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Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Texas Miracle and Illinois Corruption

A local Illinois politician is relocating to Texas. 

A local Illinois man from a tony north shore suburb, a former Republican politician, made the local news and the round of the right-wing blogs when he and his wife decided to pull out of "corrupt" Illinois and move to Texas.

In the Beacon article, the couple discussed why they were leaving:

They are moving outside Austin, she and Roger said, in part because of the weather and because family is there. But also because they wanted to live in a Red state with lower taxes, a stronger financial future and less corruption.
"This is a wonderful place to live," Roger said. "But I am tired of subsidizing crooks, and I don't want any more of it."

They also wrote a letter to an apparently conservative Illinois blog, the Illinois Review:

Complaints about Corruption in Illinois

I'm not going to repeat their litany of complaints against Illinois, but in this article they completely downplay the weather as a reason for leaving and they neglect to mention that they have family down there.  There's something disingenuous about not including these important reasons for their relocation.  

Now these are rich people.  They were living on Sheridan Road in the north shore town of Wilmette, and anybody who knows that area knows that they are well-off, probably among the top 1-2%.  They are also able to retire with grace, unlike so many others in their age bracket who were laid off in this Great Recession and are going to struggle into their golden years.  

There's nothing new about people from Illinois and other northern states packing up and moving south after they retire... That's been going on for as long as I can remember, and it would make sense if the Keats have children and grandchildren down there.  But most don't publicly trash their native state on the way out and act as if they are moving to paradise.

It's clear that the Keats believe that King, er, Governor Rick Perry has made Texas a paradise.  Perhaps it is a paradise for those who are very well-off. 

The Problems with Congressional Redistricting

In their letter, the Keats mention that Illinois has lost Congressional seats while Texas has gained many.  As opposed to bringing up something "bad" about Illinois, it actually highlights the very disturbing method by which Congressional seats are allocated.  

The Census counts every resident, whether or not that resident is a citizen, whether or not that person is here legally.  Representation in Congress is based on these counts of everybody, legal or not, citizen or not, voter or not.  A state with a large immigrant population like Texas is getting more representation in Congress. 

Unfortunately, the "new" people who are giving them that representation often don't get to vote.  So the voting citizens in a state like Texas get more representation.  It explains why Texas, with a large population of Hispanics, continually select Republicans.  Many, perhaps most of the Hispanics can't vote.  They are being represented by Republicans because they can't vote.  I'm not saying this is good or bad; but it just is.

Texas Economic Miracle:  Yes or No?

The Huffington Post recent ran an article about Texas' budget problems.  The article is interesting, and the comments paint a different picture than the rosy one painted by the Keats couple:

From the liquidatio­n of common assets and the dismantlin­g of all social safety nets. It is a reverse Robin Hood campaign, and it is nationwide­.

Texas has a population 2/3rds the size of California­'s, 25 million compared to 37 million, and their GDP is 2/3rds the size of California­'s, $1.22 trillion to $1.85 trillion (data from a few years ago).  So, unless it is now considered a miracle for any other state to catch up to California­, where is the economic miracle for Texas?

Also, Westcheste­r County in Texas has the highest property taxes in the nation, and Texas has the third highest property taxes in the nation, behind Connecticu­t and New Jersey. Texas is, however, among one of nine states with no personal income taxes.

Texas is also the only so-called Red state in the entire nation that pays more in taxes to Washington D.C. than what it gets back in services.

There are two Purple and 14 Blue states that pay more to the feds than what they get back in services. California­, for its part, has paid in about one half of a TRILLION dollars more in taxes to D.C. than what it has gotten back in services, since 1987, far, far more than the size of the state's budget deficit for either 2010 or 2011.

Again - What economic miracle?

