Friday, January 26, 2001

Now that the presidential campaign is finally behind us, it is time to take a sobering look at the quality of life in Texas.

Time For A Post-Election Texas House Cleaning

by Craig McDonald

Now that the presidential campaign is finally behind us, it is time to take a sobering look at the quality of life in Texas.

During the campaign, the nation was bombarded with information that questioned Texas' ability to take care of its own people. Journalists visiting the state reported that Texas led the nation in the likes of toxic pollution and people who lack health insurance. Texans hate to see our state sullied--particularly by the truth. But the beating Texas took could be a blessing if it prompts us to tackle long-ignored deficiencies.

Our organization recently published The State of the Lone Star State, which ranks Texas against the other states on 150 socio-economic indicators. On almost 100 of these 150 indicators, Texans for Public Justice found that the Lone Star falls among the 10 worst states. Whatever your concerns, this report drops a tear in your Lone Star beer.


Texas really is a contender for the title of the most polluted of the 50 states. To lead the nation in everything from chemical emissions to animal manure you have to put the environmental cops to sleep. Texas is No. 1 in toxic and cancerous emissions, hazardous waste, animal excrement
and environmental racism complaints. No other state consumes as much energy or emits as much global-warming carbon dioxide.


Texas education has improved over the past decade but remains mired in mediocrity. Texas ranks No. 36 in teacher salaries, with more than a quarter of Texas teachers holding down second jobs. We are No. 32 in spending per student. Our students do well in fourth-grade math but test at or below average in other grades and subjects. Just four states have a higher high
school dropout rate.

Human Services

Texas really is No. 1 in the percentage of its people who lack health insurance (24 percent). It trails the nation in spending on public and mental health. It is No. 2 in its hunger rate and in its caseload of infectious diseases. It is one of the least compassionate welfare states, providing
food stamps to only about one-third of the people who qualify for them.


Just six states have a wider income disparity separating the richest from the poorest fifth of their populations. Texas is No. 10 in the percentage of its people who are impoverished (16 percent), with 26 percent of its kids subsisting below the poverty line. With no state income tax, Texas ranks No. 2 in its dependency on sales taxes, which shift a heavy share of the burden to the working poor. Texas ranks No. 45 in homeownership.

Public Safety

Texas has the nation's deadliest death row. No other state has sentenced a full five percent of its adult population into the criminal justice system. Yet two-thirds of the American people enjoy lower crime rates than those found in Texas. The Lone Star state is the nation's leading host of gun shows, which exempt gun buyers from the normal rules requiring criminal background checks. Only three states surpass Texas in the number of their guns that get traced to crimes in other states.

In subject after subject, Texas gets poor marks compared with other states. This failure did not occur overnight. It is the bipartisan byproduct of a majority of Texas politicians sticking their heads in the sand for decades. Former Governor Bush did not create this situation; nor did he
reverse it. It is time for those of us who remain in Texas to abandon our legendary braggadocio. The Lone Star State's vast potential hangs in limbo, waiting for us to acknowledge the severity of these Texas-sized problems.