Key Point: Texas continues to lead the way in job creation over the last year (see first figure) and second in economic growth in the third quarter of 2023 (see last figure), but there’s more to do to help struggling Texans deal with the state’s affordability crisis, especially spending, regulating, and taxing less.
Overview: Texas has been a national leader in the economic recovery since the inappropriate shutdown recession in Spring 2020. This includes reaching a new record high in total nonfarm employment for the 14th straight month, leading exports of technology products for 20 consecutive years, and being home to more than 50 of the world’s Fortune 500 companies. While the 87th Texas Legislature in 2021 supported the recovery by passing many pro-growth policies like the nation’s strongest state spending limit, there’s more to do in the ongoing 2023 session to remove barriers placed by state and local governments.
Labor Market: The best path to prosperity is a job, as it helps bring financial self-sufficiency, dignity, hope, and purpose to people so they can earn a living, gain skills, and build social capital.
The table below shows the state’s labor market for December 2022. The establishment survey shows that net nonfarm jobs in Texas increased by 29,500 last month, resulting in increases for 31 of the last 32 months, to bring record-high employment to 13.7 million. Compared with a year ago, total employment was up by 650,100 (+5.0%)—fastest growth rate in the country—with the private sector adding 628,800 jobs (+5.7) and the government adding 21,300 jobs (+1.1%).
The household survey shows that the labor force participation rate is slightly higher than in February 2020 but well below June 2009 at the trough of the Great Recession. The employment-population ratio fell was unchanged in November and nearly where it was in February 2020, and the private sector now employs 700,000 more people than then. Texans still face challenges with a worse unemployment rate, though historically low, and nonfarm private jobs just recently above its pre-shutdown trend (Figure 1).
The figure below compares the ratio of current private employment to pre-shutdown forecast levels in red states and blue states if both chambers of the legislature and the governor are Republican (dark red), Democrat (dark blue), or some combination (lighter colors).
The results show a clear distinction between red states and blue states, with the stringency of restrictions by governments during the pandemic along with pro-growth policies before and after the shutdowns playing key roles. Specifically, 21 of the 25 states with the best (highest) ratios are in red-ish states while 13 of the 15 states and D.C. with the worst (lowest) ratios are in blue-ish places as of December 2022.
The following figure from Soquel Creek on Twitter tells the story even more directly: those states with more economic freedom prosper more than those with less economic freedom (see rankings in Fraser Institute's Economic Freedom of North America report: FL ranks #1, Texas ranks #4, California ranks #49, and New York ranks #50).
Overall, multiple indicators should be considered in this nuanced labor market, such as the fact that the unemployment rate is a weak indicator as many have dropped out of the labor force. While the labor force participation rate in Texas slightly exceeds where it was before the shutdowns, and the 3.9% unemployment rate could be considered full employment, the employment-population ratio is 0.2-percentage point below the pre-shutdown ratio.
Economic Growth: The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) recently provided the real gross domestic product (GDP) by state for Q3:2022. The Figure below Texas had the second fastest GDP growth (first is Alaska) of +8.2% on an annualized basis to $1.89 trillion (above the U.S. average of +3.2% to $20.05 trillion). In the prior quarter, Texas had the fastest growth with +1.8% growth as the U.S. average declined by -0.6% that quarter. Of course, these followed Texas’ GDP contractions of -7.0% in Q1:2020 and -28.5% in Q2 during the depths of the shutdown recession. Fortunately, GDP rebounded in Q3 and Q4, yet declined overall in 2020 by -2.9% (less than -3.4% decline of U.S. average) but increased by +3.9% in 2021 (below the +5.9% U.S. average). The BEA also reported that personal income in Texas grew at an annualized pace of +6.9% in Q3:2022 (ranked 6th highest and faster than the U.S. average of +5.3%) but slower than the robust +8.4% in Q2:2022 (ranked 6th best and above the U.S. average of +4.9%) as job creation and inflated income measures found their way across the economy.
Bottom Line: As Texas recovers from the shutdown recession and faces an uncertain future with the U.S. economy having stagflation and a likely recession, Texans need substantial relief to help make ends meet. Other states are cutting, flattening, and phasing out taxes, so Texas must make bold reforms to support more opportunities to let people prosper, mitigate the affordability crisis, and withstand destructive policies out of D.C.
Free-Market Solutions: In 2023, the Texas Legislature should improve the Texas Model by:
In LPP Episode #10, I talk with Dr. Boettke, who is a professor at George Mason University, about why he chose economics, his books on economics and rules-based policy, COVID, and No Due Date group.
You can find the YouTube video and links to the Apple Podcast and Spotify for this episode in my newsletter here. Please excuse any spelling or grammatical errors as this transcript is from an online converter and it and I may not have caught everything. For those that remain, I take all credit for those errors.
