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Texas: low pay, low regulation – and poverty for working moms

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Summary of story from The Guardian, September 4, 2011

There is a dark side to Texas.

Dove Springs is the Texas of a education system that is failing to educate its children; the Texas where millions have no health insurance and a growing low-wage economy means having a job is not enough to provide the basics of life.

Dove Springs, a suburb of Austin, is a hungry Texas that a food bank serves.

Sharonda Buckley, 27, was a first-timer at one food handout, arriving at 8am and stunned to find herself 194th in the queue.

She has a job at a local technical equipment firm making oxygen canisters, and is also studying for an engineering degree. But her wages are so low, and her student fees so high, that she needed a food parcel to make ends meet.

“The vast bulk of people we serve are working people,” said John Turner, director of marketing at the Capital Area Food Bank.

His organisation serves an enormous area several hundred miles wide. It feeds 48,000 people a week, including 20,000 children.

One in seven Texans are on food stamps, it has the sixth-highest rate of child poverty in America, at almost one in four children and more than one in six Texans are living below the poverty line.

And more than a quarter of Texans have no healthcare insurance, partly because so many of the state’s employers do not offer, or are not required to offer, coverage to their workers.

This is Governor Rick Perry’s state.

This is the Texas whose record at job creation is at the centre of Perry’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination. This is the state of low taxes and low regulation.

And under Perry’s leadership, Texas Republicans have drastically cut state funding for family planning programmes.

These cuts had no relationship to abortion, but are simply cuts in basic reproductive healthcare services and, of course, contraception.

The Austin Chronicle estimates that hundreds of thousands of women will be cut off from subsidised contraception.

Since these women already struggle to afford basic healthcare, many won’t be able to get contraception elsewhere, and will get pregnant.

And since it’s even harder to afford a baby than a pack of pills, we can expect many of these women to get abortions, even if they have to borrow money or pawn belongings to afford it.

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