Tag Archives: Rick Perry

Rick Perry Carries on Texas’s Unethical Political Traditions

Sustaining damage to his political image, former Texas Governor Rick Perry suffers a black eye after being indicted for abuse of power.
Sustaining damage to his political image, former Texas Governor Rick Perry suffers a black eye after being indicted for abuse of power.

 

In Texas, the government is big, and the ethical dilemmas are even bigger. For decades, the Lone Star State has been home to scandals—i.e., conspiracy, stock fraud, bribery, and other forms of corruption—caused by unscrupulous politicians, including high-ranking ones, whose actions mislead voters and undermine good governance. Recently, one of Texas’s most notable politicians, former Governor Rick Perry, continued this infamous Texas legacy. In 2014, the Los Angeles Times published the article, “Texas Gov. Rick Perry is indicted, accused of abusing his power,” which examined one of many controversial events that took place during Perry’s time as governor (“Texas Gov. Rick Perry Is Indicted”). Perry, who served in office for fourteen years, made headlines for his questionable ethical decisions and corruption, all while consolidating power and exerting a strong influence that continues to resonate in and through state government (“Rick Perry Biography”). Like his infamous 20th century predecessor, Jim Ferguson, as head of the executive branch of state government Perry exercised abuse of power, engaged in cronyism, and maneuvered to extend his political reach beyond his time in office (Nadler and Shulman).

Rick Perry has never been shy about making bold moves to keep a foothold in public office. After two failed runs for the presidency, Perry currently serves as the fourteenth United States Secretary of Energy appointed by President Donald Trump (“Rick Perry”). In 1989, after switching allegiance from the Democratic Party to membership in the Grand Old Party (GOP), Perry became one of Texas’s most controversial Republican figures (“Rick Perry Biography”). His leadership and political promises were overshadowed by the numerous scandals that took place during his time in elected office—i.e., as a member of the Texas House of Representatives (1985-1991); as Commissioner of Agriculture of Texas (1991-1999); as Lieutenant Governor of Texas (1999-2000); and as Governor of Texas (2000-2015) (Texas State Archives). Whenever ethics were in question, Perry did not shy away from conflict and regularly made unorthodox decisions to maintain his image and power for future political endeavors (Barabak).

During his years in state office, Perry was known as a political powerhouse who was not afraid to bend the rules or to govern in sometimes controversial ways. For example, as Governor in 2013 and while saddled with low approval ratings, he engaged in a bitter power struggle with public universities, especially with then University of Texas President, Bill Powers. The challenges arose after Perry met with advocates from the conservative think tank, Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF). The organization pushed for public research universities in the Lone Star State to be run in a more “business-like” way, following “seven breakthrough solutions” offered by Perry’s friend, donor, and TPPF board member, Jeff Sanderfer (Ramsey).  Some of the most controversial suggested reforms included: “rating professors, based on student assessments; separating teaching and research; and including revenue as one measure of whether a program or class should continue” (Ramsey). In response to the proposed changes, there was immediate resistance from university leaders, but under Perry’s control and in the wake of the 2008 Great Recession, change was inevitable. The Governor’s alma mater, Texas A&M University, did not last long in the resistance, ultimately resulting in University Chancellor Mike McKinney’s replacement by John Sharp (none other than the Governor’s former classmate and fellow yell leader), as per Rick Perry’s request (“John”). As aggressive changes were taking place on A&M’s campus, tensions continued to escalate on Texas’s flagship research campus, The University of Texas at Austin (UT).

These acts of dominance over Texas’s higher education system were a clear overstep by Perry. As a C student himself, he did not have much credibility to make decisions for postsecondary educators. Nevertheless, the Governor used his political authority and power to make changes that appeased voters. Bill Powers, former UT-Austin President, resisted Perry’s “business-like” higher ed reforms, which turned into a contentious public battle between university officials and the Governor (Jensen). Despite objections from Powers and the UT Austin community, Perry succeeded. He appointed Board of Regents and UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, who eventually called for Power’s resignation (Jensen).

Even as the public became aware of Perry’s domineering leadership style, he continued to make headlines for certain unprincipled decisions, and these controversies culminated in 2014 when Perry was indicted for abuse of power for his attempt to force Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County District Attorney (DA) to resign. When she refused, Perry then attempted to unilaterally veto funding for the DA’s Office. More specifically and very controversially, the Governor threatened to defund the statewide public integrity unit (Malewitz, Ramsey).

