Rick Perry’s record as a jobs creator in Texas was contested by other Republican presidential candidates during a primary debate in Tampa, Florida on Monday. Although Texas added 260,000 jobs in the last two years, nearly half of those created nationwide, the other conservatives wondered whether the governor was totally responsible for that.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who was perceived as the frontrunner before Perry entered the race, pointed out that Texas has no income tax, right to work laws that prohibit forced unionization, a Republican legislature and “oil in the ground. Those things are terrific,” he said but Perry didn’t have anything to do with them.
Texas congressman Ron Paul was also critical of the governor’s supposedly spendthrift administration. Property tax rates were cut during Perry’s tenure while Texans’ state and local tax burden is among the lowest in the country. Nevertheless, as the southern state boasted solid economic expansion during the previous decade, its tax revenue increased. It didn’t double, as Paul suggested, but rose from $55 billion in 2000, when Perry took office, to $62.5 billion last year. Local tax revenue increased from $47 to $76 billion. As a percentage of Texas’ gross domestic product, both tax burdens actually decreased, from a total of 14 percent in 2000 to 12 percent in 2010.
Perry made no apologies for his record although he failed to mention that he only managed to balance his state’s budget by accepting financial aid from the very federal stimulus he so lambasted. “There’s still a land of freedom in America,” he said, “freedom from overtaxation, freedom from overlitigation and freedom from overregulation and it’s called Texas.”
One week into his campaign, Perry had suggested that Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke might be tried for “treason” in Texas because he injected hundreds of billions of dollars into the financial system to provide liquidity which has decreased the value of the dollar.
During Monday’s debate, he reiterated that sentiment. “Allowing the Federal Reserve to be used for political purposes […] would be almost treasonous,” he said before cautioning that the lack of transparency in the central bank’s decisionmaking process made it impossible to determine with certainty whether it is indeed “covering up bad fiscal policy.”
The Republican candidates reserved their fiercest criticism for President Barack Obama. Perry criticized a second stimulus package proposed by the president in his address to Congress last week that would extend payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance and invest billions in infrastructure and education. The president “had $800 billion worth of stimulus in the first round,” he said. “It created zero jobs. Four hundred plus billion in this package, and I can do the math on that one. Half of zero jobs is going to be zero jobs.”