Can other states learn from the "economic genius" of Texas?

A fan waves a Texas state flag while the Texas Rangers play.

Erica Grieder.

Image of Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right: What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas
Author: Erica Grieder
Publisher: PublicAffairs (2013)
Binding: Hardcover, 304 pages

There's a lot the rest of America needs to understand about the Texas economy says Erica Grieder, author of "Big, Hot, Cheap and Right: What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas."

It's a big claim, "but I think we are big enough to support it," she jokes.

Grieder is a senior editor at Texas Monthly. She says the state's success stems from their staunch support of business. "It's a model that emphasizes growth."

It may seem simple, but many outside of Texas don't understand how much the state supports business through subsidies and incentives.

"If you're talking about an issue in Texas, any issue -- it could be totally unrelated or seemingly unrelated to the economy, Texans always put it in terms of the economy."

For example, spending on the arts: "Here [in Texas], we'd say, arts contribute $6 billion a year to the economy, therefore, support the arts," she says.

Grieder acknowledges the challenges that come with the pro-business attitude. The state has a high rate of poverty, but she says that's always been true, even in the very earliest days of its founding.

"It's not the case that we've driven half the state into poverty while the other half gets rich," she says. "It's a state that's had a high level of poverty and still does."

That could change in the future, she says, with social investments.

You probably can't talk about Texas and the economy without talking about oil. "If not for oil, the state wouldn't have the boost that it had, certainly in the beginning of the century," she says.

By now, Texas is really about energy -- not just oil. They've diversified their portfolio with developments in wind energy and shale gas.

It's not just the oil boom in the early 1900s that laid the groundwork for a pro-business state.

In Texas, "people have always seen business as kind of a friend to their cause." Infrastructure was built slowly in Texas so it was necessary to turn to external forces -- like private enterprise -- to do things the government couldn't do.

Business continues to shape politics in the state. Grieder points to the Republican Party that runs the state.

"I think the Tea Party people would like to cut the budget even further in Texas," she says, "and the business community at the moment is the one saying, 'actually, we can't really gut the schools because then we won't have any workers to hire."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

Erica Grieder.

Image of Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right: What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas
Author: Erica Grieder
Publisher: PublicAffairs (2013)
Binding: Hardcover, 304 pages
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There is nothing that Texans love more than being outnumbered by our adversaries. While Kai didn't refute Erica's reasons for Texans being geniuses in business as you all would have liked, you must admit that Texas is politically the smartest state when it comes to business. Our GDP is greater than that of Russia...enough said. Also, give it about 10 more years and the rest of Silicon Valley will be working in Dallas and Austin. As for me, I'll be here in The Panhandle where the recession was simply political banter... God Bless Texas.

And let us not forget the S&L bailout of the late 1980's-early 1990's. Thanks to its unregulated environment, Texas had more failed S&Ls than any other state, and therefore sucked up the most bailout money. That was a huge cash influx from the Yankees. In gratitude for the financial rescue, Texans drove their pickups with bumperstickers like "Drive 90 - Freeze a Yankee."

Nope...I don't plan to emulate Texas anytime soon.

Come on Kai....You served up some real soft balls for the Texas cheerleader. What about the highest rate uninsured in the nation, 25% of the population, what about the types of jobs created by the so called "Texas miracle" which are mostly minimum wage, what about their environmental problems and rates of cancer, what about the poverty rates.... and you let her get away with the pablum about their educational system where it is mandated that they teach creationisms along with evolutions.

I expect more from you my friend!

David Finkbeiner

Goodbye, MP. This is one RSS feed I get no more. Texas, economic genius? Puh-leas. Later!@

Irony people, Irony. Probably not the day to run this fluff piece on just how bleeping great Texas is for business, where pesky zoning rules, guvmit inspections and the like are fine tuned for your profit making gidiness. Explosives (nee Fertilizer) plant within a few hundred feet of a school? no problem!

Really, Kai?? Ugh. But I guess I can add (as someone else in the blogosphere has already done before me) about the events in West, Texas... "Yep! Business IS booming!"

Where's the research and editing from Marketplace staff? This was such a softball interview. I understand that in most business sectors, wages are lower, a large percent of employers offer almost no health insurance (25%+ of Texans have NO health insurance), high-school graduation rates are low, college entrance scores were 46th in the US (2011), it has the highest rate of prisoner executions, in the last few years there have been many breaks in pipe-lines and yesterday's fertilizer plant explosion.... makes me question what qualities does Texas offer?

So let me get this straight, as soon as Texas ceases to be as cheap as it is, or as soon as the incentives dry up (or other states provide more incentives), the economic miracle of Texas will cease? I also really love how she totally elides over the New Deal era (not to mention the Eisenhower administration via the Insterstate system and NASA) which did more for Texas in terms of putting it on the map than "incentives." Pap.

marketplace.org is getting hammered
Let me say I like Texas. I've slept there. I've eaten their meat, but, if you want good barbecue go to Georgia.

Grieder doesn't mention that the Republic of Texas came into being because Mexico freed its slaves.
Texans fought and died to keep their slaves.
Texas later joined the Union and within three years fomented a war against Mexico in order to extend slavery into hitherto free territory.
The movers and shakers in Texas have a long experience with bending governments to their private interests.

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