In a recent blog piece in The New York Times, Nobel-prize winning economist and liberal columnist Paul Krugman recounted an effort by Stephen Moore, a conservative economist with the Heritage Foundation, to demonstrate that tax slashing (Red) states have outperformed high tax (Blue) states in job and overall economic growth. It transpired that Moore had evidently been piqued by a column Krugman had written earlier about Kansas GOP Governor Sam Brownback’s disastrous tax-cutting binge which has left the state with a huge deficit while doing next to nothing to grow the economy.
The problem was that the most specific claims in Moore’s article, which appeared in the Kansas City Star, were inaccurate and completely misleading. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data he cited which he said were for the last five years were actually from an earlier period starting just before the last Great Recession. These skewed the numbers to the point of uselessness. Moore claimed he made a “mistake”. I believe him, but thousands wouldn’t.
Of course we shouldn’t be surprised because ideological blinkering long ago supplanted truth and facts in the alternate universe occupied by most conservatives – even ones with PhDs. And as Krugman says in his piece, comparing states is, in any case, an inexact science given stark differences in key areas such as the price of housing.
But for me it raised a more fundamental question. After all Texas has been extolled as an example of successful conservative governance not only by Moore in his dodgy article, but in a June issue of The Economist a far more credible source. But is it enough to measure success, particularly as it relates to whether a state is well governed, by the number of jobs produced in a given period (one driven, at least in part, by the oil and gas industries) or its economic growth rate? Certainly by these measurements Texas is flourishing; but when viewed against what many consider are other key metrics, such as the economic well-being of its lower-income residents, not so much.
Poverty-USA ranks Texas 40th among states. And in its report on child well-being, the Annie E Casey Foundation ranks Texas 43rd overall, this in a country which as a whole ranks near the bottom among rich countries. Out of 16 measurements of economic, educational, health, and family/community well-being examined by AECF, Texas only managed to beat the national average in 4 of them. Its efforts in the areas of health and family/community support were particularly dismal.
Finally, this table from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that the income threshold for adults with children to be eligible for Medicaid is an eye-popping $3,736 for a family of three, placing it only behind Alabama as the stingiest of states. Even Mississippi is more generous (albeit not by much).
And the disparities between states like Texas and their Blue State peers are only likely to grow. This is especially so when it comes to health as the rate of uninsured likely continues to drop significantly in states that fully embraced the Affordable Care Act, while staying the same or decreasing only marginally in Texas and other states that have fought it tooth and nail.
I don’t expect any sense from an ideologue such as Stephen Moore but The Economist should be ashamed of itself for mistaking Texas for a well governed state.
It’s nice to be able to brag about economic growth but what good is it if an ideologically blinkered and uncaring government does little to use the generated wealth to improve the lot of its neediest residents?