I hope you'll read, watch, and listen to the episode, and please subscribe to my newsletter and other avenues for more episodes like this one.
The shutdown recession from February to April 2020 and subsequent government failures have caused substantial harm to Americans’ livelihoods, which include high inflation and a recession. One policy mistake was Congress adding more than $6.1 trillion in deficit spending since January 2020 to reach the new high of $30.6 trillion in national debt, or nearly $244,000 owed per taxpayer. Another mistake is the Federal Reserve monetizing much of the new debt, contributing to 40-year-high inflation rates. These bad policies have resulted in an inflated boom that is busting into what will likely be a long, deep recession with elevated inflation. The failed Keynesian policies out of the Biden administration, Congress, and the Fed must be replaced with a free-market approach so that Americans have more opportunities to prosper.
Published at TPPF
When did it all start to go wrong? In the early 20th Century, Americans fighting poverty not only lost sight of the goal—lifting families up—but even of the problem itself, and instead sought to remake society through government intervention, often at the expense of the very people they were meant to help.
In 1920, Owen Lovejoy, president of the National Conference of Social Work, set a “new task” for the increasing number of social workers—they would become “social engineers,” who would create “a divine order on earth as it is in heaven.”
As Marvin Olasky writes in his book, “Renewing American Compassion,” such a goal is far too lofty for individual acts of charity; “As some leaders forgot that compassion means suffering with, they looked more and more to government. They combined power seeking (for the good of others, of course) with social universalistic faith.”
Who has time to worry about that man under the bridge when we’re remaking the world?
This helps to explain failures in the war on poverty. Even setting aside the Great Depression and World War II, our most concentrated efforts have failed to move the needle on the official poverty rate.
Nationally, about $25 trillion (adjusted for inflation) have been spent to combat poverty since 1964 when President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “war on poverty” engendered the Great Society. And the nation spends about $1 trillion per year on more than 80 federal safety-net programs. However, the country’s official poverty rate was declining before 1964, which was the primary measure available, but remained virtually unchanged between 10-15% since then, suggesting a failure of these redistributionist measures to substantially mitigate poverty.
In addition to losing sight of the goal, we’ve lost sight of the problem itself—poverty. We haven’t done a good job of defining it, much less fixing it.
To define the official poverty measure, the U.S. Census Bureau provides an estimated income threshold annually. When a family’s income falls below that threshold, they are considered to be in poverty, which the rate was 11.4% in 2020. There are flaws with this measure. So, if we merely look at it, we know a lot less about real poverty than we might think we do. While there are now better measures of poverty based on broader income levels or consumption, which tend to show much lower rates of poverty since 1964, these measures are focused primarily on material things rather than other important issues that influence poverty.
What can we know about other issues related to poverty? We can look at statistical correlations and learn a lot.
The strongest correlation we see with poverty is a job. Employment, in general, drives down poverty, irrespective of wages, although the effect is more pronounced with higher wages. The availability of jobs has a significant impact on poverty in both the present and a decade into the future.
Education matters, as those with a high school diploma have a 24.7% poverty rate. Graduating high school is vital to help stay out of poverty.
Demographics also matter. Perhaps the most powerful demographic structure, and the most powerful predictor of poverty in general, is single motherhood (25.6% poverty rate overall or 46.2% for those with children under 6 years old). Single motherhood is also a strong predictor of intergenerational poverty.
Location matters; for example, there are 41 Texas counties within 100 miles of the U.S.-Mexican border that have been considered “persistently poor,” meaning at least 20% of the residents have been living in poverty for the last 40 years.
Age is also a factor in poverty, but its impact varies depending on other group characteristics. Metro areas with a younger Black population have higher poverty rates, while areas with an older Black population have lower poverty rates.
What does this tell us? It tells us where we can focus our efforts—and it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.
The path forward must consider these facts for increased opportunities for people to find financial self-sufficiency through a more holistic approach to poverty relief through an education, job, training, community, social capital, intact families with a mother and father, and other avenues provided by civil society whereby government provisions are available as a last resort.
This follows much of what’s in the success sequence which is a formula of at least graduating high school, working full-time, and marrying before having kids (in that order) to have a 97% chance of not being in poverty.
By connecting people to work, education, or training, enhancing community-based case management, streamlining safety-net programs, and getting resources to those who need it most, we can provide more opportunities for people to be self-sufficient.
