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Texas must do right by children

Texas: No. 1 in job creation and 42nd in the well-being of its children. How do you like them prickly pears?

This embarrassing verdict comes from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count assessment, In fairness to Texas politicians whose public policies created the alarming conditions that led to the 42nd ranking, the foundation has an ulterior motive — the best interests of children.

As much as we want to pretend that public policy is just some onerous thing that we rugged individualists have to put up with while we make our livings freely and enterprisingly, it has consequences.

Such as: More than one in four Texas children live in poverty, 18 percent live in high-poverty areas, Texas is No. 2 in the percentage of children without health insurance, 59 percent of children have no access to preschool and 21 percent didn’t graduate from high school on schedule.

Public policymakers have focused on making Texas as business-friendly as possible by keeping taxes low and regulations lax. It seems to have worked, though the state’s embarrassment of underground riches that started the current drilling boom deserves as much credit if not more. Also we should temper the rosy employment news by pointing out that Texas ranks third in percentage of low-wage jobs.

Texas public policy also has emphasized spending as little as possible on distractions such as public education and health care for the poor. A Kids Count official cited the Legislature’s $5.4 billion cut from education in 2011 and its decision this year — a boom year for state revenue — to restore only $3.4 billion.

Gov. Rick Perry refused to accept the expansion of Medicaid provided under the national health law known best by the nickname/pejorative Obamacare. That’s billions of Texans’ own and other states’ federal tax dollars that could cover uninsured poor people in the state that leads the nation in uninsured poor people (all ages). States have the option to decline to opt in — an unusual move because it makes no financial sense.

Perry’s stated justification, other than that Obamacare is an abomination, is that Medicaid is unsustainable. True. It’s unsustainable whether he takes the money or not. So why not take the money?

We can remain a low-tax state and still do right by our children.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times