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As governor of Texas, Rick Perry has been a five-watt bulb sitting in a 100-watt socket.
When the hot and dry tinderbox of Central Texas recently exploded into dozens of raging wildfires that killed four people and burned over a thousand family homes down to their slabs, Perry wasn’t even in his socket – he was in South Carolina campaigning for president. So he had to rush back, a day late, to pose as governor. He did a mess of photo ops – and even took a political potshot at Barack Obama, blaming him for shortchanging Texas on federal firefighting help.
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But, wait – Perry wasn’t just a day late, he’s been months late in providing the most basic state leadership to deal with such disasters. Texas has been ablaze with hundreds of wildfires since late last year, torching millions of acres all across the state. Yet, scrambling recklessly this spring to fill a gaping deficit he had created in the state budget, guess whose funding Perry whacked by 75 percent. Volunteer fire fighters! Volunteer departments make up about 80 percent of the state’s firefighting force, and they are the first responders to about nine out of 10 Texas wildfires. Even with Texas on fire, and as a withering drought was making more fires inevitable, the governor-who-wants-to-be-your-president slashed state funding for these volunteers from $30 million to an abjectly inadequate $7 million, leaving them having to spend their own money for supplies.
Ironically, Perry is campaigning as a states’ rights, small government ideologue who wants to shrink the federal role and turn governing responsibility over to state officials like him. You might ask some Texas Volunteer firefighters how well such Perryism is working out in practice. This guy couldn’t be trusted to run a small town, one-truck fire department, much less the country.
“Texas cut fire department funding by 75 percent this year,” www.rawstory.com, September 6, 2011.
“TX GOP Slashes Funding For Agency Battling Wildfires, While Also Blasting Obama For Not Spending More,” www.thinkprogress.org, May 21, 2011.