Texans continue to recover from the shutdown recession. There have been challenges like business closures, skyrocketing local property taxes, and anti-prosperity fiscal and monetary policies out of Washington. Fortunately, the Texas economy was (finally) fully opened on March 10, 2021, and the third wave of COVID-19 is now behind us with better results than after prior waves without statewide mandates of masks, closures, or vaccines—as these should always be voluntary. The 87th Texas Legislature mostly helped support the recovery with passage of many sound policies like a Conservative Texas Budget, a stronger state spending limit, and independent efficiency audits. However, there were missed opportunities like permanent, broad-based property tax relief. Given other states are drastically cutting or even eliminating taxes, Texas must remove government barriers so it can support more opportunities to prosper, remain an economic leader, and withstand bad policies out of Washington.
The hidden tax of inflation prevents people from getting out of poverty. Inflation isn’t just an inconvenience; it’s a huge obstacle to prosperity for the vulnerable and low-income. And even if Congress and the Fed have good intentions, their next steps could make the current bad situation worse.
The latest inflation data from the consumer price index shows an increase of 6.2% over the last year. This means that Washington took this out of your paycheck from no fault of your own or without you sending them a check.
This sleight of hand is caused by the Federal Reserve built on the excessive spending by Congress and it crushes the hopes and dreams of many, especially the poor.
If you received a raise recently, say around 8%, then about three quarters of it is not real—it’s inflation. The purchasing power of goods and services through your raise is cut by higher prices. If your raise was about 6%, normally a healthy increase, then your purchasing power doesn’t change. At this pace, prices are set to double in less than 12 years, but will your paycheck?
People with lower incomes tend to receive smaller raises, and those on fixed incomes receive no raises or raises that just match inflation, such as those on Social Security. For them, inflation is the harshest of taxes and they can’t avoid it. Families with lower incomes have few assets like corporate stocks that can grow as prices rise.
This inflationary blight on low-income earners is the Fed’s doing, but Congress gives the Fed the means to do it and it looks poised to double-down on its bad decisions.
Congress has already authorized $7.2 trillion in spending since the shutdown recession, including much of the waste in the recent $1.2 trillion “infrastructure” bill. Now, the House’s Build Back Better Act would increase spending by $5 trillion, after appropriately excluding budget gimmicks, and increase the bloated national debt by another $3 trillion more than without it over a decade.
This spending would likely be more expensive because the policies would destroy an estimated 7 million jobs by paying people not to work per economist Casey Mulligan’s estimates and reducing entrepreneurs’ investments based on the Tax Foundation’s assessment. And these job losses would most likely be concentrated among those with lower incomes. Increasing unemployment over time would make more people dependent on government, which may be a feature of the bill instead of a bug.
Other proposals, like “green energy” projects and “incentives,” would increase the cost of living for everyone and hurt those with low or fixed incomes most because they’re least able to absorb it. And while the Congressional Budget Office could soon release their cost estimates for the BBBA, we should take them with a grain of salt as they could be too rosy because its static estimates have long been problematic, which is why it should move to more realistic dynamic scoring.
Though Congress’ boondoggle spending doesn’t directly cause inflation, it provides the fuel to the Fed’s fire of printing more money. These progressive policies in Washington are crushing the poor, even as they’re providing tax cuts for the “rich,” and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight—unless this this latest big-government bill appropriately fails.
Impolitic government programs, like those in President Biden’s agenda, incentivize dependency on government and create cycles of poverty. Few things are more harmful than this because it cuts the rungs out of the ladder that many people use to climb out of poverty and better their lives, both financially and otherwise. These rungs of the ladder start with a job. Work is the only way to permanently earn more over time and improve human dignity that comes with financial self-sufficiency, community, and social capital.
If Congress really wants to give people a hand up—and not just a handout—then it should focus on repealing those programs which disincentivize work and remove the tax hikes that disincentivize investment that goes to hire more workers.
Likewise, if the Fed intends to improve the economy, it should focus on reining in inflation which it controls, not lecturing on diversity. These measures would help take the costly pressure off people, especially low-income earners instead of crushing them based on the president’s progressive agenda.
We’d be wise to remember what Milton Friedman correctly said: “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”
Overview: The COVID-19 pandemic and forced business closures by state and local governments over the last year left much economic destruction. Many Americans have been recovering as we near herd immunity and states reopen, but fiscal and monetary policies out of D.C. are distorting economic activity and the labor market. For example, the labor market has been improving at a slower pace in recent months, even as there has been at least $6 trillion in passed or proposed bills during the first 100 days of the Biden administration. The federal unemployment “bonuses” and even more in handouts have reduced incentives to work, resulting in a similar number of unemployed as the record high of 9.2 million job openings. Although the economy has withstood these headwinds for now, a pro-growth approach is necessary.
