Folks in the city of Longview — an oil patch town making its way in a new economy — are a little confused by a recent New York Times article that portrayed the city as left behind by the Texas Miracle.
“They don’t see Longview the way I see Longview,” Mayor Andy Mack told the Longview News-Journal. “I see Longview as the up-and-coming town in this area.”
The central premise of the Times’ piece is that the Texas Miracle — the economic boom resulting from the state’s steadfast commitment to low taxes, reasonable regulations and a healthy respect for personal liberty — has benefited mainly the big cities, and bypassed smaller towns and rural areas.
The premise is wrong. The fact is that unemployment in Longview is currently at 3.8 percent, well below the 5 percent that economists say is effectively full employment. Home sales and home values have reached record highs, according to Texas A&M’s Real Estate Center. This isn’t a town in decline; it’s a city on the move.
Just over a month ago, for example, HVAC equipment maker AAON, Inc. announced plans to relocate a facility from Tulsa to Longview as part of a $28 million investment that will create 125 new jobs.
The city that prides itself as being Real East Texas isn’t alone in its growth. The whole state is on the move.
The Times’ piece implies that the Texas Miracle has failed because it hasn’t fixed two issues that are national and even global in scope: urbanization and the shift in our economy to information- and service-based (the second issue contributes to the first).
In that Times’ article, one of the study’s authors inexplicably says: “The gains are not being segregated in other states in the way that they are in Texas.”
Yet the study also says: “The economy’s new divides transcend state and regional boundaries. These broad national patterns are remarkably consistent across states.”
This isn’t the first time the New York Times has attempted to throw shade this way; columnist Paul Krugman famously claimed in his 2011 piece, “The Texas Unmiracle” that “the Texas miracle is a myth, and more broadly that Texan experience offers no useful lessons on how to restore national full employment.”
Yet Texas went on the lead the nation in job creation — both before and after the oil bust in 2015. Businesses continue to relocate to the Lone Star State in droves. And people are clamoring to get here. Texas is growing by more than 1,000 people per day.
So the question isn’t whether the Texas Model works — it does. And the question isn’t whether Texas is immune to the broader trend of urbanization — it’s not.
The question is whether all Texans are better or worse off because of the Texas Model. That’s easy to answer; just look at California. Similar in size and demographics, it is the complete opposite of Texas in politics and public policy. California has high taxes and crushing regulations — and also the nation’s biggest homeless population, an intractable housing crisis, and the nation’s highest poverty rate.
The Texas Model works — even for rural Texans. In a diverse economy, not all gains will be felt uniformly. But a rising tide does, indeed, lift all boats. In Texas, the booming economy means more jobs and higher wages.
We can preserve these gains by celebrating the Texas Miracle, and shoring up the Texas Model that brought it about.