News & Politics

21 Reasons Rick Perry's Texas Is a Complete Disaster

Third World status – the real promise of a Rick Perry administration – shouldn't be a goal to which the United States aspires.

Rick Perry's road to the White House will be paved with spin and blatant lies of omission. He's basing his entire campaign on a single data-point: Texas, with 10 percent of the country's population, has produced 37 percent of net new jobs in the U.S. since the recovery.

That kernel of truth, as I noted recently, is mostly a result of a massive increase in the state's population – much of it due to Hispanic immigration. Texas' unemployment rate has actually risen even as those jobs were being created. Texas also leads the nation in creating crappy minimum wage jobs without benefits – the number of minimum wage workers increased by 150 percent between 2007 and 2010.

He also lucked into a boom in energy prices in his oil and gas-rich state – another factor having nothing to do with his governance.

Under Perry, endless tax breaks for politically connected Texas corporations helped create a massive budget deficit that Perry first addressed with federal stimulus funds – money from a program he decried as a “misguided” desire “to spend our children’s inheritance” -- and then by cutting spending on education and the state's already threadbare social services to the bone. With the exception of a few economic basket-cases like Mississippi, Texas is way ahead of the pack in the race to the bottom.

Rick Perry's line on this is obviously quite different. In announcing his candidacy last weekend, the governor bragged that “we have led Texas based on some just really pretty simple guiding principles. One is don’t spend all of the money. Two is keeping the taxes low and under control. Three is you have your regulatory climate fair and predictable. Four is reform the legal system so frivolous lawsuits don’t paralyze employers that are trying to create jobs. Over the years, we have followed this recipe to produce the strongest economy in the nation.”

This talking-point is being echoed across the conservative message machine. The Wall Street Journal editorialized 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.” In May, Newt Gingrich told Fox News host Sean Hannity, "I know how to get the whole country to resemble Texas.”

It's a terrifying thought. Looking at the number of jobs a state has added in isolation is deeply misleading; we don't only face a jobs crisis in this nation, we face a crisis of rising economic insecurity. The American middle class is embattled, and keeping up with population growth by adding jobs serving up fast-food and greeting Walmart shoppers doesn't help ameliorate the kind of economic pain millions of Americans are suffering.

So, to add some perspective, let's take a broader look at how Texans are faring under Rick Perry's watch. (Several of the following items were compiled by Peter Montgomery at Right-Wing Watch.)

1. Texas leads the nation in the percentage of its population without health insurance (2010).

2. Only one state covered a smaller share of its poor population with Medicaid (PDF).

3. It's also number 1 in the percentage of children who lack insurance (2009).

4. Texas ranks dead last in the number of women who receive early prenatal care (2010).

5. It has the sixth highest rate of infectious diseases in America (2010).

6. It ranked 35th in the share of its children being immunized (2010)...

7. ...And 40th in overall health (2010).

8. Those numbers shouldn't come as a surprise – Texas had the ninth lowest level of health care spending per person (2010).

9. Texas ranked 36th in the nation in terms of its high school graduation rate (2010).

10. It has the lowest share of the population aged 25 and older holding a high-school diploma of any state (2008).

11. Its students have the sixth lowest SAT scores in the country (2008).

12. But Texas ranks fourth in terms of teen pregnancies (2005).

13. It's got the 16th highest crime rate (2010).

14. It ranks 17th in occupational fatalities (2010).

15. It's tied (with Missouri) for 19th in terms of the share of its citizens requiring food-stamps (2009).

16. It leads the nation in the amount of recognized carcinogens released into the air (2002).

17. Has the fourth highest amount of toxic chemicals in the environment (2002).

18. Texas’ per capita income growth was the eighth slowest of any state in the country between 1998 and 2008.

19. It ranks 47th median household net worth (averaged from 2007 to 2009).

20. Only seven states have a higher percentage of children in poverty (2010), and ...

21. ... Only nine states have a higher percentage of people of all ages living below the poverty line (2008).

This is what conservative governance leads to – slow growth, poor social outcomes, greater inequality and fewer protections for workers and the environment.

And that is indeed what the right would like to see imposed on the nation as a whole.

In March, Republican staffers on Congress's Joint Economic Committee released the study responding to criticism that the deep public sector cuts they advocated would derail an already anemic “recovery.” The paper called for “decreasing the number and compensation of government workers,” which the staffers said would spur job creation because “a smaller government workforce increases the available supply of educated, skilled workers for private firms, thus lowering labor costs.”

So, a central plank in the GOP's economic recovery plan is to flood the market with yet more unemployed people in order to drive wages (which have stagnated for an extended period) further down.

In theory, an unhealthy, poorly educated population earning poverty wages in a country with low taxes, minimal environmental regulation and crappy public services would indeed lead multinationals to create more jobs here at home, but Third World status – the real promise of a Rick Perry administration – shouldn't be a goal to which the United States aspires.