It’s time to face the facts: Texas Governor Greg Abbott has not been a leader in the coronavirus crisis. He has abdicated his responsibilities to local governments and, in his own words, is “looking to Washington for guidance.” This is a very disappointing and un-Texan answer.
Texans are independent, driven, and individualistic; yet the governor’s decisions have resulted in more economic damage, a disproportionate response to the fact that as of April 15, 364 people have died from COVID-19. In a state of 29 million, that’s a total death rate of 0.0012%.
Meanwhile, the governor has effectively shut down the world’s 10th largest economy by failing to stand up to local leaders who are usurping his authority. Abbott was more concerned with political correctness than confrontation with this power grab, and he joined in the parade of emotional policymakers in Washington who caused massive economic damage.
Texas is a sovereign state where the governor has the final say. Abbott had the chance of a lifetime to step in as a leader in the midst of a massive crisis and approach this threat with logic and reason. Other governors in states such as Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota have taken the approach of giving their citizens the facts, while allowing everyone to be personally responsible for their individual health.
Sweden provides another example of taking a logical approach and questioning not only the effectiveness but also the legality of a total lockdown. An economic shutdown creates irreversible shock waves that are felt for generations. The mental and physical health implications of record unemployment and dependence on government must also be considered. Texas leaders must ask tough questions and lead their citizens on a course based on facts, not emotions.
The local government should not make these incredibly important decisions on how to stop the virus. This creates a hodgepodge of rules that spreads more anxiety and confusion. The overtaking of local Texas leaders was met with silence from the governor. Texas needs a unifying plan of definitive, clear rules that can only come from a governor.
The fear of the virus is real and understandable, but being unemployed and financially deprived is even more real and consequential. Most Texans live off every paycheck and are angry and panicked about their financial security. The unintended consequences of the destruction of the Texas economy are almost unimaginable…poverty, mental health issues, suicide, and crime, to name a few. Texans deserve leaders who understand that the fundamental role of government is to defend our economic and personal freedom.
For example: according to the Texas Department of Transportation, more than 3,600 people die each year in traffic accidents. Tens of thousands are injured. Should the government ban cars? Stop car-related jobs?
Statistically, the risk of dying in a car accident is much higher than dying from COVID-19. However, the Texas government takes a balanced approach to weighing the risks and benefits associated with vehicle use and chooses to provide citizens with every opportunity to drive safely, while allowing individuals the freedom to choose their mode of transport.
On March 19, the governor said there was nothing specific about churches in his executive order banning public gatherings of more than 10 people, “because there is freedom of religion here in the United States. United of America”. Yet when local leaders challenged him and issued orders to specifically close churches, Abbott said nothing.
Governor Abbott did not clearly communicate a plan; it relies on Washington for leadership and lets local leaders in where its lack of leadership creates a vacuum. Mr. Abbott is solely responsible for the destruction of the Texas economy and its generational consequences.
Hardworking Texans are smart and independent, and we know the solutions to our problems come from ourselves, not from the government. We need a governor committed to these truths.
Huffines, a Republican, is a former member of the Texas Senate who represented Dallas County.