Perry touts misleading job growth stats at gathering for state legislatures

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (Mary Tuma)

Image by Matt MahurinGov. Rick Perry delivered his signature anti-Washington, states’ rights rhetoric to a packed theater at the National Conference for State Legislatures in San Antonio Wednesday, lauding Texas as the “epicenter of job growth,” pointing to 40 percent increase of new U.S. jobs created in the state as proof.

Perry has been fond of peddling that figure on his way to a likely presidential bid, but as the Texas Independent has previously reported, it’s a misleading measure of Texas’ jobs.

While the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas has said the state accounted for 37 percent of net U.S. job creation since June 2009, the number of the lowest-paying jobs in Texas has jumped drastically. The state is home to the greatest number of employees working at or below the federal minimum wage compared to any state; in 2010 about 550,000 Texans were working at or below minimum wage ($7.25 per hour in 2010). California — which Perry often is fond of comparing Texas against — has among the smallest number of minimum wage workers at less than 2 percent.

Perry’s job growth argument accounts for no state income tax, but fails to include central economic factors that influence the Texas economy such as Texas’ rich natural resources, energy and high-tech industries and successful Gulf port businesses. Also missing from his speech was mention of the structural deficit built into Texas’ budget, including the one he pushed this Legislative session that cut billions to social services, health and nursing care and public education and has left thousands unemployed.

Perry attacked what he considers federal government intrusion and suggested states — as “individual laboratories of innovation” — take full reign, echoing the anti-D.C. argument in his book, “Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington.”

“Government doesn’t create jobs, otherwise that last two and half years of stimulus woulda worked,” said Perry. “Government can only create the environment that allows the private sector to create jobs.”

The governor also took the opportunity to link the recent U.S. credit rating downgrade by Standard & Poor’s to the “culmination of reckless culture” of overzealous spending in D.C. The cuts that came with the Washington debt deal, said Perry, were not enough.

“The federal government has tried to spend its way out of this economic spiral which has only deepened the crisis, deepened our debt,” Perry said. “Until Washington understands the only true stimulus is more money in the hands of employers, as well as a restrained bureaucracy that is no longer overreaching into the workplace, our national nightmare will continue.”

Despite the $27 billion deficit the Texas Legislature faced this year, and some $15 billion in cuts to areas including basic social services and public education, Perry praised Texas for making do with $15 billion less than the previous budget while keeping taxes low and preserving the state’s Rainy Day Fund, a reserve used in times of economic crisis.

While Perry places Texas on a pedestal for job development, hundreds of thousands of jobs are expected to be lost in the next two to three years, as a result of the sweeping and historic cuts to the Texas budget, advocated by Perry.

Huge slashes to Medicaid and health and human services marked the Texas budget, as well as some $4 billion sliced from public education, forcing about 12,000 teachers out of work so far, with up to 100,000 out a job in coming months.

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