Cal Jillson's book separates fact from folklore behind the ‘Texas Miracle’

Political expert Jillson’s new book separates
fact from folklore behind the ‘Texas Miracle’

February 16, 2012

DALLAS (SMU) – Cal Jillson’s newest book was born of frustration: While the business pages of the state’s major newspapers were branding Texas as home to the best business climate in the nation, the news pages of those same papers were reporting budget deficits, mediocre education, inadequate health care, crowded prisons, and fight clubs in our mental institutions.

Lone Star Tarnished: A Critical Look at Texas Politics and Public Policy (Routledge, 2012) is  SMU political scientist Jillson’s critical analysis of Texas public policy. Historically rich and data driven, Lone Star Tarnished presents a troubling picture of where the nation’s most populous red state stands today, what problems Texas faces going forward, and whether the state is addressing those problems effectively.

Lone Star Tarnished by Cal Jillson of SMU“Rick Perry may have dropped out of the 2012 president’s race, but the bragging he did about the 'Texas Miracle' left behind some questions that need to be answered,” Jillson said.  “You have to ask – is the Lone Star State a legitimate model for the rest of the nation or do we face serious public policy problems that we are failing to address? The title of my book, Lone Star Tarnished, suggests my answer to that question – I find tarnish on the star.”

Lone Star Tarnished is available from Routledge in paperback and in hard cover editions, as well as in paperback, hard cover, and Kindle editions from Amazon. The Texas Tribune is excerpting segments from the book.

Lone Star Tarnished describes the development of the Texas political culture and the “Texas model” of small government, low taxes, deregulation, and personal responsibility. Jillson delves into the challenges posed by the state’s dramatic and ongoing demographic change, and then frames his discussion of Texas policy and performance against a backdrop of national averages and information from selected relevant states on jobs and income, education, health care, crime and prisons, transportation, and energy and the environment. Jillson closes Lone Star Tarnished with the history of tax policy in Texas, the origins of current revenue shortfalls, and a look at reform possibilities for the Texas tax system.

Jillson’s conclusion is that the Texas story is no miracle: “We show that while Texas has done very well on population and job growth, its ranking among the states on income, education, social services, criminal justice, and the environment have been stagnant or falling for decades.”

Cal Jillson
Cal Jillson

Jillson, well-known professor of political science at Southern Methodist University, is frequently called upon by reporters for his astute observations of state and national politics, putting complex issues into easy-to-understand historical frameworks. Both The Dallas Morning News and the San Antonio Express-News have profiled him as one of Texas’ top political experts.

As a scholar of American politics, Cal shares his knowledge of how government and politics work, in particular the development of American institutions and ideas and how they continue to shape national debates. He earned a doctorate in government and politics in 1979 from the University of Maryland and has been teaching about American politics since 1976. Since moving to Texas in the mid-1990s, he has charted the rise to power of President George W. Bush and has written extensively on U.S. and Texas politics. From 1996 to 2001, he was chair of the SMU Political Science Department and directed the Tower Center for Political Studies, which examines domestic politics and national security issues.

In addition to his book, Pursuing the American Dream: Opportunity and Exclusion Over Four Centuries, Jillson is the author of two popular government texts: American Government: Political Development and Institutional Change (Routledge, 2008) is now in its sixth edition and Texas Politics: Governing the Lone Star State (McGraw-Hill) is currently in its third edition. His other books include Constitution-Making: Conflict and Consensus in the Federal Convention of 1787 and Congressional Dynamics (Stanford University Press, 1994, with Rick K. Wilson). All deal with the origins of American legislatures and with the health and performance of contemporary American political institutions. He also has edited or co-edited half a dozen books, including Pathways to Democracy: The Political Economy of Democratic Transitions (Routledge, 1999) and Perspectives on American Government (Routledge, 2010).

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