Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg claimed in a recent Democratic presidential debate that the “number one place to live out the ‘American Dream’ right now” is Denmark.
He couldn’t be more wrong. The American Dream is alive and well — and it’s thriving in Texas, which celebrates its own Independence Day on March 2. Opportunity is what makes Texas Texas.
It is, of course, fashionable for candidates of the opposition party to bemoan the economy — that’s the surest pathway to elected office. But the facts of the matter are clear: Unemployment remains near record low levels, wages are rising and six in 10 Americans say they’re better off now than they were three years ago.
Critics of the Trump economy typically list three things to indicate the American Dream is dead: the high cost of buying a home, the heavy burden of student loans and income inequality.
In each case, though, Texas stands out as a shining example of hope and opportunity.
On housing, Texas faces a supply problem, just like many other states. The population of the Lone Star State grows by about 1,000 people every single day, and they all need a place to stay. Yet Texas continues to ensure that builders are free to work hard to meet the demand. Construction activity rose last year, with an 11.5 percent increase in construction of single-family homes over 2018. According to the Texas A&M Real Estate Center, “Much of the development in Houston and San Antonio were for homes intended to sell for less than $300,000.”
Compare this to California, where government activity works to exacerbate the housing crisis. In San Francisco, for example, even an “affordable” home costs $750,000 to build. Why? As the New York Times points out, “around one quarter of the cost of building affordable housing goes to government fees, permits and consulting companies,” studies show.
Student loan debt is also cited as a burden that prevents young people from achieving the American Dream. And that’s true; student loan debt topped $1.6 trillion last year. Proposals by some candidates to simply cancel federal student loans address the symptom, but not the disease, which is the ridiculously high cost of a college education.
Again, Texas is a leader here. In 2011, then-Gov. Rick Perry called on Texas universities to design truly affordable baccalaureate programs — ”$10,000 degrees” — and Texas universities rose to the challenge. Now hundreds of Texas students are taking advantage of the program to earn their degrees without burdening themselves with massive debt.
Finally, critics say income inequality is killing the American Dream. But is income inequality even a useful measure? The fact is that poverty continues to decline, and Americans have more opportunity than ever, as more and more jobs are created and more and more small businesses are started.
Another fact is that in states led by Democrats — including California and New York — income inequality is even more pronounced than in Texas.
The American Dream isn’t dead — and it hasn’t moved to Denmark. It’s alive and well in Texas, where opportunity abounds and hope isn’t crushed by bureaucratic burdens.