Every so often here in Texas, the topic of secession comes up. Few really take it seriously, as that particular topic was put to rest back in 1865 with the end of the Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression, depending on who you talk to). It is hard to imagine secession ever coming up to a vote, even here in Texas, much less passing. And yet, it is a subject that never seems to go away, probably because Texas, unique among the states, was its own country for nine years and there is that streak within Texans, both native and transplanted that says “we could do it again if we wanted to.”
2016 being not only an election year, but an election year unlike any in recent memory, the topic has arisen once again, this time in conjunction with the upcoming Texas GOP convention. According to the still alive and kicking Texas Succession Movement, 22 out of the 270 county GOP conventions passed some type of independence resolution at their meetings this spring, although independent verification by the Houston Chronicle was only able to confirm ten. Still, ten is a much larger number than in the past, and they want to bring it to the floor for a vote at the state GOP convention on 12 May in Dallas.
The Texas GOP for its part would be all the happier if the topic simply went away. They have absolutely no desire to discuss it at the convention, and are quick to change the subject whenever it is mentioned. With all the important issues facing the nation and the State of Texas, wasting time discussing secession just makes us here in the Lone Star State look extreme and quite frankly, silly, to everyone else.
The movement claims to have 200,000 members state-wide. That seems like a lot and it is, but in a population of nearly 27.5 million people, it is a fringe movement at best. Still, it does bring up an interesting question; if it were possible for Texas to secede, could it make a go of being its own country again? How successful might it be? And what would be the impact on the United States if it did?
Texas is the second largest state in the Union, and the largest in the CONUS, exceeded in size only by Alaska. It originally was much larger. The original land area of Texas included parts of what are now Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. Population wise, only California is bigger. Texas boasts a diversity of climate zones, containing deserts, pine forests, and everything in between. It has three cities with over 1 million population, and 29 with populations over 100,000.
Although Texas is best known for oil and cattle, it is also the home of 54 Fortune 500 companies, putting it number 2 on the list of states, one behind New York and one ahead of California. The list makes interesting reading, particularly for those who believe that Texas would collapse quite rapidly if all the money the federal government was “sending here” in the form of military bases, block grants, welfare checks, and federal disaster aid were to suddenly be withdrawn.
In fact, perhaps the most interesting reading on the subject of secession isn’t the article I linked in the second paragraph, but rather the more than 3400 comments the article engendered, many of which fell into the category of “don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out,” and “why don’t you take (list of various other southern states) with you when you go?” I guess many on the left feel that the best way to get to that leftist progressive utopia they all yearn for is to simply dump all the red states, particularly Texas with its 38 electoral votes, and be done with it. Too bad the issue can’t be resolved simply by a nation-wide plebiscite! We might actually be kicked out of the Union by our fellow countrymen!
There seems to be a consensus, at least among those making the majority of the comments, that America would be better off without Texas; that Texas is a net money sink with more federal tax payer dollars going into the state that the state pays back in taxes. And that may be true. However with an estimated federal budget deficit in fiscal year 2016 of $544 billion (up from $438 billion in FY 2015), that is true of every state in the union. All states get back more than they pay in; Texas is hardly unique in that regard.
Many people don’t know it, but Texas is the only state with its own independent power grid and will soon be the only state with its only gold repository. Texas contains two of the four strategic petroleum reserve sites, totaling 500 million barrels of oil. It is also interesting to note that Texas is the home of the only nuclear weapons manufacturing facility in the United States. Oh yes – and we are not dependent on foreign oil, water, gas, or food.
The state GDP was $1.65 trillion in 2015, second only to California, and the state’s economic growth picture is looking good. For those who think an independent Texas would be a third world nation, our GDP is on par with that of Canada, which ranks number 11 in the world. For those who think that Texas would be successfully invaded by Mexico if we were to become independent, our GDP is higher than the GDP of Australia and South Korea, both of whom have successful military forces, and almost on par with that of Russia. Incidentally, Mexico ranks number 15 at $1.28 trillion – below Texas.
On the topic of military forces, while federal military forces might depart, Texas does have a significant military presence already and of course, the bases would remain. The Texas armed forces are comprised of three branches; the Texas Army National Guard, the Texas Air National Guard, and the Texas State Guard. The Texas Army National Guard currently has around 19,000 soldiers, and 117 armories in 102 communities.
Texas Army National Guard units include the 36th Infantry Division, 65th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, 71st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, 36th Sustainment Brigade, 176th Engineer Brigade, 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, the 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, and the 136th Regiment.
The Texas Air National Guard units include the 149th Fighter Wing (F-16C/D), 136th Airlift Wing (C-130), 147th Reconnaissance Wing (Predator), 254th Combat Communications Group, 272nd Engineering Installation Squadron, and the 204th Security Forces Squadron. There are airfields all over Texas where these units can deploy. During WW II, Texas was the site of numerous Army Air Force training bases, due primarily to the good flying weather we enjoy year round. Most of these were turned over to civilian control or retained as active duty Air Force bases and their runways are still active and in repair. This doesn’t include other existing Air Force bases, or bases that were closed under various rounds of BRAC that were also turned over to civilian control.
We could even build and repair our own aircraft if needs be. The only F-16 assembly line in the US is located in the Dallas-Ft Worth area. Port San Antonio, formerly Kelly AFB, is home to what was once one of the Air Force’s Air Logistics Centers, and the Boeing facilities are still used to perform depot level maintenance on C-130s, C-17s, KC-135s, and others, such as C-5s and B-52s have been maintained there in the past.