Texas’s economy is improving after the destruction from the pandemic and forced business shutdowns. The opening of the economy on March 10, 2021, helped bring some normalcy as many return to work, excessive government restrictions cease, and civil society improves. This normalcy is supported by wins regarding fiscal and regulatory policy and paths to opportunity by the 87th Texas Legislature during the recently completed session, and more successes may be realized during the special session called by Governor Greg Abbott. A key initiative will be to promote more pro-growth policies that reduce spending, taxing, and regulating in order to increase prosperity and withstand Washington’s anti-growth policies.
The COVID-19 pandemic and forced business closures by state and local governments over the last year left much economic destruction. Many Americans have been recovering as we near herd immunity and states reopen, but fiscal and monetary policies out of D.C. are distorting economic activity and the labor market. For example, the labor market has been improving more slowly in recent months even as Congress recently passed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which led to fewer people wanting to work due to more unemployment “bonuses”—up to $1,200 per month—and even more in handouts. This has contributed to a record high of 9.3 million job openings with a similar number unemployed. Fortunately, the economy continues to withstand these headwinds for now, which is why a pro-growth approach is necessary.
Texas’s economy continues improving from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and forced business shutdowns by government since spring 2020. This includes robust job creation in March 2021 as state restrictions ended on March 10, which should further improve economic growth and job creation this year.
To help overcome the challenges still facing many struggling Texans and the assault on prosperity by those in D.C., Texas should commit to the Foundation’s Responsible Recovery Agenda.
More on the data and how Texans can get back to work as quickly and safely as possible ⬇️
A decade ago today, I was a graduate student in the PhD program at Texas Tech University and had just finished judging an undergraduate research poster competition. I was riding the bus back to my apartment when I received a horrible phone call from my mom. She said my dad has passed away in his sleep from SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy: http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/impact/mortality/sudep).
We will come back to that. But first let me tell you about this remarkable person and how he got to this point.
One day in 1972 when my dad was 17 and had just left a place in Brookshire, Texas, my dad was in a terrible traffic accident. He was a passenger in a truck that was struck by what we believe was a drunk driver who had seemingly run a red light. The result was that he had a severe head injury. Little did he know it would change his life forever.
After weeks in a coma and after the doctors telling his family he may not live, my dad woke up and worked every day to live a "normal" life.
Without any memories before the wreck (amnesia) and short-term memory loss thereafter, he battled not knowing anyone in his classes, not knowing he was class president, not knowing he was president of his school's National Honor Society, not knowing he was a football player, and much more. To this day, I still don't know much about him before the wreck.
He once shared a story with me of how he was sitting in class after he returned to school and the principal called someone over the loudspeaker. His friend tapped him on the shoulder and told him that he was just called—he periodically didn't know his own name. He was taken to a room for a National Honors Society meeting and told he should sit at the head of the table. He asked why. They said he was the president and would lead the meeting. Of course, he was unable, but the level of respect he had at Royal High School in Brookshire, TX is remarkable.
This is one of many similar stories. Let me tell you more.
Time passed and he went to school at Sam Houston State University for three years to study drafting before his memory declined so much he started making Bs, Cs, and eventually failing classes, all of which were the first time, I believe, that he earned less than an A. He had to drop out but took what he learned to be a productive draftsman. He would eventually sometimes work two jobs to pay the bills for the family. He later worked at a gas company, Entex, in Houston checking gas meters.
He fell in love with my mom while they were living in Brookshire, TX, and they soon married. They were happy and lived life like any other newly married couple would. My dad acted a little strange from time to time, which is why his nickname was "Weird Harold," but not much else seemed wrong.
Then in the mid-1980s, something started to change.
He started having small petit mal seizures (he would stare into space without being able to speak and would smile big for no reason). No one paid attention the first few times. Eventually, he started having grand mal seizures (features a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions; it's the type of seizure most people picture when the person falls to the ground and convulses). He was in and out of hospitals after having grand mal seizures twice per month or even more frequently.
After a couple years and wrecking three cars, one while working at Entex (now Reliant Energy), he reluctantly filed for disability in 1987 and never worked or drove again.
This crushed him and the numerous drugs he was on and lack of ability to remember things put pressure on his psyche and my parent's marriage—they eventually got divorced, remarried, and divorced again when I was young. He lived off and on with us to help pay bills or with his mom, mainly with my granny during most of my childhood.
When he was at home, we would play baseball in the backyard or at Wilson Park and basketball in the front yard for hours. I have so many great memories of those times. He would go over my schoolwork with me while I was in home school. He was a math guru and taught me tricks along the way. He listened to me beating on the drums when I had little clue how to play and later would go to my rock concerts when I was in the band Sindrome.
