Opinion: The Great Texas Brain Drain is Coming

Rolling on out of here, and I don't blame 'em.
Rolling on out of here, and I don't blame 'em. Photo by Doug Tammany/Flickr
The other day, my 13-year-old told me they had no plans to go to college in Texas or live here when they were done with their education.

“I have fewer rights now than when I was born, and I’ll have fewer still when I’m older,” they said. I couldn’t argue with them.

Far-right legislative extremism in Texas is leading to a cataclysmic brain drain that is eventually going to cripple the growth of the Lone Star State. It’s already happening, and it’s all a direct result of the conservative war on reality.

Take the medical industry, of which Houston is justifiably proud. This city runs on doctors, nurses, and other specialists, and the top-notch treatments available in the Texas Medical Center are sought by visitors all over the world. Science is king down off Holcombe.

What happens to that kingdom when doctors refuse to work in it? A survey of 2,000 current and future physicians in February saw that 76 percent of respondents wouldn’t even bother to apply in a state with an abortion ban like the one we have now. The reasoning is simple. Badly worded laws designed to terrorize pregnant people and the medical professionals that would provide them care are designed to make any doctor feel legally unsafe even when abortion is technically legal.

No one wants to go to jail or lose their license because they chose to save a pregnant person’s life. Not when some hopped-up radical right-wing culture warrior can score points by harassing them or convicting them. The danger is too great.

“We’ll just hire Texas doctors who are pro-life!” That’s not going to work either. The decline of OB/GYN residency applications is twice as high in abortion ban states. That means less pre-natal; care, cancer screenings, pap smears, and more, and of course the pain will be felt hardest in rural and underserved communities who can’t offer higher wages.

Lately, the Texas legislature has been focused less on punishing pregnant people and more on LGBT ones. Governor Greg Abbott signed a law banning DEI programs at public universities this year. Potential students see the writing on the wall. Experts are reporting that record number of graduating seniors are refusing to even consider going to school in a place like Texas.

That’s not even taking into account the weird, anti-business movements Texas has taken in their misguided War on Wokeness. Banks and investment firms that choose to not put money into gun manufacturers are being denied public contracts. Green energy investment, too, is seen as verboten to the right. Eventually, these companies are either going to fall in line or decide there are less toxic places with good tax policies they can operate.

Maybe this is the goal. Maybe hard-right Republicans think that if they just make the whole state stink enough it will cause all their political opponents leave, and that those who will remain will be perfectly competent to keep the machinery of civilization running.

Long time readers will know I am a keen fan of Atlas Shrugged, especially because conservatives who claim to love it don’t seem to have actually understood it. The evil in Ayn Rand’s novel is not government regulation or wokeism or even communism.

It’s incompetents driving away the capable for ridiculous, ideological reasons. Experts and scientists are ordered to make trains run on time and grain be delivered even as the people at the top insist everything work they way they want it to instead of the way it actually does. It’s feelings over facts.

That’s the world we’re living in now in Texas. Republicans want medical care that ignores the need of abortions, industry as long as it never questions guns or oil, and entrepreneurs provided they never do anything remotely gay. They’re like someone pulling out half the flavors of Starbursts from the package and then threatening to sue the manufacturer for shorting them.

We’re going to be stuck with a world where fewer brilliant minds want anything to do with us because excellence is punished unless it serves the very narrow interests of a nutsackfull of radical Christian nationalists and oil moguls. People who could otherwise make us greater will go elsewhere, so that even if we survive, we will only continue to fall. It’s a really stupid way to run a state. No wonder the kid wants out of here.
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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner