Aug 04, 2011 11:36 AM GMT
The facts behind the "Texas miracle"...
Jason CherkusAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas has created more jobs in the last year than any other state. These job openings have become known as the much-hyped, "Texas Miracle." In his February 2011 state-of-the-state address, Governor Rick Perry boasted: "Our economic strength is no accident. It's a testimony to our people, our entrepreneurs, and, yes, to the decisions made in this building. Employers from across the country and around the world understand that the opportunity they crave can be found in Texas, and they're headed our way, with jobs in tow."
Should he ultimately choose to run for the White House, Perry will be spending a lot of his time on the stump repeating those lines. Dig beneath the talking points and you find a more troubling picture: rising unemployment, a glut of low-wage jobs without benefits, overcrowded homeless shelters and public schools facing billions in budget cuts. Surita and Johnson have been airbrushed from the miracle. But they still can be found on the housing waiting lists and shelter entrances.
"If you want a bad job, go to Texas," said Texas Rep. Garnet Coleman (D), who represents a district in Houston, in an interview with The Huffington Post. "If you want to work at Carl's Jr., our doors are open, and if you want to go to a crumbling school in a failing school system, this is the place to come."
The state capital, with its expanded skyline and renovated office parks, will surely be b-roll in any Perry campaign ad. But Austin -- like many across the country -- simply hasn't witnessed across-the-board job stability.
There's a crowd outside the ARCH no matter the heat. The building was designed for 100 dormitory beds, but now sleeps 215 -- including 115 men sleeping on mats on the a second floor dining room and a conference room floor. Even then, Mitchell Gibbs, the director of development and communications, said they are turning away 15 to 50 men a night.
"Austin is supposed to be ground zero of the Texas Miracle," explained Doug Greco, lead organizer with Austin Interfaith, a nonpartisan group of some 30 congregations, schools and unions. "But we have the higher poverty rate and higher child poverty rate--nearly one in three children." He added that the need for shelter, food and clothing has spiked in the city. "It doesn't take much to pierce through the rhetoric," he said.
Texas is struggling right along with every other state. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Texas had recently bumped up to 8.2 percent unemployment in June which puts it below the national average. Still plenty of states without miracles posted lower unemployment rates; New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Wisconsin, among others are all out performing Texas. Drill down even further into the numbers and there are plenty of residents that haven't felt the miracle...
When it comes to budget gaps, Texas is just like much of the rest of the country. This year, the state faced a projected budget shortfall totaling as much as $27 billion; the legislature also had to contend with a $4.3 billion deficit in its current budget. The state made massive across-the-board cuts to state agencies -- including $4 billion in public school cuts over two years. Perry and the state legislature also ended up closing out funding for pre-kindergarten programs for roughly 100,000 low-income children. Mass layoffs of public sector workers is expected.
The Texas Miracle may become part of Perry's national pitch, but it's nonsense to state Sen. Zaffrini. "Talking about the so-called 'Texas Miracle," she said in an emailed statement, "is at best disingenuous because it ignores the state's shameful national standing in terms of supporting education and helping the neediest of the needy."...
Emily Timm, a policy analyst with the Workers Defense Project, said that roughly 45 percent of the more than 300 workers surveyed reported being paid wages below the federal poverty line. And one in five workers complained that their employers had paid them less than what they were owed. Being allowed adequate drinking water is even an issue. Nearly a third of the workers surveyed reported that their employers did not provide them with access to drinking water.
Timm said her organization has only seen a further rise in worker problems. "We're seeing more complaints of wage theft than we ever have before," she said. "We're also seeing more and more workers being misclassified as independent contractors." That distinction can be crucial, she said, as it allows the construction companies to not deduct taxes from their paychecks as well as skirt minimum wage and overtime requirements.