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Texas Has America's Highest Graduation Rate.
Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 978 -- Stop Saying Texas Has A High Dropout Rate Or Low Graduation Rate-
Columns and blog posts about Texas have become almost a shorthand way of talking about all that is still right in America. There is still a place that is like the rest of America was in the Reagan era. There's hope here. And jobs. And optimism.
The Texas Model is widely seen as the path to opportunity and prosperity. And rightfully so.
But what about education? Doesn't Texas have one of the worst high school dropout rates in the nation? No. It doesn't.
It turns out that Texas is not only killing it economically (job creation, etc.), the Lone Star State now has the second best overall graduation rate (on each of these graphics, click for larger version):
Texas trails only Iowa (89%) and ties with Wisconsin, Vermont, and Nebraska at 88%. Texas far outperforms California, New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, progressive left-wing model states.
[These numbers come from the United States Department of Education, via a relatively new standardized method of measuring. Before, graduation rates were much more of a hodgepodge of apples versus oranges versus pears.
These states were chosen for comparison against Texas in these graphs because they are prominent liberal states of varying sizes. Tiny Rhode Island, among the more liberal states in America, is also the home state of gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis (the one best known for advocating for elective late-term abortion and for falsifying her biography).]
What is amazing about this is that Texas is tied for the second best graduation rates in the nation, despite a demographic profile that would predict otherwise:
Students in Wisconsin, Vermont, and Nebraska are 74%, 93%, and 71% white, respectively. Iowa students are 82% white, meanwhile. Massachusetts has a relatively high overall graduation rate (but still not as high as in Texas), mostly because its demographic profile is far whiter than the national average.
And speaking of white students, just like with NAEP scores, white students in Texas outperform white students elsewhere:
Texas ties with New Jersey for first place among white students at 93%. For reference, Wisconsin, Vermont, Nebraska, and Iowa measure in at 92%, 88%, 91%, and 91%, respectively.
But what about Hispanic students?
Texas wins outright, no ties:
Those other states near the top of the overall leaderboard?
If these states had demographic profiles more like Texas, they would certainly slide on the rankings. Indeed, if Massachusetts had the demographic profile of Texas, its overall graduation rate would be roughly 75-76%, rather than 85%. And if Texas had the demographic profile of Massachusetts, its overall graduation rate would bump up past 91, closer to 92%.
Let's look at black students next:
Texas has the best graduation rate in the nation among black students, again outright, no ties, at 84%. Montana and Tennessee are tied for second place at 79%.
For the record, Wisconsin, Vermont, Nebraska, and Iowa have black graduation rates of 64%, 72%, 74%, and 74%, respectively. Much, much lower than in Texas.
The next category we'll look at is Native Americans: called American Indians and Alaska Natives by the U.S. government. Texas ties for second among this cohort:
Only Tennessee bests Texas in this category, at 88%. Texas ties with Missouri at 87%. Again, Wisconsin, Vermont, Nebraska, and Iowa come in at 77%, >=80, 67%, and 73%, respectively, demonstrating that these states at or near the top of the overall rankings aren't especially great at graduating minority students.
Moreover, Texas towers over California, New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island among Native American students.
But what about Asian-American students, or as the government categorizes them, Asian and Pacific Islander? Texas again ties for second place:
New Jersey comes in at 95%, while Texas ties with West Virginia and Vermont at 94%.
California has a much larger population of Asian-American students than any other state, but Texas has a much higher graduation rate among them.
The U.S. Department of Education also looks at low income students, and guess what, Texas does the best among this cohort:
Among low income students, Texas ties for first place in graduation rates with Indiana, at 85%. Tennessee comes in next at 82%.
Then there's students of two or more races:
This could be the face of America in a few more generations: a true melting pot. And Texas comes in with the best multi-racial graduation rate, at 92%. New Jersey is next, at 90%. Alabama and Maryland tie for third among the states, at 89%.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin, Vermont, Nebraska, and Iowa measure in at -, 76%, 85%, and 84%, respectively, for mixed race students.
And if multi-racial students in a demographic melting pot are the future of America, and Texas and California are two major competing models America might follow, the Lone Star State clearly gets the better of the Golden State, with a score of 92 to 74.
And finally, there's disabled students.
Montana is best, at 81%. Arkansas comes in at second place among disabled students at 79%. And Texas and Kansas are tied for third place at 77%.
Now, I went ahead and came up with some adjusted graduation rates for Texas, California, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Vermont, Nebraska, and Iowa, if the states had different demographic profiles.
For example, if all the states mentioned just before had the demographic makeup of the United States, the graduation rates would look more like this:
And if every state looked like Texas, the adjusted graduation rates would look more like:
Oh, how the might Iowa has fallen.
Here's a visual of what some of the better performing states would look like with other states' demographic profiles:
Texas improves with essentially any other demographic profile. Massachusetts improves a bit with the profiles of Iowa, Vermont, and Wisconsin, but falls hard with the profiles of Texas or California. And speaking of California, it improves with every profile, except Texas' demographics, demonstrating that Texas has slightly tougher demographic hurdles to overcome than California, yet Texas is succeeding while California is struggling (in a lot of ways).
