One of Rick Perry’s big selling points as a presidential candidate is his governorship of the state that has created approximately 37% of our country’s jobs since the Great Recession. That’s a very impressive number. Thus, it’s no real shocker that his opposition in the Democratic party and in the news media have been quick to try and discredit it. I wouldn’t expect anything less. That’s how politics works, and the Republicans would do the same thing if the situation was reversed.
What I do find surprising, however, is the glaring irony dripping from the talking points that critics have used to discount the jobs success in Texas. Without even realizing it, they’ve identified key components for successful job creation that the Obama administration has thus far overlooked.
Last week, Obama campaign strategist David Axlerod told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that Texas’ oil and natural gas industries, among other factors, are what contributed to the state’s economic success. Axlerod was trying to make the point that Perry’s candidacy was merely benefiting from geography, but a more meaningful point was missed here. Fossil fuel industries are incredibly successful. They create many jobs and generate a lot of tax revenue. I live in Colorado where the tapping of recently discovered oil formations is creating a large number of new jobs in this area as well.
Someone should point out to Mr. Axlerod what he and his boss rarely bother to address: Our government is actively discouraging domestic oil drilling. With drilling moratoriums in the Gulf, a refusal to open up ANWR in Alaska, and additional layers of drilling regulations, aren’t we stifling an industry that can help pull us out of this economic mess? I’m seeing this now in my own backyard. Environmentalists recently persuaded the federal government to place three Colorado wildflowers on the federal endangered and threatened species lists. Two of those species just happen to be sitting on top of massive reserves of national gas and oil shale in the northwestern region of our state. Thus, energy companies that plan to drill for these fuels face yet another hindrance in a growing list of federal regulations that slows energy production and hampers growth. Make it easier to drill and you’ll create more jobs.
Paul Krugman from the New York Times attributes Texas’s job growth to it’s rapidly rising population. He explains that with more people in the state, and a larger demand for products and services, there’s a greater need for jobs. Now, that’s a pretty unconvincing statement considering that California has maintained a high population rate while suffering from an unemployment rate higher than the national average, but let’s go with his logic for a minute… Why is Texas’ population growth rate so high? Along with illegal immigration, Krugman cites other factors, one of which is inward migration from other states. Why did all of these people move from other states to Texas? Krugman offers two reasons: 1. The low cost of living (a good point). 2. People like warm weather (a silly point). What Krugman conveniently ignored is the fact that Texas is a very business-friendly state. The Lone Star State offers low tax rates, light business regulations, and have discouraged frivolous lawsuits through tort reform. Scores of companies have relocated or expanded to Texas. In fact, Texas is home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other state. This has resulted in these companies’ employees relocating to Texas and building their families there. People have gone where the jobs are.
So if corporations are an important factor in the trickle-down demand within communities that Krugman seems to be describing, isn’t there a lesson to be learned at the federal level? Couldn’t our government attract more foreign companies to move or expand to the United States by offering a more business-friendly environment? Or at the very least, keep American companies from outsourcing? And wouldn’t that create more jobs for Americans? Make it cheaper for companies to do business and you’ll create more jobs.
Many in the news media have pointed out that hundreds of thousands of minimum-wage jobs have been created during Perry’s tenure in Texas. According to Democratic state representative Garnet Coleman, that’s not such a good thing. Coleman stated, “If you want a bad job, go to Texas”.
In times of economic peril and high unemployment, isn’t it comforting to listen to politicians and pundits dismiss successful job growth because some of those jobs are low-paying? That would be like someone lost and dehydrated in the desert criticizing a good samaritan for offering him water instead of lemonade. Does anyone think that if the biggest economic criticism of President Obama was low-wage jobs and not the unemployment rate, his approval rating would be plummeting the way it is? Texas’ minimum wage is the lowest the federal government will allow it to be – $7.25 an hour. Compare this to Nevada who has the highest minimum wage in the nation and also the highest unemployment rate. Through some sort of state exception, Wyoming’s minimum wage is even lower than Texas’ – $5.15 an hour. Wyoming’s unemployment rate is currently under 6%. Wouldn’t lowering the federal minimum wage, perhaps for a few years, entice companies to create jobs? Though not ideal, low-paying jobs are certainly better than no jobs. With the current unemployment rate for teenagers at 25% and growing, this could be a significant. Allow for a modest decrease in the minimum wage and you’ll create more jobs.
My favorite publicized downplay of job creation in Texas is the notion that federal stimulus money is responsible. David Axlerod was big on this. Yes folks, the failed stimulus that has left our national unemployment rate at more than 2% above what was estimated at this point worked nowhere else… except Texas. Please. I wish some insightful idea for job creation could come out of this assertion, but no such luck.
If the Obama administration wants to continue directing credit for Texas’s economic success away from Rick Perry, I say have at it. But they would certainly serve themselves and this country by listening to their own criticisms and creating the very environments they concede create jobs.