Channeling Texas

Dan Proft Aug. 15, 2010, 5:13am


Like most Americans, I recently spent a quiet Saturday evening pouring over the state-by-state nonfarm payroll employment numbers for the month of June generously provided by the gnomes at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the course of my review I noted that Texas enjoyed the nation's largest over-the-month increase in employment with 14,000 more Texans gainfully employed in June than there were in May.

This reminded me of a report I stumbled across a few weeks earlier listing the top 25 counties in America in terms of job growth over the last decade.

Texas boasted five of the top seven counties. By contrast, job-repellent Illinois had no counties in the top 25.

At this point you're probably thinking, "Wow, this level of detail really helps to both explain why all my friends are moving to Texas and why Dan doesn't have a girlfriend."

Solid takeaways to be sure, but there's more.

I believe it was Einstein who said that "the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind," or maybe it was Ted Kaczynski? No matter.

The point is that in my solitude I began contemplating the differences between stagnant Illinois and relatively robust Texas, with an unemployment rate 25 percent lower than ours.

I honed in on two glaring discrepancies.

First, Texas state legislators convene only every other year and are paid $7,200 annually. Illinois state legislators never stop meeting, even when very little comes of it, and are paid 10 times their Lone Star counterparts. I am not saying there are casual links between a part-time legislature and economic growth or a permanent political class and economic desolation, but I am not saying there aren't either. And I am certainly game for testing the Texas model in Illinois.

Second, Texas enacted major tort reform laws beginning in 1995. Curtailing lawsuit abuse has benefited Texas to the tune of a half-million permanent jobs, according to another study I read while waiting for my Swanson TV Dinner to heat up. Illinois has never been able to get similar civil justice reforms past our State Supreme Court - and it shows.

There you go, Illinois. A political roadmap Mister Magoo could navigate.

You have Dr. Robert Adler to thank. For you non-lonely guys, Dr. Robert Adler is the inventor of the remote control and mine was not working the other night.

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