More states with other states' demographic profiles:
Again, to see any of these graphics larger, just click on them.
Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis' home state, Rhode Island, performs relatively poorly already, but if it had the demographic profiles of Texas or California (or the United States at large), its adjusted graduation rate would be even lower, down in the low 70s.
But what about Iowa? Iowa is technically the only state with a higher graduation rate than Texas. But what about adjusting for various demographic profiles? As noted already, the mighty Iowa falls:
And if your mind thinks the other way around, here is the inverse way of visualizing these:
Again, Texas already comes in at second place overall without making any adjustments, but the Lone Star State towers over other states when taking demographics into account.
Also, note that Vermont is still likely inflated in these visualizations, because we had to use some figure for their Hispanic graduation rate, and because they didn't really have enough Hispanics to have a graduation rate for Hispanics, we just used Texas' outstanding rate (the best in the nation), which is giving Vermont the benefit of the doubt and then some.
More demographic profiles applied to states:
And a final look at a few more (with California and the United States included again):
Again, if Texas and Iowa went head to head on Iowa's demographic terms, Texas wins by 4%. If the two states go head to head on Texas' demographic terms, Texas wins by 6%. And based on America's demographic profile, Texas beats Iowa by 5%.
But again, even though Texas has much more challenging demographic realities, it still comes in at second place overall, practically tied with Iowa's first place showing.
So, if you're a white student, a black student, a student who is Hispanic, a Native American student, an Asian-American student, a low income student, a multi-racial student, or a disabled student, and your goal is to graduate high school, you're better off in Texas than just about any other state. Indeed, if you are any sort of student, you're likely better off in Texas than just about anywhere else. On a variety of measures, not just graduation rates.
So, can we please put to bed the myth that Texas has a high dropout rate or "ranks 50th in education" (whatever that even means)?
For example, columnist Morris Beschloss from Hot Springs, California set out to pen a comparison of Texas and California, favorable to the Lone Star State. And he did. And he made his point very well. But he also could have been a bit clearer when rebutting the common liberal canard about Texas' graduation rates:
The best that the anti-Texan example block can counter with is that the Longhorn State has the lowest percentage of high school graduates of any state in the union. This argument is offset by the fact that Texas has a burgeoning young Hispanic immigrant population, which has propelled San Antonio into the number two position among Texas's big cities. These young people are fast integrating into Texas's superior job prospects, which will allow for a more prosperous successor generation.
His rebuttal to the rebuttal isn't bad at all. Indeed, many of the alleged statistical problems with Texas are explained entirely by our relatively large population of recent immigrants, as visualized above. But Beschloss, like far too many champions of the Texas Model, doesn't explain that the anti-Texas attack is at best just plain misleading and at worst just plain bogus. And probably intentionally so. The liberals who tout this specious figure the loudest and most often also suggested-- laughably-- that Texas is "on the brink," which should tell you everything you need to know about their ideological framework.
While Texas may or may not have a relatively low percentage of people with high school diplomas, that figure is not the same thing as state high school graduation rates, and it doesn't really tell us anything at all about the effectiveness of a state's education policies. And even if it did, that figure would only tell us so much about a state's education policies over the past decade or so, since the total adult population reaches back to people who were graduating or choosing to drop out back in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, etcetera, etcetera.
In fact, Texas' high school graduation rates are actually the best (or very, very close to the best) in the country, as explained above. Having a lot of fairly recent immigrants (and, perhaps, older folks who dropped out many decades ago to work or get married) without diplomas doesn't negate that. If anything, it makes the state's success story all the more remarkable.
So, on graduation rates, Texas is performing better than the rest of the country. Is that enough?
Of course not.
The education industrial complex still spends too much to achieve too little:
Spending growth has far outpaced enrollment growth, inflation, or any other reasonable explanation for such bloat.
There is still entirely too much of a one-size-fits-all approach to education, and entirely too many kids finishing high school without employable skills.
Solving the problematic gap between good schools and bad schools all too often results in harming good schools (through Robin Hood, inattention, administrative bloat, etc.), without truly helping the poor performing schools.
There are still too many highly-paid, non-teaching educrats in off-campus administrative positions making too many top-down edicts to too few effective, appropriately compensated, empowered, well-equipped teachers.
Indeed, while the number of Texas students increased by 37% between 1992 and 2009, the number of teachers increased by 50%, and the number of non-teaching school personnel increased by a stunning 172%:
Non-teaching administrators often have salaries that could fully fund a handful of teachers' salaries annually.
There is still not enough choice or competition in the education system; indeed, the whole thing is still structured too much like a 19th century factory, and it is failing to to produce a 21st century citizenry and workforce.
Local government debt, driven largely by local education bonds that voters rubber stamp in elections scheduled at strange times of the year, is too high and getting higher still. Exorbitant property taxes, meanwhile, which largely fund our state's education system, prevent Texans from truly ever owning their own homes.
It's important to have good schools and decent facilities in a community, but are $60,000,000 stadiums that only hold up for one season the cause or merely the symptom of a broken tax/debt/spending system?
And finally, demographics might be a good explanation for why Texas is not number one in certain education metrics, but it can't be an excuse. Ultimately, our students are simply our students, regardless of their backgrounds.
