“Rick Perry: time to fact-check the media myth” by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

Driving down to Cohasset for a party celebrating Polly Logan, the 85 year old progressive-minded grande dame and happy warrior of Massachusetts Republican politics, on the same day as the Iowa Straw Poll, my husband and I talked about how far the Republican Party has shifted from the days of Frank Sargent, Ed Brooke, John Buckley, Nick Nikitas, Jacob Javits, Charlie Goodel, Tom Kuchel, Nelson Rockefeller, Leverett Saltonstall and Mark Hatfield. Even Richard Nixon, were he running in 2012 for Congress or the Presidency would likely have a challenger from his right.

And now Texas Governor Rick Perry is joining the fray likely as Mitt Romney’s strongest rival. But who is Rick Perry, the part-time evangelist and decade plus-long incumbent whose unexamined record of job creation and “Texas exceptionalism” writers like George Will swoon over?

I first wrote about Perry last September, after meeting him in Dallas, and I’ve become increasingly puzzled why so many in the media continue to give him and his record a free ride. The chattering class opine about Perry’s liabilities on personal style and misrepresent his record on economic issues. Perhaps Mitt Romney will organize a truth squad to follow Perry around, passing out articles like the National Journal “Rick Perry and the Texas Way”) and pointing to the following:

There is a lot less to Perry’s record on jobs than meets close scrutiny… and a lot less to emulate. He touts his record of job creation, producing more jobs than any other state, and even adding jobs during the recession. But Texas has benefitted mightily from the growth of its oil and gas industries and the spectacular jump in energy prices. We should remember that Alaska, Wyoming and North Dakota, also large oil and gas producers, all have even faster job growth rates than Texas.

And while Texas unemployment rate (8.2%) is less than the national average, it’s worse than that of 24 other states, including Massachusetts. (7.6 %)

And what kinds of jobs are being created in Texas? Yes, there are skilled jobs in the health, energy and other sectors. But its greatest job growth has been in positions needing cheap and unskilled labor, often coming without any benefits. And Perry hasn’t talked about how many of these celebrated jobs are being held by “ illegal aliens.” These are the jobs of the future? Perry may have successfully lured out-of- state firms to Texas because of low taxes and lax regulation, but he has lagged in growing a skilled workforce at home.

Texas has intentionally chosen not to invest in education. When faced with a $27 billion dollar budget deficit, it cut $4 billion from education programs, rather than dip into the state’s “rainy day” fund or raise taxes. Texas’ rank in per-pupil spending (2001-2008) dropped from 34th to 42nd in the nation. Texas is 50th, dead last, in high school graduation rate. And its college graduation rate is only 25.5% (#30), while Massachusetts ranks first, with 38.2%.

In 2009 the Select Commission on Higher Education and Global Competitiveness, appointed in part by Governor Perry, concluded that Texas “is not globally competitive” and “faces a downward spiral in both quality of life and economic competitiveness if it fails to educate more of its growing population (both youth and adults) to higher levels of attainment, knowledge and skills. The rate at which educational capacity is currently being developed is woefully inadequate.” This was the same conclusion reached by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in its 2005 study, “Closing the Gaps.” Perry’s draconian budget cuts this year only made matters worse. Who will ask him about this on the stump?

We all have images of Texas’ glittering wealth and think of Alabama, Mississippi and West Virginia at the other end of the spectrum. But all three of those relatively poor states have a greater share of its residents with health insurance. Texas is last; Massachusetts is first. And, in different surveys, Texas ranks last or next to last in share of children covered by health insurance. I wonder if Romney will point out how many in Texas use emergency rooms as their primary care providers? Maybe the two can debate health care “free riders” as exemplary self-reliant and responsible entrepreneurs?

It’s time to nail hypocrites like Perry who boast of balancing their budgets without raising taxes or using their emergency funds—but accepted over $6 billion in federal stimulus funds to close the gap! Anderson Cooper fact-checking Perry’s record, pointed out that, on the day Perry requested the federal stimulus money, “he released a post on his website telling voters to oppose the recovery act.”

Perry, announcing his candidacy for President, said: When the state faced a huge budget shortfall this year, “we worked hard, we made tough decisions, we balanced our budget. Not by raising taxes but by setting priorities and cutting government spending.”

The Dallas News provided the needed context, explaining: “The state always balances its budget, as required under the Texas Constitution. But to accomplish it, lawmakers made deep cuts to health care, education, prisons and other state programs. The state also deferred many payments that will almost certainly mean a similar budget problem in 2013.”

We need more of this kind of journalism. The Texas economic myths and budget shortfall sleight of hand won’t just be Perry’s problem if he becomes President.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Polly Logan photo Channel 7