Mixed Bag: Texas’ Booming Economy

Categories: Economy, InTheNews
Comments: 4 Comments
Published on: 2014.07.02

My local representative to the U.S. House (John Carter, of Texas, not Mars) keeps talking about jobs, both the superior nature of Texas’ job growth and the need for more jobs on a national level.

“It’s time to focus on jobs,” he tweeted yesterday. And: “It’s time for Sen. Reid to pass the 40 job bills on his desk”, he posted a few days ago.

And, about Texas: “155,713 of the 665K jobs created by the future exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) will be in Texas” (June 24). And: “Texas added more jobs in May than any other state in the US!” (June 23).

Aside from my skepticism that the economy needs to keep “growing”, I do understand that people have a hard time living without jobs. Except for the very few in today’s world who are completely self-sufficient and live off the land, money is necessary — and the only ways to reliably get it are to work for a living, sell stuff (which counts as a job to me), or steal it.

But repeating the double-mantra of “more jobs!” and “Texas is doing great in the jobs department!” is a little deceptive.

The Texas Tribune, a nonpartisan and nonprofit media organization, recently published a four-part investigative series about the “Texas Miracle” — the booming economy that’s seeing Texas lead the nation in economic recovery since the 2008-9 global economic collapse, leading the nation in job growth, and seeing major firms moving to and hiring in Texas faster than ever before.

(Growth in my own current town of residence, Killeen, is mostly unrelated; it’s due to the continued flow of money into — and then out of — Ft. Hood because of the ongoing wars around the world.)

“It’s hard to argue with the job creation numbers they tout. Since 2003, a third of the net new jobs created in the United States were in Texas.” (source)

There’s a dark side, though, according to these articles.

Texas leads the nation in worker fatalities — for seven of the last 10 years, staying high here while falling nationally. And: “…when Texans get hurt or killed on the job, they have some of the weakest protections and stingiest benefits in the country”, according to the Tribune.

Additionally, Texas is the only state that doesn’t require private employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance or a private equivalent. For the ones who do have some type of coverage:

“Nearly half of all employee claims are initially denied or disputed in whole or in part, and when those denials blossom into a major disagreement before the Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation, workers lose most of the time, according to state data.”

One federal government study (.pdf) found that in Texas, less than 50% of work-related injuries were paid for by workers’ compensation insurance, the lowest among the 10 states studied.

I could go on, and the Tribune’s articles do go on, but I think the point has been made.

The very lack of regulation (and to some degree, the lack of enforcement of regulations) is touted by state leaders as one of the reasons for Texas’ economic growth. Governor Rick Perry is known to publicly recruit companies from other states, including this sentence in an ad to New Yorkers: “If you’re tired of the same old recipe of over-taxation, over-regulation and frivolous litigation, get out before you go broke.”

Their message, though, is meant for the companies, the “job-creators”. The only message for the workers is the implied: “At least you’ll have a job”, which admittedly can be an optimistic message when jobs are hard to find elsewhere.

To me, it’s perfect evidence that the free market isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, that it consistently and almost without exception favors those already in power and/or who already have money.

To someone without a job and to a company head looking to expand or move, the Texas news is good news. But to almost everyone else, it’s a shame.

  1. >>my skepticism that the economy needs to keep “growing”<<

    So much of the time it seems like the business of business is just more business.

    Another way to look at it: imagine your grandchild on your knee and saying, "Remember that third quarter net profit of 12.8%? Wonderful memories."

  2. Zane says:

    One reason the fatality rate might be so high in Texas is that employers are not required to give paid breaks, lunch breaks are short, and there is no limit to how many hours an employer can make you work in a day. There are probably other states like this too, but it certainly can’t help the stats.



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