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


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"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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