Stay Hydrated, They Say — Unless You’re a Construction Worker

The always cruel Texas GOP eliminated a requirement in Texas cities that developers provide 10-minute water breaks. How are they to stay hydrated?

About 150 years ago, Gen. Philip Sheridan was sweltering in the relentless heat of a Texas summer, trying to stay hydrated. He was not happy: “If I owned Texas and Hell,” he groused, “I would rent out Texas and live in Hell.”

Summer has always been hot here, but 2023 has been something else, thanks to a hellish “heat dome” that has been baking us since late spring, sending daily temps up to 116 degrees. But worse, a more punishing heat has hit us from an even stranger unnatural dome: the Texas State Capitol. That’s where our malicious Gov. Greg Abbott and his GOP majority of extremist right-wing lawmakers rig the rules to make life easier and richer for corporate elites — and much harder for working people.

In this year’s legislative session, they rammed a nasty piece of plutocratic meanness into law that critics dubbed “Death Star.” It annihilates the basic right of local officials and voters to govern their own cities and counties. In particular, it empowers autocratic state officials — and even corporate executives! — to nullify decisions by localities to protect workers and others from corporate abuse.

In a cruel case of bad timing, the first local law targeted for nullification by the Texas GOP is a humane requirement in Dallas and other cities that developers provide 10-minute water breaks for construction workers to help them stay hydrated. This in a state with America’s highest rate of heat-related deaths and presently suffering biblical-level heat. Triple-digit temperatures kill, yet Abbott, his air-conditioned legislative cronies, and his corporate campaign donors whined that a required water break was an “oppressive burden” on the extraordinarily rich construction industry.

Here’s a new rule I’d like to see: No lawmaker or lobbyist is allowed to oppose heat protections for workers unless they spend July and August with no air conditioning for themselves.

The Supreme Court: A Nest of Clueless, Overprivileged Elites

Here’s an embarrassing turn of events: The six right-wing ideologues now controlling the Supreme Court recently decreed that helping some students get into college through affirmative action programs is henceforth unconstitutional.

This is somewhere between clueless and cynical, since at least five of these six aloof Supremes got into colleges and law schools through higher education’s most-entrenched channel of affirmative action: family affluence and elite connections.

America’s higher-ed establishment has long promoted a self-serving conceit that entrance to its campuses is based on meritocracy. Blatant racial and gender discrimination, however, put the lie to that, so schools adopted affirmative action policies to help rebalance the mix. The six supreme partisans killed this effort, replacing it with… nothing.

Meanwhile, our college system is becoming even more exclusive because of a deeply ingrained institutional bias that deliberately shuts out millions of the best and brightest, no matter their race, gender or religion. That bias is economic class. From prestigious private schools to most big-name state universities, recruitment and admission procedures overwhelmingly favor those families privileged to have money and social standing. No matter how smart or promising working-class and poor students are, they’re largely left out. New York Times columnist David Leonhardt reports that this class divide is sharp, with some colleges enrolling more undergraduates from the wealthiest 1% of families than from all the families in the bottom 60%!

These far-right political justices, blind to the special privileges they’ve been given in life, are imperiously negating our people’s hard-won progress toward… well, toward justice for all. Moreover, their elitist monkey-wrenching of college enrollment eliminates a ladder of unimpeded opportunity that is essential for the well-being of our country as a whole.

All six need to be replaced, not merely with better judges, but with better human beings.

Jim Hightower