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Could Texas really be the future of America?

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The fastest growing state in the nation isn’t Texas. It’s actually Utah.

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, Utah grew at 18.4%. Next it’s Idaho. The Gem State clocked in at 17.3%. Then, taking the bronze for last decade growth comes Texas at 15.9%

But when it comes to raw numbers, Texas overwhelmingly takes the gold with 4 million new residents.

Almost all of that growth came from people of color, with Latinos the largest demographic in that group. That growth flowed into the metro areas of Texas and out of the rural small towns and ranchlands.

California’s population grew by just 6.1% during the last decade, slower than the national average of 7.4%. So is there some lesson to be learned from comparing Texas to California’s growth rates?

California has long been thought as the future indicator of where the nation was headed. But now, maybe the sun is setting on the West Coast as it prepares to rise over Padre Island.

It’s still worth remembering that California's GDP is $2.8 trillion — in Texas, it’s $1.8 trillion.

Texas is facing a number of head winds — a crumbling infrastructure (the grid, for example), increasing drought and worsening megastorms due to climate change, the state government’s hostility to a green economy, and the adoption of extreme social conservative laws that could drive away work force talent.

And these issues can’t be addressed as long as the state’s assault on democracy prevents accountability at the ballot box.

If you doubt this, look at the disastrous mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Texas. Public policy for protective masking and banning private companies mandatory vaccinations were dictated by a radical disinformed mob to the governor, who made them effective law.

Also, can you have a true checks and balances democracy when the governor can veto the entire budget of the legislature? You can’t.

Still the experts are bullish on Texas. The Texas model of keeping the tax burden off of corporations, along with low environmental regulations and oversight, and add in right-to-work anti-labor union practices — and you have a pro-business formula that’s tough to beat.

Getting a complete picture of the future of the polymorphic Texas economy isn’t easy.

Steven Pedigo gives us his take in a recent essay in the New York Times titled "Texas is the Future of America." He is the founding executive director of the LBJ Urban Lab and a professor of practice at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi