The Austin Chronicle

Progressing in the Economy

By Richard Whittaker, November 11, 2009, 4:00pm, Newsdesk

Whenever there's a statistic about Texas leading the nation in some category or other, freemarketeers and the anti-regulation crew are quick to take the credit (well, except in child morbidity and other such minor blights on society). So why is it the more liberal towns that are heading up those scores?

Take the most recent Milken Institute Best Performing Cities Index. According to their blurb, this "ranks U.S. metros based on their ability to create and sustain jobs." So where leads the ranking? Why, the Austin-Round Rock area. Yes, Austin, with its Democratic state delegation, Democratic congressman, and openly Democratic mayor.

Similar stat about saving electricity, which everyone (even climate change deniers) agrees is an absolute must as energy costs rise. The Energy Star household efficiency program has hit one million qualified homes, and has released a city-by-city guide to biggest adopters. Gov. Rick Perry has talked a great game about energy efficiency and weatherization, so where leads the chart? Houston, with 144,000 qualified homes. That will be Houston with its Democratic mayor (and noted environmental policy advocate) Bill White. Cheers to Austin for coming in at #14, jeers for only managing 13,000 houses. C'mon, San Antonio did better than that.

Of course, both stats come with bucketloads of caveats attached. Energy Star rating should probably be regarded as a minimum goal, while it's probably worth pointing out that one of the reasons Texas has superficially weathered the economic crisis a little better than some other states is that it doesn't have a manufacturing sector worth talking about. Therefore, there's a solid argument that Texas' "financial miracle" is predicated on the kind of trade imbalance that has helped put America knee-deep in debt.

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