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A 'Texas Miracle' on less than a living wage


The following ran in the June 18, 2012, edition of the San Antonio Express-News. Political Scientist Cal Jillson provided expertise for this story.

June 22, 2012

By Brian Chasnoff

Should a “miracle” make you worry, odds are that it's not miraculous.
Nonetheless, I'll wager that the jobs soon to arrive in southwest Bexar County at a Ramen noodle factory will serve as more grist for Gov. Rick's Perry's much-touted “Texas Miracle.”
After all, there will be 600 of them.
And while we're thinking in terms of sheer quantity, let's recall that Texas in the past two decades has created more jobs than any other state. Since 2009, about 40 percent of all new jobs in the United States have been added here.
Perry and other politicians attribute this growth to the Texas model: low taxes, loose regulation and special incentives to lure noodles — I mean, businesses.
If I were a three-term governor and former yell leader at Texas A&M University, I would lead us in the following cheers:
Go Texas!
And go Ramen noodles!
Thankfully, the local debate over whether to grant Maruchan Inc. of Japan millions of dollars to pay people very little money to make noodles has transcended the mere question of how many workers it would employ.
And it's heartening — in a depressing sort of way, of course — that some of us are actually worried.
We are worried because the people making the noodles would earn minimum wage: $7.25 an hour, less than a living wage.
At the risk of dampening anyone's good cheer, here are a few more reasons for us to be worried.
Texas already ranks first in the nation for jobs at or below the minimum wage.
(Go Texas! We're No. 1!)
In fact, 37 percent of all jobs added in Texas in 2010 paid minimum wage or less. Overall, about a third of all jobs in Texas fail to support a family of four.
Also, the gap between the rich and the poor in Texas is greater than the gap in 40 other states, and it's increasing. Perhaps this is because Texas workers are more productive than the average American worker, yet they're also less well-paid.
What are the consequences of a low-wage economy?...

“Everybody needs to work, particularly in Texas because the social safety net is so thin,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. “And one of the reasons it's so thin is so when jobs like this become available, there's a lot of competition for them because Texans have no choice but to work, and to work at whatever job's available.”...

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