There are also a lot of military retirees and people with military experience living in Texas that could be drawn upon if necessary. On my cul-de-sac alone there are five retired Air Force and two retired Marines that I know of. There are at least three more military retirees; not sure what branch they represent. While military retirees might not be ready to snatch up rifles and head for the front lines, they certainly could serve as a training cadre and in support roles if necessary. Texas military forces could ramp up quite rapidly if the occasion warranted it.
It is also interesting to note that the people making the comments seem to think that all the military installations in Texas, the manned space flight center in Houston, and all the military aircraft, armored vehicles, weapons, etc would all “revert back” to the US Federal Government. However, although this might be “intuitively obvious” to the casual liberal observer, it is instructive to see what actually happened during the dissolution of the former Soviet Union.
When the Soviet Union broke up, all former soviet military forces did not automatically revert back to Russia. Such forces included not only planes and tanks (which could have flown/driven back respectively), but such things as nuclear weapons, ships, and space complexes. Although the numbers fluxuate, the United States currently has overseas bases in at least 74 countries. It is not unreasonable to assume that if Texas were “cut loose” as it were, that the US military would keep at least some of its bases in Texas, leasing them under a “status of forces agreement” as it does in other foreign countries, if for no other reason than it would be cheaper than relocating them elsewhere. Likewise, it would be cheaper to lease the Johnson Space Flight Center than to relocate it.
And while those on the left might enjoy the spectacle of Mexico storming over the border to reclaim what was once theirs, that scenario isn’t likely to happen either, because, even if Texas proved itself incapable of seeing to its own defense (unlikely), the United States would be equally unlikely to permit it.
In 2014, Texas oil production exceeded 3.1 million barrels per day; 35% of U.S. production. In fact, nearly one third of all U.S crude oil reserves are in Texas. While many on the left would no doubt be perfectly happy to write this off since they don’t particularly care for fossil fuels in general, in reality that would cause a good deal of discomfort for those remaining in the Union.
In addition to having adequate supplies of oil and natural gas to sustain itself, Texas also has 29 percent of the total U.S. refining capacity within its borders; 27 refineries with a refining capacity of 5.1 million barrels of oil per day. Texas refineries take crude from Texas producers, offshore oil from the Gulf of Mexico, and foreign imports. The refineries can handle various grades of crude, from high-grade West Texas Intermediate, to the low-grade heavy crude from Venezuela, and are optimized to produce large quantities of light, high value products. Pipelines take these products from the refineries to nearly every major market east of the Rocky Mountains; pipelines that originate in and run through the state of Texas.
And whereas the left might not like fossil fuels, refineries produce many more products necessary to a modern nation than gas or diesel fuels, many of which come from Texas. In fact, Houston alone accounts for over 42% of the U.S. base petrochemical capacity and is home to over 50 energy-related companies on the Fortune 1000 list.
Interestingly, Texas also has some of the largest wind farms in the country as well, with a total installed capacity of 17,713 MW from over 40 different projects. Indeed, Texas produces more wind power than any other state. We will have no problem selling that power back to the greenies in the U.S.; or we could simply use it ourselves.
Then there are the ports on the Gulf of Mexico, of which the Port of Houston is the largest. In fact, Houston, the fourth largest city in the U.S., is the busiest port in the U.S. in terms of foreign tonnage, and the second-busiest in the U.S. in terms of overall tonnage. It is also the 13th busiest in the entire world. All in all, I think that Texas has enough business to sustain itself without the “largess” of the American tax payer as so many northern lefties with their upturned noses assume.
And as if that weren’t enough, in addition to having the only nuclear weapons manufacturing facility in the United States (which isn’t going to pick itself up and move somewhere else), we also have multiple uranium mines in Texas. None are currently operating – but they could be opened up again. We also have two nuclear power plants in Texas, each with two reactors, and Andrews County has been lobbying to store the nation’s nuclear wastes at its facility now that Nevada has rejected locating the repository there. It goes without saying that all this spent fuel could be reprocessed into nuclear weapons; Texas could have its own nuclear deterrent if it so desired.
Of course, this all would depend on secession being allowed by the U.S. government, which is unlikely, no matter how many on the left might with it to be so. If it came to a fight with the U.S. government, forget it. It is unlikely in the extreme that Texas could successfully pull off what the entire South failed at 150 years ago, particularly in this day and age. It would be bloody, nasty, and destructive, but Texas would lose and lose big. No percentage in that.
Still – if they would let us go – or even take a national plebiscite and kick us out, why not? Let all those who still believe in the founding principles of this nation, who aren’t interested in becoming a socialist worker’s paradise, come to Texas. Let it be a haven for conservatives and libertarians alike.
Imagine what businesses in Texas could achieve, unfettered from the binding chains of regulation and oversight coming from Washington D.C.? You folks on the left want to see us depart? Why don’t you lobby your congresscritters and see if you can’t make that happen? There would be a period of adjustment on both sides, sure, but I think we would gain far more than we would lose.
This is just a short, thumbnail sketch, but I think it answers part of the question “could Texas stand on its own” – and I think it does so in the affirmative and at the same time points to why the United States will never willingly let Texas go no matter how loudly those on the left grouse and complain. Besides, all they have to do is wait. Demographics, unfortunately, will tilt Texas blue before too long anyway although, Texans being Texans, even if the state were to become a majority Democratic state again, talk of secession would likely remain.
But if for some reason the United States were to agree to let Texas go, the biggest problem Texans would have wouldn’t be turning into a third world country or being taken over by Mexico. It would be defending the large border it has with “the Colossus of the North”…