I remember picking him up from his mom's and taking him to the neurologist, Dr. Neumark, at St. Luke's Hospital in Houston's Medical Center for years. I learned much about epilepsy, and how it can affect someone's life from reading books, watching my dad have hundreds of seizures over my lifetime, and talking with him about the struggle he had to deal with his situation.
He took roughly 12 pills per day and had a vagus nerve stimulation surgically implanted near his chest that would send electronic impulses to his brain to help him have fewer seizures. It helped reduce the seizures over time from two per month to about one every 3 or 4 months. He would keep track of all his seizures and I remember how proud we were when they were less frequent.
Each time he had one he would be exhausted for several days. He was always energetic and in a fairly good mood, so after he had a seizure, it was very unlike him to sit around most the day and not talk much.
During my days at Tech, I visited home, South Houston, about twice per year (9-hour drive is too long to visit often). While I was home, I would take dad out as much as possible and play pool, watch Astros games, and have fun. Without the independence to drive and few friends to take him anywhere, he spent most of his time at home and I tried my best to get him out and enjoy the world.
He never complained about his situation. He did voice frustration that he couldn't drive or do things others could do, but for the most part, he lived a normal life and could do anything he wanted.
Years passed and he moved in with a friend and me in a townhouse in Lubbock on June 1, 2008. It was my second year of graduate school. We would go eat breakfast in the mornings when I didn't have class. We would go for long walks and talk about my research, politics, and the meaning of life. That was how he relaxed; he would go on long walks. There was nothing better for him than being with family or alone with nature. He could get away from the thought of being disabled or feeling trapped in a body that kept him from doing the things he wanted.
After I moved in with Emily, dad got an apartment in the same complex about 30 yards away. It was the first time he ever lived on his own and had a sense of independence since that cloudy day in 1972 when his life changed forever.
We would barbecue together and he would visit us often. I am so thankful he had the opportunity to know Emily and she will have memories to tell our sons, Bricen Wayne, who is named after my dad Harold Wayne, Cooper Thomas, and our future children.
Dad and I had many great memories together in Lubbock. He had some complications with his epilepsy and I stayed in the hospital with him for a week as they did a number of tests to see if they could surgically repair the place on his brain that caused the seizures. They determined it was too risky because it was near the part of your brain that controls your speech and he went on with his life.
After two and a half years (in December 2010) living near me in Lubbock, dad moved to Houston to live with my sister, Tiffany, and her family. He was excited about living with them and being around his grandkids, but he was upset about leaving his life in Lubbock. Although I missed him every day, I knew he was happy and everything seemed fine.
Then that day came in 2011 when I was on the bus that I received the phone call from my mom. My mom said Tiffany had checked on dad after he seemed to be sleeping unusually late. She found him lying there, not breathing. My first reaction was to my mom telling me he wasn’t breathing was: Why not? What are you doing about it? Is he at the hospital?
My mom had few answers other than: Vance, he passed away.
It was the first time that I had someone close to me die. The person that I did not live with much growing up, didn’t know much about his childhood, but had got to know much more during the previous two-plus years had suddenly, without any warning, passed away!
I was crushed. I screamed uncontrollably at the front of a packed bus and ran off the bus to my truck as soon as it stopped. I sobbed driving home and frantically paced back and forth around my apartment when I made it home.
My dad, one of my best friends, and the person I learned so many lessons from was taken from me. How could I go on? So many things raced through my head and I hoped that I would soon wake up from this nightmare. A truly life-changing event challenged me in ways that I’ve never been challenged. To this day, that moment still gives me chills and makes me teary-eyed.
Dad died from what is known as SUDEP (Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy).
My sister said that he went to sleep the night before without signs of anything wrong. The best explanation from doctors that we have is that he went to sleep, had a seizure, and his organs shut down. It was not painful and he probably did not know anything was going on. Doctors say that even if he was in the hospital there would be little chance they could have saved him. There is little known about SUDEP and what triggers it, which is why we allowed an autopsy and continue donating to the Epilepsy Foundation today.
Somehow, someway, God has a mysterious way of working in our lives.
Prayer, family, and friends helped me through the hurt. Days, weeks, months, and years later I find myself weeping over the loss of my dad. To this day, I feel deep sorrow. However, I think about the numerous lessons I learned from my dad during my 29 years around him and treasure the many memories.
He loved music. He would sing to classic rock songs and loved Journey, Elton John, and many others. He would snap his fingers when dancing and would clap when listening to music. Music helped him release his worries, along with walking. He also loved playing pool.
A man with what some could consider so little left to live for had so much courage to take on the world. No complaining and no handout. He would work every day if he could. Love others unconditionally and never give up is what I take from his life.
There are too many who have less and live with many more problems than we do. If my dad can take on the world with his faith in God and his ability to see the sun shining with so many clouds around, it is easy to find hope and find beauty in this world. There is so much for us to be thankful.
