Nearly a hundred years ago, then-State Senate President Calvin Coolidge urged his colleagues to appreciate the historic achievements of our state and to work together to address the problems of the future. Although society today is far different than it was in 1914, there are still many reasons to be proud of this great Commonwealth.
Let's compare Massachusetts to its peers on three basic measures of success: education, social well-being, and economic strength. Some Americans believe good results on these metrics are the goals of responsible government, and others believe they're the happy consequences of free markets. But however we get there, these are desirable outcomes for all Americans.
First up is education, the key to whatever success the country will find in a globalized, knowledge-based economy. Massachusetts is renowned for its higher-education institutions. Our state also has the best schools in the country. On the most basic measures of educational achievement - Massachusetts 4th and 8th graders lead the nation in reading and mathematics performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam. This is the fourth NAEP test in a row in which Massachusetts students have scored first or tied for first place. Massachusetts students continue to outperform the nation on the ACT test, an annual predictive indicator of college and career readiness for many high school graduates.
Education Week's Quality Counts 2012 report expands on this success. On their overall index, Massachusetts ranks second, to Maryland. But on two of the index's most important measures of results - a lifetime educational Chance for Success index, and a K-12 Achievement index that bundles metrics such as test results, year-on-year improvement, and the gap between poor and wealthier kids (perhaps the truest test of our fabled meritocracy) - the Bay State again leads the nation.
What about social well-being? It goes without saying that Massachusetts has the lowest percentage of uninsured residents - 2 percent, compared to 16 percent nationally, and a whopping 25 percent in Texas. On life expectancy, Massachusetts ties for sixth-highest, about five years longer than the worst-performing states. A few other metrics of social well-being: the Bay State has the second-lowest teen birth rate, the fourth-lowest suicide rate, the sixth-lowest obesity rate, and the lowest traffic fatality rate.
Finally, let's take a purely dollars-and-cents look at Massachusetts. No matter where you start on the political spectrum, this is the most important question, because many Americans believe we must choose between social investments and a competitive economy. So what economic sacrifices is Massachusetts making to achieve such extraordinary educational and social outcomes? None, apparently. Massachusetts has the second-highest per capita personal income among the states. Unemployment in August was 6.1 percent, well below the national 8.2 percent.
Massachusetts is looking particularly sharp when it comes to the globalized, tech-driven economy on which America's superpower standing hinges. According to a 2011 report, Massachusetts has the highest per-capita venture capital, patents, and technology licensing of 10 leading high-tech states. Worker productivity in Massachusetts (GDP per employed person) is the third-highest in the world. And research and development spending as a share of GDP in Massachusetts is higher than any country anywhere.
Massachusetts is as green as it is high-tech, and recently displaced California as the nation's most energy-efficient state. No surprise, then, that the Kauffman Foundation put Massachusetts at the top of its New Economy Index. More surprising, perhaps, is CNBC's index of America's top states for business.
Massachusetts has achieved its highest credit standing in history (Standard and Poor and Fitch both rank AA+, Moody's Aa1) making our critical investments in our schools, roads and bridges, and housing more affordable. We, in the Legislature, have shown that you can still invest in our future while balancing the books, and that doing both is the best way to better times.
All of this isn't to suggest that the Bay State doesn't have problems. While the state is among the lowest for property crime, it ranks considerably worse on violent crime. On a recent corruption risk report card by the Center for Public Integrity, it ranked 12th - nice, a "gentleman's C" but not yet an A. While its unemployment figure handily beats the national number, but 14 states do better. And, what you've all been wondering about: Massachusetts has high taxes, though perhaps not as lofty as reputed. It ranks 11th-highest (and at 10 percent, only barely above the national average of 9.8 percent).
In fact, if America wants to be a healthy, smart, rich, globalized, high-tech powerhouse, there is no better model than Massachusetts. So when someone bashes our state, tell them how well we're doing on so many important fronts.
Senator Richard T. Moore represents fourteen towns in South Central Massachusetts in the Massachusetts State Senate. In addition to chairing the Committee on Health Care Financing, he serves on the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies and the Committee on Tourism, the Arts and Cultural Development.