Houston Chronicle written by Lisa Falkenberg ["Hard for Lone Star to shine at bottom of heap"--Friday, July 20, 2012] caught my attention. Her article centered on 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 had 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.
Of even greater interest to me were the responsive letters from readers to the Falkenberg article. A majority of the letters took Falkenberg to task for denigrating Texas--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; and, 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 either to sick or hungry children in the state or to the fact our uneducated population is increasing on a daily basis.
It occurs to me that, even more important, the writers of these letters have completely overlooked the source of these distressing facts. This is all indicative of our state's leadership reflecting unconcern about those less fortunate than many of us, and about what has helped bring about this situation. Obviously, workers stuck in minimum wage jobs do not have the wherewithal to find or to 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’ unconcern about quality and access to education. These unpleasant statistics are simply a statement on how we in Texas are not following the dictates of most religious teachings of organizations to which most Texans claim they ascribe. Texas’ vaunted “rugged individualism” should not show itself as simple lack of concern for our fellow man, but we should treat the less fortunate in the compassionate manner most of us claim we believe in.
It’s time citizens of Texas, with a better vision for the future of this state, demand our elected leaders have a better vision. Passing up billions of dollars funded 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 additional taxes in the long run, and those who can’t afford taxes will pay in human suffering.
Because our Texas leadership refuses to adequately fund health care in this state, what we pay for the consequences of diabetes, for example, shows the folly of not addressing this problem. The cost of kidney dialysis has doubled, even tripled, in the last few years. Simple screening and consultation about diet could prevent much of this. Also, mental health problems and physical problems resulting in lack of prenatal care to teenage pregnant would-be mothers has untold costs that we, the taxpayers of this state, must bear.
While low wage job offerings are fine for employers who only wish to exploit labor, these will not lead to the well-paying jobs of the future. Instead of wanting to “shoot the messenger” such as Lisa Falkenberg, we should be carrying the message and reminding our leaders that Texas can and should do better.