The reality is that the nation is going to start looking more and more like Texas, demographically-speaking, and, in the meantime, Texas has to do a better job demonstrating that the "Texas Model" is not just more successful than the liberal model for educating minority students, but that it is actually just successful, period. Otherwise, we might all end up like California, with worse dropout rates and NAEP scores than the Lone Star State despite having a demographic profile very similar to Texas'.
Moreover, Texas students aren't merely competing against California students or Iowa students or New York students. They're all competing against Korean students. And Taiwanese students. And Indian students. Being better than California isn't good enough. We should want our kids to perform better than the kids in emerging nations.
There are billions of reasons for serious education reform in Texas and across the country. At the K-12 level. At the collegiate level. Everywhere. I'm encouraged by Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott's education plan thus far (part 1), and I hope that there are enough reform-minded State Representatives and State Senators to act on the substantive and thoughtful ideas found in it when the Texas Legislature meets again in 2015.
The contrast between Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis is clear, as @RightWordWriter noted on Twitter:
Previous Trivia Tidbit: Homelessness.
Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 977 -- Facts & Figures About Homelessness In The United States-
The United States is still the most wealthy and powerful nation on the planet, but once-abundant opportunity seems ever more out of reach for what seems like an increasing number of Americans. The economy is growing at the sort of tepid levels Americans once mocked Europe for, and at the current pace of recovery, it may take several years or more before we're again at full employment. And that's assuming no more recessions in the meantime, a rare scenario.
In all of this gloom, Texas has remained the nation's shining city on a hill, creating jobs and opportunity and becoming what amounts to an economic refugee camp for those fleeing broken blue states looking for employment and a sane place to raise a family.
It turns out that when it comes to mitigating homelessness, the blue state model is just as deeply flawed as the failed blue state model for job creation and economic growth.
Homelessness, just like so many other economic indicators, is far more than mere statistics on a page. It involves real people dealing with real and usually devastating issues. Substance abuse, broken families, or mental illness-- tragedies all-- often drive people to homelessness, but long-term unemployment and a general lack of economic vitality play a critical role in pushing people out of their homes (and keeping them out). Indeed, when it comes to reducing homelessness caused by economic hardship, we can chalk up another win for Texas and the red state model.
At the beginning of the 2013 holiday season, the Boston Globe painted a troubling picture from Massachusetts:
Record numbers of homeless families are overwhelming the state’s emergency shelter system, filling motel rooms at the cost to taxpayers of tens of millions of dollars a year.
Meanwhile, New York magazine reported:
Here in New York, they found a thirteen-percent increase, for a total of 64,060 people living in shelters and on the street. And in Los Angeles, the homeless population jumped 27 percent, to 53,798.
The New Yorker added its own 10,000 words on the subject (with nary a mention of Barack Obama, or his promise to end chronic and veteran homelessness in America by 2015), bemoaning the fact that all the homeless people in NYC wouldn't fit into the seats at Yankee Stadium.
So, liberal cities in liberal bastions have seen huge increases in homelessness. And homelessness (lumped in with hunger) now ranks among the top five issues Americans are concerned about today, essentially tied with health care, unemployment, and Social Security, and well ahead of environmental issues.
But, thank goodness, homelessness is actually down in the U.S. as a whole:
Indeed, unlike New York and California and a handful of other states, the rest of the country is seeing a decline in homelessness, and Texas cities have seen their homeless populations decline "sharply."
Let's dive into those numbers, shall we?
The Texas Tribune reported just after Thanksgiving of 2013 that, sure, homelessness is down in the Lone Star State, but still, Texas is among a group of five states (including California, New York, Florida, and Massachusetts) accounting for half of all the homeless people in America.
You could actually swap out Texas for much smaller Illinois (26+ million people in TX versus less than 13 million in IL) there and get essentially the same result. California, New York, Florida, Illinois, and Massachusetts alone comprise 48.3% of America's homeless population, 60.1% of America's unsheltered homeless population, and 63.2% of America's chronically homeless unsheltered population.
You can find and explore these numbers in this Google Doc Spreadsheet here, if you're interested. Note there are two tabs, so you might have to tab back and forth between them to find what you're looking for.
Sure, you'd expect large states to account for a lot of anything in the country. But let's really look at the numbers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and figure out what's going on there.
The table below shows each state, its population, its homeless population, its population as a percentage of the nation's population, its homeless population as a percentage of the nation's homeless population, and what I am calling the "homelessness quotient," which is just a way of measuring whether a state has more or fewer homeless people than would be predicted from its population.
A "homelessness quotient" of zero would be perfectly in line with its population. A positive quotient means a state has more homeless people than its population would predict. A negative quotient means a state has fewer homeless people than it "ought" to have, given its population.
Here's a quick way of conceptualizing that:
As you can see, some states have shockingly high numbers of homeless people, given their relative sizes (click for larger version):
California, with just under 12% of the nation's population, has 22.43% of the nation's homeless population, giving it a homelessness quotient of 0.88. Quite high, in other words. Almost double the number of homeless people one would predict, given its population.
