The cuts that fed the Texas wildfires

Published on Socialist Worker, by , Sept. 14, 2011.

AT LEAST four people are dead and more than 1,500 homes have burned to the ground as a result of some 200 wildfires that have ripped across Texas since the start of September.

With this tragedy unfolding, you’d think Texas Gov. and Republican presidential aspirant Rick Perry would be back in his home state, immersed in the emergency fire control and relief efforts–or at least pretending to be for the cameras …  //

… IT’S NOT as if this approaching disaster wasn’t obvious to anyone with half a brain. Texas is experiencing its worst drought in recorded history, one that is expected to last into 2012. Some 66 millions trees will die in the Houston area alone, worsening air quality problems, destroying wildlife habitat and making the area warmer. Across the state, such desiccated vegetation, grass and trees provide unlimited tinder for dangerous fires.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been almost 19,000 wildfires in Texas, torching 3.5 million acres, an area greater than the size of Connecticut.

Yet with Perry’s encouragement, the Texas legislature pressed forward with an all-cuts approach to closing a $27 billion budget deficit. Ironically, the legislature neglected to use over $6 billion stashed away in a “Rainy Day Fund”–because, as Perry insisted at the time, such funds would be needed in the event of a natural disaster.

Global warming is believed to be the cause of more frequent and extreme weather events–the cause of historic droughts in Western Europe and China and of destructive storms and floods from Pakistan to the northeastern the U.S.

But Perry doesn’t buy it. In last week’s Republican presidential debate, he declared that “the science is not settled” regarding the link between climate change and carbon emissions. So naturally, he’s loathe to draw any connection between the fires and global warming–

The tragic fires in Texas are another example of the consequences of savage austerity–and the completely irrational political and economic system in which we live. (full text).

Link: Solving the Poor, on Dissident Voice, by Gary Corseri, September 13, 2011.

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