Ten years have passed. Years that I will not be able to tell him the wonderful things that have happened in my life and those in the family.
However, I have faith that he knows. I believe he is still watching over us and that we will see him again someday. I believe he is with Bricen and Cooper always. His bright smile is the picture in my head that I see and it fills the hearts of all those who knew him. Years pass in a flash, but my dad's memory will live on.
Harold Wayne Ginn was a wonderful father, pepaw, and hero. He will always be our family's hero. There is so much to say. His life is a testimony that I hope will bring joy and a stronger faith for others. I know it does for me.
I know he was a Godly, kind, smart, generous, loving, sweet, caring, empathetic, and more man. Thank you, Dad! I love you.
Many Americans continue recovering from the recession that began in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and forced business closures by state and local governments. The economy had expanded in the second half of 2020 as many of those governments removed or reduced restrictions on the private sector. However, the growth stalled a little at the beginning of 2021 as many governments re-imposed restrictions as cases and hospitalizations spiked.
Fortunately, those governmental restrictions have been reduced again and the economy looks to have picked up, helping Americans regain the tangible prosperity experienced until March of last year. We need more openings and pro-growth policies to let people prosper.
Texas’s economy continues improving from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and forced business shutdowns by government since spring 2020. More on the data and how Texans can get back to work as quickly and safely as possible ⬇️
Many Americans are recovering from the economic destruction that started in March 2020 due to shutdowns by state and local governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The economy has improved, but the pace has slowed because of increased restrictions by many state governors making it more difficult to regain the tangible prosperity experienced last February.
I highlight data on economic growth and employment and provide pro-growth policy recommendations to help quickly recover.
More on the data ⬇️
It feels like there’s hope on the horizon. As Gov. Abbott said in his recent State of the State speech, “With each passing day of more vaccinations and increased immunity, normalcy is returning to Texas.” The Texas economy is recovering and at long last, some normal activity is returning. We’re not out of the woods yet, but we can at least see a clearing ahead.
Yet too many Texans could be left behind.
“The situation in the Houston area is particularly desperate, with almost half of residents struggling to pay basic expenses in the week ending Dec. 7, according to a Census Bureau survey,” Pew reports.
Lawmakers can help, but the help must be the right kind. History shows that our poorly designed welfare system traps too many people in poverty or near-poverty. Economists like me will tell you that people respond to incentives, and the welfare system disincentivizes self-sufficiency.
So, the best response is to unleash opportunities for people to prosper. We can reverse those incentives and show our fellow Texans that they can achieve their American dream.
How? Through what we’re calling the Opportunity Project that provides a path to dignity, self-sufficiency, and prosperity.
Let’s start with more effective training for better jobs.
We can tailor our state’s workforce development efforts more narrowly to the jobs that are out there and the skills that are needed. Texas is a prosperous state with many job opportunities, but a portion of the populace lacks the skills necessary to get and keep these jobs.
But we know what helps. Welfare-to-work programs, with the vital participation of the private sector, can change lives.
Generally speaking, such programs target disadvantaged populations, provide training in a marketable skill in addition to “soft-skills” instruction, and offer wraparound services (such as child care, transportation vouchers, housing assistance, etc.), job placement services, and follow-up services to help graduates stay on a path to success.
One example is the earn-while-you-learn program established by the Texas Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) in San Antonio. The employers in the consortium offer a competitive wage that gives program participants the safety net they need to leave low-paying jobs or welfare. The payoff for employers is a steady stream of well-qualified workers.
Next, let’s lower barriers to entrepreneurship by rolling back restrictive regulations like occupational licensing.
Nationally, nearly 22 percent of jobs require an occupational license. That makes sense for doctors, but many other occupations are questionable at best—such as cosmetologists having to complete 10 times more days of training than EMTs.
And it’s not just the silly licensing rules; many licensing schemes exclude those who have a criminal conviction. We believe in second chances; that should also apply to occupational licensing, especially when the license has no direct relationship with the long-ago crime.
Finally, where we can, we must keep the existing welfare system from unintentionally trapping people in a life of helplessness.
Welfare should be reprioritized to count as “successes” those who move off and stay off it rather than those enrolled. We can streamline and simplify the sign-up process and implement efficiency audits of programs to ensure those Texans who need help receive it, while clearly defining the pathways out of welfare dependency.
Where the system creates a welfare benefits “cliff”—in which families lose benefits arbitrarily or too quickly when they re-enter the workforce—we should demand a smoothed approach that doesn’t disincentivize work.
Of course, a strong and vibrant economy is key to making this work.
