Deep in the Heart of Taxless Author: RaineDate:04/24/2013 15:25:44
Amid the chaos of last week, Many were watching westward, towards the small town of West, Texas.
The number of people who died in a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, last week now stands at 15, officials said Tuesday. Some earlier reports had indicated that 14 people had lost their lives. At least 200 more were injured.
In Waco, TV station KXXV says that officials believe they have found all the victims, quoting Mayor Pro Tem Steve Vanek saying "No more victims. Everything is searched," in a news conference today.
The latest death toll comes as investigators continue to study the catastrophe and the fire that preceded it. The explosion left a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep, investigators said Tuesday.
This is a terrible accident and my heart goes out to the people of West, Texas.
Since the explosion, much has come to light. In particular - how poorly regulated the plant was on both a federal and state level. There is plenty of blame to go around, but a few problems really stand out to me (Bold-face italics, mine):
DHS: Fertilizer facilities are required to report to the DHS if they hold more than 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate. The plant in West held 270 tons of it, but it failed to report this as is required. The plant did report this to the Texas DSHS.
DSHS: The West plant submitted a Type II report as part of the Chemical Reporting Program for last year, in which it documented many hazardous chemicals in amounts that pose a risk of fire or reactivity. It reported 100,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, which poses an short-term risk of fire, and 18,000 of ammonium nitrate in its largest container, which poses both a short-term and long-term risk of fire, among others. These reports serve as notification to the state that facilities have certain hazardous chemicals and can be used by first responders and the community to plan for emergencies. This information was not shared with DHS.
270 tons is 540,000 pounds -- that wasn't reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services. DSHS then went on to fail to report to the the U.S.Department of Homeland Security. Someone, either inadvertently or intentionally, gave false information.
Governor Rick Perry and former Republican candidate for President, received a phone call from President Obama:
“Last night was truly a nightmare scenario for that community,” Perry said. “President Obama called from Air Force One as he was en route to Boston… We greatly appreciate his call, and his gracious offer of support, of course, and the quick turnaround of the emergency declaration that will be forthcoming, and his offer of prayers.”
Perry, when asked whether volunteer fire department funding should be increased in light of the tragedy and cuts in 2011, suggested that's mostly up to lawmakers. He said he helped get more money for such departments when he was a lawmaker in the late '80s.
“I've been doing this for about 28 years now, and I've never seen the Legislature get it perfect. But they generally get it right,” Perry said.
“It's interesting, in 1987 and '89 when I was a member of the Legislature, I found substantial funding sources for volunteer fire departments,” he said. “Over the course of the last 20 years since then, I don't know whether that's gone up or down from that baseline, but being a small town legislator and being a governor from a relatively small town, I understand the importance of volunteer fire departments.”
I want to state that I believe the people affected by this disaster deserve any and all help any fellow citizen of this nation deserves. From the victims of 2011 Joplin MO Tornado, to Super Storm Sandy -- we come to the aid of our fellow citizens... eventually. In the past few years victims are used as political footballs before they can find relief. After the tornado hit Joplin, Eric Cantor stated that Missouri wouldn't get relief unless cuts were made elsewhere. A similar situation happened after Hurricane Sandy. FEMA is a necessity -- and I am glad that its reputation is experiencing restoration since the debacle after Hurricane Katrina. That said...
The rise of membership of the Texas Nationalist Movement came in conjunction with other secession related news events which were not part of that organization’s activities. In 2009, during a political rally the possibility of secession was addressed by Rick Perry, sparking a controversy among Texans. During the rally, many in the crowd began to chant “secede, secede” to which Perry remarked "If Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that."
Speaking to conservative radio host Glenn Beck on Tuesday, Perry said that lawmakers were in the process of “bringing gold that belongs to the state of Texas back into the state.” “If we own it, I will suggest to you that that’s not someone else’s determination whether we can take possession of it back or not,” Perry told Beck. (snip)
Former Rep. Ron Paul on Thursday explained to The Texas Tribune that the gold would be safer in the hands of Texans.
“If you think gold is a hedge, or a protection, you always want it as close to the individual and the entity as possible,” Paul said. “Texas is better served if it knows exactly where the gold is rather than depending on the security of the Federal Reserve.”
At a Republican debate this month in Florida, Perry said scores of people are moving to Texas "because they know there's still a land of freedom in America, freedom from overtaxation, freedom from overlitigation and freedom from overregulation, and it's called Texas. We need to do the same thing for America."
When many politicians and pundits proclaim Texas a low-tax state, they're referring to the fact that there's no personal income tax and that direct taxes on businesses are relatively low.
We'll get back to that in a minute.
Less than a week after the West, Texas disaster, Governor Perry made a trip to Illinois to woo jobs to his state.
Perry preceded his visit with an $80,000 advertising campaign last week that, as one radio ad put it, Illinois businesses ought to “get out while there’s still time.” (snip)
Perry said it would be “a little premature” to reach a conclusion about the cause of the explosion and a course of action. Still, he said it is “stunning” that the loss of life wasn’t greater. “How there were only 14 people who lost their lives is a bit of an amazement to me,” he said, referring to the plant’s proximity to homes and a school. While the city “grew up around that plant,” Perry said, local zoning regulations may need to be reexamined.
“Is it a legitimate question to ask, ‘Should the city have allowed [housing] to be built there?’ It’s a legitimate question,” he said.
Earlier in the year, he made trip to California with the same message.
Perry kicked off his in-your-face campaign to woo companies to the Lone Star State this month with radio ads declaring that "building a business in California is next to impossible." Now the governor is on a whirlwind trip through the state courting companies in person.
Since 2006, Texas' competitiveness on business taxes has dropped compared with other states, according to the Tax Foundation's annual ranking. Five years ago, Texas had the seventh-most-favorable business tax climate in the country. In the latest rankings, Texas is 13th.
Part of the drop is due to other states lowering their tax burden on businesses, Robyn said. Another cause is likely a controversial tax overhaul Perry approved in 2006.
That legislation was prompted by the state Supreme Court declaring Texas' education funding system unconstitutional. After years of wrangling, lawmakers ultimately lowered property taxes by billions and covered the loss through raising cigarette taxes from 41 cents to $1.41 per pack and converting the franchise tax to a broader margins tax that focused more on gross revenue instead of profit.
The margins tax has drawn criticism ever since. Some businesses have said it hits certain companies more than others. A host of others say the overhaul created a structural deficit in the state budget, as the tax has never drawn as much revenue as originally forecast.
Let's sum this all up. Rick Perry - secession theorist - is touting his state as being great because of less regulation and lower taxes. During his presidential campaign he touted Texas as a shining example of conservative success. He despises the federal Government until he wants money for his state. That money is needed due to poor zoning, bad regulation and (less than) low taxation.
In the meantime, due to poor zoning, bad regulation and less than low taxation, 15 people are dead, and scores more are injured. Many, ironically or not, were volunteer first-responders. This song remains true.:
I hope the good people of Texas can set it path right again. They deserve better than fertilizer they are being given by their elected officials.