Texas, which has roughly 8.2% of the nation's population, only has 4.85% of the nation's homeless population (meaning: Texas has a quite low homelessness quotient of -0.41).
Again, if you'd like to immerse yourself in the data, have at it with this Google Doc.
Below are a few different ways to visualize those numbers.
First, notice just how much of an outlier Texas is in terms of large states (click for larger version):
And this one is basically a zoom into the lower left quadrant of the graph above (click for larger version):
The size of the bubble indicates the size of the homeless population. The further toward the top of the graph, the larger the state's total population, and the further toward the right, the worse the homelessness quotient.
Clearly, some states have a bigger problem than others. California and New York both have excessive numbers of homeless people, even given their large overall populations.
In perhaps an even more visual format, what does this map remind you of?
It's obviously not a perfect overlap of any particular political map, but it does evoke the 2000, 2004, 2008, or 2012 Electoral College maps. Red states generally have less homelessness, blue states generally have more. Again, there are exceptions (homeless people generally don't live in the Midwest/Great Lakes region), but there are a lot of homeless people in North Dakota, perhaps simply due to the booming economy and concurrent lag in new housing options), but if we're trying to learn lessons about the problem of homelessness from the data, it's hard to deny that this map (with the exception of the Midwest) is extremely familiar to political observers.
As far as why the Midwest has relatively low levels of homelessness, perhaps it is simply because of the extreme cold (these numbers are all based on observations taken by a Census-like army across the country on a single night in January each year). Other explanations might be that the Midwest has a relatively high level of religiosity and church participation, or that the Midwest has a particular culture, shaped by particular immigrants and particular demographics, that somehow uniquely discourages homelessness. Or, maybe the people most susceptible to homelessness have simply moved elsewhere, where the jobs are. Detroit alone lost roughly 140,000 people from 2005 to 2010, mostly to places like Texas, Florida, and Arizona.
And then there's booming North Dakota, also an outlier with some unique characteristics. We'll get to that below.
Since 2009, some states have dramatically reduced their homeless populations, while some have gone the other direction (click for larger version):
Again, isolating just the lower left quadrant (click for larger version):
You can see pretty clearly that California has only gotten slightly worse over the past few years, but New York has deteriorated quite a bit. Among large states, Texas has improved, as has Florida. Louisiana, meanwhile, has shown the best improvement since 2009 among all states. One could probably chalk a bit of that up to continued, extended recovery after Hurricane Katrina. Others might observe that the still-ongoing transition in political leadership from oldschool D to reform-minded R in Louisiana is bearing policy fruit and improving the state.
So how do we make sense of all of this? What kinds of factors might really be at play here? What kinds of policies can help or harm the homelessness situation?
It turns out that there are decent correlations between bigger government, more spending, higher taxes, more liberalism, more unionization, more support for the Democrat brand and/or Obama, and more homelessness.
Meanwhile, more conservatism, lower taxes, smaller government, more charitable giving, more faith/religion, and more Republicanism are associated with less homelessness.
Plotting the homelessness quotient from above against state spending variables suggested by the National Alliance to End Homelessness shows that more spending on Medicaid and on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) do not correlate with lower levels of homelessness. Higher total state spending per capita also does not equal lower levels of homelessness (click for larger version):
Again, there are outliers and exceptions here and there. Most of those blue state exceptions are concentrated in the Midwest.
Applying data from the Tax Foundation to the same homelessness quotient, it's clear that higher taxes are also not correlated with lower homelessness. Indeed, it's the opposite (click for larger version):
Then there's unionization. Using the latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor, more unionization is even more strongly associated with more homelessness (click for larger version):
Then there's the blue versus red divide. Sure, some blue states are doing fine on mitigating homelessness, but only two red states, Alaska and North Dakota, aren't doing fine (click for larger version):
The "Democratic Advantage" number above comes from Gallup's "State of the States" report.
Alaska's homelessness situation is similar to North Dakota's. It's mostly single men who tend to work difficult, labor-intensive, relatively high-paying jobs... intermittently. And housing may be difficult to find in far-flung, off-the-grid boomtowns in these two states. Both Alaska and North Dakota have relatively small populations and very low levels of chronic homelessness (quotients of -0.27 and -0.25 respectively), indicating a fairly unique profile of homelessness.
Generally speaking, bluer states have more homelessness, redder states have less of it. The trend lines, drawn by the computer, aren't politically biased. They just tell it like it is. States that went for Obama have more homelessness per capita, states that rejected Obama have less of it.
The same goes for more liberal states and states that still approve of Obama (click for larger version):
Again, these data come from Gallup, and you can explore the numbers here.
Meanwhile, more conservative states, not surprisingly, have lower levels of homelessness:
Duh, right? If the trend line went upward for liberal states, it should be the exact same (inverse) slope downward for conservative states, right? Well, no. These are actually different numbers. A state might actually have high numbers of both liberals and conservatives, while other states might have high numbers of self-styled moderates or political agnostics. That's why I looked at this both ways, separately, and included a graph for each that takes moderates into account.
And, finally, states with higher levels of church attendance and higher rates of charitable giving have lower levels of homelessness (click for larger version):
In states that contribute higher proportions of their incomes to charity, there is a trend toward lower levels of homelessness. In states where religion is more important, there is less homelessness.
