Why Texas is Booming: How Low Taxes & Small Government Are Transforming the Lone Star State

“A state like this where you see so much growth and so much change…having a limited government apparatus on top of that and a robust private sector has been really good for us,” says Erica Grieder, senior editor of Texas Monthly and author of the book Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right: What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas. “For the past 10 to 12 years, every economic metric you look at is better than the country as a whole—is better than what you see in most states—and is also pretty broad-based.”

Texas has done so well economically, that in October 2013 TIME Magazine declared Texas was the country’s future. 

Grieder credits what she calls the “Texas model”—a limited government apparatus based on low taxes and low services—for the Lone Star State’s economic success. Between June 2009 and June 2011, Texas created 40 percent of America’s new net jobs. In that period, Texas saw a net population migration of 110,000 people—making it the fastest growing state in the country. 

But the solid growth of the Texas economy didn’t stop critics like Paul Krugman of The New York Times from attacking the data and dismissing the state’s performance as myth. 

“The critique of it I was really surprised by, especially when the country was not doing that well. I would think you would at least stop to check the numbers first,” says Grieder, who believes criticism of the Texas model is rooted in negative political attitudes toward a state that is largely Republican. “People have this feeling of Texas, [that] it can’t possibly be doing well. It’s this sort of belligerent state, or not that smart of a state, or whatever their perceptions may be.” 

The state’s explosive growth and changing demographics (Hispanics are expected to outnumber the state’s White population by 2020) have made Texas a valuable prize on the electoral map. Democrat strategists—and even President Barack Obama—have expressed the goal of turning Texas blue in coming election cycles. But Grieder doesn’t think that change will come any time soon.

“So far we’re not seeing the Democrats putting out the candidates or campaigns or really the message,” she states. “The Republicans aren’t either which is kind of interesting. Given how well the state has done I’ve been surprised how the state Republican Party in this last set of primaries is just focused on issues that nobody cares about.”

While Grieder says she has seen a surprising resurgence of the religious right in the latest round of primaries, the turn toward the Christian conservative movement is not indicative of mainstream Texans. 

“I think that a lot of Texas Republicans—a lot of Texans in general—are sort of quasi-libertarian or tacitly libertarian because of the issues they prioritize,” says Grieder. “I think that the social conservative movement is intrinsically at odds with the libertarian side of the party, but if those issues aren’t advanced from the social conservative side then you don’t see that tension become so manifest.”

Approximately 8:00 minutes. 

Produced by Alexis Garcia. Shot by Paul Detrick and Todd Krainin. 

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  • Cytotoxic||

    Too bad Texas's government's growth is out of control.

  • ||

    This. Dallas just passed one of those plastic,paper bag "bans" a la SoCal. Grocery stores are going to be required to charge customers five cents per bag.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Aw fuck. I thought there lesbian pro-business dem mayor was one of the last sane team blue members that could mount a take-over of the smoking remains of the post-2014 donks alongside Brooker.

  • CentristClassicalLiberal||

    Houston has a mayor who fits the same profile, plus it has a seaport (one of the reasons I love international trade is that socons hate it as much as liberals for different reasons).

  • CentristClassicalLiberal||

    Then again Texas has no shortage of economically leftist blacks and hispanics (more so the former) who are also socially conservative. Economic socialism and social conservatism activate the same evil part of my brain anyways.

  • ||

    Well, I'm sure to her it seemed like a "pro-business" move, given that the stores are just passing the tax on. Luckily, I live on the edge of Collin County and will start shopping at the Wal-Mart in Plano where they don't put up with that shit.

  • american socialist||

    geesch... homophobic much? people that care about the environment=lesbian. i see... i see. i keep getting lectures on how its unseemly to think that right wing politics is driven by racism and homophobia.

  • Cytotoxic||

    She IS a lesbian you idiot, which also conveniently blasts apart Team Blue narrative about Texan homo-haters.

  • ||

    Yeah, how dare you use a word to describe a person that they themselves use.. for SHAME!

  • soflarider||

    Derp much?
    You're obviously spending too much time and energy listening for dog whistles.
    I can only imagine that those lecturing you on the error of your ways are making the mistake of assuming that you think at all.

  • wwhorton||

    Still here, huh?

  • ||

    Here in the Gr8 State of CA more and more of us buy reusable bags. I've bought some as low as 50 cents and as high as 7 bucks. More and more people are becoming conscious of our surroundings and all that lives with us. If more people, world wide, did the same, our planet would stop being a trash dump.

  • wwhorton||

    Well, here in the great state of MD I've finally convinced my wife that any benefits gained by laundering cheaply-made reusable bags four times before having to trash them anyway are erased by the cost of the detergent and water, not to mention periodic bouts of food poisoning brought about by cross-contamination.

    But if it makes you feel better I reuse the plastic bags to pick up dog crap and clean out the litter box. I also don't build houses on sandy cliffs or plant bermuda grass in the middle of a desert, water it nightly to keep it from baking, and then complain when people leave the tap on while brushing. So there's that.

  • OneOut||

    It's not the State so much as the dem controlled big cities. Like a lot of places I suppose.

    Houston has a big fat female mayor who has taken to the airways of late to lecture us about being overweight. I kid you not. How can a fat woman get on TV and the radio and make public service announcements about the rest of us being too fat is beyond my comprehension. Has she no one close to her to explain the word hypocrisy ?

    She recently signed a contract for city energy purchases and agreed to pay more than necessary (with tax dollars, I'd like to see who her personal supplier is) for city electricity because it has a certain level of "green" energy in the mix. Here in the energy capitol of the world. Not long after she announced paying more for green energy she announced a plan to have "rolling blackouts for the various fire stations around town because the city hasn't enough money to pay overtime for the fire dept. No mention about possible plans to just hire more firefighters and avoid overtime.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Texas state government also is out of control. Wendy Davis's crusade obscured a 24% increase in spending!

  • entropy_factor||

    dude, you sound like an east Texas Dwayne Stovall type. The "increase" for FY 14-15 (2 yr budget cycle down here in Tx) also paid for Medicare that simply was not paid for at the end of FY12-13 biennium. That's a large appropriation on top of the actual 2-yr budget. One-time shot, and not indicative of an OMGsocialists moment.

  • Kady||

    Correct. Texas cut DEEP during the downturn (and got nationally criticized for it by the lefties who wanted us to "invest") and now that the money's flowing in again, we raise the budget back to where's it's supposed to be, and we STILL get criticized.

    Texas is spending what it needs to spend.

  • entropy_factor||

    not really man. It grows, sure. But we have one of the lowest per capita state-debt of all the 50 states. I wouldn't really pin any regulation on TX per se, more like the cities themselves.

    As a native Texan, currently banished to Austin, I understand why you would say that- but really, Tx does a decent job of backing off and letting people make money.

  • CoolTex||

    TXDOT has become the pass thru for funds from the Feds to give grants to the TDPS and other police offices funding the DUI stings and Click IT or Ticket campaigns for some reason. Seems like TXDOT is becoming a big police organization instead of the road building and repair crew. Seems TDPS retired officers are starting to fill judge and JP positions all across the state also. Seems like the greedy politicians have organized some money and power grubbing conspiracy to overtake the criminal justice system and the moneys paid as well.... politicians need to be fired next election...

  • CentristClassicalLiberal||

    This is why I like Nevada. Not only is it a fiscally conservative right-to-work state with no income tax, it isn't full of culturally conservative idiots like Texas.

  • Harvard||

    But....it DOES have Harry Reid, enough for me to rule it unacceptable.

  • CentristClassicalLiberal||

    Texas has Bush. Just as bad.

    Also if I remember correctly Perry was the only one on stage at the GOP debates who called for sending troops back to Iraq and rightfully got booed for it.

  • CoolTex||

    Fire Harry Reid and we will like Nevada again...

  • OneOut||

    If those are you true thoughts then we in Texas are happy you, and others that think like you, are happy in Nevada. Every downturn in the National economy we have dumasses flocking to Texas so they can feed their families and once settled then begin to tell us how much better it was where they had to flee and how we should do things differently.

    Say hello to Harry Reid for us.

  • CentristClassicalLiberal||

    Say hello to Bush and Perry for me.

    and my governor is Rick Scott (the governor of Florida), the Michael Bloomberg of the right.

  • Sunmonocle Backwards Tophat||

    I've lived in 8 different states since college, with Texas being my current home. I've never lived anywhere with so much construction.

    I've heard it said that there are 3 types of Texans:
    1) Southerners
    2) Westerners
    3) Transplants

    I think the first two drive the culture, while the last drives the economy (or at least is a consequence of it). I expect the culture to change, for better or worse. Personally, I've found the Westerner mentality to be fantastic, and akin to what you find in the Mountain states.

  • ||

    Until they start importing their shitty politics.
    A lot of corporate offices are moving into the major metropolitan areas, so a lot of the employees they bring aren't exactly moving here for kindred spirits.

  • OneOut||

    Transplants do not drive the economy. They come here to hitch a ride on the economy.

    Being a Texan is a state of mind, not geography. Some of our most most famous Texans weren't from Texas either, but they came here to be Texans, not change it back to the piece of shit they left where they couldn't feed their family.

    Many Texas Republicans share many beliefs with Libertarians without even knowing it.

