Texas governor and reported GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry is the nation’s greatest political con artist. His so-called Texas Miracle has been totally debunked as a fraud.
Yet Perry, with generous help from conservative business leaders, Tea Party acolytes and suddenly revved up evangelicals, will keep the con very much alive. The so-called miracle that Perry and his backers peddle is of course that Texas is the runaway national model for how to create lots of private sector jobs, with minimal government red tape and with a pittance of taxes.
It’s the state where the good times are supposedly rolling for everyone, while the bad times are piling up for everyone in every other state.
Debunking Perry’s con is easy. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics found that Texas’ jobless rate has steadily crept up in recent months, not plunged to zero as Perry would have the nation believe. Unemployment was more than 8 percent in June. New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Louisiana, Arkansas and Wisconsin, and a slew of other states beat Texas on the employment numbers.
And New York and several other states that outshined Texas did it without gutting environmental and labor regulations, slashing taxes and without with bare boned spending on education, housing, unemployment benefits and health services, as in Texas.
Even the 8 percent plus figure on Texas unemployment, though below the national jobless figure, is horribly misleading. In the state’s big cities, such as Houston, the jobless rate matches the national figure, and in rural, impoverished areas, the jobless rate soars to double digit figures. This means only one thing. More and more people in the state have sunk into or never risen out of poverty.
The quality of life indexes on Texas amply confirm that. And an increase in the number of poor people invariably translates out to more children in poverty, greater income disparities, a dearth in quality prenatal care and higher teen birth rates. Texas ranks in the bottom 10 in every one of these areas and is a rock bottom number 50 among the nation’s 50 states in the number who graduate from high school by age 25.
Then there are the types of jobs that have been created. Perry has little to say about them. And there’s a good reason. Nearly 40 percent of them are bottom rung, minimum wage retail and service industry jobs. This high figure makes Texas, along with Mississippi, one of the two hands down state leaders in the number of minimum wage workers.
There’s a good reason for that, too. Texas, like most Southern and Southwest states, is a rock solid right-to-work state. Unions are treated as virtual pariahs by Perry and GOP state officials. The result is minimal to nonexistent labor protections and pension benefits.
The same holds for health care. Texas is again the national leader in having the highest number of residents without health insurance. Only slightly more than half of the state’s construction workers that are exposed to the industry’s high hazards and incur the highest rate of injuries and fatalities is covered by workers compensation.
There’s virtually no chance any of this will change soon, and the reasons again aren’t hard to find. The state makes bare minimum investment in graduate and higher education for professional and job skills training. The state is in the bottom tier in the percentage of jobs that require a college education or degree. Yet the state officials’ penny pinching on education, health care and professional job investment hasn’t made for a bulging state treasury.
The Legislature had to scramble to close a $4 billion deficit in the current year’s budget. Texas officials did the one thing that officials everywhere are adept at doing when faced with budget deficits. They make even more slash and burn cuts in the favorite targets, education and health care, always at the expense of the poorest and neediest, and continue their all-out assault on state workers.
Here is one glaring example. State officials axed funding for pre-kindergarten programs that served about 100,000 low-income children.
The biggest reason, though, for there being little likelihood of change is who runs the state. Democrats hold majorities in a few Texas big cities, but they are an endangered species in Texas state government. The executive is run by Perry, and the state Legislature is under lockdown GOP control. In the 2010 elections the GOP took a supermajority in the state’s house and even managed to capture two Hispanic-Majority seats in south Texas.
Labor hostility, laissez faire tax and business friendliness and the scoff at regulations, are virtually the sacrosanct Holy Grail in the state Legislature and Perry’s Statehouse. Perry genuflects before the Grail deeper than nearly all the current crop of GOP presidential candidates.
Now that he’s in the presidential race, he’ll take his Texas miracle con job to the nation. The terrifying prospect is that more than a few just might buy it.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author, political analyst and an associate editor of New America Media.