The Big Embarrassment that is Modern Texas

As Texas Goes – How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda, by Gail Collins


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All right, this is a political book that leans to port if you’re a sailor – to the left if you’re not. Still, Collins is an excellent journalist, and this book, while a bit opinionated in tone, is as even-handed as the subject matter could be. I have friends, colleagues, and relatives living in Texas, you see, and through them I’ve been able to track the changes Collins writes about here. So I can testify – as much as a non-Texan can – that her view of the Lone Star State is pretty dad-gummed accurate.

Essentially, she has two statements to make about Texas, and I agree with both: first, probably because of the state’s outlandish size, Texans feel they live in the wide open spaces; thus they need little law that they can’t provide for themselves (harsh phrase coming:) at the point of a gun. While this is patently untrue – most Texans live in the state’s urban megalopolis – they need, even demand, a lot of the public services they tend to eschew. So let’s color these folks proud of their state, but victims of the cognitive dissonance of living in a bubble where few outside perspectives are noticed, if allowed in at all.

Second: Texas has less-than-quietly become Republican over the past three decades, and the current leaders of the state are seeking to export their free-wheeling view of how life should be to the rest of the country. Examples: NO TAXES! Minimal investment in education! Don’t handcuff business with regulations and unions!  No healthcare laws! Pay only minimal salaries! Stop me if you’ve heard this in your home state, because Texas really is trying to import this mindset. 

The dangers in this are obvious: a poorer standard of living for all but the rich, including poorer health all around. A diminishing middle class. Poorer educated citizens with little opportunity to grow into the U.S.'s formerly vaunted meritocracy. 

My view of the WHY?? of this is that with the turn of the millennium, the U.S. has many competitors worldwide. Over the decades, the business class has grown rather complacent (read: inefficient) in its practices, and rather than provide bottom-up incentives to innovate, to provide better products and services, the trend Texas wants to push is business as usual -without being “handcuffed” by the social, educational, and governmental evolution  that created the U.S. as a boom country in the first place. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

Collins’ writing is often humorous, non-inflammatory, and she does give both sides of these issues, based in tons of interviews and journalistic research. In fact ,the book is about 40% documentation of sources. I keep saying this about such books, but hers is an important one if you want to understand the hows and whys of the current state of life in the U.S., and where we’re going – if Texas has its way.


My rating: 17 of 20 stars

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