The True State of the Texas Economy

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Very bad new facts and figures out this week about Texas' economy in the new Legislative Study Group report. Turns out that the austerity regime we're under doesn't actually grow the economy. Not shocking that the economy Rick Perry brags about isn't actually doing well, and is about to get much worse. No matter how much hot air Perry huffs and puffs, the Texas economy is in a bad place.

Let's start at the point on which Texas economy mythologizers brag. Texas collects less tax revenue per capita than 43 other states. Texas spends less money per capita than 47 other states. Those are facts.

Now let's look at some other facts: in 2011, 18.5 percent of Texans lived in poverty. That's 4.6 million Texans. Texas has a higher unemployment rate than 35 other states. Texas has more women living in poverty than 46 other states. The median income for full-time work is right in the middle of the pack. Is ours a booming economy, some sort of anomalous example for the American economy? The facts clearly answer this question: “no”.

Read more below the jump.The overarching problem with this problem is that nothing is being done to change course. Texas' current economic strategy is the same one that produced these results. Gov. Perry is still pushing the lie that Texas has a booming economy. Nobel Prize recipient Paul Krugman of the New York Times explains that Texas entered the recession later than other states “mainly because the state's still energy-heavy economy was buoyed by high oil prices through the first half of 2008”. We've had a faltering economy for four and a half years, and we're doing nothing to help ourselves.

Texas spends less money on education than 42 other states, despite having the most students enrolled in public schools. With that combination, it's no wonder at all that Texas has the lowest graduation rate in the country. A huge component of our poor economic status is our dismal school system. Imagine how much worse that problem will be when all 18-35 year olds grew up in this education system. And then all 18-50 year olds. That is a very, very ugly picture. We also spend less than 45 other states on health care, and we have the most uninsured per capita in the nation. See the trend?

It's true that Congress has done nothing to create jobs since the arguably-much-too-weak stimulus package in 2010. That's certainly shameful, but it doesn't mean Texas should be shooting itself in the foot repeatedly by constantly cutting education funds, social programs, and refusing to enroll in the expanded Medicaid program for false reasons. In fact, our leaders oppose the very idea of stimulus.

There are steps Texas could take right now, before the Legislative session is over – fully restore education funding and adjust it to the increasing number of students, increase the minimum wage, invest in health care and programs designed to alleviate poverty – but our conservative government refuses to. We're suffering now, and our suffering will unquestionably increase if we stay on our current path.


About Author

Ben Sherman

Ben Sherman has been a BOR staff writer since 2011. A graduate of the University of Texas, Ben has worked on campaigns, in political consulting, and has written for other news outlets like Think Progress. Ben considers campaign finance reform the fundamental challenge of our time because it distorts almost every other issue in American politics.

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