According to the Perry, he sought Lehmberg’s resignation solely because she was professionally disgraced, after being arrested and pleading guilty to driving while intoxicated. The DA’s Office, on the other hand, understood the Republican Governor to be making a threat that was designed to drive out the DA who was a Democrat. Moreover, given the drastic efforts Perry made, there was speculation that his actions were fueled by his own political agenda, because at the time, the nearly defunded public integrity unit was in the process of investigating “his own party’s mismanagement of state government agencies, including alleged corruption in CPRIT [the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas] (Nueman)”.

On August 14, 2015, a grand jury in Austin, Texas, indicted Rick Perry “on two charges related to his effort last year to force District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to resign” (Plohetski). That indictment was eventually overturned, however, by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Two judges’ dissension and another judge’s abstention notwithstanding, the Court dismissed the case after finding Perry’s veto lawful on behalf of his 1st Amendment rights (Malewitz, Ramsey). Immediately thereafter, Perry spoke of how the indictment was “nothing less than a baseless political attack, and an assault on constitutional powers,” that negatively affected his run for U.S. President at the time (Tatum).

With over fourteen years of governorship, Perry had extensive connections and deep political ties that he kept loyal to, even if they did not benefit the greater public good. His participation in the “good ol’ boy network” garnered scrutiny in the public eye. Most notably and as an example, in 2007 Governor Perry issued an executive order requiring all girls entering the sixth-grade to receive the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.  Only a few hours later, Perry rolled back his decision and claimed, “he was misinformed” and “made a mistake” (Root).  In Perry’s eyes, his mistake may have not been that he made an unethical decision on behalf thousands of Texan’s public health, but that he did not keep his ties to the drug distributor, Merck, more undercover from the public, for his own personal gain. To make things even murkier, Mike Toomey, Perry’s former Chief of Staff, was one of three lobbyists for the company at the time, revealing an obvious act of cronyism that was an embarrassment to the Perry Administration. Still more accusations were made against Perry’s ethics and personal interests after watchdog groups exposed the fact that Merck donated money to Perry’s re-election campaign (Root).

During his extended governorship, Perry’s involvement in cronyism scandals and political favors became a normal practice in the Texas Capitol. In 2013, CPRIT was back in the news, as a criminal investigation was opened after finding out that an eleven billion-dollar grant was given to a Dallas based bio-therapeutic company without proper “scientific or business review” (Drew). Perry later signed a bill to restructure the agency in order to regain confidence and trust during his national run for the presidency.

As more stories were published concerning corruption in the capitol, the public began to grow weary of his administration’s dominance in Texas politics. In 2014, 62% of Texans felt that Perry’s resignation was “long overdue,” and 51% of Americans disapproved of his presidential run as a GOP candidate (Jensen). Even as public opinion dwindled, Perry was not finished with his position just yet. Before he left, he made sure to build a strong foundation for continuing conservative dominance in Texas politics for years to come (“Gov. Rick Perry, Leaving Office”).

During the fourteen years that Perry controlled the Texas executive branch, he established an influence and legacy that is continuing well after his time in office. With over 8,000 appointments made, Perry established deep roots for his own ideology and for conservatism in Texas’s state capitol (McDonald). This record number of appointments will shape policy and establish his power in several different areas throughout the state—i.e., over the University of Texas System Board of Regents, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, and in many other positions throughout the state. (McDonald). Even now, as the U.S. Secretary of the Department of Energy, Perry’s influence continues to make an impact on Texas and American politics far beyond his time as governor. By championing energy independence, Perry continues to keep his political agenda a priority, which in turn still points to Texas. Since oil is one of the state’s largest industries, Perry’s political influence still makes an impact back home (Braun).

Rick Perry, the strong Texas political figure that he was, garnered equal parts attention and criticism for his bold behavior and shady politics. Just as Perry did not shy from controversial views, neither did his critics, most notably the late political columnist, Molly Ivins. Born and raised in the Lone Star State, she famously penned the nickname, “Governor Goodhair” to describe to him and wittily highlighted the difference between “Texas Tough and Texas Stupid” (Ivins). Her criticism was welcomed by many Texans and helped create comic relief during Perry’s extended governorship.

