It is unfathomable that yet another Texas blowhard governor has emerged as a front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination. The persistent appeal of the mythology of Texas as a model for the nation defies the lessons of logic and experience, and yet here we are with Rick Perry, a George W. Bush look-alike, as a prime contender to once again run our nation into the ground.
To begin with, Texas is not and never will be a model for the nation unless the other states discover similarly rich deposits of oil and natural gas that account for one-third of jobs and supply 40 percent of tax revenues within those states. If Texas energy receipts and jobs helped float Gov. Bush's reputation, they have been nothing short of miraculous for Perry's tenure. The price of oil rose from $25 a barrel when Lt. Gov. Perry replaced the newly elected President Bush to $147 in 2008 and has stayed at more than $80 a barrel since, to the dismay of anyone who has to buy gasoline.
In addition, thanks to breakthroughs in oil field technology that Perry had nothing to do with, there have been controversial new drilling techniques that have vastly expanded the exploitation of gas and oil reserves, producing many of the new jobs that the Texas governor claims. For a relatively ineffectual governor, in a state in which the part-time Legislature holds the power, to take credit for this job boom is as ludicrous as a Saudi prince bragging of his entrepreneurial skills as the source of royal wealth.
Unfortunately, the boom in the energy industry has not spread to those in the state stuck in less lucrative sectors of the economy. Texas remains tied with Mississippi for the largest number of workers earning wages equal to or less than the federal minimum wage. This is particularly true for the majority of nonwhite Texans, who account for a good portion of the state population increase that Perry brags about. It will be interesting to see how he handles the immigration issue in light of the fact that the manufacturing sector, particularly automobiles, is dependent on robust traffic of parts and workers across the border from Mexico.