Are Pigs Flying in Texas?

There are few things in life more disorienting that finding out that one’s own state government is not comprised of the most insane spendthrifts and incompetents in the country. We get so used to seeing the ugly sausage-making reality of local government that we lose perspective on how the government performs relative to other places. 

That’s why articles like this [h/t Instapundit] make me feel like I’ve put my foot down on the stair step that wasn’t there. Texas, once legendary for political incompetence, looks really good in comparison with other Sunbelt states. Like the states in the article, Texas has grown quickly. Texas has three of the ten fastest-growing cities in the country and unlike California, Texas has net positive immigration from other states. Americans are moving to Texas from other states. 

Texas learned its lesson the hard way during the oil crash of ’84-’89. In the boom that preceded the bust, Texans at all levels of government went nuts with spending because they bought the idea that oil was always going to be in decreasing supply and thus very expensive. The bust proved wrenching for the state. While it was “morning in America” elsewhere, in Texas and its bordering states it was the, “good morning and here’s your kick in the groin” of a literal economic depression. The experience scarred an entire generation of Texans who could never again buy into the idea of a permanent boom.

Texas has been growing solidly for the past 18 years, but we’ve miraculously avoided failing into the trap of increasing spending just because we temporarily had the money to do so. If we can avoid Californication in the coming years we will keep sitting pretty. 

6 thoughts on “Are Pigs Flying in Texas?”

  1. Hubris is a common human trait, independent of political ideology. It cannot persist. Texas and California are simply out of phase.

  2. The modern poltical catechism demands continuous expansion of any and all state programs, regardless of the level of any governmental or financial realities that might reasonably recommend cuts.

    Even termination of programs that are demonstrably ineffective or counterproductive is impossible, as there will immediately spring up a victim’s group of concerned clientele who will emote before legislative hearings, and stage demonstrations in front of any passing media camera, to demonstrate the terrible damage the closing of program XYZ will do to them.

    I have lived most of my life in an upper midwest state which brags about its quality of life and business climate, all brought about by high income, property, and sales taxes, which, the argument’s logic goes, provides a high quality infrastructure and school system. Repeated reports showing the schools’ falling standards and acchievement levels, plus the literal collapse of major elements of the vaunted infrastructure, have produced shrill calls for more taxes and programs, not less.

    Meanwhile, of course, interviews with the business leaders repeatedly voice their ongoing concerns, however delicately phrased, that the high taxes and other costs might cause them to move to another state with less burdensome qualities, even as they will miss all of us terribly because we’re so great.

    The current political crisis with economic symptoms, which is how I believe the present situation is most accurately described, has led to endless bickering among the pols at state and local levels as to maintaining services no matter what, and a string of agonized media stories regarding the “pain” that any possible cuts or shortfalls might bring.

    Implicit in all this endless hand-wringing are the fundamental assumptions of the modern welfare state:

    If a program has good intentions, it is successful, and need never be audited or judged as to its actual effects;

    Without a continuous stream of new, and expanding older, programs and services, the citizenry could not possibly cope with the stresses and strains of daily living;

    Opposing any state initiative is cruel and heartless, while supporting one and all is evidence of compassion and concern for one’s fellow man;

    There are no limits to what the state can or should do, as long as we’re talking internal welfare, and any and all problems, even entirely mythical ones, are best dealt with by state action.

    There are many others, of course, but I have to make dinner now. The boss will be home soon, and we kept men have our duties to perform…

  3. I am convinced the problem is electoral politics. As a matter of fact our elected rulers are our agents,and in such cases the agent is in a position to betray his trust, simply because of rational ignorance on the part of those he is working for.Elections just don’t provide the accountability needed and the proof is in the impending failure of our Democratic (?) polities. Texas has the advantge of not having full time legislators-that helps quite a lot. In governance,as in love,amateurs are better than professionals any day of the week.
    There must be a better way.

  4. I’ve lived here in Texas almost twenty years, and I am still stunned and amazed that the Legislature here only meets every two years. I came from Louisiana where the legislature meets every. single. year. It was unbearable.

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