From the founding of our country, we have joined together to make decisions about our security and welfare.
We are the government, and the premise and promise of America always has been that through civic participation — especially the power of our vote — and individual effort we form a “more perfect union.”
While we celebrate the freedom to accomplish what we can as individuals, together, we have achieved great public works, from infrastructure, such as the interstate highway system, bridges and dams, to civic works, such as our great parks and libraries, to the social safety net there for us all in case of need. In the words of President Barack Obama, each of us has benefitted from these investments, and we are a more prosperous country as a result.
Balancing what we do as a nation with what we do as individuals is always an important debate. What is not a debate is whether there is any role for government at all, and some Republicans seem to get that, the party has been increasingly driven by people who, simply put, do not believe in government.
That is a dangerous position to take in a nation founded on a government of the people. And, by the way, I don’t believe that is a conservative position.
I agree more with my friend Senator John Carona, who said during the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin recently that the conservative value is to make government work, not to undermine it. Speaker of the House Joe Straus told the El Paso Times in 2011 that we can’t cut our way to prosperity. Again, I agree.
In order to make government work — to defend our nation, educate our children, to provide police and fire, to fix the lights and potholes, to build great civil and social works — we have to pay for it. These are investments that come back to us in so many ways, whether it’s driving to work, buying products that come to us over the roads we built, or reaping the benefits of new inventions.
When we cut education, as the Legislature did last session, or when we let roads and bridges crumble, or when we let the safety net fray, we pass on our responsibility to the next generation. More immediately, Texas is passing the buck to local communities, which have to make the hard choices about revenue and cuts that the state refuses to make. Meanwhile, while we are reaping the benefits of our achievements of the 20th century we are falling behind in our responsibility to the future. I am optimistic about the possibilities ahead, about the New Texas, and I believe the future is a good investment.
In just a few hours I will debate my opponent live on KCOS television, the El Paso PBS station, which offers an array of excellent programming and a local studio that allows for important public affairs broadcasts. The station and the studio are educational benefits for both adults — such as those of you who will see the debate — and children, generations of whom have grown up on, yes, Big Bird.
This is no silly little symbol, as some would have it. This is a positive influence on our society that far outweighs the relatively minuscule investment — one year of PBS costs as much as running the Pentagon for 6 hours!
Our democratic system of government is not the only solution to our challenges, but it is not the problem. It is a uniquely American tool we have used successfully for almost 250 years to build our great country. I am proud to have dedicated my life to that effort.
PS: Please watch the debate tonight at 7 p.m. on KCOS (Channel 13 on air, and Channels 12 or 880 on cable).