There are a lot of reasons to be thankful to live in Texas today. The wide open spaces, Friday night football, the lack of bitter cold. I could go on and make a whole huge list, but I’ll leave that to Gary P. Nunn. After all, this is a political space, and I’m a political pundit, of sorts. So, politically: living in Texas is sometimes like living in a demilitarized zone – you know the bad guys are just over the fence with their rifle sights trained on your back, and you aren’t really sure about which side you should worry more. That being said, there are benefits to living here, and they are myriad, even if we get caught up in the minutiae from time to time.
So, while we’re counting the reasons to be grateful this holiday season, let’s look at three big reasons to be grateful we’re in Texas today.
1 – Texas does not have an income tax. Despite every bonehead effort to “raise revenue” even when taxpayer pocketbooks are drier than west Texas sand, our legislature has not made a significant effort to enact a statewide income tax in a long, long time. Here’s where our state constitution and our electorate do the most good for our economic well-being. An income tax would take a vote of the people through a constitutional amendment, notoriously the hardest thing to pass the legislature since it requires a 2/3 vote in each chamber before it can go to the people. Make no mistake about it, our lack of an income tax is one of the things that makes our state attractive to companies looking to build here, which creates jobs, builds homes, and generally stimulates the economy.
2 – Texas has not legalized gambling. This is a broad statement, I know. But the point is, while we do have an ill-conceived and merely self-sustaining lottery, we don’t have video slot machines at racetracks, casinos, or other such economically disastrous gambling tools. The massive, soul-sucking bureaucracy associated with gambling that exists in several other states doesn’t exist in Texas. Our economy isn’t dependent on low-wage, no-skill jobs that perpetuate a cycle of dependence on the government dole. This is something we have to be vigilant about – even those who call themselves conservative have, from time to time, been tempted to believe we might actually increase revenue with just a few VLTs for horse-racing enthusiasts. For now, though, we can be thankful that the legislature is no closer today to passing such a thing into law than they were a decade ago.
3 – Texas has a part-time legislature. We like to joke that it was a typo in the Texas Constitution, and that our legislature was really meant to meet for 2 days every 140 years. Even so, with 140 days every 2 years, our legislature has a lot less time to do damage to our state. The very nature of our system means that our legislators have to have “real” jobs, and while there are a handful who simply get big checks from firms by virtue of their elected positions, many others are small business owners (yes, having your own law firm is having a small business) or work in other ways among their constituents. When you’re forced to go home and live, work, and play with the people who elected you, you’re less likely to drink all the Kool-Aid when you’re in Austin. So, let’s be thankful for covered-wagon travel that necessitated a part-time legislature in the 19th century and keep it going.
I bet if you think about it, you can come up with other reasons to be glad to be a Texan. We have a relatively low unemployment rate, for example, and most of the new jobs in our state are coming from the private sector. We elect our judiciary – so when they legislate from the bench, we can boot them out. You know we have to be doing something right, if we continue to attract over 1000 people per day.
These are some of the things I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving. After the holiday, it will be back to doing my part to ensure this list remains accurate – and seeing what I can do to make it longer. Here’s hoping you’re ready to do the same.