Gov. Abbott made this point: “Texas has been ranked the number one state for business for 16 straight years. For the past eight years, we led the nation in economic development, and we have led America in exports for 18 straight years. The Texas model. It inspires entrepreneurs and innovators and attracts job creators from across the entire country.”
Strengthening the Texas Model is the best way to uphold this, with lower taxes (and no personal income tax), fewer unnecessary regulations, and a commitment to limited government. This framework provides more economic freedom and greater opportunity for all Texans.
The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over, but recovery is on the way. Let’s work to assure every Texan can participate when the economy opens and thereafter.
In this newsletter, I discuss many improving COVID factors in TX, TX Legislature's budgets, TX jobs report, Janet Yellen's fiscal philosophy, President Biden's first few destructive days, & more.
In this newsletter, I share my thoughts on TPPF's recent Policy Orientation, the start of the 87th Texas Legislature, Biden's $1.9T COVID bill, the economic and fiscal situation, and much more.
In this newsletter, I share my thoughts on the recent events in DC, the upcoming legislative session in Texas, the increased harm to families from government lockdowns, and the need for competition.
You can read this newsletter and register to receive it weekly at no charge here: vanceginn.substack.com/
The Texas economy continues recovering since the steep downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic and business shutdowns by state and local governments in spring 2020. Tailwinds could be strong in 2021 if the government removes restrictions and follows responsible fiscal policy so people are free to live and earn money.
Let People Prosper Newsletter #11: Watch My Episode on Brad Polumbo's "Breaking Boundaries" Podcast about Fiscal Insanity in DC
I had a blast discussing free-market economics and sound fiscal policy in an era of business shutdowns & fiscal insanity by governments with Brad Polumbo on his podcast "Breaking Boundaries."
Here's an overview of our discussion:
Former White House economist and current Texas Public Policy Foundation chief economist Vance Ginn joins the show to break down the $3 trillion+ in taxpayer money Congress has spent on "stimulus" and the shortcomings of this Big Government approach to revitalizing the economy. Can you spend your way out of shutdowns? How have Congress's key stimulus initiatives, from unemployment expansion to the Paycheck Protection Program to stimulus checks, worked out? And what about the push for more future $2,000 stimulus checks?
We discuss this and more—like Vance's hot take on how best to consume meatloaf.
Follow Vance on Twitter: https://twitter.com/VanceGinn.
Subscribe to his newsletter: https://vanceginn.substack.com/.
Check out his work for TPPF: https://www.texaspolicy.com/about/sta....
Follow Brad on Twitter: https://twitter.com/brad_polumbo.
Follow Brad on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bradpolumbo/.
You can watch our episode at the link below and subscribe to his podcast here: https://apple.co/35ET311
Read my full newsletter with charts and subscribe here.
As 2020 nears an end, I’d like to start this newsletter a bit different to share some personal things about me that you might not know. We will then get into the many things that have happened since the newsletter last week.
Here are the highlights of my life’s journey so far:
TEXAS ECONOMIC AND FISCAL SITUATION
Texas’ Legislative Session Starts Jan. 12: More to come on this soon! I’m looking forward to TPPF’s Policy Orientation on Jan. 13-15 that will be live-streamed, so I’ll be sure to add info about it later.
Read the entire newsletter here: https://vanceginn.substack.com/p/fiscal-insanity-dc-disappoints-again
I hope you had a blessed Christmas. My family did as we celebrated Jesus’ birth and his eventual death on the cross for our sins. That salvation came at a great cost, yet another example of how nothing is free. We’re now relaxing after a great day playing outside with our boys and hanging out with friends. Those moments are priceless.
What’s not priceless is the latest $908 billion COVID aid bill along with the omnibus that’s combined to be over $2 trillion and appropriately called the “coronabus” given how much pork is in this package. I’ve been calling it “CARES 3.0” because there was the original bill and another bill that added funding to the programs created in the original bill, so this is really the third bill that’s funding many of the same things.
And that’s part of the problem, as it comes with a huge cost and President Trump is correct to hint at vetoing it. However, the President’s reasoning seems to be to increase the amount in checks to individuals from $600 to $2,000, which would push incomes well above where they were before the pandemic and provide income to many individuals who weren’t influenced much if at all from the shutdown. This is likely the case for you and me, as we are able to work from home or have savings to live on for a while to deal with this situation. I get the point of advocating for more in a check to individuals as it appeals to struggling Americans and balances some of the atrocities in this monstrosity of a bill, but that doesn’t make it good policy.
