In Maryland Wednesday, Perry visited a Beretta USA gun factory, then appeared on CNN to debate Gov. Martin O’Malley in what turned out to be less of an argument than an exchange of rankings: where Texas and Maryland stand on the list of 50 states in job creation, median income and other employment related statistics. In recent days, Perry has run ads in Maryland encouraging companies to move to Texas.
To be clear, Texas is a job-creating machine, as this chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows. And Perry can take credit for having passed tort-limiting laws and running a tax write-off program that he claims has tempted businesses to his state. (The evidence is thin that those programs did much, though some of the tax breaks did make their way to companies that finance Perry’s campaigns).
The fact is, companies don’t pick up and move across the country for tax breaks alone or to protect themselves from potential lawsuits. They move because the business environment is better and because they can make more money. In Texas there are some specific conditions that make it so, economists at the Dallas Fed and elsewhere say, and none of them have to do with Rick Perry.
As I wrote last May, rather, they’re the result primarily of three things: geology, demography and geography:
First geology. You’ve heard that Texas has oil and gas. Well, thanks to the technological leaps allowing the extraction of oil and gas from shale formations, Texas has a lot more of both. From 2011-12 its Eagle Ford shale formation tripled its oil output, and oil production statewide could double by 2020.
Next, demography. Texas has benefited from that biggest of political hot potatoes, immigration. Rather than being a drag on the state’s economy, the steady influx of workers has fueled growth–according to economists [pdf] at the Dallas Federal Reserve–giving the state new, eager workers across a variety of employment areas.
Finally, Texas has benefited from geography. With its long land border with Mexico and its port access to the Gulf, Texas is a trade giant with Latin America, which has been on a GDP winning streak for all but one year of the last decade.
All of which casts Rick Perry’s arguments that his state is setting an example of job creation for the rest of the country in a different light. On CNN Wednesday, Perry said, “This issue’s really about who has the best idea about how to grow America how to put Americans to work.” Unless Perry is claiming his policies would create more oil and gas, spike immigration or change the established borders of the United States, he might better serve Texans, and America, by cutting the amount of taxpayer-funded job posturing he engages in.