Education, not ideology, drives business
Even when Texas was leading the nation in job creation while Rick Perry was governor, the political hype about the so-called “Texas miracle” was overblown, particularly since Texas also led the nation in the percentage of residents without health insurance and poverty was high. Living in Texas was anything but a miraculous experience for millions of people, but with low regulations and low taxes, many businesses loved to set up shop and expand here.
Millions of Texans still remain uninsured, partly because Perry and Gov. Greg Abbott both refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. And under Abbott, even the bloom has faded from the “Texas miracle” rose. Texas has dropped to 39th among the states in job growth, the gross state product has flattend out and its unemployment rate is higher than the national average for the first time in a long time, as Richard Parker writes in an oped, linked below, for The Dallas Morning News.
California, meanwhile, a state that Abbott often ridicules as too “liberal” and “anti-business,” has lower unemployment.
Parker blames much of the problem on the fact that Abbott and others who have taken over the Texas Republican Party are more interested in promoting “dogma” than economic development. (I would call it right-wing ideology.) This is why Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick forced a more-than-willing Abbott to call the Legislature into the current special session to pass a bill to regulate bathroom use by transgender individuals. Abbott and Patrick also will try to override the wishes of local voters by forcing more micro-management on cities, where, Parker notes, real economic growth is created.
Much of the business community strongly opposes the bathroom bill because it is a piece of discriminatory trash that will drive businesses, multimillion-dollar sports events and other economic development opportunities away from Texas.
Regulatory and tax policy help determine where businesses move and expand. But, as Parker points out, so do other factors, including availability of capital, quality of life, public infrastructure and, of course, education. State support of public schools has deteriorated under both Perry and Abbott to the point that Texas spends $2,500 less per student than the national average and $6,300 less than the national average in teacher pay.
As an afterthought to the bathroom bill and other ideological priorities, Abbott has added school finance and teacher pay to the special session’s agenda. But it remains to be seen how committed he is to either issue, since so far he hasn’t proposed any additional state funding.
Parker suggests that Abbott and his fellow ideologues aren’t talking “about economic growth because they don’t know anything about it – except maybe how to stand in its way.”
That is a pretty good description, at least, of their stance toward public schools.