- Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
A groundbreaking book by former California legislator Chuck DeVore outlines in nine chapters, a foreword, and an epilogue why the Golden State may be broken beyond repair and why the second most populous state, Texas, is the preferred model for the rest of the nation. “The Texas Model: Prosperity in the Lone Star State and Lessons for America” (Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 150 pages, $9.98 large format paperback) is a project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Austin, TX.
The book compares and contrasts Texas to its large state peers — especially the largest state, California — and goes into detail why Texas is increasingly the destination for Americans seeking a better life. “The Texas Model” describes a state with low taxes, a cost of living below the national average, modest government, and a lawsuit climate that allows entrepreneurship to flourish while encouraging job creation.
America’s 8 largest states comprise 47 percent of the nation’s population, DeVore writes in Chapter Two, comparing the eight Big States, so a comparison of Texas with California, New York, Florida, Illinois Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan makes sense. The eight “have enough in common to make a discussion of the areas where they differ interesting and meaningful,” he writes at the beginning of the chapter. In a country like ours where movement is not restricted, individuals vote with their feet, and Texas is a clear winner. Census figures show that while California, Texas and Florida “showed strong growth in population, Texas grew at more than double the rate of California, 20.6 percent to 10.0 percent. The chart on page 19 is graphic proof of the voting with their feet concept. If you’re a demographics junkie like me, you’ll groove on Chapter Two. DeVore clearly knows how to handle the data from the Census Bureau, factoring in concepts like cost of living differences, and the impact of no income tax in states like Texas and Florida vis-à-vis their relationships with California and New York, respectively.
Figure 5 on page 20 shows why Texas grew so much: It’s not even close, DeVore notes, of this chart showing changes in non-farm employment, Aug. 2000 to Aug. 2011.Texas led all the big 8 states, with 1,093,400 jobs created…Jobs gained by New York, 63,200, Florida, 31,900, and Pennsylvania. 7,300 — are miniscule by comparison. The other states all lost jobs, headed by my birth state of Michigan with 619,000, followed by California with 519,600, Ohio with 407,000 and Illinois with 322,700.
In a commentary on the TPPF website, DeVore summarizes much of his book writing about golfer Phil ‘Lefty’ Mickelson, a native Californian who’s complaining about the high taxes of California and why he might, like Tiger Woods, decamp to Florida — or Texas — two of the nation’s biggest states without state income taxes. (http://www.texaspolicy.com/center/fiscal-policy/opinions/phil-mickelson-isnt-only-future-former-californian).
The book affected me on the personal level, because I lived in California from 1976 to 1992, most of the time working as a reporter at the Los Angeles Times, where I was immersed in the economic realities of a gigantic state that seemed to be on track in every respect. After 16 years of living and working in West Virginia, we finally moved to Texas in the summer of 2008 — and we haven’t regretted the move. I like living in a state where my retirement income goes a long way, where I can play golf year round — are you listening, Lefty — and where I can drive my Ural motorcycle/sidecar rig 12 months of the year.
The book’s foreword, by Texas Public Policy Foundation president and CEO Brooke L. Rollins, reminds us that Texans have always been “unique and proud” and have been trendsetters who haven’t always been recognized by other Americans. Rollins singles out Mirabeau Lamar, the second president of the Republic of Texas, who is remembered mostly for his failed attempt to make Texas a continental power stretching to the Pacific. Rollins notes that Lamar should be remembered as the visionary who set aside land for the future University of Texas and Texas A&M — the Father of Texas Education. “From the start,” writes Rollins, “our state has valued intellect and and its fruits — not as substitutes for labor, but as enabling more and better labor — and now at the start of the twenty-first century, the light of prosperity and liberty is increasingly that of the Lone Star State.”
Chuck DeVore told me that “One of the important tasks of the book was to answer the liberal critique of Texas. Texas’ critics say we don’t tax enough or spend enough. But, the results speak for themselves. Our economy is thriving. Texans value hard work and we don’t see government as the answer to everything. This irks those who believe in big government—if the Texas model works, and works better for people than the California model—the model the president is seeking to bring to the rest of the nation—then it threatens their agenda, their world view. Thus, understanding Texas’ success is a step in understanding how we revitalize America. Look at the two biggest states, California and Texas—some 20 percent of America calls one of these two states home. But these states govern in a vastly different way. California is the archetype for America’s future should it remain on its current course. California has high taxes and a burdensome government, yet it is burdened with America’s highest poverty rate, 23.5 percent, while hosting a full third of America’s welfare caseload. Texas offers a different model, one that shows that liberty is the only real solution to poverty.”
About the Author
Charles S. “Chuck” DeVore (born in Seattle, WA, in 1962) is an American politician who served as a Republican member of theCalifornia State Assembly from 2004 to 2010 and represented the 70th District, which includes portions of Orange County. DeVore serves as Vice Chair of the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee and was also a member of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and Veterans Affairs Committee. On November 12, 2008, DeVore announced his candidacy for the United States Senate in 2010, but in the Republican primary on June 8, 2010, DeVore finished third, receiving 19.3 percent of the vote. In late 2011, DeVore moved to Texas to work for the Texas Public Policy Foundation where he is now Vice President for Communications and a Senior Fellow for Fiscal Policy.