Illustrated by William “Bubba” Flint and published by the Dallas Morning News, the political cartoon atop this blog post depicts Rick Perry looking roughed up. He has a black eye, the result of the “Perry Indictment.” On his head is a large-brimmed cowboy hat labeled “Texas Politics.” Deceptively simple, Flint’s cartoon visually represents the rough and tumble of state politics: By “donning the hat”—i.e., engaging in Texas Politics—Rick Perry has taken a beating, and his public image has been battered and bruised by all the scandals and indictments.

Throughout Texas’s political history, Rick Perry is only one of many governors who have endured scandals and implemented questionable policies in their time of governorship. In many ways, Jim “Pa” Ferguson, Texas governor from 1914-1917, was involved in scandals that closely mirrored Perry’s. For instance, Ferguson was the first governor to be indicted and impeached while in office, and like Perry, Ferguson was indicted for overstepping his power and starting political turmoil with University leadership (Steen).

Like today, the Lone Star State’s gubernatorial scandals were captured in political cartoons of the era. For example, in a political cartoon published by the Dallas Morning News in 1932, Ferguson was depicted playing a “shell game”, a gambling game that is meant to confuse and disarm the players (Dallas Morning News). The illustration refers to the numerous scandals and shifting of political responsibility by Ferguson and the resultant mistrust that the Texas public had for him. Due to several acts of cronyism and mishandlings of power on his part, the media coined a new phrase, “Fergusonism,” to describe the corruption and scandalous behavior that characterized his extended time in office (Brown). The Dallas Morning News published an accompanying editorial, titled, “Sterling Support”, to publicly revoke their past support of Ferguson, in direct response to the mishandling and scandals that Fergusonism brought (“Sterling Support”).

In their respective times at the Texas State Capitol, former governors Rick Perry and Jim Ferguson boldly took office and used their power for personal advantage and for the benefit of those in their inner circles. Many of their policies recklessly abandoned ethics and followed in the long line of corrupt politicians who have set a rather low bar as the standard in Texas politics. As it often does, history is repeating itself, and in the 21st century, Texas appears on track to continue its legacy of deep partisanship and dirty politics for years to come.

 

Link to LA Times article ‘Texas Gov. Rick Perry is indicted, accused of abusing his power’

http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-na-pn-rick-perry-indictment-texas-20140815-story.html

 

Works Cited

Anderson, Nick, and Houston Chronicle. “Rick Perry’s Return to Spotlight Brings a Return to Editorial Cartoons for ‘Oops’ Moment.” San Antonio Express-News, San Antonio Express-News, 19 Jan. 2017, www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/anderson/article/Rick-Perry-s-return-to-spotlight-brings-a-return-10869459.php#photo-8616106.

Barabak, Mark Z. “Gov. Rick Perry, Leaving Office, Ends an Influential Era in Texas.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 19 Jan. 2015, www.latimes.com/nation/politics/la-na-texas-politics-perry-abbott-20150120-story.html.

Barabak, Mark Z. “Texas Gov. Rick Perry Is Indicted, Accused of Abusing His Power.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 15 Aug. 2014, www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-na-pn-rick-perry-indictment-texas-20140815-story.html.

Braun, Stephen. “Perry Brings Oil Industry Ties to Energy Department.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 14 Dec. 2016, www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/perry-oil-industry-energy-department.

Burnett, John. “Are Texans Tired Of Gov. Rick Perry?” NPR, NPR, 13 Oct. 2010, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130521544.

Burrough, Bryan, and André Carrilho. “Rick Perry Has Three Strikes Against Him.” The Hive, Vanity Fair, 30 Jan. 2015, www.vanityfair.com/news/politics/2012/01/rick-perry-201201.

Flint, William Bubba. “Rick Perry Political Cartoons.” The Dallas Morning News, www.dallasnews.com/local-politics/local-politics/2011/10/06/rick-perry-political-cartoons.

Goodwyn, Wade. “Showdown At The UT Corral.” NPR, NPR, 14 July 2014, www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2014/07/14/330752898/showdown-at-the-ut-corral.

Handbook of Texas Online, Norman D. Brown, “Texas In the 1920s,” accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/npt01.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Handbook of Texas Online, Ralph W. Steen, “Ferguson, James Edward,” accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffe05.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on February 24, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Ivins, Molly. “Shrub Flubs His Dub.” The Nation, 31 May 2001, www.thenation.com/article/shrub-flubs-his-dub/.

