A recent column in the Houston Chronicle by Lisa Falkenberg caught my attention. Her article centered around the pride felt and expressed by most of us Texans. She pointed out that unfortunately, in spite of our Texan bravado, Texas leads the nation in too many of the wrong things. Her article went on to point out we have been recently rated as the worst state in the union for delivery of health care. Other studies have ranked us at the bottom, or near the bottom, in education and social services; third from the bottom in low paying jobs and in the bottom one or two states in the number of adults with even high school diplomas.
We clearly have shirked our duty when it comes to funding education or providing accessible health care for one-fourth of our population. We also are among the leaders of states whose employers fail to provide workers compensation for those who toil to deliver us goods and services. We even rank near the bottom – or the top, depending on how you view it – on the number of hungry children who live without adequate sustenance.
Even of greater interest to me were the responses from readers to the Falkenberg article. A majority of the letters took Falkenberg to task for denigrating Texas, and for being so negative about our wonderful state. Many of them said if she really thought so poorly of Texas, she should find another state in which to live. If workers didn’t like low wages, they should find a better job in some other state. Few if any of the letters to the editor offered any solution for the sick or hungry children in the state, or the fact our uneducated population is increasing on a daily basis.Obviously, workers stuck in minimum-wage jobs do not have the wherewithal to find or travel to better-paying jobs in another state. This is particularly true if they have a second-rate education – or no education – because of Texas’ lack of concern about the quality of and access to education. These unpleasant statistics are simply a statement that we in Texas are not following the dictates of most religious teachings of organizations to which most Texans claim they ascribe. Texas’ rugged individualism should not show itself as simple non-concern for our fellow man, and we should treat the less fortunate in a manner consistent with the beliefs we claim to hold.
It’s time Texans, with an eye to the future of this state, demand our elected leaders have a better vision. Passing up billions of dollars from our federal government to improve health care in Texas does not represent a vision for the future. We will not save the money. The money will go to other states and other people. It will cost Texans in the long run additional taxes, and those who can’t afford taxes will pay in human suffering.Our Texas leadership refuses to adequately fund health care in this state, and what we pay for the consequences of diabetes, for example, shows the folly of this. The cost of kidney dialysis has doubled, even tripled, in the last few years. Much of this could be prevented by simple screening and consultation about diet. Mental health problems and physical problems resulting from lack of prenatal care to teenage pregnant would-be mothers has untold costs to us, the taxpayers of this state.
While low wages are fine for employers who wish to only exploit labor, it will not lead to the well-paying jobs of the future. Instead of wanting to shoot messengers such as Lisa Falkenberg, we should be carrying the message and remind our leaders that Texas can and should do better.
Carl Parker has practiced law in Port Arthur since 1958. He is a 1958 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. Elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1962 and the Senate in 1976, Parker continued to practice law while writing and sponsoring hundreds of bills that became laws relating to every aspect of life in Texas, including many regarding consumer safety. His e-mail is cap1934 [at] aol [dot] com.