With the Texas Legislature in full swing, perhaps our lawmakers would like to address a situation we shall call Where We Stand. It’s an apples-to-apples comparison of where Texas ranks among the 50 states in everything from cabbages to machine guns. Why our legislators? Because in many cases they can change our position for the better.
Let’s go: Texas is tied with California as home to 57 of the top Fortune 500 companies. We lead in a lot of categories: agriculture, petrochemicals, energy, computers and electronics, aerospace, and biomedical sciences. Texas has led the nation in export revenue since 2002.
Although this is one of the nation’s most urbanized states, we still grow a lot of stuff: Texas ranks second for total agricultural production, but we are first in cotton (29 percent of all U.S. production), cotton is also the official state fiber/fabric. We are first in cabbages (18 percent of U.S. production) and first in cattle and calves (18 percent of U.S. production). Texas is the leading producer of pecans, which is our official state health nut. We are second in sorghum grain. Alas, we are third in hay and third in greenhouse and nursery products (flowers, ornamental shrubs, young trees) and fifth in rice.
Among the 50 states, Texas ranks No. 2 for motor vehicle registrations. In calendar year 2011, the state had over 21.9 million of them. However, Texas also ranks No. 2 in auto theft — one in every 318 vehicles was stolen in 2010. Speaking of cars, we have the third worst drivers in the country. Louisiana ranked the worst drivers. Drivers in Rhode Island were the safest. (Incidentally, if Texas were a republic again, geographically it would be 10th largest in the world with the 14th largest economy based on gross domestic product.)
Now for some dismal stats that were gathered from various agencies, studies and professional organizations by — as we might guess — a bunch of bleeding hearts, who put their downer facts in a booklet, “Texas on the Brink.” Only, unlike the rest of us, these particular Texans can do something about the problems – they are our very own legislators. Well, they can try to improve us. Good luck.
Texas ranks dead last among states in the federal government’s latest report on the delivery of health services. Percentage of population without health insurance – we are first. On the other end, per capita spent on Medicaid – 44th. Dentists per capita – 41st and pharmacists — 44th. Texas ranks 48th in active primary care physicians. Add specialists and Texas moves up to 46th. Percentage of obese adults –10th. Overall health of the state — 37th.
OK, we get the picture. Texas is lagging behind the rest of America in the quality of life, like education (37th), parks and recreation, (48th), police protection (49th).We are 46th in environmental protection, but first in the number of hazardous waste and spills. Texas is the 10th worst state in exposing residents to toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants. No surprise in these rankings, for we have always been a low tax, low spend state. So, per capita, we rank next to last in state taxes raised and dead last in per capita state spending. In government administration we are 50th. I’m not sure what this last category means, but if it’s what we spend on bureaucrats, 50th is fine with me.
Everyone knows we are first in the number of executions, but we also lead in the number of adults in the criminal justice system, in registered machined guns, traffic fatalities and alcohol-related traffic fatalities. We slip to second in adults in prison, road-rage traffic fatalities and firearm deaths.
At this point, many of us are asking, “If we’re so bad, how come one of our biggest problems is dealing with all those who move here? Between 2004 and 2010, Texas led the nation in net migration from other states, gaining a total of 682,362 residents, according to the IRS. Why have 4.5 million people moved here from everywhere in the last decade? Remember, between births and immigrants, our state’s population is increasing on average 1,100 a day! So how bad are we?
Moving on, we’ve created more low-paying jobs than any state. When it comes to the percentage of adults with Internet access, were 39th. Texas has the nation’s third-highest rate of unplanned teen pregnancies for girls 15 to 19, and the second-highest rate of multiple births for girls 15 to 19. Wow, that figure is going to balloon, so to speak, now that state support of Planned Parenthood has ended. Texas has the worst performing food stamp program in the nation, according to the federal director for food assistance. Five Texas malls are among the 50 biggest shopping malls in America: The Houston Galleria (9). NorthPark Center, Dallas (19), Brazos Town Center, Rosenberg – (30), Memorial City Mall, Houston (38) and North East Mall, Hurst (47). No. 1 is the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn.
Texas is only spending 2.4 percent of the tobacco settlement money it collects on tobacco prevention campaigns, placing it 41st among states. Texas collected $1.8 billion for fiscal year 2013 in tobacco taxes and settlement payments, but only earmarked $6.5 million for the anti-smoking campaigns. All of that money was supposed to be spent warning kids of the danger of smoking. What happened to the rest? It went into the general fund so Gov. Rick Perry and the legislators could tell us how they balanced the budget without raising taxes. They give sleaze a bad name.
Finally, let’s disregard all those messy statistics and end up on a good note. Texas ranks first by a mile in several intangibles. We have by far the best high school football, college bands, mud flaps, rodeos and pretty women. The entire world would agree that Texas is first in state pride, Gulf seafood and Tex-Mex. We are also first in pointing out our own flaws.
Ashby ranks first at email@example.com