Jensen, Tom. “Header Poll Results.” Public Policy Poling, 29 Jan. 2013, www.publicpolicypolling.com/polls/most-texas-voters-done-with-rick-perry/.

“John Sharp Wins Approval as Texas A&M Chancellor.” Longview News-Journal, 16 Aug. 2011, www.news-journal.com/news/local/john-sharp-wins-approval-as-texas-a-m-chancellor/article_332680e0-6787-5e9d-b174-d953161cad66.html.

Jr., Leonard Pitts, and Tribune Content Agency. “The Dumb Indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.” Statesman Journal, Statesman Journal, 24 Aug. 2014, www.statesmanjournal.com/story/opinion/2014/08/24/dumb-indictment-texas-gov-rick-perry/14522427/.

Knott, John. “He Remembers the Old Shell Game.” The Dallas Morning News, 18 Aug. 1932.

Malewitz, Jim, and Kiah Collier. “Rick Perry’s Energy Legacy Is More Complicated than You Think.” The Texas Tribune, Texas Tribune, 13 Dec. 2016, www.texastribune.org/2016/12/13/recap-rick-perrys-texas-energy-legacy/.

Malewitz, Jim, and Ross Ramsey. “Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Dismisses Rick Perry Indictment.” The Texas Tribune, Texas Tribune, 24 Feb. 2016, www.texastribune.org/2016/02/24/texas-high-court-dismisses-rick-perry-indictments/.

McDonald, Christian. “The Rick Perry Legacy: Government Overseers Who Think like He Does.” Mystatesman, American-Statesman Staff, 22 Sept. 2014, www.mystatesman.com/news/the-rick-perry-legacy-government-overseers-who-think-like-does/mbVM77p7aMTVC2OzWqnpNP/.

Plohetski, Tony. “Rick Perry Indicted for Lehmberg Veto Threat.” Statesman, Associated Press, 16 Aug. 2014, www.statesman.com/news/rick-perry-indicted-for-lehmberg-veto-threat/tQ4rPHj7Zx2HOxCECBfMsO/.

Ramsey, Ross. “Tensions Between Rick Perry and U.T.’s Bill Powers.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 Mar. 2013, www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/us/tensions-between-rick-perry-and-uts-bill-powers.html?auth=login-smartlock.

Staff, KUT. “Governor Rick Perry Indicted on Two Felony Charges.” KUT 90.5, 15 Aug. 2014, kut.org/post/governor-rick-perry-indicted-two-felony-charges.

Staff. “Sterling Support.” The Dallas Morning News, 18 Aug. 1932.

Tatum, Sophie. “Charges against Rick Perry Dismissed in Abuse of Power Case – CNNPolitics.” CNN, Cable News Network, 24 Feb. 2016, www.cnn.com/2016/02/24/politics/rick-perry-indictment-dropped/index.html

 

The Texas Miracle

Rick perry dressed as Jesus appears to walk on water. He is actually being held up by people below the water with education cuts, uninsured, and minimum-wage workers on their shirts.
Cartoonist John Cole mocks Rick Perry’s attempts to keep Texas afloat.

The Texas Miracle, by John Cole is a political cartoon mocking Texas Governor Rick Perry for his comments on the well being of Texas and his presidential candidacy. It shows a man wearing a white robe and sandals with the word Perry on his robe. He appears to be walking on water, but directly under the surface are children and men holding him up. The people underneath Perry have “education cuts”, “uninsured”, and “Minimum wage workers” written on their shirts (Cole). The cartoon implies that Gov. Perry is not performing any miracles; he is both physically and metaphorically stepping on the groups of people underneath him. The Texas Miracle is similar to the John Knott cartoon, We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms, in that the subjects in the people depicted are in water, and this water is oppressing them. The “storm” that Knott used as an analogy for The Great Depression could also be parallel to the flood that Noah and his family escaped in the bible. However in The Texas Miracle the population was unable to escape the flood because of an ignorant deity.

The accompanying editorial, Walking on Water talks about Perry’s recent presidential candidacy, and why he appeals to the “mad-as-heck right-wing base”. The authors also talk about the not-so-miraculous Texas miracle (Editorial Team). The miracle that Perry claims to have caused is just Texas continuing to profit off of a new way to drill for oil called fracking, which harvests the oil through horizontal fractures and drilling (Krauss). The editorial also comments on how well the housing district is doing, again emphasizing that this was not Perry’s doing, “Much of what Perry lays claim to is not the result of his governance, but existed well before he took office.”