Why did I include these church/religion figures? Because throughout the course of thousands of years of recorded human history, in essentially every society on earth, until perhaps just a couple of generations ago, "the church" (outside of "the family") provided the most important and effective safety net against homelessness, hunger, extreme poverty, and other manifestations of despondency. In some U.S. states, particularly in the South and Midwest, "the church" is hanging in there, relatively speaking, still providing an important safety net for battling homelessness.
Even if you aren't particularly religious, you have to admit that the presence of strong institutions of faith in a community is a major positive force for good in the battle against homelessness.
And pivoting back away from faith and religion, the Cato Institute received a decent amount of attention recently when it released a study noting that in 11 states, welfare pays more than the average pre-tax first year wage for a teacher, in 39 states it pays more than the starting wage for a secretary, And in the 3 most generous states a person on welfare can take home more money than an entry-level computer programmer. Moreover, welfare benefits actually exceed the
So, what does the homelessness quotient look like when you bump it up against some of Cato's figures? It turns out, more welfare is associated with more homelessness:
Higher welfare benefits are associated with higher levels of homelessness. Welfare benefits rising as a percentage of the federal poverty line is associated with more homelessness. And a higher percentage of TANF recipients in a state also receiving housing benefits is associated with more homelessness.
Meanwhile, higher pre-tax wage equivalent levels, higher welfare benefits as a percentage of median income, and higher levels of housing benefits are all associated with higher levels of homelessness:
Whichever way you slice it, there are clear patterns here.
Sure, there may be a chicken/egg debate on some of these patterns: do states spend more because they have a homeless/poverty problem, or does higher spending cause/attract more homelessness and poverty?
I would strongly assert that policy itself leads to particular outcomes, far more than the other way around. The idea that governing means reactionary policy spasms beholden to random conditions that just mysteriously or spontaneously sort of happen is completely upside-down and bogus. It's unscientific. It's dumb.
Indeed, in the great Lone Star versus Golden State debate, on a per capita basis, poverty in California is 45 percent more common than in Texas. It's hard not to look at all of California's natural advantages over Texas and not conclude that policy drove that outcome.
And not all homelessness is created equal. HUD also breaks down homelessness by individuals versus families, veterans, sheltered versus unsheltered, unaccompanied children, and chronic versus short-term.
California, with roughly one-twelfth of the nation's population, alone has more than a third of the nation's chronically homeless and nearly half of America's unsheltered homeless population. The Golden State also has more than three times as many homeless veterans as Texas, despite having just one and a half times as many people. California alone has 47.5% of the nation's chronically homeless who are also unsheltered.
One-fifth of America's homeless families live in New York State (which has fewer than one-sixteenth of America's population). Indeed, just Los Angeles and New York City account for a fifth of the nation's homeless population.
Other notable facts:
New Hampshire, the relatively low tax "Live Free Or Die" (and purplish, sometimes-red) state, is the only state with a low homelessness quotient bordered entirely by states with high homelessness.
Washington, D.C. is such a disgusting outlier, with a homelessness quotient of 4.66, that I had to remove it from most of these graphs. With Washington, D.C.'s high levels of liberalism, spending, taxation, etc., it pained me to remove such a powerful data point in favor of my argument, but it often made the rest of the data look like a relative clump of clustered points and stretched the graphs to the point of being worthless for visualization. Just know that D.C. is an absolute disgrace on this topic, with nearly five times as many homeless people as it ought to have, given its population.
The correlations between higher or lower levels of homelessness and policy, partisanship, ideology, and civic/religious affiliation are shocking only if you aren't aware of just how much better red states are faring than blue states across the board these days. For those of us who look at the way red states are creating more jobs, more growth, and more opportunity than blue states, these homelessness numbers aren't really all that surprising.
It seems that the blue state model is really, really good at creating, or perhaps just exacerbating, the incredible wealth inequality that liberals say they're so concerned about fixing. The Economist explains:
...at 8.7%, the unemployment rate is still the fifth-worst in the country. Add the underemployed and discouraged, and California is second only to Nevada. One third of America’s welfare recipients live in the state. California is also hollowing out: between 2007-09 and 2010-12 the number of people earning between $50,000 and $100,000 fell by almost 75,000, while every income bracket above and below grew. Income inequality is higher than in almost any other state, by one measure. The elites of the Bay Area are thriving, and growing in number, even as the poor of the Inland Empire struggle to survive. Without some sort of policy fix, and soon, California will be the Golden State only for the few.
The far left ThinkProgress echoed these sentiments about California's dysfunction, noting a week before Christmas that seven homeless people had already frozen to death in the wealthy Bay Area.
California is so dysfunctional, its shocking inequality has taken on a truly ignominious moniker: "liberal apartheid." And it seems to be getting worse. Last year, as food stamp recipients fell in the nation by 2.1% (and 4.6% in Texas), California actually grew its food stamp rolls by 4.1%. Moreover, while Texas has more than 8% of the nation's population, it only had 2.2% of U.S. TANF recipients in 2013, while 33.2% of those receiving TANF welfare benefits lived in California (which, again, only has around 12% of the U.S. population).