  • ||

    I can say without a doubt I've seen more Ron Paul or Libertarian-themed bumper stickers than I've seen Romney, Palin, or McCain's shit.

  • Sunmonocle Backwards Tophat||

    I hope you're right.

  • entropy_factor||

    +1 Alamo remembered

  • LDRider||

    I've been teaching Texas State and Local government at the college level for 37 years. One of the great waves of northerners moving to Texas started in the 1970s when the industrial economy of the Rustbelt began to collapse. There were claims all of the Yankees would fundamentally alter Texas politics. Funny thing happened, though; seems most of those folks with all of those northern political and economic attitudes didn't change Texas - just the opposite.

    One Out is absolutely correct - Texas is a state of mind; hard work, freedom, and individual liberty are still concepts that mean something to most citizens.

  • american socialist||

    i like the words "booming" and "explosive" in conjunction with a discussion on industrial production in Texas. yes, those words could be appropriate adjectives to describe what is like to work in a Texas factory, but maybe not in the way open advocates of plutocracy want it to be http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3384739/. you couldn't pay me enough in bitcoin funny money to work in that cesspool.

    i've travelled to texas many times with mostly a desire to leave as i do not care for heat and christian fundamentalism. the thing i saw in pockets of dallas and houston is some of the most grinding forms of poverty of any place in the united states-- reminding me most specifically of some of the things i saw in parts of laos. but, hey, i've been repeatedly instructed by libertarians that i only view economics as a static model so i shouldn't worry that people are still using latrines to go to the bathroom as long as the gdp is ever upwards.

  • OneOut||

    And if you are ever back in Texas ( God forbid) and run out of money, post to me here and I'll gladly send you a bus ticket back to your liberal utopia.

  • Cytotoxic||

    *desperation intensifies*

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Good to hear. Please don't come back. And leave us alone.

  • wwhorton||

    Dude, Amsoc, you get a red card after your "homophobic" gaffe regarding the self-identified lesbian mayor further up the thread. Seriously, no posts until Saturday. Now leave the library, go home, and think about what you've done.

  • OneOut||

    American Stupid

    "in pockets of dallas and houston is some of the most grinding forms of poverty of any place in the united states-- reminding me most specifically of some of the things i saw in parts of laos."

    You are a liar.

    What you probably saw were people using "porta pottys" on construction sites. Construction sites must be something you aren't used to seeing in your part of the world.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Here in Alberta we have higher taxes and colder winters but we don't have Texas's horrible asset seizure laws. So take that.

  • OneOut||

    Did you go to public school in Alberta as well ?

    You don't think that higher taxes are horrible asset seizure laws .

    Also they are horrible asset seizure laws on EVERYONE, ALL THE TIME.

    Dumbass.

  • stephn289||

    Start earning with Google. Just work for few hours and have more time with friends and family. I earn up to $500 per week. Its actually the nicest job Ive had. Linked Here www.CapitalPosts.com

  • ||

    "...low taxes and low services—", If your house is on fire, is there a fire department around and if so, will they put the fire out? In some places, if you don't pay the city's assessed monthly "Fire-Service" charge, the fire fighters will bring their marshmallows and watch your pad burn down.

  • OneOut||

    Top T said:

    "In some places,"

    Rest assured, Texas isn't one of them. Besides that is a local decision, not a state function.

  • wwhorton||

    This happens in more than a few states if you live in a rural county where there isn't a fire department. It popped up in the news a few years ago, as a matter of fact. Basically, a city or town department will contract out fire service beyond the city limits just like a private utility.

    If you don't pay for service, don't expect them to come out when you call. Which, frankly, is perfectly fair. That shit isn't cheap, and if my taxes are going to pay for the local fire department I don't want to watch my house burn down because there's an engine hosing off some unprepared shitheel twenty miles into the boondocks who didn't pay a red cent.

  • wwhorton||

    Meanwhile, I could watch Erica Grieder talk about anything for hours. Now I love my wife, but if the worst happened and we got divorced, I want to make sure that it happens after I've moved to whatever part of Texas Erica lives in. Like not so close as to be all stalky, but close enough to run into each other at the grocery store or happy hour.

  • Loki||

    These new trolls are going to have to try a lot harder if they ever want to reach the same level as Tony or Shriek.

  • jones6||

    I get that time considerations may not have made it possible, but it would have been nice to have heard a few numbers here. It isn't enough to reject Krugman's assertion that the "Texas Miracle" wasn't one as mere politics, but since he maintained at the time that without an enormous rise in public, not private-sector jobs, there wasn't much miracle to talk about, this was a good opportunity to refute a specific claim with specific numbers, rather than merely dismiss the claim as merely "political." Reason viewers deserve more.

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