You may recognize the Phrase “Texas miracle” from President George W. Bush’s two thousand presidential campaign and his “No child Left Behind” education reform act (Leung). The act was plan to make teachers accountable for their students’ grades, and required standardized testing for all students, while attempting to lower drop out rates in Houston especially. The program had great success in the first year but it was too good to be true. A vice principal at Sharpstown High School, found there were no drop-outs in the two thousand one two thousand two school year, when in fact there were four hundred and sixty two drop outs. The system had made a code for when a student dropped out it was programmed as a transfer or other acceptable reasons, so the miracle was just a lie. Just like Bush, Perry took advantage of the natural strength of Texas and used it for his own benefit. “According to The American Statesman, almost half of the state’s job growth came in the education, health care, and government sectors”, but when the state was faced with a twenty seven million dollar deficit Perry took four billion from K-12 schools. Already suffering as one of the least educated states, Perry stepped on education so that Texas would have less debt, and Texas suffered for it.

Texas’ population was been growing more rapidly than any other state from nineteen ninety to two thousand eleven this is in part due to the oil boom, but Perry found a way to make this benefit him (Plumer). Perry brags that Texas has a low unemployment rate but in fact at the time it was just a tenth lower than the national average, and the majority of those workers are working for minimum wage, which means that they have little or no insurance from their job (Meyerson). To add onto that Perry Doesn’t would prefer the states control of minimum wage and opposes the increase of minimum wage, claiming to be protecting the small businesses (Selby). At this time Texas was also the most uninsured state in the country, with twenty six percent of the population uninsured, Rick Perry still resisted universal healthcare. Perry said “They did not want a large government program forcing everyone to purchase insurance”, which may be the case, but this works well with Perry’s views on minimum wage and his refusal to increase the Medicaid (Benen). You see if Texans make less than four thousand five hundred dollars a year they can apply for Medicaid, but if they make less than eleven thousand six hundred dollars a year they are too poor to buy insurance for themselves (Damico). This is called the Medicaid expansion gap, and Rick Perry walked all over the people in this gap just to make the state more profitable.

A few parallels can be made between The Texas miracle and We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms, the major one being the water. In both cartoons the water is rising, because Rick Perry has no intention of changing his policies and will continue to take money from education. The water is also rising on the two business men while they converse in the storm, which was also brought on by the government’s inflation during the twenties. We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms could also have a religious aspect to it, where Herbert Hoover, who was blamed for The Great Depression, could be seen as an ignorant deity. As he told the public over and over that the depression would pass, doing little or nothing to help the floundering public, while the floodwaters continue to rise leaving the population without an ark. In both cartoons the public is the victim of the governments poor choices and both cartoonists depict their suffering through water.

The Texas Miracle by John Cole is mocking Rick Perry’s foolish attempts to take credit for the relative low amount of debt that Texas is in. The cartoon and editorial both ridicule him for refusing to help those beneath him, calling him a lone star blustering bible thumper. The Texas Miracle illustrates just how unlike Jesus Rick Perry truly is, and what lengths he is willing to go to in order to make a profit for the great state of Texas.

Works Cited

Benen, Steve. “Perry Boasts about Texas’ Uninsured Rate.” MSNBC. NBCUniversal News Group, 13 Feb. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Cole, John. “John Cole Cartoons » Walking on Water.” John Cole Cartoons » Walking on Water. The Time Tribune, 18 Aug. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Damico, Oct 19 2016 | Rachel Garfield and Anthony. “The Coverage Gap: Uninsured Poor Adults in States That Do Not Expand Medicaid.” Kaiser Family Foundation – Health Policy Research, Analysis, Polling, Facts, Data and Journalism. WordPress.com, 19 Oct. 2016. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Editorial Team. “John Cole Cartoons » Walking on Water.” John Cole Cartoons » Walking on Water. The Times Tribune, 18 Aug. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Krauss, Clifford. “Shale Boom in Texas Could Increase U.S. Oil Output.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 27 May 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Leung, Rebecca. “The ‘Texas Miracle'” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 6 Jan. 2004. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Meyerson, Harold. “The Sad Facts behind Rick Perry’s Texas Miracle.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 16 Aug. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

