There’s going to be a lot of messing with Texas in the coming months. Whether you think Texas Governor Rick Perry is the best thing since sliced Texas toast or worry that he would be the worst possible nominee for the Republicans, the question of how Texas created new jobs while the rest of the country struggled is one of great importance as we search for a way out of our economic plight.
Why did Texas create 37 percent of the new jobs nationwide after the recovery officially began in June 2009 (one gets the dreadful feeling another recession could officially begin any minute)? The Dallas Fed has estimated that without Texas, job growth in the U.S. would have been 0.97 per cent instead of 1.17 percent.
If you are waiting for the glad hosannas of a grateful nation, you can stop right now. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman was one of the first to throw down the gauntlet when he debunked what he sneeringly called “the Texas myth:”
So what you need to know is that the Texas miracle is a myth, and more broadly that Texan experience offers no useful lessons on how to restore national full employment.
The Wall Street Journal today has an editorial on the “Texas jobs panic” that has spread among people who share Mr. Krugman’s economic principles (he wanted a larger stimulus). It begins:
Rick Perry is not the subtlest politician, but he looks like Pericles next to the liberals falling over themselves to discredit job creation in Texas.
The editorial cites as positive factors Texas’s tort reform, which has triggered an influx of new doctors into the Lone Star state. But it doesn’t let Texas debunkers off with their claims that Texas has grown because it has an energy business (the U.S. could, too, if the administration weren’t so moratoria-happy):
The Texas skeptics often invoke high energy prices, as if Texas were some sheikdom next to Mexico. But according to the Dallas Fed study, energy jobs accounted for only 10.6% of the new positions. The state economy today is far more broadly based than it was before the early-1980s oil-and-gas bust. For the last nine years, Texas has led the states in exports.
To put a finer point on it, the energy industry isn’t expanding merely because of rising oil prices or new natural resources. Technological innovation is also driving the business, such as the horizontal drilling that has enabled shale oil and gas fracking. New ideas are how an economy expands.
Another argument against the Texas miracle is that it is built on nothing more than the state’s growing population. The editorial notes:
Some of this Texas growth is due to high birth rates, some to immigration. But it also reflects the flight of people from other states. People and capital are mobile and move where the opportunities are greatest. Texas is attractive to workers and employers alike because of its low costs of living and doing business. The government in Austin is small, taxes are low, regulation is stable, and the litigation system is more predictable after Mr. Perry’s tort reforms-all of which is a magnet for private investment and hiring.
Meanwhile, President Obama blames our national economic woes on bad luck. I expect his plan, to be presented after the Vineyard idyll ends, will be very different from Perry’s. The Journal is right-Perry is no Pericles. But he knows what government must do to create a job: get the heck out of the way.