Meanwhile, there is new research indicating that among U.S. states, economic freedom is the best policy to lift the poorest quintile out of poverty:
The authors find a strong positive correlation between a state’s economic freedom and the income level of the poorest 20 percent of residents. Freer states did better by their poor than less free ones. In particular, Ashby and Sobel found that increasing the economic freedom of a state by one unit (equivalent to moving from 40th-freest state to 7th freest-state) increased the incomes of its poorest residents by 11 percent. By contrast, the same change increased the incomes of the richest quintile by just over a third of that (4.3 percent). The middle class also saw increases, greater than the rich but less than the poor. Increasing a state's economic freedom by reducing taxation and regulation creates broadly shared prosperity across all quintiles. Their research helps explain why, as states become more economically free, their income inequality declines: The poor and the middle class see more gains than the wealthy.
If you're interested in reading the study for yourself, here it is.
The blue state model is creating more poverty, more homelessness, more inequality, poorer educational outcomes, and fewer jobs. Red states are generally attracting more individuals, families, and businesses, voting with their feet. And Texas is not only adding more jobs, it is doing so more equitably than blue states and singlehandedly keeping the U.S. out of negative territory in terms of middle class job creation since 2000:
Policy matters. Governance matters. Ideas matter.
The evidence is abundantly obvious, and the debate is over. Whatever you want to label it, big government fails. At everything. It just doesn't work. Motion isn't progress. Throwing money at unaccountable bureaucracies, creating labyrinthine regulatory regimes, and taxing successful people until they aren't, isn't a winning formula, and that case is closed.
The history of the United States is a history of exceptional liberty. That liberty created, by a wide margin, the world's greatest engine of economic advancement and progress. Our country has been an unparalleled agent of progress and an unequivocal force for good. What made America America, though, is in peril today.
If you want fewer jobs, a weaker economy, worse educational outcomes, more poverty, more stifling of small business, and more homelessness, by all means, blue it up. If you actually care about alleviating homelessness and creating a better, fairer, more prosperous society for all, you should be a free market conservative.
Previous Trivia Tidbit: The Texas Labor Force Keeps Growing.
Addressing Questions About Wendy Davis' Disastrous Primary Election Results.
It's now been a week. The dust has mostly settled.
The primaries are behind us, and other than a handful of statewide runoffs with all-but-foregone conclusions (and a tiny number of contested State Representative and State Senate runoffs), the general election is up next.
The day after the primary, this post (and the map representation of Wendy Davis' losses in South Texas) about Wendy Davis' primary election disaster went somewhat viral-ish:
The results sparked a lively debate over whether Wendy Davis' poor performance in South Texas and beyond is something that actually means anything. Is it all really a dispositive clue pointing to a Republican wave and/or Democrat slump in 2014? Or is it just noise and/or meaningless circumstance? Some sought to explain away the results by saying things like:
1. Ray Madrigal is Hispanic. His surname is Hispanic. Therefore just being on the ballot should be enough to get 20 percent or so of the vote statewide and 50 percent or more in majority-Hispanic counties.
Let's address these one at a time.
1. Ray Madrigal is Hispanic. His surname is Hispanic. Therefore just being on the ballot should be enough to get 20 percent or so of the vote statewide and 50 percent or more in majority-Hispanic counties.
In the heavily Democrat Rio Grande Valley, an essential region of the state if Democrats want to turn Texas blue, Davis got fewer votes than any Democrat on the primary ballot in more than two decades. This is astonishing, given that Valley population has grown by more than a third during that time.
Moreover, Wendy Davis is the only Democrat nominee in the last 20 years to lose any Valley counties, suffering defeat in Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy (plus about two dozen others along the border and around the state), and winning a marginal victory in Cameron County (Brownsville) by a mere 688 votes. Her Rio Grande Valley performance (for the sake of time alone, I didn't include every single border or South Texas county here) was historically awful, despite rapid growth in the region over this timeframe (click for larger version):
And the dagger through the heart of the "they just voted their race" argument is that former gubernatorial nominee Bill White, the palest, blandest, Elmer Fuddiest-looking white guy in the history of white people (his name is even white) faced not one but two people with Hispanic surnames in 2010, and they received 2.83% and 4.95% of the statewide primary vote, respectively:
In Cameron County (Brownsville), Bill White's two Hispanic opponents earned (combined) 15.5% of the vote. In Webb County (Laredo), White's two Hispanic opponents together received 14.8%. In El Paso County (El Paso), they together got 16.5%. In Hidalgo (McAllen), they received 19.9%, and in Starr (Rio Grande City), they got 18.4%.
Wendy Davis, meanwhile, lost these counties (and others), often by large margins. If "voting the race" was a thing in 2014, it was a sudden thing and not something that has shown up before, except perhaps for Tony Sanchez in 2002 (although he spent 18+ million dollars before the primary, so his Valley performance may have been more about exorbitant spending than anything else).
This is just wrong. There's no other way to put it.
Wendy Davis' team of Obama alumni is comprised of the experts of all experts when it comes to voter registration and turnout, and they aren't humble about it.
