Government
5:59 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

New Book Looks At 'The Texas Way' And The Way Out

SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson has just released a book that is guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of many a proud Texan.  Jillson talked to KERA’s Shelley Kofler about why he wrote Lone Star Tarnished.  

Click on the audio bar above to hear the conversation.  

Jillson: That’s the goal, really, to get people’s blood pressure up, but then to get them thinking. Because I’ve taught for a decade, of course, in Texas politics and I try to follow the state’s major newspapers on a daily basis and it became very clear to me over the years that business pages of Texas newspapers touted the Texas dream, that people are moving here in large numbers, job creation is well above the national average.

But then I look at the front section of the newspaper.  Education is mediocre, health care is not available to lots of Texans, the roads are potholed and traffic is building.  So it seemed to me that the myth and the reality were different and I wanted to look closely to see how Texas was actually doing and then I wanted to tell people.

Kofler: Some of it (the book) is part history, it’s part analysis and it’s divided into three sections. The first section, which I think is the biggest heftiest section is, “The Great State of Texas?” You talk about what you term the “Texas Way.” What is the "Texas Way?"

Jillson: Yeah, I wanted to go all the way back to the Republic of Texas to start thinking about how Texas developed and it became clear to me that there has been a Texas model or a Texas Way that goes back to Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston. And it was a vision that saw small government, low taxes, deregulation and a very heavy dose of personal responsibility throughout Texas history has been the model. And for lots of Texas history that worked quite well. But as you get to the current day and, much more importantly, looking forward, that will not be sufficient. I think that Texas’ future is in danger and that’s why I wanted to sound the alarm.

Kofler: So a lot of this, in your mind, is myth, this idea that we as Texans are bigger than life.

Jillson:  This has been a myth of Anglo Texas throughout the history of the state. And for most of the state’s history there was a very large Anglo majority: 75- 80 percent of Texans were Anglo at the turn of the twentieth century, all the way up to 1950. And as we move to the current day we’re 47 percent Anglo now, 38 percent Hispanic and 11 percent Black. And when you get to 2040 you have one third Anglo, 56-57 percent Hispanic and about 10 percent Black. That will be a different Texas. And we’re not prepared for that Texas.

Kofler: You talk a later about this idea that the Hispanic population in Texas will, in the very near future, become the majority, and that in the Hispanic population the level of education is lower.  The number of high school grads is less.  They’re earning less money. You believe, I think, that this bodes very poorly for the state. 

Jillson: I think that’s right. And there is significant shared responsibility. I think Texas Hispanics have to focus on education, on getting a good high quality education, staying in school,  preparing themselves well to go to on to college. But the state of Texas also has a very significant responsibility to fund high quality public schools so that Hispanic Texans who are now the majority in our lower grades of public schools can get that good education and prepare to go on to college. In the last legislative session we cut $4 billion out of a public education establishment that already ranked 44th in the country.  But when you’re 44 out of the 50 states that is a real problem. That has to change if Texas is going to thrive going forward.

Kofler: Republican candidates- and we are a red state-would find it difficult to say the things you’re saying and get elected.

Jillson: You have some groups in Austin that are adamantly against tax increases. What I try to do in this book is to show that Texas (for state revenue) spends 72 percent of the average nationally and that the rest of the South spends 88 percent of the national average. So we’re at 72, the rest of the South is at 88. We could adjust our tax revenues to something closer to the Southern average which would mean we would remain competitive for business sites and for job creation because we would just be moving up closer to other Southern states. If we did that, there are lots of revenue sources available that would not impact Texans in a dramatic way but would allow us to fund education and healthcare, road building and transportation infrastructure, that would allow for our success going forward.

Kofler: Cal Jillson, I suspect that you’re going to get a lot of feedback from your Republican friends on this book, and your colleagues are already telling you that you may not be able to stay in the state.  (laughs ) But this a great conversation to have. Thank you for joining us.

Jillson: It’s an important conversation to have. Thank you, Shelley.

Kofler: The book is “Lone Star Tarnished.” The author is Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University.