Thursday, December 12, 2013
By MICHAEL A. FLETCHER The Washington Post
LONGVIEW, Texas — Texas Gov. Rick Perry has leapfrogged to the top tier of Republican presidential candidates largely on the strength of one compelling fact: During more than a decade as governor, his state created more than a million jobs, while the nation as a whole lost 1.4 million jobs.
Perry says the “Texas miracle” rests on conservative pillars that he would bring to the White House: minimal regulation and government, low taxes and a determination to limit the reach of Uncle Sam.
What he does not say is that much of that job growth has come because of government, not in spite of it.
With a young and fast-growing population, a large and expanding military presence and federal stimulus money, the number of government jobs in Texas has grown at more than double the rate of private-sector employment during Perry’s tenure.
The disparity has grown even sharper since the national recession hit.
From December 2007 to last June, private-sector employment in Texas has fallen by 0.6 percent, while public-sector jobs rose by 6.4 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, government employees account for about one-sixth of the workers in Texas.
The significant role of government in Texas’ relative prosperity stands in stark contrast to the “go-it-alone” image cultivated by Perry, who credits the lack of government interference for fostering a business-friendly environment in Texas.
“The fact is, government doesn’t create jobs, otherwise the last 2 years of stimulus would have worked,” Perry said earlier this month in a speech to the National Council of State Legislatures.
“Government can only create the environment that allows the private sector to create jobs. The single most important contributor to our jobs-friendly climate here in Texas is our low tax burden, because we know dollars do far more to create jobs and prosperity in the people’s hands than they do in the government’s.”
In announcing his candidacy for president last weekend, Perry said he would “work every day to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can.”
Mark Miner, a Perry spokesman, said the governor’s job-creation record speaks for itself. He also said the state received less per capita – roughly $1,000 per resident, versus more than $1,400 in New York and $1,200 in California – than most other states from the stimulus plan, while still producing more jobs.
Analysts call the growth in government employment in Texas a natural consequence of Texas’ surging population, which has grown by more than 20 percent in the past decade to 25.1 million. That increase has caused local governments and school systems to hire more teachers, budget analysts, compliance officers and police officers.
“A lot of growth has been happening in the public sector to respond to a growing population,” said Don Baylor Jr., a senior policy analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a research and advocacy group in Austin. “That has been an ongoing driver of our job growth.”
Baylor warned that the growth in government jobs may shortly come to an abrupt halt, when state budget cuts take effect later this year. In July, a dip in government jobs contributed to a spike in the state’s unemployment rate, which went from 8.2 to 8.4 percent.
The Texas economy also has benefited from huge sums spent by the federal government.
The state is home to several large military installations as well as NASA, which helped Texas reap more than $227 billion in federal spending in 2009 – more than double its 2001 total, according to the Census Bureau.
Texas is the nation’s second most populous state, behind California, where the federal government spent almost $346 billion in 2009.
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