Monday, January 28, 2013

Solutions for the Poor: The Texas Model

My "All In Perspective" column for January 24, 2013.

As an avid reader with a variety of interests, I subscribe to numerous publications on culture, books, and faith which have very little to do with politics. So I was rather surprised last month when one particular Christian publication sent me a political email requesting immediate action. The message urged all subscribers to contact members of Congress and ask them to support tax increases and oppose spending cuts as a means to help the poor of America. While I believe the author of this ‘political action’ email had the very best of intentions, I do not think he really understands how to effectively help the poor around us.

Unfortunately, there are many well-intentioned folks who believe that progressive, ‘Big Government’ policies are the only acceptable way to assist lower-income Americans. These so-called Progressives introduce increasingly socialistic policy proposals, and anyone who opposes said policies is labeled ‘greedy,’ ‘heartless,’ ‘uncaring,’ etc.

In practice however, how do liberal-progressive policies stack up against more conservative, business-friendly policies? In his new book, The Texas Model: Prosperity in the Lone Star State and Lessons For America, former California State Representative Chuck DeVore describes how conservative policies favoring lower taxes, restricted government spending, less regulation, and fewer frivolous lawsuits have made Texas a better place to live for any American.

DeVore, who is one of some 2 million individuals who have fled California over the last decade, points out that not only has Texas created nearly half of all new jobs in the country this year, but actually has lower poverty levels than California. Critics of the Texas model often point to national poverty rates without considering the cost of living, but ignore the fact that a dollar buys a lot more in Texas than in California. The most recent Census Bureau figures (2012) including cost of living factors reveal that California’s poverty rate is actually 23.5%, while Texas’ is 16.5%. Accordingly, California adults are 2 ½ times more likely to need welfare than the average American. Despite being inundated with the unemployed from other states relocating to Texas, Lone Star unemployment rates remain substantially below the national average.

Critics also decry Texas’ education spending, claiming that we spend far less than other large states. Once again, said critics do not consider cost of living comparisons; when we factor in cost of living Texas spends $12,676 per student compared to California’s $8,346. And as for results, on National 8th-grade tests in Reading, Math, and Science, Texas students scored above the national average in every category, while California students scored below average.

The above statistics are only a small sample of the information Devore includes in The Texas Model. He also argues that Lone Star State conservative policies can work anywhere in the nation. It is unfortunate that Devore was not advising the Romney campaign last year prior to the game-changing “47%” remark. Romney’s gaffe played right into the media narrative that those on the Right don’t care about the poor. Governor Romney should have been speaking directly to the ‘47%’ and explaining how conservative policies would improve their lives. It also might have been helpful to point out that under President Obama white unemployment rates hover around 7.4%, while rates for blacks has climbed to 14.1%, and for Latinos to 10%. According to the Census Bureau, poverty rates under Obama have swelled, and now almost 1 in 6 people live in poverty.

Thinking Conservatives do care about the poor, and know that Texas Model policies will actually improve lives. As Senator Ted Cruz recently stated, “We should champion every day the 47%.” Contrary to the message in the Christian ‘political action’ email I received, I don’t reject progressive policy because I don’t care, but because I care enough to want a proven approach that will actually make a difference.

Going forward, one of the most important exports Texas may have for the rest of the nation is a model that works. Sadly, many liberal-progressive policy programs that make folks feel good about doing ‘something,’ not only fail to improve the lives of the poor and under-privileged, but actually worsen conditions and trap individuals in permanent dependency and poverty. On the other hand, more conservative, free-market policies allow for individuals to escape poverty and improve conditions for all.

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