Monday, December 22, 2014

Texas vs. California: Who's Got the Bragging Rights?

Red states are conservative, Republican, and they are in the South or in the middle of the country. Blue states are progressive, Democratic, and they are in the North or on the coasts. Texas epitomizes the red states, California the blue ones.

There is a mythology that Texas is  immensely successful and that  California is a  screw-up. Texas governor Rick Perry tried to exploit this when he came to California to steal jobs.

The reality is that Texas ranks number one in the country in one respect above all: bragging. This has always been so.

It is true that Texas is somewhat large. But if surface size were the most important criterion, Alaska should brag even more than Texas. Another advantage Texas has had, for a century or so, is oil. This brought some economic benefits, for example, no need for a state income tax.

California is the most populous state, and its economy is the largest. It has Silicon Valley. Here is a table which compares the two states on a few indices:

Table One: Texas and California Compared


Per capita income

Violent crime
per 100,000
Per 100,000
per 100,000
rank among 50 states
life expectancy

high school graduation rate
61% (rank: 43rd among 50 states)

new jobs, latest month
November 2014

I could add more subjective factors. For example that California is incomparably more beautiful that Texas. We have a phenomenal Pacific coast and Yosemite’s snow-capped peaks, Texas is a dust bowl.

And what about economic policy?  This is where Republicans hold Texas up as the model which we should all emulate. Really?

Actually, “socialist” California has come roaring back from the great recession. Thanks to a wise governor, a Democratic legislature and an intelligent electorate, California has raised taxes (inconceivable in Texas), solved its state deficit, reduced its prison population, increased funding for all levels of education, and is far ahead of the national average in job creation. In November, it added over 90,000 jobs, compared to Texas adding fewer than 35,000!

But bragging is in Texas’ nature.  A few  years ago, some Texas friends were visiting. We ate some great Italian food together, with a lot of tomatoes grown in the Central Valley - America’s breadbasket. No matter, the relatives tried to convince us that Texas tomatoes are the best.

Or take what is allegedly “America’s Football Team,” the Dallas Cowboys, compared with the San Francisco  49ers: Over the decades, Texans and others have sometimes  dismissed the 49ers derisively as the representatives of a “girlie state”  (to use former Governor Schwarzenegger’s and Saturday Night Live’s neologism). But in fact, the San Francisco 49ers lead their rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys at 17-16-1. Both  teams have won five Superbowls, the 49ers most of theirs during the unparalleled Montana-Young dynasty which lasted from 1981 to 1998. So much for the “manly Texans” beating up on the effeminate  Californians.

Maybe Texas has a chip on its shoulders because it was a sovereign country for a decade. There is a lot of pride there, the Battle of the Alamo, James Bowie and all that. Fine.

But as to the Texas-California rivalry, which symbolizes the Red State-Blue State rivalry, here is what I have to say about that: Haha to Texas. Haha to red states. Haha to the Republican model for prosperity and progress. I’ll go the California way, the blue way, the progressive way.

Signed: a California chauvinist. leave comment here

© Tom Kando 2014