New World Encyclopedia. “Texas.” Texas – New World Encyclopedia. New World Encyclopedia, 20 Nov. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Pallardy, Richard. “Rick Perry.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 9 Nov. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Plumer, Brian. “Breaking down Rick Perry’s ‘Texas Miracle'” The Washington Post. WP Company, 15 Aug. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Selby, W. Gardner. “In 2014, Rick Perry Saying He Opposes Federal Government Setting Minimum Wage.” @politifact. Politifact.com, 30 May 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

 

Business in Texas

contemp-cartoon
Jack Ohman mocks the policy of lax business regulations which caused the recent West Texas Explosion

Business in Texas, published in the Sacramento Bee, is a political cartoon by Jack Ohman that satirizes the believed benefits of attracting future business to Texas with the promise of limited government regulation. The cartoon depicts a figure without eyes who is Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, advocating that “business is booming in Texas” with a backdrop promise of “low taxes and low regs”. In the next panel an explosion takes place right next to Perry which alludes to the factory explosion which took place in West, Texas. Due to promises of low taxes and low regulation, Perry aims to attract potential businesses to Texas to increase the economic prosperity of Texas yet there are unforeseen consequences with the promise of low regulations.

The West Fertilizer Company was one of many businesses that came to Texas due to the lack of regulation. During this time, Governor Perry, pandered to many different companies on how Texas lowered government intervention and regulation which would be perfect for businesses to foster and grow. Attributed in the cartoon as a man with no eyes, Perry seems to be a man who has turned a blind eye towards the consequences of setting such low regulations. Furthermore, Perry’s stature of a small head with a huge body is a familiar symbol of corporate greed or greed in general. Wanting to promote economic prosperity in Texas, Perry will do anything to attract more votes to win reelection. Attracted to this “ideal” situation many businesses set up shop in Texas with the mindset of gaining huge economic profits by cutting corners and dodging usually strict business regulations.

The West Fertilizer Company had already been established in West Texas in 1962 but with the new Governor Perry inspections turned from yearly checks to none. The West Fertilizer Company had problems dating back to 2006 when a citizen filed an ammonia smell complaint (Fernandez) and later the company was fined $7,600 due to failure to file risk management and violations on how it stored anhydrous ammonia. Most recently, in 2011, the facility was fined $5250 after a safety inspection.

The explosion occurred on Wednesday, April 17, 2013. The sheer magnitude of the explosion was equivalent to a 2.1 magnitude earthquake and had the force of 10 tons of TNT. The play on words “business is BOOMing in Texas” alludes to the fact that just because business is growing doesn’t mean it is in a healthy way. Ohman, criticizes businesses and the government for allowing these businesses to indulge in such dangerous practices without considering that they could be endangering human lives. At least 15 people died that day and around 160-200 people were injured– most were first responders and firefighters. The blast had flattened homes within a five-block radius (Meyer). The fire that started the explosion was claimed by the Bureau of Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to be arson. Yet there have been many previous cases of burglary due to lax security since ammonia was a key component of methamphetamine.

In the investigation that followed, The West Texas Company was found to have mismanaged their resources, failed to report the contents of the facility, failed to take preventable measures against fire, and the inability of state and local regulatory agencies. The 270 tons of ammonium that were contained in the facility was well over the 400-pound regulation and required the plant to report it to the Department of Homeland Security, yet the plant did report it to the Department of State Health Services. Due to the lack of communication between these two agencies and a report filed that “there was no risk of a fire or an explosion” by the plant, the State didn’t deem the plant a risk. Furthermore, the last full safety inspection was conducted in 1985 (Propublica) – 27 years before the explosion. Governor Rick Perry’s low regulation also allowed homes and schools to be built literally blocks away from these sites due to outdated haphazard zoning policies. In the cartoon, Governor Perry doesn’t seem to be surprised but is rather unfazed at the explosion in the background. Ohman seems to be claiming that Governor Perry knew something like this would happen, almost expecting it, and yet he doesn’t seem to care much even though at least 15 Texas citizens perished.  Furthermore, the proximity of the blast in the cartoon may allude to the fact that these dangerous facilities could be right next to where you live and you never know when you will become a headline.

The issues illustrated in Business in Texas are very similar to those depicted in the political cartoon Spring Comes to East Texas by John Knott, a political cartoonist who worked at the Dallas Morning News. Published on the first day of spring in 1937, Knott’s cartoon portrays a lone figure, deemed to be Persephone, staring forlornly at a backdrop of an innumerable number of graves under a darkening sky.

