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102 of 132 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A DETAILED, AMUSING, SOBERING ASSESSMENT OF TEXAS & ITS NATIONAL INFLUENCE
"We feel Texas' influence in our lives every day..." Gail Collins

Four and a half OVERALL Stars! (On my second pass through, this excellent book gains one star!) Texas has "way more influence than one-fiftieth of the union deserves" asserts author Gail Collins. She began to pay more attention to the large influence of the Lone Star State in 2009 when the...
Published on June 4, 2012 by RSProds

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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An Outsider's Look At Texas
"As Texas Goes" is a full-throated critique of Texas state policy and the ills it exports to the rest of America. Collins devotes the book to arguing that no matter how good Texas may look to outsiders (e.g. low unemployment, low cost of living, no income tax), it is a actually a blot on the union that parasitically steals other states' companies and college graduates,...
Published 21 months ago by Samuel J. Sharp


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102 of 132 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A DETAILED, AMUSING, SOBERING ASSESSMENT OF TEXAS & ITS NATIONAL INFLUENCE, June 4, 2012
By 
RSProds "rbsprods" (Deep in the heart of Texas) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: As Texas Goes...: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda (Hardcover)
"We feel Texas' influence in our lives every day..." Gail Collins

Four and a half OVERALL Stars! (On my second pass through, this excellent book gains one star!) Texas has "way more influence than one-fiftieth of the union deserves" asserts author Gail Collins. She began to pay more attention to the large influence of the Lone Star State in 2009 when the star-crossed presidential hopeful Governor Rick Perry became a political lightning rod throwing around the word "secession" at times. Looking deeper into the matter she now sees Texas as a more highly-influential state than she originally suspected across a number of political and social fronts, but not without its own unique and sometimes self-inflicted problems which she documents in this sometimes humorous, fact-laden book. She is amazed at how we make things 'bigger' in Texas, starting with the state capitol building, and how politicians from Texas are in the front rank of influence on the national legislative and presidential matters, reminding us that a (non-native born) Texan has been President or Vice President 20 of the last 32 years in the person of Bush 41 and 43. She keys in on two cities to explain the "empty place" ethos: Houston, a city that "goes on forever", with no zoning, as a prime example of 'crowded places with empty spaces in between' (and beyond the city limits), where an 'empty spaces' less-government attitude prevails. And Midland, a struggling city on the upswing, that has had its ups and downs riding the prevailing trends for survival. She also sprinkles in words like "passle" and "bidness" (I know no one who talks like that in my 'deep in the heart of Texas' city except TV car dealers). I feel there are tens of millions of city dwellers in Texas who do not have the 'empty-spaces, less-government' attitude, in my humble opinion; if anything we'd like a little more in targeted areas, if you please, but it's easy to see how an outsider (assisted by a few Texan advisors) can get that impression, based on leadership at the state and national level who definitely feel that way.

As a Texan, transplanted here 4 decades ago, I knew she was not going to get the totality of Texas right. She would have to live here for decades and travel all over this picturesque, very complicated, conflicted, politically-charged, very historical, and ultimately for me, enjoyable state. It is simply TOO BIG and a state this big will have big problems. But she has gotten a lot totally right and dug up a 'passle' of very interesting history, facts, colorful personages, and scandal and put it in ONE very engaging book, which starts out informative and humorous and then goes darkly humorous with political and business shenanigans, factoids, and problems. And while some is positive, much is not, thanks (or no thanks) to our politicians, businessmen, and self-serving idiosyncratic polices. Along the wide swath in the book we meet: the "central triangle" of east and central Texas where 60% of the population resides with lots of "empty places" and the questionable "less-government" leadership attitude; states' rights; the reason for the shift from the Democratic to Republican legislative majority; the Texas way of producing jobs; the Enterprise Fund and business growth; Texas' influence on abstinence, sex-education, and "No Child Left Behind"; Enron, regulation and deregulation; where Rick Perry and Phil Gramm started politically; the way Texas, "the largest emitter of carbon dioxide", deals with global warming; Texas tort policy; schools, education, and textbooks; the coming 'majority-Hispanic' Texas; the influence on the Tea Party, and much more including, the quirky 'atheist-prohibition against holding public office' (that was news to me). We, in Texas, know the good far outweighs the bad. Our national influence, proven by this book, good, bad, or in-between: shows "the good" is also drawing in new residents by the millions to our 'state tax free' state (adding four more seats in the House of Representatives) as well as millions of tourists. But not all facts are correct in the book: (e.g. "only elected one Latino to statewide office"? Wrong! I know of at least 5 on the state level and 2 on the national level.) On the positive side, yes, Texas is a definite leader: a huge oil and refinery source, huge natural gas source, second largest economy among the states, largest exporter, and a $100 billion dollar grossing state. Even so, this book is Highly Recommended as an impressive collage of Texas history, customs, personages, influence, concepts, and problems on the state and national level. In the end, author Gail Collins feels wherever Texas is headed, it's taking the rest of the country with it. An outsider's view of the influence of Texas, and do read the national ranking tables in the Appendix closely: "Texas on the Brink: The Texas Legislative Study on the State of Our State". HIghly Recommended. Four and a half ENGROSSING Stars! (Reviewed as a Kindle download of 288 pages ~594 KB in text and text-to-speech modes. Gail Collins is also the author of William Henry Harrison: The American Presidents Series: The 9th President,1841)
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An Outsider's Look At Texas, April 6, 2013
"As Texas Goes" is a full-throated critique of Texas state policy and the ills it exports to the rest of America. Collins devotes the book to arguing that no matter how good Texas may look to outsiders (e.g. low unemployment, low cost of living, no income tax), it is a actually a blot on the union that parasitically steals other states' companies and college graduates, while foisting upon the country pollution, censored textbooks, and loony Republican politicians.

