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Rick Perry's Campaign Strategy? Distorting His Abysmal Economic Record

Get ready for a boat-load of spin.

Rick Perry's strategy for winning the GOP nomination – and then the White House – is simple: he'll try to get there by wildly distorting his abysmal economic record as governor of Texas beyond all recognition. The spin started even before he announced his candidacy on Saturday, when right-wing blogger Erick Erickson introduced him as the governor who had created 40 percent of all the new jobs in the U.S. since the “recovery” began. During the announcement, Perry went on to talk about “jobs” 11 more times.

Rick Perry can't tell the truth about his economic record. That's because, more than any other single factor, he has immigration to thank for those numbers – most of it from Mexico, and a large share of it unauthorized. You can't win the Republican nomination by bragging about being one of the states that has seen the biggest rise in Mexican immigrants during your tenure, and even if you could, it's not an economic model for the country as a whole as Mexican immigration has now slowed to a trickle.

At a June fundraiser, Perry told a group of Republican fat-cats that in his state that “you don't have to use your imagination, saying, 'What'll happen if we apply this or that conservative principle?' You just need to look around, because they've been in play across our state for years, generating real results.” On this point, Perry's correct – Texas has been a model for conservative governance under his watch. 

The results are hardly encouraging. Let's take a closer look at the “Texas Miracle” that we're going to be hearing so much nonsense about it in the months to come. As I wrote back in June, the reality is that Texas is not only a complete basket case, it would be faring far worse today without the help of policies enacted by Democrats at the federal level – policies Perry lambasted as "irresponsible spending that threatens our future."

The kernel of truth on which the tale of the Texas Miracle is built is that the state has in fact added a lot of jobs over the past decade. In a gushing lead editorial, the Wall Street Journal noted that “37% of all net new American jobs since the recovery began were created in Texas.” The Journal then spun that fact like this:

Capital—both human and investment—is highly mobile, and it migrates all the time to the places where the opportunities are larger and the burdens are lower. Texas has no state income tax. Its regulatory conditions are contained and flexible. It is fiscally responsible and government is small. Its right-to-work law doesn't impose unions on businesses or employees.

In the Journal's hyper-partisan view, the lesson to be learned is that “the core impulse of Obamanomics is to make America less like Texas and more like California, with more government, more unions, more central planning, higher taxes.” That spin was echoed during last week's GOP debate by none other than Newt Gingrich, who asked, “Why [would] you want to be at California's unemployment level when you can be [at] Texas's employment level?”

James Galbraith, an economist at the University of Texas, scoffed at the whole narrative when I spoke to him in June, saying, “Texas has been a low-tax, low-service state since the time of the Republic,” and noting that it's “therefore impossible that this fact suddenly accounts for its better job performance over the past few years.”

“Texas is an energy state benefiting from high oil prices and the incipient boom in natural gas,” explained Galbraith. “That's an accident of nature.” He added that the state “went through the S&L crisis, had major criminal prosecutions and more restrictive housing finance regulations this time around; hence it was not an epicenter of the subprime housing disaster. That's called a learning experience.” Tighter regulation of the lending industry is also anathema to today's GOP.

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