"Key to Davis’s victory is turnout, and in recent memory no organization has proved more adept in this area than the Obama campaign. ...When it comes to the gritty task of getting out the vote, they’re the experts."
“As senior adviser to (Battleground Texas), Bird said his goal is ‘bringing some of the best talent and strategies in politics to the Lone Star State to help expand the electorate by registering more voters and by mobilizing Texans who are already registered but haven’t made their voices heard.’”
Indeed, Battleground Texas and the Davis team are on the record saying they were indeed pushing for a strong primary turnout as a trial run for November.
Davis and Battleground have “signed up 12,000 volunteers and attempted more than 370,000 phone calls and door-knocks to boost the Democratic Party.”
“Her campaign and Battleground Texas have been running phone banks to get people in the habit of voting before it really counts in November.”
Despite Wendy Davis’ massive, hyped, well-funded, all-star staffed voter registration effort with Battleground Texas and millions of dollars from out-of-state, today there are 45,000 fewer Texans registered to vote than in November 2012.
Keep in mind that Barack Obama lost Texas to Mitt Romney by nearly 16% in 2012 and Republicans tend to perform better in off-year elections, when low information voters stay home in greater numbers.
There is obviously not any sort of perfect r-squared correlation between partisan primary turnout and general election results, but a primary election is undeniably is a key indicator of voter interest and excitement-- and there is a clear and present enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats in Texas today.
In the 10 bluest, most reliably Democrat-machine counties in Texas (the ten counties, other than the "big five," with more than 10K registered voters where Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney by the widest margins in 2012: Cameron, El Paso, Hidalgo, Jefferson, Jim Wells, Maverick, Starr, Val Verde, Webb, and Willacy), Davis got fewer votes than any Democrat in the last twenty years, while primary turnout was the lowest (in both raw votes and percentage voting) since 1998. Davis actually lost five of these reliably Democratic counties, and in only one (Jefferson) did she match her statewide performance.
In some of the deepest blue counties in Texas, Wendy Davis simply bonked (click for larger version):
In Texas' 5 most populous counties, there were 12,897 fewer total Democratic votes than in 2010 and 62,469 fewer than in 2002.
Wendy Davis received roughly 85 thousand fewer votes than Bill White did in 2010, despite spending over $1.7 million more than Bill White, pre-primary.
Think about that (click for larger version):
In a practically uncontested primary, Wendy Davis spent more than Bill White in a contested primary, to achieve poorer primary results.
And it's true.
These are rock-solid blue counties. That's not surprising for more Democrats to vote than Republicans, by a big margin. As former State Representative (D turned R) Aaron Peña noted, to participate in local elections in the Valley at present, you have to participate in D primaries.
Greg Abbott doesn't need to win these deep blue counties to win in November. He just wants to get enough votes from them to be able to break the George W. Bush high water mark of 40% among Hispanics statewide. Based on what we've seen from the primary numbers, that may be very doable.
Moreover, if we want to play the game of which counties Greg Abbott or Wendy Davis won, Abbott won the vast majority of counties, including all major metro counties other than Travis County (Austin) and El Paso (map via @suemclean on twitter):
Democrats outperformed Republicans along the border and in places with competitive local D primaries (plus a small number of low population counties that are still, in 2014, believe it or not, transitioning from blue to red). There were also a few rural counties without Republican primaries and only a handful of D votes. That is nothing new.
What is eye-opening is that Greg Abbott got more votes in Wendy Davis' home county, Tarrant County. And in Dallas County. And in Harris County (Houston). And in Bexar County (San Antonio). In nearly all counties with more than 100,000 registered voters, Abbott dominated (click for larger version):
Counties with more Abbott votes:
Counties with more Davis votes:
Note that in the counties Abbott "won," his margin of victory was higher than Wendy Davis' margin was in the counties she "won." The median "score" in Abbott counties was 79-21. In Davis counties, the median score was 29-71. Also note the median voter ratios in these counties.
There is a Texas enthusiasm gap in 2014, and it strongly favors Republicans (click for larger version):
You can quickly see why Texas is such a red state, despite the cities and South Texas being so strongly blue. Texas has plenty of heavily populated (and rapidly growing) suburban and formerly small town counties that are strongly Republican. Montgomery County, for example, just outside of Houston, is roaring with growth and prosperity. It also produced nearly 17 times more Abbott votes than Davis votes in the primary.
Over the past two decades or so, Texas has gotten both far more Hispanic and far more Republican. Eventually, Texas being a majority-minority state (as of 2012, Texas was 44.5% non-Hispanic white) might "quickly" change the political realities in Texas, but so far, it has not. And it won't in 2014. Or 2016. Or 2018. Or probably well into the 2020s or even much later (if ever). Nothing is inevitable in politics.
Why Did Wendy Davis Perform So Atrociously In Her Primary?
Let's address what may have really been behind Wendy Davis' awful performance: Texas Right To Life. In October, and again in February, Texas Right To Life ran both English and Spanish radio ads in South Texas highlighting Wendy Davis' support for unfettered elective late-term abortion after five months of pregnancy.
As Michael Barone noted, Wendy Davis' infamous filibuster repelled Hispanic voters in Texas. And it makes sense.
