We all know the economy is struggling. We feel it at the gas pump and we watch our paychecks diminish with increased tax assessments. But while many of us hear the rumors of sequestration and layoffs plow through our companies, the nation faces a greater problem in low income areas. The number of households below the poverty line is increasing, and we are still missing about 2.6 million jobs compared to the employment levels of January 2008. But not every area of the country is struggling at the same rate. Some cities still have double digit unemployment while others are recovering, adding thousands of jobs each month. And, not surprisingly, people are responding by moving to the areas with greater opportunity.
In April, Bloomberg released a list of the top twelve “boomtowns” in the United States. These were the metropolitan areas that had experienced the greatest growth in population according to US Census data, and the greatest growth in economic productivity as measured by Gross Domestic Product, adjusted for inflation. Number six on the list was no surprise to anyone: the growth of Washington DC is of course directly related to the growth of the federal government. But nine of the remaining eleven cities were in states with Republican governors. Texas alone boasted four of them—Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas—which is perhaps why President Obama opted to make Austin the first stop on his “Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour” in May.
The economic growth in Texas as a whole is undeniable. Private sector jobs in Texas have increased 10% since 2009, while per capita income has increased 13.3%. So what is making places like Texas so successful? Why are four of its major cities booming while much of the rest of the country is still facing a recession?
In the state that boasts the second largest population and square mileage in the United States, there is a running joke that “Everything is bigger in Texas.” The one exception to this adage might be the state government, which is famously small. In fact, Texas is one of only four states whose legislatures meet in regular session just every other year, rather than annually. The length of the session is just 140 days, from January until May. By contrast, the legislature in California meets year round, except for a short holiday recess.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
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