In 2011 an explosion that rocked West Texas was like the one that devastated New London Texas. In 1937, New London was in a time of economic prosperity very similar to the one being experienced in Texas in the late 21st century due to an influx of businesses. Yet both cartoons portray a type of disaster that befell these two communities. In Business in Texas the tragedy is quite clear, the explosion caused by lax regulations and a blind eye towards those consequences eventually resulted in a factory explosion that killed at least 15 people. Failure to report the amount of possible explosives and disregarding the unforeseen yet possible consequences, the West Texas Plant put everyone around them in danger. On the other hand, in Spring Comes to East Texas, Knott illustrates a picture of death and finality yet includes a deeper symbolic meaning with the picture of Persephone. Persephone, who represents spring and life, is present, yet around her lacks life and the coming of spring. Knott’s portrayal of this scene points a finger at the board members who decided to cut costs and in the end caused the deaths of 294 children and teachers which has put even spring on hold to mourn for this tragedy. Just like the West Texas Plant, the board of directors disregarded the possibility of a gas leak, which could have very likely happened, and continued to proceed as if the lives of the people in their school were insignificant compared to the costs of paying for actual natural gas.

The irony in these two cartoons is that even in present day Texas, 80 some years after the incident, businesses are still cutting corners and reaping the benefits. It seems that throughout this period no one has learned that the cost of letting businesses do whatever they want is too high of a risk. Many people still believe that “businesses can come down here and do pretty much what they want to do, that is the Texas way” (NY Times). Almost a whole decade spanning these two incidents, nothing much has changed which is a worrying trend that history may be waiting to repeat itself again.

Works Cited:

Fernandez, Manny. “Lax Oversight Cited as Factor in Deadly Blast at Texas Plant.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 22 Apr. 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/23/us/lack-of-oversight-and-regulations-blamed-in-texas-chemical-explosion.html>.

Urbina, Ian, Manny Fernandez, and John Schwartz. “After Plant Explosion, Texas Remains Wary of Regulation.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 09 May 2013. Web. 17 Nov. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/10/us/after-plant-explosion-texas-remains-wary-of-regulation.html>.

Fernandez, Manny. “Fire That Left 15 Dead at Texas Fertilizer Plant Is Ruled Intentional.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 11 May 2016. Web. 17 Nov. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/12/us/texas-fertilizer-plant-explosion.html>.

Meyer, Theodoric. “What Went Wrong in West, Texas — and Where Were the Regulators?” ProPublica. N.p., 29 Apr. 2013. Web. 17 Nov. 2016. <https://www.propublica.org/article/what-went-wrong-in-west-texas-and-where-were-the-regulators>.

Ohman, Jack. “Rick Perry ‘explosion’ Cartoon Published to Make a Point.” Sacbee. Sacramento Bee, 25 Apr. 2015. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. <http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/editorial-cartoons/jack-ohman/article2577318.html>.

Ohman, Jack. “Business in Texas.” Sacramento Bee 25 Apr. 2013: n. pag. Print.

Toyota Gets Rustled By Rick Perry’s Texas

toyota-gets-rustled-by-rick-perrys-texas-horsey

 

David Horsey’s cartoon Toyota Gets Rustled by Rick Perry’s Texas provides a hyperbolic illustration of the relocation of industries from California to Texas. Through the depiction of former-governor Rick Perry and two other Texans dressed as stereotypical cowboys taking the Toyota headquarters from California, the Texans are likened to rustlers, stealing something that belongs to California (Horsey). Although Toyota decided to relocate to Texas because of Texas’ favorable business climate and to be closer to their Southern manufacturing hubs, the portrayal of the Texans in the cartoon casts an unfavorable light on Texas, further communicating California’s feelings that they had been stolen from (Hirsch). The accompanying editorial “Toyota exit from Torrance inflames Texas/California rivalry” goes on to provide more background behind the tension between the two states’ vastly different economic models. With two powerhouse economies, California and Texas can be “seen as the perfect contrast between a high-regulation blue state and a low-regulation red state” (Horsey). Since the Toyota industry was moving from California to Texas, it only added fuel to the fire for people arguing over which economic model was superior (Horsey). Overall, Horsey’s depiction of Toyota being stolen away to Texas provides insight to the relocation of industries in response to push and pull factors, as well as Californian sentiment about Toyota’s departure.

