I’m living the Texas miracle

Texas Governor Rick Perry plans to run on jobs, presumably the same jobs conservative economic policies demolished, but we all know facts and direct inference hold no sway on what was once the Grand Old Party. It turns out that the job picture in Texas is not quite as rosy as Perry would like to spin:

But there is a wider set of categories in which no one presumes to see Texas miracles. Those have to do with social issues such as Texas’ high rate of people without health insurance, high levels of poverty and lagging education levels. For example, of the five most populous states, Texas had the highest poverty rate in the 2009 census update, with 15.5 percent of residents below the income threshold.

Texas is doing slightly better than other states for two reasons: they’ve been swiping jobs from other states by dangling subsidies and tax breaks for wealthy business owners while offering terrible conditions for wage earners, and ballooning the roster of low level state employees (Neither one would work as a national job strategy, especially for a politician hell-bent on cutting government spending). The end result is an employment rate that’s a little better than the national average and a giant population of workers with no other option except near starvation wages.

I’m one of them. I’m living the “Texas miracle”. I work for one of the best software companies in America, I came with a college degree and 20 years of experience as an entry-level employee, mid level manager, and successful senior executive in the field I currently work in. I make about $24,000 a year and there are virtually no chances, at least where I work now, for a meaningful promotion any time soon.

Multiply me by millions of other Texans and you get the picture. There’s a lady with a master’s degree in electrical engineering who did her thesis on NASA solar panels working with me for the same hobby job wage. And we’re lucky, she and I are among a handful of temps, about a dozen out of 300, who worked a graveyard shift with no benefits — no health insurance or vacation time, not even one sick day allowed — and earned a full-time job with the client company that hired us on.

What’s it like to try and live on $1400 month take home at age 50? Millions of people do it, but I can’t. I end up drawing on savings built up over three and a half decades of hard work or depending on projects like this blog for a few extra bucks. Even then every month is a struggle. Minor car or computer repairs, a trip to the dentist, that’s all it takes and I’ll have zero disposable income for weeks, barely able to cover rent on my tiny studio apartment without dipping into a retirement account. It’s survival, and without expensive luxuries like kids, I’m able to survive better off than most. But on that kind of pay there’s no way to take on new car payments or cover a mortgage, much less contribute to retirement. All the things people need to be able to do to create sorely needed demand and knock the country out of this deep hole Bush Republicans dug.

The Texas miracle. Miraculous, why it sounds almost heavenly! Trust me, if this is heaven you don’t wanna see hell. This miracle feels a lot more like a curse.


  1. ogremk5 says

    Us too. My wife graduated with her Master’s degree 3 months AFTER the mass layoff of teachers.

    She can’t even get a job as a substitute because there are 1500 laid of teachers, who’ve been in the school for the last 12 years waiting in line for those sub positions. Imagine that, multi-decade year veteran teachers with advanced degrees lining up for a job making $75 a day (about $10 an hour).

    And Perry is also big on education? My ass.

  2. fulcrumx says

    I think it is way past time to stop calling Perry a clown. We should use much stronger terms for someone who seeks to be elected to a public office and who continues to display a complete dishonesty about these facts. He and his supporters should be confronted everywhere appear in public for their false statements by calling them false statements and demanding they answer for making them. They are not funny. They are not jokes. They are not clowns. It is not circus. It is the future and we must demand excellence and truth. Cold hard truth from them and from us.

  3. binjabreel says

    This has been irking me for a long time.

    Almost all the college graduates I’ve known (Class of 2006, here) have been struggling for almost the entire decade. My mother spent nearly a year unemployed. My father, nearly two years.

    Yet I see on all these news reports things like, “Back in 2007, when the economy was flying high…” WTF? Was *anyone* paying attention? I spent nearly the entire decade of the 00’s trying to convince people that the economy was crumbling as my relatives in construction had no projects, as my friends in high-tech industries got laid off, or as the entrepreneuers I knew were driven out of business… What’s it going to take to get someone to acknowledge that pretty much all the economic growth of the past eleven years or so were all illusory?

  4. ancienttechie says

    Have you considered moving to an area where your education and experience would be appreciated and rewarded? You might need to emigrate.

  5. unimpressed says

    $24,000? Really? With 20 years experience? Come on. Really? I haven’t made that little since 1995.

    I tend to agree with ancienttechie. I have about the same amount of experience as you and have worked with very large corporations, startups and others including starting two tech companies myself. The second is just freelance consulting. I work exclusively from home for 60-70 per hour depending on the client. I have zero difficulty finding work. Zip None. If I lived in Austin or Dallas, I’ld have zero problem finding a mid to senior level job doing what I’m doing. But I don’t. I never travel for clients and turn down jobs that ask me to get into my car. That bill rate is actually low for what I do which is one reason why I get the work I do. So if it is true that you have a degree, and 20 years experience, (I’ld love to see your linked in profile – I couldn’t find it), then you should just stop whining about how little you make and do something about it.