After voting to limit elective late-term abortion and require abortion facilities to meet basic standards of safety and cleanliness, State Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr. (D-Palmview) was challenged by Maria Regalado from the left on the issue of his HB 2 vote. The pro-life Muñoz demolished her, pulling in 76% of the vote. Support for late-term abortion doesn't play in Texas, especially South Texas.
Indeed, some of us saw this coming many months ago in Wendy Davis' awful, no good, horrible, really, really bad fundraising figures from South Texas, and after her disastrous not-ready-for-primetime campaign appearances in the Valley.
And while we're on that, let's address Wendy Davis' campaign appearances in the Valley. I saw suggestions that Wendy Davis just hadn't spent much time in South Texas. In fact, though, Davis made a lot of appearances in the Valley, including her infamous "not ready for prime time" event in Pharr and Charro Days just before the election. Wendy Davis visited the Valley a disproportionately large number of times.
It wasn't a lack of attention. It wasn't a lack of money. It wasn't a lack of name identification. It wasn't that her last name wasn't Hispanic. It wasn't a lack of institutional party support-- the Democratic Party of Texas endorsed her before she even entered the race.
Wendy Davis' poor primary performance was simply the result of a lack of compatible values or message. She just is a mismatched candidate for South Texas, and her well-known extremism on behalf of late-term abortion was a disqualifying flaw for many voters in South Texas and beyond.
Wendy Davis' Primary Disaster.
Of non-Texas Democrats in places like New York City and San Francisco, Wendy Davis is perhaps among the dozen or so most popular figures in political life today. Her fundraising from liberals in liberal bastions bears that out. Ronan Farrow and the rest of the MSNBC crowd love her.
In Texas, though, not so much.
The Texas Democrats' primary performance Tuesday was an unmitigated disaster, and the performance of Wendy Davis was particularly abysmal.
The Austin American-Statesman set up a few benchmarks the day before the primary:
"So is all the hoopla around Wendy Davis and Battleground Texas just so much hype, or are Democratic prospects truly better than four years ago?
At last count, with 8,742 of 8,745 (99.97%) reporting, Wendy Davis had just 432,025 votes, or 79.05% of the primary vote in a two-person race. All told, 546,480 Democrats voted in the 2014 primary.
Failure, in other words.
If you're someone who has given millions of dollars to this effort, you're fuming and/or depressed today. Send in the auditors. Send in the adults. Double down. Or retreat entirely.
Compare the Democrats' figures to the Republican nominee Greg Abbott's numbers. Abbott received 1,219,831 votes, or 91.50% in a four-way primary race. 1,333,010 Republicans voted in the 2014 primary. Those figures may change ever-so-slightly, as 8,825 of 8,829 (99.95%) of precincts are now reporting.
But what is really astonishing is that Wendy Davis lost 26 mostly-South Texas counties and tied in two more (click for larger version):
Additionally, in 22 other counties, no Democrat votes were reported. As in none. Zero. Which happens on both sides. It's a big state with some very rural and remote areas. But still.
Abbott versus his competitors:
Davis versus her competitor:
And 2014 versus 2010:
In 2010, Bill White received 76% in a field of seven opponents, including an extremely well funded one. How could we ever forget the hair product magnate Farouk Shami:
Now, Governor Rick Perry faced a sitting U.S. Senator and "TEA Party" candidate Debra Medina in a "throw the incumbent bums out" year, so you'd expect his numbers to be a bit lower. As a side note, Governor Perry avoiding a runoff in a multi-candidate race with tens of millions of dollars spent shocked most political observers (full disclosure: I worked on that race for Governor Perry).
White and Perry are really included here just for reference. If Wendy Davis and Battleground Texas were on track to turn Texas blue in 2014, wouldn't we have seen a bit of evidence of that in the Democrats' primary turnout?
Moreover, keep in mind Ray Madrigal didn't really run a campaign. He was initially fined $500 for failing to turn in a campaign finance report, but the Texas Ethics Commission waived the fine when Madrigal revealed he didn't have anything to report. He hadn't raised any money. He wasn't running a real campaign. Wendy Davis, though, certainly was running one. Just a bungled campaign, apparently.
The abysmal, embarrassing primary performance by Wendy Davis was shared by her party at large, though, as Democrats advanced a Lyndon LaRouche acolyte, who is demanding the impeachment of Barack Obama, to a multi-month runoff for U.S. Senate. And Kinky Friedman is going to the Democrats' Agriculture Commissioner runoff.
There is no papering over just how bad Tuesday night was for Texas Democrats. Their "rockstar" nominee losing more than two dozen counties, mostly in heavily Hispanic areas, demonstrates just how misguided their "nominate a single issue candidate" plan was. Democrats failing to receive a single vote in nearly two dozen more demonstrates that their vaunted field and data work isn't yielding results in critical political regions of the state.
In short, there is a partisan enthusiasm gap in Texas, and Republicans are winning it. Democrats have years of soul searching and retooling to do before they'll even sniff winning their first statewide race since the early 90s. Anointing someone known almost exclusively for filibustering on behalf of elective late-term abortion post 5 months of pregnancy may have set the Democrats' plan back at least one full election cycle, if not more.