The car production company Toyota had been in California since 1957 (Ohnsman). Although it started as a Japanese company, Toyota eventually grew large enough to begin international sales, setting up a headquarters in California to be closer to the American market (Toyota History). However, over the 50 years that Toyota was stationed in California, California’s regulations grew stricter and taxes increased (California Code of Regulations). California’s businesses were “strangled by red tape that [made] starting and running a successful business difficult” (Fleeing California). All of these issues created a push factor, pushing businesses to look to other states for a more business-friendly climate. When compared to California, Texas had far less restrictive regulations. Since “[b]eing unfriendly to business isn’t good for the economy,” Texas’ regulatory simplicity, lower tax rates, and decreased red tape were all pull factors for industries in highly-regulated states, incentivizing them to relocate to Texas (DeVore).

In addition, the sentiment depicted in the cartoon is worth noting. Because the cartoon and editorial were published in the LA Times, they take on a very California-sympathetic tone. Instead of objectively showing Toyota making the choice that best benefited their business, the cartoon’s imagery makes the Texans out to be the bad guys. It is not coincidental that former-governor Rick Perry is portrayed as a rustler. The term rustler is used to describe cattle thieves, but it is commonly associated with the wild west cowboy era during the second half of the 1800s. Because California felt Texas had taken something from them, the Texans were likened to rustlers, stealing hard-working ranchers’ cows for profit in the time of the cowboy. By choosing to depict the Texans as rustlers, the cartoon is not only equating the Texans to thieves, but also presenting them as old-fashioned and stereotypical. The humor lies in understanding the common stereotype of Texans as antiquated cowboys, giving an additional layer of negative connotation to the representation of Texans as rustlers.

The factors surrounding the relocation of production from one state to another closely parallels the decentralization of industries towards the end of the Great Depression. In a similar fashion, John Knott’s cartoon Come to Texas! depicts industries coming to Texas to take advantage of Texas’ better business climate in the late 1930s (Knott). Just like how northern centralized industries decentralized to combat the problems of the Great Depression and the utilize the benefits of production in Texas, Toyota left California’s harsher business climate and regulation in favor of the advantages of being stationed in Texas. Even 70 years later, industries like Toyota still decentralize production to Texas because of its more business-friendly environment.

In conclusion, David Horsey’s political cartoon Toyota Gets Rustled by Rick Perry’s Texas provides commentary on the relocation of Toyota’s industry from California to Texas, including insight to the Californian viewpoint of the events. Despite some sour feelings in California, Toyota chose to come to Texas to escape high levels of regulation and take advantage of the business-friendly climate, similarly to the proceedings portrayed in Knott’s cartoon. Whether in the 1930s or the 2000s, Texas continues to draw in industries due to its lower regulations and environment that’s kinder to businesses.

 

 

Works Cited

“California Code of Regulations.” Westlaw. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. https://govt.westlaw.com/calregs/index?__lrTS=20161130033726038&transitionType=Default&contextData=%28sc.Default%29

DeVore, Chuck. “What Makes Texas The Most Small Business-Friendly State, And Rhode Island The Least.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 18 Aug. 2015. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. http://www.forbes.com/sites/chuckdevore/2015/08/18/less-regulation-taxes-unionization-make-texas-most-small-business-friendly-rhode-island-least/#71f9cff76d37

“Fleeing California.” The Washington Times. The Washington Times, 17 Feb. 2015. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/feb/17/editorial-businesses-flee-californias-high-taxes-a/.

Hirsch, Jerry. “3,000 Toyota Jobs to Move to Texas from Torrence.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 28 Apr. 2014. Web. 06 Nov. 2016. http://www.latimes.com/business/autos/la-fi-toyota-move-20140429-story.html

Horsey, David. “Toyota Exit from Torrance Inflames Texas/California Rivalry.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 1 May 2014. Web. 06 Nov. 2016. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-toyota-exit-20140501-story.html

Knott, John. “Come to Texas!” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News. 27 March 1937. Sec 2: 2. Print.

Ohnsman, Alan. “Tesla Leads in California Auto Jobs as Toyota Plans Exit.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, 16 May 2014. Web. 06 Nov. 2016. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-05-16/tesla-edges-out-toyota-as-california-s-top-auto-employer

“Toyota History: Corporate and Automotive.” Toyoland. Toyoland, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. http://www.toyoland.com/history.html