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To the relief of many readers, I am not a native Texan. But that does not exclude me from paying attention.

I live here and immensely enjoy the Hill Country lifestyle. I am proud of where I live and with whom I interact. In fact, I am so enthused about living in Texas, I am highly motivated to point out to my fellow Texas residents and natives that our elected and appointed leaders are making a mockery of our state in about every way imaginable.

Below is a summary of our ranking among the 50 states in a variety of categories.

Texas’ superlatives are nothing to brag about, according to the fifth edition of "Texas on the Brink," summarized by Emily Ramshaw, which is an annual review that ranks the state on dozens of factors ranging from health insurance to voter turnout.

Despite having the highest birth rate, Texas has the worst rate of women with health insurance and the worst rate of pregnant women receiving prenatal care in the first trimester, according to the report commissioned by the Legislative Study Group, a research caucus in the Texas House.

While Texas has the second-highest public school enrollment, the state ranks last in the percentage of people 25 and older with a high school diploma.

And though Texas has the highest percent of its population without health insurance, the state is 49th in per capita spending on Medicaid and dead last in per capita spending on mental health, according to the report.

Here’s a look at how Texas compares to other states:

• Tax expenditures per capita (47th)

• Percent of population 25 and older with a high school diploma (50th)

• Percent of poor people covered by Medicaid (49th)

• Percent of population with employer-based health insurance (48th)

• Per capita spending on mental health (50th)

• Per capita spending on Medicaid (49th)

• Percent of non-elderly women with health insurance (50th)

• Percent of women receiving prenatal care in first trimester (50th)

• Average credit score (49th)

• Workers’ compensation coverage (50th)

• Number of executions (first)

• Public school enrollment (second)

• Percent of uninsured children (first)

• Percent of children living in poverty (fourth)

• Percent of population uninsured (first)

• Percent of population living below poverty (fourth)

• Percent of population with food insecurity (second)

• Overall birth rate (second)

• Amount of carbon dioxide emissions (first)

• Amount of toxic chemicals released into water (first)

• Amount of hazardous waste generated (first)

It doesn’t take a genius to see to which “brink” is referred to by the review.

What was implied but not listed is Texas’ bottom five ranking in secondary school national tests. This begins to gall me when I hear “… great state of Texas …” emitting from politicians.

Sorry about the negativity, but waking up to real problems is the first step to fixing them.

Why is our Legislature trying to cut more social services when we’re already last? Why is our Legislature trying to cut public education funding when we’re already last? Why does our Legislature and governor refuse federal money for education or refuse federal laws to improve our rates of pollution when we’re last?

Why don’t Texans want to pay for anything that benefits the people of the state, the state’s ability to compete for high quality businesses, the quality of educating its children or cleaning up its polluting industries?

Last November, the state’s voters who turned out elected many Republicans who now think they have a mandate to cut waste and bureaucracies. Well, Gov. Rick Perry received about 55 percent of the vote from only 48 percent of the registered voters who voted.

Thirty percent of our eligible voters are not registered. That means 17 percent of the people of Texas voted for Perry. It also means only 24 percent of those eligible to vote voted for him. Does anybody out there see this as a mandate to further worsen our state?

Our state’s return to greatness will not happen until its residents assume responsibility for its government and its social obligation to pay for the services the majority of the people deserve and need.

 

Turner is a retired teacher and industrial engineer who lives near Marble Falls. He is an independent columnist, not a staff member, and his views do not necessarily reflect those of The Tribune or its parent company. He can be reached by e-mail at vtgolf@zeecon.com.