This article on what’s wrong with the Texas economy, Texas economy leaves many behind, makes clear that many are struggling.
State leaders like to brag about Texas’ fast growing economy and low unemployment, but rarely do they mention the high poverty rate and so far they don’t appear inclined to pass any new laws to deal with it.
The unemployment rate and the creation of new jobs are the statistics most often cited by Gov. Rick Perry to brag on Texas, and unemployment is among the lowest in the country at 6.2 percent. That’s well below the national average of 7.7 percent.
Perry also uses the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Emerging Technology Funds to encourage employers to relocate to Texas and create new jobs in the state, adding hundreds of jobs every year. Employment, though, is not the only measure of economic prosperity. There is the question of quality of life.
The number of Texans living in poverty rose for a third consecutive year in 2011, adding more than 214,000 people to total 4.6 million. That’s 18.5 percent of the population, 3 percent higher than the nation as a whole, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. [Emphasis added]
It also does a great job of pointing out the difference between Republicans and Democrats in Texas, when it comes to fixing the problem.
The two biggest predictors of poverty are poor education and chronic health problems. Only about 80 percent of Texans have a high school diploma, the second lowest in the country, and Texas has the highest number of uninsured citizens.
Politicians of all stripes decry the high poverty rate in a Texas, but what differs is how to deal with it. Republicans hold every statewide elected office, control both houses of the Legislature and Perry’s appointees direct every state agency.
Perry’s oft-repeated formula for economic growth is low taxes, few regulations and limited lawsuits. Going into the legislative session that begins Jan. 8, he has promised to limit state spending to less than population growth plus inflation.
To help the poor and unemployed, he has proposed requiring drug testing as a condition for some people to receive welfare benefits, to make sure they are employable.
“Being on drugs makes it much harder to begin the journey to independence, which only assures individuals remain stuck in the terrible cycle of drug abuse, desperation and poverty,” Perry said last month.
“Extending taxpayer-funded benefits while ignoring a behavior that could make it virtually impossible for someone to enter the workforce or finish school, sends them down the road to a much bleaker future.”
Democrats are pushing for state government to provide services they believe will help people move out of poverty, including restoring $5.4 billion cut from the public school budget and nearly $1 billion cut from higher education.
Democrats also want the state to expand Medicaid to provide 1.5 million Texans with health insurance at a minimal cost to the state through 2020. Most Democrats fiercely oppose the drug testing proposal.
“To automatically assume that a single mother, a recently unemployed veteran, or a teacher who lost his or her job because of Governor Perry’s budget cuts is a drug user is shameful,” state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, said. “When a family is in crisis, we have a moral obligation to provide assistance as soon as possible.” [Emphasis added]
The GOP is for more of the same and demonizing the poor and less fortunate, the Democrats are for finding reality-based solutions that help everyone get ahead.
On an somewhat unrelated note Dos Centavos has a great read on the road ahead for Latinos, 2012 – Latinos Bank Some Political Capital.
For all intents and purposes, it would seem that 2012 was a bit more than just OK for a lib-lab like myself. It provided more hope–at least more ganas to fight–for public policies beneficial to Latinos. And because the policies would benefit Latinos, they would benefit most everyone else–even the 1%. Of course, I speak in a national sense, since Texas Latinos have more of a fight against the Tea Party’s scorched earth agenda in the Texas Legislature.
Let’s face it, when Republicans are in power, the only policies having anything to do with Latinos have been negative–Voter ID, cuts in public education, sanctuary cities laws, etc. Democrats, although defending on most aspects of the progressive agenda Latinos seem to support, failed on comprehensive immigration reform, which I’ve argued encompasses all other issues in one way or another, and was the basis of most of the negativity coming from Republicans.
But in 2012, it seems to me that we have a political savings account in which we’ve saved up our well-earned political pennies to expend on a positive political agenda. And it’s time we do. Not only the voters, but any progressive Latino elected official, too. The Latino electeds should not just wait to be told that it’s their turn, and neither should the Latino electorate wait. Whatever the outcome, it is the fight that matters and empowers us for the future.
Now, it may seem to any right-wing Republican or to any white liberal who thinks he/she is doing Latinos a favor, that I’m being too Latino-centric. Well, I started this blog because no one was mentioning Latinos in the progressive conversation, unless it was to chastise our voter turnout on the day after election day. So, let’s toss the hurt feelings aside and begin an inclusive progressive movement. Don’t try to do Latinos any favors with pats on the head, but do some listening, instead.
In 2012, Latinos sent a message and have become part of the conversation–even though most of the TV talking heads on Sunday morning aren’t Latinos, but that’s a whole other battle. But it is up to the Latino electorate (and not just those individual Latinos on end-of-year “Top 10? lists) to continue pushing beyond Election Day to ensure our elected officials create public policy that is beneficial to all.
Let’s get to work.