Collins' argument is easy to follow, if not always convincing. Collins blames Texas for, among other things, the Savings & Loan Crisis, No Child Left Behind, and presidents who "have led the country into every land war . . . since Vietnam." Often, she seems to work backwards; first announcing a conclusion, then presenting one-sided evidence with sarcasm and stale rhetoric. Other times, she abandons even the pretense of serious analysis. For example on page 151, when discussing Texas's pro-business policy, she states, "Perhaps Texas has the recipe for growing the national economy. Great! On the other hand, maybe job growth is mainly due to accidents of the state's location, and the competition is just a way to blackmail other states into bankrupting themselves for no good reason whatsoever expect corporate greed. Of course, the truth could lie somewhere in the middle . . . but for the moment, I'm going with the blackmail-and-bankrupt scenario." This is not how a serious author would write on a complex subject.

This is a short book, but Collins packs in a lot of material and a lot of unoriginal, generalized observations. On page 165 she runs through a familiar "you didn't build that" argument by noting how the federal government funds the interstate highway system, crop subsidies, military bases, and "massive tax credits" for oil production. These policies of course are not unique to Texas, but no matter. Collins wryly concludes this riff by highlighting Texas's lack of gratitude for federal largesse. "Not looking for thanks, really. Or maybe just a little."

In short, if you read Collins in the New York Times and enjoy her writing, you will probably like this book very much. Readers wanting a more thoughtful treatment should look elsewhere. I would have learned much more about Texas from a more open-minded author who is more familiar with the state. Collins admits to being fascinated by Texas's peculiarities, and this shallow curiosity mixed with her obvious scorn makes her a less than trustworthy guide to a state and its people.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cheap shot, May 14, 2013
By 
Masonville (Forest Park, il) - See all my reviews
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Full disclosure: I'm a Northern liberal and I despise what I know of Texas. That said, this book isn't the place to go for a careful analysis of Texas and/or its (putative) impact on the nation. Certainly the Board of Education impact on textbooks is accurate, I'll give her that. But apart from that, this is just a series of cheap shots written in a hokey-jokey style that I found extremely irritating. Texas may be an extreme example of libertarian excess, but that tendency has been broadly characteristic of much of the US since the late 18th century. I just found this book to be embarrassingly shallow ("embarrassingly" because I'd like to have seen a good analysis of what's wrong with Texas). At the end I had a visceral sensation of having eaten too much cheap candy.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars As Texas Goes, So Goes the Nation?, December 25, 2012
This review is from: As Texas Goes...: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda (Hardcover)
***I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an impartial review..

As Texas Goes: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda has a definite liberal tint, just look at who offers endorsements on the back cover. I can understand the thoughts of some reviewers who call it a Texas hating book written by a liberal. There's not terribly much that Texans would love in this book (although Gail Collins does mention the hospitality and friendliness of Texans.) Then again, I don't think there's much to love about pathetic education, health care, and employment stats presented in this book.

