The upcoming Rick Perry media narrative: “He’s not compassionate”

As Rick Perry approaches front runner status among the Republican Presidential candidates, the mainstream media will surely begin to develop a narrative designed to damage Perry’s credibility and cast doubt on his record as governor of Texas.  My colleague Rodney Graves has already explored the truth behind the “high” 8.2% unemployment rate in Texas.  And now the MSM is busy probing another area: Rick Perry isn’t “compassionate” enough.

The Sad Facts Behind Rick Perry’s Texas Miracle

Harold Meyerson, The Washington Post

… Consider the Texas that Perry holds up to the rest of the nation for admiration. It has the fourth-highest poverty rate of any state. It tied with Mississippi last year for the highest percentage of workers in minimum-wage jobs. It ranks first in adults without high school diplomas. Twenty-six percent of Texans have no health insurance — the highest percentage of medically uninsured residents of any state. It leads the nation in the percentage of children who lack medical insurance. Texas has an inordinate number of employers who provide no insurance to their workers, partly because insurance rates are high, thanks to an absence of regulations.

Perry seems quite comfortable with the state’s lagging performance in what we might term the pursuit-of-happiness index. Consider his indifference toward education: In 2008, the state comptroller found that 12 percent of Texans lacked high school diplomas and that the level would rise to 30 percent by 2040 unless the state’s commitment to education was considerably increased. This year, though, when confronted with a $27 billion budget deficit, Perry did not raise taxes but instead slashed $4 billion from K-12 schools.

It looks like we’ll be hearing a lot in the upcoming months about poor people suffering in Texas, where a tight-fisted and callous Rick Perry deliberately choked off benefits in order to give (… wait for it …) HUGE corporate tax breaks to Big Business.

But as always, the context is important.  During the past decade, Texas absorbed more immigrants from Mexico than possibly any other state with the exception of California.  Because many of these immigrants came to the US illegally, and — let’s be honest — because liberals have openly encouraged these immigrants to remain within their own cultural enclaves and resist integration into American society at large, they remain cautious, low-level participants in the educational and civic institutions of this country; consequently, their ability to earn comfortable incomes and excel academically remains low when measured by traditional means.

California has experienced a similar influx of immigrants over the past decade.  But the decidedly left-leaning California government looked at the low academic scores and incomes of its immigrants and decided that it had a moral responsibility to make these people “equal”.  Billions of dollars were poured into unemployment benefits, supplemental income programs, food stamps, education subsidies, free health care clinics, and the like.  As a result California has ended up with a “surreal depression” in which hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of citizens who are traditionally “unemployed” receive thousands of dollars a month in state assistance, while earning significant cash incomes in California’s flourishing, largely untaxed and unregulated underground economy.

What are the results of these two drastically different policies?  California’s professional class and business owners — its large-scale producers of wealth — are increasingly burdened by expanding taxes and regulations and are leaving the state in droves.  And now California’s exceptionally high cost of living is driving the poor and lower middle class out of the state.  San Francisco, one of the liberal establishment’s beacon communities, is losing thousands of lower middle class Blacks each year because they simply can no longer afford to live there.   Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ended his second term with an annual state budget deficit approaching $25 billion, an amount larger that the combined general fund outlays of Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia.   Even with Gov. Jerry Brown and the California legislature desperately scrambling to increase revenue and shuffle spending outlays, California is still trying to grapple with a 2011 budget deficit estimated to be between $5 billion and $10 billion.

In stark contrast to California, Texas has no state income tax, no state inheritance tax, and no state capital gains or retirement income taxes.  And despite an expected drop in state revenue due to the current recession, the Texas Legislature, which meets for only 140 days every two years, had no intention of adding more taxes even though a revenue shortfall of nearly $20 billion was projected for the 2011-1012 biennial period.  The largely Republican Legislature closed the gap through a combination of spending freezes, real spending cuts, and the phase-out of selected state government programs.  But this kind of fiscal conservatism, although considered irresponsible and abhorrent by progressives and liberals, has created an attractive climate for job seekers and industry.  Since the beginning of 2008, nearly 740,000 people have moved into Texas from other states.  And during that same period of time, Texas alone has been responsible for nearly 1/3 of new employment among states with overall positive job growth, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.  The Texas unemployment rate remains high because every month more and more people are moving to Texas looking for jobs; likewise, the number of job seekers increases continually.

So there you have it.  According to the Left, Rick Perry has governed Texas immorally and irresponsibly because, unlike the compassionate, responsible progressives in California, he refused to rack up billions of dollars in debt or new taxes in order to lavish billions in benefits and services on the poor and under-educated who reside in his state.  On the other hand, the state of California is now struggling with public assistance commitments that it can no longer pay for, and a debt load that it can no longer manage.  Heavy taxes and regulation are driving wealth producers out of the state, and at the same time the state’s exorbitantly high cost of living (a result of its over-regulation) is also driving lower income Californians out of the state.

Which formula for state governance is the most “compassionate”?  Which ultimately results in more people being able to attain a secure, comfortable level of income?  That will be up to the voters to decide in 2012.

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