Texas, the most populous red state, is failing in its battle against the novel coronavirus, and Texans know it. CNN reports: “Texas crossed the 200,000-case threshold on Monday — just 17 days after it had reached 100,000 cases. The state reported 5,318 cases Monday, with public health officials there warning of significant increases in the coming days, and has seen 205,642 total.”
Public opinion in Texas has turned negative when it comes to federal and state handling of the pandemic. The Texas Tribune reports: “In the latest survey, 46% of voters say efforts to deal with the coronavirus in the U.S. are going well — down from 56% in April. Asked about the efforts in Texas, 47% say things are going well — down from 66% in April.” Texans’ timetable has shifted dramatically: “While 21% think that we’re already at the point where things can return to normal or will be in the next few weeks, 30% thought that was the case in April. Then, 41% thought things would be back to normal within the next few months; that’s fallen to 22%. Now, most think it will be back to normal in the next year (29%) or in a year or more (26%).”
Trump can holler at states to reopen schools, but 65 percent of Texans — not some wacky fringe of the left — say it is not safe to send children back now. Nearly two-thirds of Texans say they leave home only when they “absolutely have to,” while 81 percent say they wear masks outside when in contact with others.
It should not escape notice that Trump’s utterances and conduct are badly out of sync with the most important Republican state. But so are Senate Republicans, including Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who is on the ballot in the fall. Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have inveighed against “bailouts” for states on the grounds they are irresponsible and Democratic-controlled. That may come as a shock to Texans who face a massive budget crisis.
The Post reports that Texas experienced a $650 million drop in tax revenue last month and now faces surging costs as coronavirus cases spike, the inevitable result of a decision to reopen early and eschew until last week a statewide mask mandate. The Post explains: “Tax collections in Texas in the meantime are down by roughly $5.7 billion over the past four months of the pandemic. … The state’s most lucrative revenue stream, sales taxes, plummeted more than $200 million between mid-May and mid-June, falling roughly 6.5 percent compared with collections in June 2019, state budget officials said.” One can only imagine how sales tax receipts will look going forward given the measures to return to shutdown.
Well, surely Texas lawmakers in Congress will step up, right? Nope. They seem to be living in some other Lone Star State:
“What I hear back home is that our states and cities don’t need more money, they need the flexibility to be able to spend it where they need it,” Rep. Kevin Brady (Tex.), the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said at a news conference last week.
Lauren Aronson, a spokeswoman for Sen. Ted Cruz, signaled the Texas Republican is also skeptical of additional local aid. “Sen. Cruz believes the focus now should be on long-term recovery, not short term relief, and that after sending nearly $3 trillion to our cities, states, job creators, and hardworking families, Congress should stop spending money it doesn’t have,” she said in a statement.
Maybe they need to get outside the Beltway more. Back home, costs continue to rise and unemployment is soaring. (“High unemployment in the Lone Star State triggered a local law last week that provides additional weeks of jobless benefits to out-of-work residents. Among the newly laid off are roughly 50,000 city and state government workers, according to federal indicators from May.”) And it will get worse as Texas has been forced to shut down again.
Republicans should decide if they want to keep following Trump’s nothing-to-see-here stance or start following expert medical advice and helping their constituents. It is not just blue America that is hurting — and voters in these red states might wind up holding Republicans accountable for their willful blindness.