Collins acknowledges that even the framers of much of the controversial legislation laid out in the book probably didn't intend them to be the model of national legislation like banking regulation or No Child Left Behind, but still the reader gets the overwhelming feeling that Texas has done little right since Lyndon Johnson was president. I think Collins makes a perceptive point about bad things happening when a small group of people get to make decisions for everyone. But this book smacks of liberal overtones and the running commentary throughout the book gets old after awhile
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Bit Disappointing, August 6, 2012
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Much of the information in this book is useful. The research is sound. Some of the conclusions, the relationship between the concept of open space and political ideology, the role that Texas plays in setting the national agenda, are interesting if not completely developed. The writing is poor - choppy, repetitive, simplistic. I wouldn't bother.
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53 of 75 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Description of Texas accurate, her thesis not always persuasive, June 22, 2012
By 
wanda (United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: As Texas Goes...: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda (Hardcover)
Well, I lived in Texas for 19 of the most miserable of my 66 years. Native Yankees who are not Christian, not sorority sisters, and who are feminists do not transfer well to these open spaces. And, unlike some of the folks posting here, I DID read the book. Everything that Collins describes about Texas in this book is oh so true. For those who slam her and want "facts" -- well they are legion in this book. In fact there is a well referenced notes section and a bibliography (that contains both material from the left and right positions of our political spectrum. There is also an appendix that ranks Texas on multiple indicators. This index is not a leftist document. It is compiled yearly IN TEXAS. Such gems include (50th = lowest, 1st = highest) 2nd in birth rate, 1st in CO2 emissions, 1st in toxic chemicals released into water, 43rd in high school graduation rate, 1st in uninsured children, 4th in children living in poverty, 50th (dead last) in per capita spending on mental health care, 50th in Workers Compensation Coverage. This is just a small sampling. I could go on. But get the book and be as appalled and distressed as I was.
Collins thesis is that Texas has a disproportionate amount of influence over the national agenda. In some of the chapters, she is persuasive. In some she is less so. I was less than persuaded by the financial deregulation chapter. There is plenty of blame to go around on that one that is not limited to Texas and its S&L difficulties. Ditto the global warming issue and the abstinence only education. But the textbook wars are well known and it is no secret that textbook publishers are held captive by what the yahoos in Texas dictate to them. As they know well down there, money talks. I would argue that Texas does not set the agenda, rather it reflects what is going on in much of the country, and that is that southern states that are the most religiously conservative, are also social darwinists, ruthless, and least interested in education of any kind. Texas is only one of those, not unique, but perhaps the one with the biggest and most outsized ego.
Also, I have to wonder. If Texas was all THAT influential in setting the agenda for the rest of the country, then why the crash and burn of their nitwit governor who possibly ran the worst presidential campaign in history and slunk back to the Lone Star state with his tail between his legs? Perhaps my logic is flawed, but it seems to me that they would have run someone smarter, slicker, less repulsive, and gotten a lot further in the race if they were so inclined to influence the national debate.
She points out the legacy of and the ongoing presence of racism, and the dwindling of the white population. Texas will be an overwhelmingly Latino state shortly, but is still controlled by white men. White Christian men. She ponders the quetion of how long this situation will last, but really comes to no conclusions. Nor does she answer how in a state that is so overwhelmingly diverse, the white ruling class still dominates.
Collins does a great job of debunking the Texas miracle, which has happened by keeping wages of poor Latino workers as low as possible, throwing regulation of the environment down the toilet, depriving people of health care, and importing brain power from other states.
There is no surprise here. If you keep people uneducated and oppressed and you act like China with your environment, you too will prosper.
She peppers the book with the colorful cast of characters, who could exist and prosper nowhere but in Texas. These guys (and they are USUALLY guys) are amusing until you realize that they are not all that funny. They are disingenuous at best and often dangerous -- DeLay, Armey, the Bushes, the Gramms, etc. She does a great job with her themes of illusory open spaces in a sprawling urban state, and pokes a huge deflating finger in the myth of the hapless Alamo. She is right, it is underwhelming. Having lived in Midland - I agree -- there is absolutely nothing to do. No, wait. If you are a woman, you can meet with your sorority sisters from SMU (even though you are 45 years out of college). You could also go to lunch and belong to the Junior League (reference to The Help for a thorough explanation of that phenomenon). Although I was not altogether persuaded by her thesis, the book is fun and should be read by anyone who is open minded to what unfettered capitalism has wrought in a single state. I suspect that there are equally dismal places, such as Mississippi and Louisiana to name but a few, but they don't have the outsized swagger, ego and sheer chutzpah of Texas. What other state with such dismal rankings would obfuscate reality and float the propoganda of exceptionalism that Texas does? THAT is the real story in this book. Way to go Collins.
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21 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Getting past the agenda, July 31, 2012
