Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Perry is eager to tout his accomplishments as Texas’ longest reigning governor. Not a moment goes by without Perry telling us that since June of 2009 37% of all job growth in the country occurred in Texas under his stewardship. (His droning is reminiscent of Rudy Giuliani‘s 2008 campaign when the former New York mayor couldn’t go five minutes without saying “911”. But we digress.) He tells us that his outstanding record for job growth is the result of his policies to lower spending, reduce taxes and minimize regulation; all of which he says draws business to his state and allows them to prosper. Perry is also more than happy to talk to us about the “transparency", fairness” and “honesty” of his administration. He wants us to know that he abhors the “smoke and mirrors” and “back room shenanigans” that he says are rampant in the Obama Administration; and he promises that all of that will stop if he is elected President. Sounds great!
Unfortunately a look behind the curtain of his administration finds things are not quite as rosy as the governor would have us believe.
Let’s start with job growth. Governor Perry’s Texas sits across the border from Mexico. Over 50 million Mexicans have poured over that border in search of work and a new life. They are willing to work for anything because anything is better than they had back home. Consequently Texans have taken advantage this vast labor pool to hire immigrants at low minimum wages. Texas leads the country in minimum wage jobs. These immigrants often have families with children that enter the country with them. Texas leads the country in the number of children living without health care. Poverty level wages, no benefits and poor health conditions…something Perry can be proud of.
Texas sits on a vast oil reserve. The skyrocketing price of crude is bad for most Americans but good for Texas. The thriving oil industry in the state attracts businesses and workers from surrounding states; a zero sum gain for the country but again…good for Texas.
Studies show that Texas has realized a net job growth of 75,000 jobs since 2008. Its rate unemployment rate stands at 8.2%. To be fair both figures are better than the national average.
But even with a thriving oil industry Texas has had difficulty stemming the decrease in private sector jobs.
So how does Texas show a net job growth if private sector jobs are on the decline? Government!Governor Perry wants to talk about small government but without government Texas would have no job growth at all. The state has lost 40,000 private sector jobs since 2008 while government provided jobs increased 115,000 over that same period; a net job growth of 75,000. Federal government jobs increase 7%; state government jobs increased 8.4% and local government jobs increased 6%.
To summarize, the job growth in Texas is not the result of low taxes, reduced spending and minimal regulation as Perry would have us believe. It is because Texas has the good fortune to sit atop a precious natural energy source and alongside an unlimited source of cheap labor. This geographic boondoggle and an influx of 115,000 government jobs have provided Perry with his success. Perry owes his state’s job growth to good fortune not good management.
Now let’s examine the transparency, honesty and fairness in government that Perry professes to practice.
Perry has gone on record several times in his criticism of Obama’s stimulus plan. He said the stimulus was just another attempt by the federal government to circumvent state’s rights and he suggested that Texas might secede from the union if Washington it didn’t stop its overreaching, free spending ways. The entire time Governor Perry was railing against the stimulus he applied for and received over $17 billion in stimulus funding for Texas projects…second only to California. The Governor can thank Obama’s stimulus money in part for the surplus that he so proudly proclaims.
The governor likes to brag that he and his minions have been so frugal that Texas has built up a $6 billion dollar “Rainy Day Fund.” One then wonders why if the governor had a rainy day fund he would cut $5 billion in education. After all Texas has the highest high school dropout rate in the nation and ranks along with Alabama and Mississippi as one of the worst states in educating its children. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan has said he: “feels sorry for the children in Texas. They are not being prepared for college.” It would seem that Texas could ill afford to cut its education budget.
We now know from sources inside the Perry administration that the rainy day fund could not be used for education because it was earmarked to backstop the state’s Medicaid fund. It seems the state intentionally underfunded Medicaid to improve the books knowing full well that it would have to use the rainy day fund to backstop the program. This is the type of honesty and transparency the Perry promises to bring to Washington.
The list goes on.
The governor is a savvy politician and an accomplished fund raiser. Due to Perry’s decade long term as governor he has had the opportunity to stock the government with loyalists eager to do his bidding. He has appointed roughly 4,000 individuals to state posts and enacted policies that have benefited allies and contributors. Backroom deals are commonplace. Perry has raised more than $17 million in campaign contributions from more than 900 appointees or their spouses, roughly one dollar out of every five the governor has raised. Perry takes care of those who contribute to his cause; the greater the contribution the headier the appointment. Make no mistake that these pay for play appointments go on in governments all across the country and nowhere are they more prevalent than in Washington DC. It is Perry’s protestations that he is somehow any different that is so hypocritical.
Rick Perry is a good looking guy with a big smile and a good head of hair. When you pull back the curtain that’s all there is.