This notes the importance of work flexibility along with saving for a rainy day but also notes the huge cost to those who aren’t in this boat. Unfortunately, too many have and will continue to fall through the cracks of our economic lifeline that should ultimately be improved by moving toward more capitalism and away from socialism. While civil society should be first to help those in need, governments will play a role though hopefully a more limited one as it assists those who can’t be helped otherwise (last resort). This would help improve our bloated, ineffective safety net system that often just expands bureaucracy and helps too many of those the programs were not intended.
Thanks again for reading! I’m truly grateful for you continuing to read this newsletter. As 2020 comes to a close, we have much to accomplish to find opportunities to let people prosper.
If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter yet, please register here at no charge. And follow me on Twitter: @vanceginn.
Have a Happy New Year if I don’t write another newsletter before then, which I may given how things go in D.C. Until then, many blessings to you and yours.
Vance Ginn, Ph.D. | www.vanceginn.com | #LetPeopleProsper
Read the full newsletter with figures and subscribe here.
Can you believe that Christmas and New Year’s are right around the corner? It’s hard for me to believe.
We put up our Christmas tree early this year to get into the spirit of celebrating Jesus’ birth and the salvation and grace provided to us through a huge price (Nothing is Free), and this spirit has helped drown some of the negativity going on in the media regarding COVID, the election, and more. I have a lot of what I consider uplifting points to share with you below.
It’s important to remember that we live in the most prosperous, most remarkable, and most opportunistic country in the history of man. Sure, there’s much we need to do to improve it because too many have fallen through the cracks, but we have much to be positive about even as the media and many politicians tell us otherwise.
So, get your optimistic cap on and maybe grab your favorite drink so you can imagine me telling you the following story. Enjoy!
Have a blessed weekend and a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in case I don’t see you or write another newsletter before then. I’m truly thankful for you and for your interest in reading this newsletter. My only request is that you share this newsletter with at least one of your friends and ask them to register. That would be a great gift!
Vance Ginn, Ph.D. | www.vanceginn.com | #LetPeopleProsper
Read full newsletter with figures and subscribe here.
I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving however you chose to celebrate it. I had a nice time with my family from Houston at our place in Round Rock and then a nice time with my in-laws in Port Aransas, which is on the beach near Corpus Christi, Texas. The picture below is of my youngest son playing in the water.
It’s been an interesting time that’s normally spent with family. But many have decided not to do so, which is a decision that should be left to individuals instead of politicians trying to tell people how to act.
One thing that I’ve been concerned about is missing time with my family and friends and never seeing them again—for many reasons. The COVID-19 situation is serious and one that should be taken seriously, as noted in my previous newsletter, but it is also a situation where I have taken time to grow closer to God, family, and friends when so much else seems to be uncertain. This has given me calm during this storm as I know that these relationships are what matter over time while the novel coronavirus is just a blip in the long run scheme of things.
Of course, the repercussions of authoritarian forms of government interventions may last much longer, which is something that we must continue to push back on when necessary.
To be frank, I think we should open Texas and all states, as the shutdowns were a mistake, and instead do what should have been done in the beginning and have the government play an informational role to provide guidance on best practices while targeting resources to vulnerable populations and areas as I outlined in a recent commentary at the Austin American-Statesman. I say this with a great deal of humility as there are many factors that go into making these decisions and I understand that I could be wrong. But I also believe strongly in the power of liberty and allowing individuals, families, and entrepreneurs in an inclusive institutional framework (like the Texas Model) to find the best path to dealing with these sorts of crises rather than the government.
Thanks again for reading! I hope this newsletter is marginally beneficial to you and will hopefully help us to find opportunities to let people prosper.
Vance Ginn, Ph.D. | www.vanceginn.com | #LetPeopleProsper
Read the full newsletter with charts and subscribe here.
Thank you for reading my Let People Prosper newsletter! Please keep sharing it with others who may be interested in our productive discussions. Many thanks in advance! I hope you have a fantastic week of finding things to be thankful for as we approach Thanksgiving. May you be blessed with good health, prosperity, and wisdom every day.
Keynote Speech: I enjoyed the opportunity to give the keynote speech at the Free Market Institute at Angelo State University on Tuesday, November 17. This presentation was part of the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University's Public Speaker Series, where I explain the economics of how institutions, tradeoffs, and policy matters when dealing with this situation. You can watch and view my slides at the link in my tweet below. I included a number of slides in my presentation that walked through where we were before COVID-19 hit, where we have been since it hit, where we are now, and where we should head.If you have any information to share along these lines, please send my way. Also, please unsubscribe at any time. I hope this newsletter is marginally beneficial to you and will hopefully help us to find opportunities to let people prosper.
Have a blessed week of thanksgiving. And try to educate yourself on things to tame your fear, and focus instead on your spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.
Vance Ginn, Ph.D. | www.vanceginn.com | #LetPeopleProsper
Vance Ginn, Ph.D.