Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Texas' Recovering Economy that Leaves People Behind

Today in the Houston Chronicle, there was an interesting article about a young woman named Tameka Morris who completed her nursing degree in 2010. Following her completion, she'd hoped to capitalize on it and join the ranks of the professional field. Unfortunately:

"Since graduating in May, however, she's been unable to capitalize on her education. Employers want more experience than she had accumulated, or job opportunities were too far away for her to consider because of transportation issues.

The single mother survives by working two to three temporary home health jobs. In a good month, she earns about $900."

There are a few issues that spring to mind just in reading this small quote. Employers have long been demanding levels of experience at cheap wages, especially since the beginning of the recent recession. Of course, there's also the issue of transportation. While Republicans have put a halt on the construction of infrastructure in the name of budgeting, they've affected the lives of people like Tameka Morris. Time and again, Texas has seen resistance to the construction of new transportation methods like next generation rail systems. Houston is, fortunately, internally developing its own system. However, there are still people, like Tameka, waiting in the wings. There's an even greater half truth hidden in this story, however.

"In the wake of the recession, 41 percent of households headed by single women with children live in poverty - nearly triple the national poverty rate, according to 2010 census data.

And while the economy in Texas has recovered more quickly than in the rest of the country, the state's single mother poverty rate is just as high at 42 percent." (Emphasis added.)

Going back to the early days of the Perry campaign, we've seen these claims of Texas' strong economy and how well it's doing. However, for individuals like Tameka, there is no change. A lack of investment in infrastructure is only one problem that lower income workers are facing. It is true, of course, that Texas is one of the leading states in job growth. The state nearly doubled the nation in the growth of non-agricultural jobs.

However, it is not only the growth of jobs, but the quality of the jobs grown that is important. In that respect, Texas has not been on the cutting edge of development. Time and again the claim has been made that Texas somehow has done wonders for its citizens by slashing taxes on business and by removing protections from workers. Never mind that Rick Perry and the state legislature did this by slashing the education budget, one of the surefire ways of crippling your states future viability.

Texas closed its budget by removing funding for both public education facilities and higher education. Those attending the neediest schools were left with even less resources, and those with the least ability to pay for college were left wondering what to do with their futures. Its graduation rate in high school is one of the worst in the country, ranked somewhere between 46th and 50th, depending on who you consult. Its college graduation rate, however, is indisputably poor, topping out around 50% for four year college attendees. Meanwhile, health and human services, as well as medicaid operators, were left with drastically slashed budgets.

What was the goal of such drastic reduction of aid to the poorest in the population? Was this truly in the name of good business? Because if so, Texas took up the wrong business plan. Nearly ten percent of the state is employed at the minimum wage rate, and many Texas earn less money than their peers around the country working in the same jobs.

So Texas politicians expect the citizens of the state to believe that worse paying jobs, backed by an underfunded education systems and lack of safety nets for the neediest citizens, is somehow the key to the future? Where is the logic? Where is the passion for the state's people? There is a future coming, one in which the great nations of this earth are investing heavily into next generation technologies and resources. We are seeing the advent of new types of cars and energy production, and that wave of technological development isn't awaiting in some flighty, science fiction future. It's here, it's coming now, and will be maturing within a few years. Can Texas honestly expect to be competitive in that realm when its doesn't bother to educate its future generations properly, and funnels its citizens into low paying jobs without any support?

The state, instead, looks to continue a trend of generating underemployed citizens with few options. Women like Tameka Morris are an unfortunate part of the new Texas underclass, a group of skilled individuals who cannot find adequately paying employment due to a variety of circumstances, and who find themselves without the necessary social supports to live safely month to month.

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