Some thoughts on why Rick Perry may not be the most competitive candidate for the general election campaign.
1. Perry’s claims of creating a million jobs don’t stand up to scrutiny.
Because the number of jobs in Texas rose from 9,537,900 in December 2000 to 10,619,800 in July 2011, Perry claims to be responsible for creating 1.08 million jobs since he became governor.
Even if we grant that he is personally responsible for creating these jobs, a deeper examination of these numbers shows that they provide nothing to crow about:
- From December 2000 to July 2011, there was an increase of 11.3% in the number of jobs in Texas;
- During the decade Perry has been governor, the Texas population grew 20.6%, nearly twice the rate that jobs were created;
- The net result is that the unemployment rate increased from its all-time low of 4.2% in January 2001 (the month after Perry became governor) to its current level of 8.5% (which is the highest it has been since the record of 9.3% was set in November 1986).
With Perry, there’s a lot to be nervous about. Even if his “provocative language” appeals to conservatives in the Republican Party, they may just find out that he doesn’t have the ability to generate traction in a general election campaign, in which he would need to impress more than just the great state of Texas.
2. Perry’s government subsidy of banks doesn’t inspire confidence in his financial acumen.
An AP article reported that – under Perry’s leadership – Texas subsidized two of the banks that were major contributors to the subprime lending crisis (Countrywide and Washington Mutual) to the tune of $35 million. The article also reported that, after receiving grants from the Texas Enterprise Fund, the two banks increased their risky lending practices, and that the two banks contributed to Perry’s campaign fund. In 2007:
As credit-rating agencies continued downgrading hundreds of billions in mortgage-backed assets on Wall Street, Perry’s spokeswoman described Texas as ‘one of the hottest housing markets in the nation’ and dismissed concerns about the looming economic implosion as ‘slightly alarmist.’
NPR reported that:
Perry has been repeatedly accused of cronyism during his time as Texas governor in which both Perry and companies doing business in or with his state appear to benefit financially from the arrangement.
The allegation that cronyism was behind his 2007 executive order to have 12-year old Texas girls receive the HPV vaccine (his former chief of staff lobbied for the drug maker Merck) is at the heart of that controversy. And there are a number of other allegations that the Texas Enterprise Fund, meant to help bring jobs to Texas, was used to reward companies linked to Perry supporters.
Given the current state of the national economy, it seems that Republicans would be better served to pick a candidate with a more impressive financial resume.
Continuing a list of reasons why Perry would struggle in a general election campaign…
3. Perry’s knowledge of foreign policy does not seem very impressive based on his performance at the Orlando debate.
When asked what he would do if the Taliban gained control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, Perry said (in a response so bad that you almost have to listen to it to believe it):
Well, obviously, before you ever get to that point, you have to build a relationship in that region. That’s one of the things that this administration has not done. Yesterday, we found out through Admiral Mullen that Haqqani has been involved with … and that’s the terrorist group directly associated with the Pakistani country. So, to have a relationship with India, to make sure that India knows that they are an ally of the United States. For instance, when we had the opportunity to sell India the upgraded F-16s, we chose not to do that. We did the same thing with Taiwan. The point is, our allies need to understand clearly that we are their friends, we will be standing by there with them.
It was good to find there was a point to his rambling answer: if our allies know that we are their friends, there will apparently be no problem if the Taliban gets access to nukes.
Compared to the logic of Perry’s garbled response, it’s a rather minor point that India chose not to buy F-16s from the US, rather than the US choosing not to sell F-16s to India.
4. Perry’s transportation policy has provided Texas the most expensive solution possible for building new roads.
According to a US Department of Transportation report, Texas leads the nation in toll road projects since 1991:
Texas has the most toll activity of any state. This is not surprising in light of the Texas DOT policy of giving priority consideration to tolls for new capacity and aggressive promotion and institutionalization of public-private partnerships.
According to an open letter posted by the Texas Tea Party PAC, traditional public toll roads in Texas charge 10-20 cents per mile, but the new style of toll roads promoted by Texas DOT “bear almost no resemblance to traditional, taxpayer-controlled turnpikes.” Characteristics of these new toll roads include: relying on “innovative financing schemes,” placing control of many Texas roads in the hands of Cintra (a multinational corporation headquartered in Spain), charging up to 75 cents per mile, and limiting competition with the new toll roads.
The Economic Policy Journal reports troubling issues with Cintra: the North Tarrant Express contract has a clause that if the project is unprofitable, the state of Texas will buy back the project. In addition, a man who served as a Perry legislative liaison when the Cintra contract was awarded worked for Cintra both before and after the period he worked for Perry.
Perry claims to favor low taxes, but – in the case of Texas transportation – he avoided a fiscally conservative pay-as-you-go approach and instead imposed a far higher price tag downstream.
Many voters may prefer the Ponzi scheme of Social Security to the Perry scheme of creative government financing.
5. In 2002, Perry promised to reform school financing, but by 2011 school financing is in such a mess that school districts in Texas are faced with signficant layoffs.
In the wake of a $4 billion reduction in school funding that was backed by Perry, a spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association has estimated that job losses at public schools could reach 49,000 by the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year. Perry disclaimed responsibility for any possible job losses, saying:
The lieutenant governor, the speaker, their colleagues aren’t going to hire or fire one teacher, as best I can tell. That is a local decision that will be made at the local districts.
And with the teacher layoffs contributing to the state’s unemployment figures, Texas now has the highest unemployment rate since 1987. It’s a small consolation that jobs have been created during Perry’s tenure, while the actual rate of unemployment has soared to 8.5%.
Perry’s record in tackling school finances does not bode well for his ability to deal with more complex financial problems such as Social Security and the national debt.