“If you care about putting people back to work when nearly 14 million are unemployed, maybe Texas has something to teach us.”
Rick Wartzman, LA Times 7/3/11
The same economic geniuses that gave us the Great Recession and nearly crashed the global economy are back with a vengeance and a new message: We ought to be following the Texas model of job creation.
Those of us who have memories longer than an Alzheimer patient will recall that these are the same chefs who cooked up the deadly brew of Free Trade, deregulation, evisceration of anti-trust laws and unlimited corporate power. To everyone on the working end of the economic strata it was an unmitigated catastrophe and one that may haunt us for decades. But to those whose idea of labor is handing down dictums from the executive suite it all worked out fine. We paid the bill and they got multi-million dollar bonuses.
Those of us with memories longer than a crack addict on pot will also recall the last time the nation adopted the Texas model: Based on a fictional success derived from skewed data, the country was saddled with No Child Left Behind.
To everyone engaged in public education NCLB is a disaster on par with Free Trade economic policies but to those who created and promoted it as reasonable reform it is working as designed: As it destroys public education it opens the door to privatization.
As it is with education so it is with Texas economics.
The crux of the current argument is that in these difficult times Texas is the national leader in job creation. The argument is as flawed as a high school engineering project. On the global scale, China and India are the leaders in job creation. Should we adopt the Chinese model?
The reasons jobs are migrating to Texas, Mississippi and North Dakota are the same reasons American jobs are moving to India: Low wages, minimal health and retirement benefits, an unregulated working environment and a virtual prohibition of unions.
Texas is among twenty-two Right to Work states and according to the US Bureau of Labor a disproportionate fifteen of those states are among the top twenty-five in job creation over the last decade. The exceptions to the rule are the rust belt states that continue to hemorrhage jobs regardless of Right to Work status.
For the uninitiated Right to Work is the most effective legislative means of union busting ever invented. In a Right to Work state no worker can be required to join a union, pay union dues or pay an equivalent amount to charity. Because unions depend on worker unity in negotiations with management, Right to Work laws have a crippling effect. Since it would be discriminatory and therefore illegal to pay some workers a different wage than others, under the mandates of Right to Work, a non-union worker is allowed to freeload on the backs of union workers. When a union engages in collective bargaining, all workers benefit. If a union goes out on strike, non-union workers can break the strike and scabs can be hired without consequence beyond the individual conscience. The union is rendered powerless and therefore less able to attract new members.
Just as non-union workers benefit at a cost to union workers, Right to Work states are empowered to steal jobs from states that honor the Rights of Labor (including the Right to Organize in the workplace) by offering lower costs to corporate employers.
Ultimately, Right to Work as public policy is a zero sum gain. If all states followed the Texas model, job creation would be spread evenly but there would be no net increase in jobs. It would however unleash a race to the bottom as organized labor ceased to exist and jobs would offer ever lower wages and benefits.
Like a serpent that discovers its tail and consumes itself, the Texas model on a national scale would end catastrophically because the already dying middle class would be dead and buried and consumption of unnecessary goods would shrivel like a raisin in the sun. Our consumer-based economy would inevitably collapse.
Do we really want to become a nation where corporate treasures are built on the backs of cheap labor?
This is a classic case of pound-foolish and penny-wise. It is the age-old strategy of dividing workers against themselves. It is Starve the Beast in its most cynical form.
The difficulty with economic issues is that the language required to explain them is so convoluted it becomes incomprehensible. It is like the variable rate home mortgage loan with a bubble payment that no one would sign if it were properly explained.
It should be sufficient to say that these Texas model pimps are the same folks who screwed us out of our homes. These are the same brain trusts that shipped our well-paid jobs overseas and replaced them with minimum wage labor. These are the same folks who gave us mass foreclosures and rendered our properties less than worthless for their own gain. These are the same people that crushed the American Dream and replaced it with a nightmare of debt, default and depression.
Now they want to finish the job and Texas will show us the way.
The Texas model is a Trojan Horse. It is paraded before us in all its sequined glory. We are expected to bow down and pay tribute. On the surface it appears to offer great rewards but once we let it in the gates, the enemy inside will emerge to destroy us.
Texas is a place where government is controlled from the corporate boardrooms and the only function of government is to do corporate bidding. Instead of following Texas on the road to ruin, the twenty-eight states that still believe in the rights of labor should take counter measures.
In so many ways we have been following Texas for far too long. Texas gave us deregulation of oil and gas and the $50 billion west coast energy fraud. Texas gave us Enron and Anderson Accounting. Texas gave us Karl Rove and George W. Bush. Texas gave us war for oil in the Middle East. Texas gave us chemical-hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas deposits deep in the earth, poisoning drinking water throughout the west. Texas gave us No Child Left Behind.
It seems to me Texas has been waging a cold war against the rest of us for a very long time. Maybe it’s time we started fighting back.
Governor Rick Perry made some cavalier comments in April 2009 about Texas withdrawing from the union to which I reply: Go ahead. Make my day.
Jack Random is the author of Jazzman Chronicles (Crow Dog Press) and Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press.)