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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Political and Social Thought to the Left of College Station

Governor Rick Perry is running for President. The Texas Republican may have not announced it yet, but everyone knows it. On the campaign trail Perry will undoubtedly hype his job creation record in Texas, and point to Texas’ above average weathering of the Great Recession. Perry will proclaim that he has made Texas a business friendly environment, and that low taxes and low regulation helped create jobs. While voters across the nation and the mainstream media might take his claims seriously on first glass, people in Texas know better. Perry has only made Texas a corporate friendly state, and has done it at the expensive of the poor and working class Texans.

Governor Perry recently presided over a state budget cycle during which the state faced a $27 billion budget shortfall, which Perry and the Republican majority state legislature filled through accounting gimmicks and draconian cuts to public education and health and human services. During his state of the state address he said that “Balancing our budget without raising taxes will keep us moving forward out of these tough economic times, creating more jobs and opportunity and leaving Texas more competitive than ever. As other states flounder about, oppressing their citizens with more taxes and driving away jobs with bad policy, Texas will make the right decisions, and emerge stronger.”

Except all those budget cuts are going to end up costing Texans jobs, and further weaken a social safety net that is already the weakest in the nation. According to an analysis of the Legislative Budget Board, Texas could have lost 600,000 jobs if lawmakers had adopted the budget presented by the state House, the harsh spending cuts in the budget could cost more than 263,500 private sector jobs and 343,000 government jobs. Due to cuts in public education as many as 10,000 teachers are being laid off, and according to analysis from the Center on Public Policy Priorities proposed cuts to public education will result in the loss of more than 100,000 private sector jobs.

What about the recession proof Texas? As reported by the Austin American-Statesman, while the national unemployment rate was 9.1% the Texas unemployment rate was at 8%, 23 states other states had lower unemployment rates. Perry wasn’t even a job creator before the recession. Jobs grew at about the same rate during Democrat Ann Richards' four years as governor, and they grew at faster rate during Republican George W. Bush's six years in the office than they have in Perry's decade in Austin. Even before the national recession hit in 2008, jobs grew at a slower rate in Texas under Perry than under Bush. Not to mention that according to reporting by Time, Texas has done worse than the rest of the country since the peak of national unemployment in October 2009.

Recently the Wall Street Journal Wall published an editorial hyping the Texas economy, attributing the state’s success to “its free market and business-friendly climate.” But, as the Texas Independent reports, wages in Texas lag behind its large counterparts. In 2007 the average weekly wage for Texas workers was $790, compared to $870 for New Yorkers and $850 for Californians. From December 2007 to April 2011, weekly wages in Texas increased 0.6%, compared to 2.5% in New York, 9.3% in California and 5.0% nationally. But the most striking statistic is that Texas has by far the largest number of employees working at or below the federal minimum wage compared to any state. From 2007 to 2010, the number of minimum wage workers in Texas rose from 221,000 to 550,000, an increase of nearly 150%.

The truth is that most of the new jobs in Texas haven’t been created in Texas and are not being done by Texans. Texas has been able to lure many companies away from other states, but they are bringing their own employees with them due to a lack of a highly educated workforce in Texas. Governor Perry will tell you that government doesn’t create jobs – and if he becomes president he would prove that statement right.

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