Don't Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.

“Unemployed Americans wonder if Obama has his eye on the kinds of jobs Rick Perry likes to create or the kind that can pay a living wage.”

Rick Perry is touring the country touting his “Texas Miracle” of creating jobs for the Rio Grande Valley despite a declining economy. It is true that under Perry the area has seen eye-popping 42 percent job growth while the nation as a whole has seen job growth figures hover around one percent, but as Paul Osterman found out for his New York times article, “Yes, We Need Jobs. But What Kind?,” the jobs created in the Rio Grande Valley are the kind that lead to poverty.

As President Obama prepares to reveal his jobs plan in a Congressional address, unemployed Americans wonder if Obama has his eye on the kinds of jobs Rick Perry likes to create or the kind that can pay a living wage. Perry’s job growth statistics are amazing, but as the writer Bill James has taught us there are three types of lies: “lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

The median wage for adults in the Valley between 2005 and 2008 was a stunningly low $8.14 an hour (in 2008 dollars). One in four employed adults earned less than $6.19 an hour. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas reported that the per capita income in the two metropolitan statistical areas spanning the Valley ranked lowest and second lowest in the nation.

Being paid wages that place you below the poverty line is not a problem specific to workers in Texas. In 2010, 20 percent of Americans worked jobs that paid them poverty level wages. People laid off from a steady paying job, when able to find new work, can expect to see an average of a 20 percent pay cut in median wage, according to Osterman’s article.

For his article, Osterman led a research team to Texas where they interviewed two directors of public health clinics, three priests, a school principal and four focus groups of residents. All described lives filled with anxiety from the terror that they are “one paycheck away” from losing it all. There is no extra money for school supplies or big birthday parties. There is no money for child care or after school babysitting so family members and neighbors often volunteer their time to look after the children of these workers. Health issues have grown among the children of the Rio Grande Valley:

Type 2 diabetes is a scourge in the Valley. Since Type 2 diabetics can be asymptomatic for years, many don’t buy medicine; as time passes, they become severely ill, often losing sight or a limb.

The director at one clinic, with nearly 70,000 visits a year, estimated that half of its patients had anxiety or depression. Often people can’t get to the clinic because they cannot afford to lose work time or because gas costs too much. When they go, they take their families, because they have no child care.

It seems as if Rick Perry’s “Texas Miracle” is a house of cards, held up by lies and manipulated statistics. The workers who supposedly benefited from the miracle are afraid to request off of work to take their children to health clinics because their jobs have little protection and missing a day could be disastrous.

This Labor Day, in Michigan, President Obama touted the importance of union jobs as the backbone of a middle class revival. It was likely a precursor to his jobs plan to be revealed on Thursday before Congress. The types of jobs that can be created through investments in infrastructure repair and renewable energy are likely to be ones to stabilize American families and keep them from living the hard life that is being lived by the residents of the Rio Grande Valley.


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