    Action Plan:
    1. Dry your tears. You’re smart and articulate which is rare in the tech world.
    2. Stop blogging. If cash is an issue, does your blog really generate any cash or is it just an ego thing?
    3. Use your newly found time to read up on some hot technology, Android is a very good one to learn. There’s lots of that going on in Texas because of the cell companies. Two months of part time study will give you some sample apps to show off.
    4. Get a real job or go freelance.

    Or you can

    1. Continue to whine about it. Blame others for your failure. Perhaps it was the liberal media? Maybe Rick Perry? Oh oh I know that Obama guy. Blame him. Yeah. He’s not even American!!!! That’s the Tea Party way!

    Best regards,
    Not A. Sucker

  6. Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew says

    Fair enough unimpressed, I know, I know. I need toi get off my ass and find a real job. I’ve been kinda coasting ever since I got the one I have, it was the first solid thing that came along and things looked bleak at the time. And truth be told, it is a really, really great place to work. I wish I could tell people what I do.

    If I could just make a little more there, a little more here, and get on some kind of career path with the potential for higher earnings either place, I’d be set. I would really like a used wake boarding boat. Not gonna have one anytime soon if I don’t get motivated.

    That being said, I didn’t have anything to do with the economic crashed caused by dereg, and the deficitis caused by tax cuts and Iraq, and those things working together haven’t made thigns easy. I’v never had to look this hard and accept this little, I’ve always been able to find somehting and make the best of it. But it’s way harder this tim than ever before. I think it’s perfectly fair to point that out when talking about job prospects.

  7. harold says

    @unimpressed –

    I completely agree with your comments, BUT –

    The author raises a broader point.

    The reason I agree with your comments is that it seems to me that the author of this blog, with his stated qualifications, and obvious talents, and assuming, as I think is reasonable, that he isn’t holding back something like a major criminal conviction or massive history of dismissals for inappropriate behavior at prior jobs, should personally be able to find a better paying position. What follows may seem discouraging to the author; please don’t take it that way, this just caused me to segue into some stuff that’s been on my mind lately.

    But the broader point here is that his struggles are taking place against the background of an America in which wages, salaries, benefits, and protections for most people have been declining for several decades. And which now is experiencing severe unemployment.

    I don’t want to argue about the causes of all this (here); for full disclosure most people would label me as a “progressive”, and that would be pretty accurate, even though I don’t adhere to any group ideology.

    But the bottom line is, the duct tape and rubber bands that were holding damaged US society together for the last fifteen years or so were high employment, easy credit, and asset bubbles. One effect of the asset bubbles was that parents, assuming that they were super-secure due to their 401-K plans and house values, were willing to support adult children through long periods of unpaid internship and the like (not counted as “unemployment”, of course).

    People increasingly had to work longer hours and/or travel far longer to make ends meet, but they were able to find those hours of work, get credit to make up for true decline in standard of living, and believe that, if they had any assets, that mysteriously massive annual returns on said assets would make it all worthwhile in the long run.

    Taking away the asset bubbles made people depressed, but ultimately individuals, like businesses, live and die on cash flow. No matter what your future potential, you can only get so much credit before you need some cash.

    If a typical US family already had two incomes generated by people driving long hours to one or more jobs each, and needed every penny, and the jobs start going away…

    I suspect that the specific problem here really may be, as the author thinks, Texas-related. I spent a lot of time in Texas in 2010, in the Houston area (for what it’s worth, crazy weather and crazy politicians, but a lot of nice people). Houston isn’t as expensive as the area I live in, but it was less cheap than I expected, too. Dichotomous – high crime rate, and not terribly cheap to avoid that. Meanwhile some of the wage levels were shockingly low. And incidentally, the TX unemployment rate is not that great. It’s “below the national average”, but the last number I saw was over 8%.

    I won’t make this about H-1 visas, either. Most of my friends are either immigrants of children of immigrants, but that doesn’t change the fact the we literally erect barriers of debt and opportunity for young Americans who try to go into science, medicine, or bachelor’s-requiring technical careers. That was working okay when everybody could get a “management” degree and a job in the finance industry; now the fact that actual, tangible skills have been devalued almost to the point of ridicule is having an impact.

    A problem that arises when wages get super-low is that, except for the very desperate, mobility takes resources. This author says he has some savings, so he should try it – first step is long distance applications, but you may not be taken seriously if you have to make a big move to start the job, so a research-based outright move – a calculated gamble – might make sense. But that has to be approached carefully. Another aspect of today’s America is that the places that still have opportunity (not necessarily the same thing as low wage rural areas that have “low unemployment” due to inability to retain youth) are often rather expensive.

    Anyway, bottom line – the situation in the US is somewhat akin to the situation of hamsters who finds themselves needing to run faster and faster on their wheels for increasingly insecure food doses, but who are told that the value of their cages are rising. Tell them that the value of their cages just crashed, and that’s bad. Start taking away the wheels, and you’ve got a real problem.

    So – agreement that the author can probably do better, but I don’t discount his broader point that things are tough.


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