For better or much worse, when its Legislature is in session, Texas' lieutenant governor is arguably the most powerful state official -- able to railroad or kill any bill.
Right now, however, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is but a clanging cymbal.
The cymbal-ic imagery comes to us from I Corinthians and the line about the person who speaks not from love but from politics.
That's only my translation, but it suits so well the words of certain conservative voices – like Donald Trump's.
From Trump, the current tally of empathetic words a whole month into the COVID-19 crisis has topped out at zero.
Now we have him sounding frighteningly like Dan Patrick.
Patrick, who honed his percussive instrument as a Houston talk-show host, seems to have primed the pump for others, including the president, to suggest that we shelve common sense for dollars and cents.
Patrick's suggestion that older Americans should sacrifice their lives for the sake of a back-to-bar-codes-now economy fits so well with the general greed-is-good, business-as-God philosophy.
All along free-market fundamentalists have been comfortable with a "Hunger Games" where certain competitors haven't so much as an arrow.
In this case we aren't talking about the laws of the jungle, market-wise, but the biology of a virus that preys most seriously on compromised systems.
Some of the younger and healthier have acted over the last few days like they are apart from the human race. At the moment, fortunately, most of us are relying whole-heartedly on the advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci, even if Trump is reticent.
The fact is that as decisively as governors have acted regarding this crisis – New York's Andrew Cuomo the Churchill being of the moment – for Trump to revoke social distancing recommendations too soon would be nearly as ineffectual as anything Texas' lieutenant governor has to share with us. It would just be words
Regardless, it would be unbelievably dangerous. It would be a license to bio-hooliganism – back to the beaches and the casinos. Mardi Gras II, anyone?
What's going on right now in the minds of some free-market fundamentalists is what has been at play all along in their efforts to shrug off climate action.
Who cares what becomes of the Great Barrier Reef as long as this business cycle doesn't take a hit? Shrinking glaciers? How does that affect my bottom line? Vanishing Arctic ice? Hey, a new shipping lane.
It's all about rationalize the rationing of what our planet has to offer. Some people will always have all and more than they need. Of course, they will always need more.
So, too, for those whose general constitution will allow them to ride out an affliction like the coronavirius. Not so for those who unknowingly will be exposed by them and then die because their bodies can't handle it.
In her book, "This Changes Everything," about the clash between capitalism and the environment, Naomi Klein writes of "sacrifice" zones – places laid to waste for the fossil fuels a carbon-addicted society demands.
Those zones, she points out, have graduated from barren outreaches where oil derricks seem at home to the veritable backyards of homes endangered by fracking operations.
Those who would rush us back to business prematurely vise would create a sacrifice zone of anyone vulnerable to the worst effects of COVID-19.
To think that we would even consider this option says how over-the-top has become the worship of mammon. Check Luke 16:13. It's about serving two masters.
Not that I would have either as my master, I vote for Fauci over Trump.