Perry’s ‘jobs machine’ just a mirage

By Matt Watson

Once Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination this summer, a buzz over the “Texas jobs machine” started up in political circles and commentaries. The charismatic, coyote-shooting, bible-thumping George W. Bush clone has since jumped to the top of the polls in the Republican field, surpassing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and replacing U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann as the leading Tea Party favorite.

Since the official end of the recession in 2009, 40 percent of the new jobs created in the U.S. have been in Texas. A survey of corporate executives released on Sept.19 showed Texas had the best business climate of any state, with Illinois trailing at third worst. Perry wears his “one million jobs created during my tenure” slogan like a badge of honor, and rightly so. The numbers are impressive. Numbers, though, can be very deceiving.

What lies behind the glimmering facade of Texas’ low-tax and lower-regulation capitalism isn’t the view Perry would like voters to see. Texans love their superlatives, and a surprising counterpoint to the state’s impressive job creation record is its abysmal poverty rate, which stood at 18.4 percent in 2010, the third highest in the nation. The national average is 15.1 percent.

The Lone Star State is also No.1 in people without health insurance, with 27 percent of the population lacking coverage. The divergent scenes of job-creation paradise and poverty-stricken desert are due to a number of factors. For one, many of Perry’s “million jobs” are low-paying, hourly wage positions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 550,000 Texans are paid below the federal minimum wage of $7.25. These jobs generally do not give benefits such as health insurance.

Adding to the wealth gap, Texas has one of the lowest rates of spending per capita on its citizens, with few safety nets for the poor. It has one of the tightest income limits—12 percent of poverty level—to qualify for federal cash assistance and among the most meager benefits—$260 a month for a family of three—according to the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

Perry brags of companies swarming to his state, opening new plants and creating jobs faster than he can count. He attributes this to the state’s low taxes, laissez-faire regulation and lack of “job killing” unions.

This idea of coaxing companies to move from state to state works fine that way, as a sort of race to the bottom technique. A company will hire workers wherever it’s the cheapest. But in the big picture, America cannot compete by drawing jobs away from other industrialized nations the same way, unless we want to compete with Mexico, China and Indonesia for $1-a-day jobs in sweatshops. In Perry’s eyes, though, that’s still job creation, so don’t rule it out.

What’s happened in Texas mirrors exactly what many in the GOP wish for the entire nation: low taxes, no regulation and complete free market reign. The wealth gap, already widening at an accelerating rate, would explode. The middle class would disappear. The U.S. would go back to the days of the Gilded Age, when a few extraordinarily wealthy business moguls owned nearly everything, and their workers toiled in an awful abyss, never to escape and achieve the American Dream. This would be Perry’s


Illinois might be ranked 48th in business climate based on arbitrary measures such as taxes and regulation, but the state has a higher median income and GDP per-capita than Texas. For that matter, No. 49 (New York) and No. 50 (California) do as well. Unions here protect workers from being underpaid, and higher taxes ensure that citizens receive needed government services like health care and public transportation. These states have by far a better standard of living than Texas and much lower

poverty levels.

Because a slew of Wal-Marts and McDonalds popped up across the increasingly populated state, Perry gets to brag of being the king of jobs. But voters need to look past the mirage and see what really lies in store for them if he is elected president. What kind of America would it be if the last 80 years of worker’s rights and progressive social safety nets were discarded in favor of policies that protect the wealthiest citizens and largest corporations? It certainly wouldn’t be the land of opportunity, unless you’re Rick Perry.