Is Texas Responsible for Half the Country's Job Growth?
They say that everything comes a little larger in Texas. And for the last decade, the creation of jobs has been as fundamental an aspect of the oversize Lone Star culture as the roasts on the ranch.
There's no more powerful political weapon in America than a record of generating jobs, and Republican governors have embraced the Texas example as their own. Taking to the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, Virginia Governor Bob McConnell, the current vice chair of the Republican Governors Association, says observers should have little difficulty spotting the winner over a decade that has seen its fair share of challenges, from September 11 to the financial crisis.
"Look no further than growing and diverse Texas, a state Democrats targeted in 2010, where data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that under Gov. Rick Perry's leadership the state has created more jobs over the last decade than the rest of the states combined. That's a record of job creation the Obama administration can only dream about," he wrote in his essay published on June 25.
Perry, currently considering a run for the White House, has led Texas since 2001, when he took over from George W. Bush, who left Austin to become the 43rd president.
The claim of "more jobs over the last decade than the rest of the states combined" is based on the following data analysis: Texas had a net gain of 907,000 jobs between December 2000 and December 2010. The entire payroll in the U.S. grew by 1.6 million jobs during the span, as PolitiFact, the fact-check project, puts it.
"Texas is quite a low-regulation state. It's cheaper to do business here than quite a few other states," Mine Yucel, senior economist and vice president with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas says in an interview with ABC News.
The nation's woes at the gas pump are also being credited for boosting the Texan economy. Just two years ago, in 2009, the average price of gas was $2.35 per gallon. That figure now stands at $3.60, providing additional revenue for the state.
Observers are also tipping their hat to Perry, with a specific nod to the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) he created in 2003. The low-tax incentives program established by the TEF has helped generate 58,000 jobs, according to ABC News. Indeed, the state's drive to diversify its workforce into private sector categories including financial and technology services has also been lauded for helping spur the jobs growth.
But while few would outright deny the Texas success story, critics are saying the reality is cause for more of a Texas mosey than a full-on cowboy swagger.
For its part, PolitiFact takes issue with the "more than the rest of the states combined" contention. The reality of the claim is that it only holds up when comparing Texas to states that have also had a net positive job gain over the last decade, leaving out the other 31 states of the Union. So while California may not be in the black since 2000, it has no doubt seen job growth in many sectors. (Just 10 years ago, "facebook" was not a company creating jobs in Silicon Valley, but a hardcover book of profile pictures given to college freshmen.)
Commentators are taking pains to question the claim, surely to be used in any presidential run by Rick Perry.
"To say it's misleading is to be kind," Michael Brandl, a professor at the University of Texas-Austin's business school, has told PolitiFact in the past. "It's just not true."
Moreover, critics also say that the jobs numbers must be appreciated in the context of other economic factors in Texas. The rule requiring the budget to be balanced every two years has led to cuts in education and public services at a similarly Texas-sized clip.
Indeed, Texas has the highest rate of uninsured workers in the nation at 27.4%, according to research conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in conjunction with the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota.
Such a stat certainly forces the classic Texas question about those bragging of the state's success: Are they all cattle or just all hat?
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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