Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Snow and ice in Houston, Texas. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Snow and ice in Houston, Texas. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Deregulated, Privatized Utilities in Texas Are Designed for Private Gain at Public Expense

My family spent the Texas freeze cold and dirty and parched while utilities bilked us and politicians fled to resorts.

Denita Jones

 by OtherWords

We used every coat, blanket, sweater, and pair of socks in the house—even when we slept.

We only cooked once a day. We couldn't bathe or do laundry. Unlike many families, we had water—but it looked almost like milk coming out of the tap.

It was the Texas freeze, and we were cold and dirty and hungry and parched.

In some ways, we were lucky. At least 80 people died, and possibly many more. And even now, we still have neighbors without water coming over to shower and use our bathroom.

Our state is a cautionary tale about power generation that's privatized and poorly regulated. The big companies who run so much of the grid in Texas failed to winterize their infrastructure, leading to massive blackouts and tremendous suffering.

We knew this could happen, because it already did. These same failures wreaked havoc after a winter storm back in 2011, but politicians—often with industry donations in their pockets—failed to fix the problem.

A decade later, the blackouts were five times as destructive—and could have been even worse. Reports now say we were just four and a half minutes from a total grid failure in Texas, which could have caused blackouts for weeks and even months.

Unfortunately, we have a governor and conservative legislators who seem to care more about private profits than our lives and health. They care more about golfing and going to resorts in Cancun than whether my children have heat or drinking water.

All of these issues are interlocked—jobs that don't pay enough, utilities that cost too much, the lack of basic public health protections at work.

It was the corporations, utilities, and regulators who failed. But it's ordinary folks who bore the brunt of losing power who are being forced to pay—literally.

The state's grid manager overcharged Texans by at least $16 billion during the storm, leading to power bills that ran thousands of dollars during the blackouts. And authorities are now saying they won't even bother to sort out the over-charges.

Why are they doing this? Because they can. Our deregulated, privatized utilities in Texas are designed for private gain at public expense.

This was true even before the freeze. This summer they charged me so much for electricity that I had to choose between eye appointments, doctor visits for my kids, and power enough to run the air conditioner in the unforgiving Texas summer.

And this is hardly the only crisis we're living through right now.

Last May, my boss reopened my place of employment without any safety precautions. I'd been promised the opportunity to work from home to help my kids with their online schooling. They went back on that promise, so I was forced to quit.

Now, the governor has gone ahead and thrown out every single remaining COVID-19 safety measure—even with every new aggressive virus variant now present in Texas. This will force millions more of us to make dreadful choices.

Is this leadership?

All of these issues are interlocked—jobs that don't pay enough, utilities that cost too much, the lack of basic public health protections at work. These bad policies hit us in the Black, brown, and immigrant communities the hardest. But no matter where we come from or what we look like, all of us deserve better than this.

That's why I organize with the Poor People's Campaign—to help other low-income parents fight for a $15 minimum wage, paid sick leave, and affordable health care and housing. If there's something worse than not being warm or bathed or properly fed for weeks, it's having lawmakers who bring home huge paychecks and ride out storms in resorts while we suffer.

We need to use our collective voice to make them change. It's you and me that will make the change, together.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Denita Jones

Denita Jones is a single mother and organizer with the Poor People’s Campaign in Dallas. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

Abortion Rights Defenders Applaud Judge's Block on Utah 'Trigger Ban'

"Today is a win, but it is only the first step in what will undoubtedly be a long and difficult fight," said one pro-choice advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


Scores Feared Dead and Wounded as Russian Missiles Hit Ukraine Shopping Center

"People just burned alive," said Ukraine's interior minister, while the head of the Poltava region stated that "it is too early to talk about the final number of the killed."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biodiversity Risks Could Persist for Decades After Global Temperature Peak

One study co-author said the findings "should act as a wake-up call that delaying emissions cuts will mean a temperature overshoot that comes at an astronomical cost to nature and humans that unproven negative emission technologies cannot simply reverse."

Jessica Corbett ·


Amnesty Report Demands Biden Take Action to End Death Penalty

"The world is waiting for the USA to do what almost 100 countries have achieved during this past half-century—total abolition of the death penalty," said the group.

Julia Conley ·


Pointing to 'Recently Obtained Evidence,' Jan. 6 Panel Calls Surprise Tuesday Hearing

The announcement came less than a week after the House panel delayed new hearings until next month, citing a "deluge" of fresh evidence.

Common Dreams staff ·

Common Dreams Logo