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Having had the opportunity to see Ms Collins on booktv the title alone drew me to read the work. A better or rather more accurate title should have been A Northern Liberal's View of Texas and how I will take the next 200 pages to make a Literary Driveby shooting of all my Bleeding Heart Hand Wringing that I can't stand about the Lonestar State. Of course my proposed title probably would not get past the junior editors desk or the intern from Chicago and the marketing people wouldn't likely think much of it either despite its accuracy which is sort of the same problem with the settled on title. Remembering my late 19th century American History classes that described the Yellow Journalism that led up the Spanish American War those same editors would be probably impressed with Ms. Collins work. To be fair once one gets past all of the naked liberal leftist goofball notions on how the nation and the world ought to be run the book itself is a very fun read. One item I found funny and admittedly true for example is the notion that Texans will see the value of driving 300 miles just to see a football game. The author goes on and on about the other grievous excesses that Texans will go to in living their lives. What came to mind was how New Yorkers or those who commute into the Big Apple think nothing paying $10 or more in tolls to cross a bridge or a highway that has been paid for many times over and think nothing of it or how leaders in that same area have decided that its ok tell people how much soda they can buy. Sorry I think I may have just went on a bit of a Dennis Miller rant. Getting back to the book, if you are from Texas and a liberal you will likely find this to be a tome of validation on all the ills that keep you awake at night. On the other hand if you are a conservative or just oppose things like the encroachment of government into our lives and the absurdity of wealth or income redistribution then you will find this to be an amusing and riveting insight into the mind of the contemporary liberal. Again to be fair she makes some good points that conservatives should address but my favorite comparison was of Phil Gramm as a turtle looking over his spectacles. Buy the book, you won't feel cheated, I wasn't.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars get over yourself, April 14, 2013
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a new yorker writing about Texas, hummm. a person from a place of "entitlement" going to a place that has been said to be full of braggarts. Of all the traveling I've done on the U.S. it seems to me New Yorkers get the first place prize for barging and acting entitled over any other citizen. She also need to recheck her facts ie the pledge children recite in school. when one fact is wrong people question the rest. she also needs to get out of the "larger" cities when doing research.
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3.0 out of 5 stars An amusing book, if you want to be amused, October 29, 2014
By 
RJS "RJS" (San Antonio, Texas) - See all my reviews
This review is from: As Texas Goes...: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda (Hardcover)
I guess if you write for the NYT you can be permitted confusing the casual anecdote with a serious analysis. I was entertained as a non-native, but I didn't think for an instance that I was getting anything like an analytical account. And really, that's a problem. Texas is, like it or not, probably the future in many ways, and how the state chooses to deal with (or ignore) the many challenges and problems it faces will make a difference in the way the country evolves. Collins has the unfortunate tendency to regard Texas as a clown show. It may well be, but the clowns are armed and dangerous. You underestimate them at your peril.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Texas: A New York Times Perpsective, March 9, 2013
I read the New York Times and Ms. Collins is one of my favorite columnists. She writes beautifully and is often funny. As Texas Goes is an entertaining read, but having arrived in the state 12 years ago from the UK, I am not sure I totally agree with her analysis. She is correct that Texans are generally polite, friendly and sincere. If you are lucky to live in a wealthy neighbourhood the public schools are also very good. Most people I know go to church and try and help their local community. A British friend of mine described it as a place stuck in the 1950s, but that also makes it a great place to bring up kids. Collins has bought into the myth that Texans are different. Most of my neighbors have come from somewhere else and I don't just mean out of state. Many are foreigners.

I admit, the cowboy thing is hard to understand since most Texans live in the suburbs. They might wear cowboys boots and drive pickup trucks but everybody I know works in an office. You don't see many cows in the sprawling suburbs of Dallas. What Collins seems to have missed is that although Texans want to believe that they are rugged, outdoors, frontier folk, in reality most are couch potatoes.

My sister lived in Germany and complained that there were too many petty rules. Texas probably has even more rules than Germany. When I arrived from the UK I had never received a speeding ticket, but in my first week driving around Dallas I was stopped for fractionally exceeding the speed limit. This has happened on several occasions since. People drive very slowly by European standards. I was also shocked to find that I couldn't buy beer or wine in my local supermarket. The Germans at least like to drive fast and drink beer.

The UK doesn't have curfew laws so this was another surprise. There seem to be plenty of policeman to enforce the various laws. Someone in our house once dialled 911 by accident and two cops knocked at the front door at 2am to investigate. We have been reported by our neighors for accidentally leaving the sprinkers on. You can also get in trouble if you don't cut the grass or trim your trees.

If you appreciate law and order Texas could be for you, but the Wild West it is not.
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As Texas Goes...: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda
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