn’t have invited Michelle Malkin to speak on campus this past week.

In other words, you have to agree with us liberals before you're allowed to speak on campus. So much for dialogue. That's about the most ill-liberal attitude the youngster could have taken. That he sees no irony or danger to his own right of free speech in his position is a bit shocking: by his own logic, he should not be allowed to speak pretty much anywhere in Texas outside Austin, without winning some sort of popularity contest first.

Rather than pick on a college student myself, I'll let another UT student do it. Here's Austen Bailey, writing in the New Texas Forum, for the win:

The idea that a person should not be allowed to publicly share his beliefs because someone might disagree is un-American and utterly ridiculous. The very people who claim to promote equality and free speech demand censure for the presentation of an alternative opinion.

Indeed. It's called "freedom of expression," which was once a liberal value. It is not, and never has been, a "progressive" value.

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 ...