To be fair, Texas has a real defender in member "Chili Chili".  He lists several ways in which Texas is doing well:
in 2010 Texas created more new jobs than California­, Florida, New York and Illinois COMBINED.http://www­­ews.releas­e/laus.nr0­.htm
In January 2011, Texas had the lowest unemployme­nt rate (8.2%) among the 5 largest states (Californi­a was 12.4%, New York was 8.3%, Florida 11.9%, Illinois was 9.0%) . http://www­­eb/laus/la­uhsthl.htm 
In 2010 Texas added more new manufactur­ing jobs (28,000) than any other state (the next-close­st state added 13,400). http://jec­.senate.go­v/public/i­ndex.cfm?p­=Reports1&­ContentRec­ord_id=bc4­31614-9ee0­-4d13-aadf­-ef1620085­ec3 
Six Texas metro areas — Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, McAllen, and San Antonio — were among the 20 strongest-­performing cities in the country, according to the Brookings Institute’­s “Tracking Economic Recession and Recovery in America’s 100 Largest Metropolit­an Areas” from December 2010. http://www­.brookings­.edu/repor­ts/2010/06­15_metro_m­onitor.asp­x
Newsweek placed “Texaplex” (Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston) first in its “Top 10 American Cities Best Situated for Recovery” poll. 
Texas is home to more Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies than any other state. http://blo­gs.mccombs­.utexas.ed­u/mccombs-­today/2010­/07/texas-­named-top-­state-for-­business-b­y-cnbc
More about the "Texas miracle" by those who live there:

"The Texas "miracle" was a fraud. Is anyone surprised? Take a GOOD look at Texas because that failed experiment is the blueprint of where the GOP is trying to take the whole country. Listen kiddies if you want to be part of a modern society you have to educate your children..­.well and maintain infrastruc­ture, pick up trash, have law enforcemen­t and provide a basic saftey net for tough times. These things cost money and any ADULT knows that these things need to be paid for with taxes. The private sector has NO interest in doing anything for the public good for little profit which is why public government­s must take care of this stuff. This used to be taught in civics class, you know before people like Beck and Limbaugh demonized anything for the "public good" as a commie plot. Texas you need to raise taxes and pay for your sh@t like adults, it's just that simple."
And this:
In order to put a shine on his national political aspsiratio­ns, Rick Perry has lied about economic conditions in Texas for so long that he doesn't know what the truth is. Texas ranks at or near the bottom among states in spending on public education, funding for public health, spending for the environmen­t and other quality of life issues while it is at or near the top in the number of people without health insurance, water and air pollution, percentage of population living in poverty, and executions­. Doesn't sound much like an economic miracle, does it?
What's happening to Texas NAEP education test scores?

I haven't had time top check out all of these allegations and counter-allegations, but I did check into student test scores.  Chili Chili contends:  
Texas students exceeded the national average for their ethnic cohort in all 18 comparison­s in the National Assessment of Educationa­l Progress annual standardiz­ed test.
I did go to the NAEP site, and, while this is technically true, it doesn't tell the whole story.   The "average scale over time" shows that, while Texas used to be well over the national average in 4th grade math and 8th grade writing, it is  now just a smidge above the national average in 4th grade math, and it is now well below the average in 8th grade writing.  4th and 8th grade reading have both taken a nose dive in the past couple of years.  The nation has gained in 8th grade math, while Texas has leveled out and lost ground. 

A review of those statistics begs the question of what is going on down there to bring about such a precipitous drop in the educational attainment of Texas kids since 2005 or 2006.

In summary, "facts" and statistics can be manipulated, taken out of context, and used to show only what the writer wants them to show, whether they are facts about how corrupt Illinois is or how wonderful.. or how lousy... Texas is.  Let's face it; looking up facts and statistics every time you read something is just not practical or possible. 

So the fate of Texas is not yet clear.  

But most important in terms of the family moving to Texas:  If you want to go, go!  As I said, thousands of people have moved to the South over the past decades for all kinds of reasons.  To the wealthy moving to
Texas, I would suggest that, if they aren't in a gated community down there, install a big fence.  But as you leave be gracious to the state that has been your home.  Based on your bio,Mr. and Mrs. Keats, the state of Illinois has been good to you all of these years so you really don't have many complaints.  

.....And don't let the door hit you on the way out.        

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