Texas Is a Shining Example of Right-Wing Governance in Action and That's Why It's a Complete Basket-Case
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Conservative mythology now holds up Texas as a shining example of right-wing governance in action. Republicans would have us believe that gutting the state's social safety net, denying workers the right to bargain collectively and relentlessly cutting taxes unleashed a torrent of “job creation” and, ultimately, prosperity.
Under governor Rick “Goodhair” Perry's term in office, Texas has indeed been a model of conservative governance, but the truth is that it has resulted in anything but prosperity for the people of the Lone Star State. In fact, Texas is not only a complete basket-case, it would be faring far worse today without the help of policies enacted by Democrats at the federal level – policies Perry lambasted as “irresponsible spending that threatens our future.”
The kernel of truth on which the tale of the Texas Miracle is built is that the state has in fact added a lot of jobs over the past decade. In a gushing lead editorial, the Wall Street Journal noted that “37% of all net new American jobs since the recovery began were created in Texas.” The Journal then spun that fact like this:
Capital—both human and investment—is highly mobile, and it migrates all the time to the places where the opportunities are larger and the burdens are lower. Texas has no state income tax. Its regulatory conditions are contained and flexible. It is fiscally responsible and government is small. Its right-to-work law doesn't impose unions on businesses or employees.
In the Journal's hyper-partisan view, the lesson to be learned is that “the core impulse of Obamanomics is to make America less like Texas and more like California, with more government, more unions, more central planning, higher taxes.” That spin was echoed during last week's GOP debate by none other than Newt Gingrich, who asked, “Why [would] you want to be at California's unemployment level when you can be [at] Texas's employment level?”
James Galbraith, an economist at the University of Texas, scoffed at the whole narrative, telling AlterNet, “the notion that our state government is a model is almost enough to beckon the spirit of Molly Ivins back from the shades.” Galbraith said “Texas has been a low-tax, low-service state since the time of the Republic,” and noted that it's “therefore impossible that this fact suddenly accounts for its better job performance over the past few years.” (Texas' record of job creation under Perry is the same as it was under former governor Ann Richards, a Democrat.)
“Texas is an energy state benefiting from high oil prices and the incipient boom in natural gas,” explained Galbraith. “That's an accident of nature.” He added that the state “went through the S&L crisis, had major criminal prosecutions and more restrictive housing finance regulations this time around; hence it was not an epicenter of the subprime housing disaster. That's called a learning experience.” Tighter regulation of the lending industry is also anathema to today's GOP.
Arguably the biggest sleight-of-hand in the Texas Miracle storyline, however, is that many of those jobs were a result of a huge surge in the state's population, much of it fueled by immigration from Latin America (rather than liberal hell-holes like California).
Texas' population grew by 20 percent over the past decade, and Hispanics accounted for almost two-thirds of that growth. A surge in people created greater demand for goods and services, which leads to more jobs. But the jobs being created in Texas aren't keeping up with the state's expanding workforce – the Wall Street Journal somehow failed to mention that during the exact same period in which it was adding all those new jobs, Texas' unemployment rate actually increased from 7.7 to 8 percent (it also failed to note that 23 states -- including such deep blue ones as Vermont, New York and Massachusetts -- enjoy lower unemployment rates than Texas).