The folks at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania recently released a report called The States Project – “nonpartisan reporting on the state of our states” – which compares states on a number of indicators. So how does Texas stack up? Not very well:
- Economic opportunity: 29th
- Educational achievement: 38th
- Health and wellness: 50th
Taking all of the indicators into account in a weighted average, Texas comes out as having the 34th best fundamentals. Considering Texas has the second largest economy in the U.S., it's hard to imagine it ranking so low. But it goes to show what happens when a state creates an environment favorable to business at the expense of everyone else.
The economic opportunity variable looks at unemployment rate, household income and income mobility. Despite its enormous economy, Texas has below-average median household income, leaving most of the wealth concentrated at the top. The education variable takes into account high school graduation rates and 8th grade achievement in reading and writing – our low ratings being the unsurprising result of continually underfunding education. The health and wellness variable looks at uninsured rates and rankings from the United Health Foundation. As we know too well, state policymakers continually reject opportunities to ensure more Texans, again with predictable results.
The States Project Editor-in-Chief Syon Bhanot explains:
“On the revenues side, Texas is relatively unique – the absence of a state income tax is notable… The state relies more heavily on sales taxes than other states, and during periods of economic downturn this can mean deep cuts to revenues that are hard to counteract with policy in the short run. The recent economic downturn has therefore put Texas in a bit of a bind – the state arguably needs to collect more revenue, but legislators are averse to tax increases.
However, the state's social safety net, and those who rely on it, will have a hard time handling the strain of significant budget cuts. So just like the federal government, Texas will need to find a way to find a sensible way forward – which will likely mean looking at avenues for revenue increases and making some difficult budget cuts. How to do so in a way that is fair will be the biggest challenge, and I'm curious to see how the state moves forward, because it cannot continue on its current path, especially when federal money is cut back.”
It's a salient reminder of the impacts of trickle-down economics as we wait for a resolution on the fiscal cliff, with Republican leaders opposing any new tax revenues while trying to cut spending significantly. Texas has been adhering to these principles for years. And it has put us at #34.