I have hesitated to respond to Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman’s claim that Texas could be an independent nation, because it’s hardly worth getting into an argument over the issue. But it shouldn’t be hard to rebut. I could start with health care. Without Medicaid funds from the federal government, every hospital in Texas would have to shut down. Next: roads. Without federal highway funds, Texas would have to start grinding up perfectly good roads and turning them into gravel. Oh, wait, we’re already doing that.

Then there is the matter of the border. Every politician in Texas is screaming about securing the border. But DPS doesn’t have enough troopers to do it. Air travel would come to a halt if the federal government didn’t operate the major airports in Texas. Our coastal ports would be unable to engage in foreign trade if the federal government did not dredge deepwater routes into the Gulf of Mexico. The point is, the federal government puts a lot of money into the state – think of the payrolls of our major military installations at Fort Hood and Fort Bliss. Anybody who thinks Texas could go it alone is dreaming. Sure, we have oil, but remember: the price of oil can go down as well as up – a bitter lesson that we have to re-learn from time to time.