Over at Crosscut, David Brewster has a curious, and perhaps even bizarre, article in which he seems to argue that Washington (and/or Seattle) should try to replicate Texas economically. To which I can only say: dear God, no!
Let’s take a look at the facts.
* Washington’s child poverty rate, 15.1 percent, is well below the national average. Texas, at a whopping 23.1, is among the worst in the nation. And it’s the same story for the overall poverty rate, as it is for poverty among seniors.
* Washington has among the best educated populations in the country, while Texas has among the least educated. (Measured as share of population over age 25: with a high school degree here; with a college degree here.) Seattle, by the way, is perhaps the nation’s best-educated city.
* Washington families earn 20 percent more, on average, than Texas families. Once again, Washington exceeds the national average, while Texas lags.
* Despite the fact that the median house value in Washington is nearly two-and-a-half times as expensive as the median house in Texas, a slightly greater share of Washington’s housing units are owner-occupied. (See here and here.)
* Washington has a higher per capita gross state product than Texas, despite the oil money gushing into the state in recent years. The economic slowdown seems to have affected both states’ economy about the same, though Washington was doing slightly better at last count.
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Now I’ll grant you that Texas currently has a slightly lower unemployment rate than Washington, which is about the only measure of economic strength in which Texas surpasses Washington. But the long-term unemployment rates are about the same, and Washington has done a drastically better job than the rest of the West Coast with respect to unemployment during the recession.
I could go on with the comparisons, but I’ve got other things to do with my life. I guess I just fundamentally don’t understand what he wants.
Brewster complains in a discursive way about state politics in Washington, seeming to want both more political conflict and more concentrated power. He seems to like that Texas state spending was slashed “across the board”—a strange and inefficient way to make budget cuts—but doesn’t explain why a closed-door session of elite politicians (the way Texas did it, according to him) is preferable to a deliberative public process with vigorous debate (the way Washington is doing it). So I’m stumped.
But I suppose what galls me most is simply the substitution of anecdote where the supporting evidence should be. Next time, let’s see some data please.
Postscript: Paul Krugman beats up on “the Texas miracle” myth. Here’s a taste:
What is true is that the Texas budget is in relatively good shape. That’s because recessions don’t do as much fiscal damage if you have a weak safety net, so expenses don’t rise much as people are plunged into poverty (because they don’t get any help), and a regressive tax system, so that revenues don’t fall much when incomes collapse.