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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Beldar quibbles with Krauthammer over Perry and the Texas economy

Dr. Charles Krauthammer said tonight on Fox News, at the tail-end of his comments about the possibility that Texas governor Rick Perry might enter the GOP presidential race for 2012:

I would just add, there's one factor in the Texas story which can't be overlooked: It's got a lot of oil, it's an oil state. And oil has done rather well. Other states don't have that much.

We all occasionally make trite remarks, and Dr. Krauthammer's tendancy to do so is far, far lower than my own. Certainly anyone who's trying to evaluate Texas' relative success compared to some other states, both currently or historically, ought to factor in natural resources.

But the price of oil has varied fairly dramatically over the past three years. Texas is far behind Alaska in crude oil production, and failed-state California is close behind Texas in the number three position.

While there have been new and exciting energy discoveries in Texas in the last few years that have contributed to the statewide economy and have led to local booms in exploration and drilling, most of the value of the energy business to the Texas economy is based now on what's above the ground — people, expertise, and technology — rather than below it.

With due respect to Dr. Krauthammer, then, oil is a factor in Texas' economy and in particular its creation of new jobs — but it's not the most important factor, and it's much less of a factor now than it was 30 years ago.

When he is at his best, Gov. Perry — who is not a humble man by nature — is appropriately humble about his personal role in Texas' relative economic success during these hard times. Rick Perry didn't create that prosperity. No state governor has such power, and certainly not Texas' governor. No American president has such power over the country, either.

Rather, Perry has continued a long tradition that goes back to the days of Stephen F. Austin, when Texas was still part of Mexico. Texans expect government to perform some core functions competently, and then otherwise to get the hell out of their way.

By and large, Gov. Perry has stayed the hell out of the way, just as have his predecessors going back a long, long way. Texas has been a right-to-work state, for example, as long as that term has had meaning. Texas has never had a state income tax, and proposing one has been the political equivalent here of swallowing a dose of cyanide the size of a football. And people still come to Texas because it doesn't matter much who their daddies and mommies were; rather, what matters is what they will accomplish for themselves when they get here and are given a chance.

Holding fast to first principles is easier when you don't have to swim upstream, and in context, it's no knock on Gov. Perry to point out that he hasn't ever had to. And whether he remains a speculative candidate or a more active one, he'd be truthful, and smart in the long run, to point that out himself — aggressively, and indeed reflexively every time someone gives him more credit than due for the Texas economy. Rick Perry is due some considerable credit, mind you, for not screwing up — but he'll earn much more by placing the lion's share of the credit where it's due, which is not on himself or any government official, but on the free market and its Texas participants whom he has had the privilege of representing as a public servant.

Posted by Beldar at 06:31 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Energy, Politics (2011), Politics (Texas) | Permalink


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(1) Paul_In_Houston made the following comment | Jun 14, 2011 9:09:56 PM | Permalink

I linked back to this post in What Texas gets so right. .

I tried to do a trackback, but got the impression that blogger.com has no provision for this.

Most likely, I just haven't learned how to do it yet. :(

I felt the part of your post that you emphasized to be the most succinct primer on Texas politics I've seen to date.

(2) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Jun 15, 2011 12:35:04 AM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: That's a fine statement of what badly needs repeating again and again. When someone normally so astute as Krauthammer misses this point, it requires correction.

All I would quibble with is the rather negative connotation this gives Perry. To take an example from my own state of Washington: in 2010, Bill Gates's old man labored and came forth with a proposed amendment to the state constitution to allow a state income tax. He explained at great length how it was hedged all around so it would only soak the rich like his kid (Gates Sr. is still miffed that Microsoft Billy isn't leaving him anything in his will...) and attracted a small crowd of quacks who warbled with him. This warbling was hit soundly on the head----yet again---on election day. That this doesn't happen in Texas is a tribute to a) Texas's constitution which hamstrings state government and b) the sort of pol who finds these rules tolerable, even attractive. Even a bleeding heart liberal like Ann Richards didn't get very far bucking this system.

Thanks to the judical priesthood, many of these safeguards have been dismantled at the federal level. Our next Prez should have Coolidge's or Grover Cleveland's capacity for saying "No" (perhaps the Prez will have to say "Nyet" to get the message through to our current intelligentsia.) It seems likely that far reaching measures will have to be taken to lock down govt again. That means an assault on the judiciary, which can no longer claim to be protecting the citizenry against the onslaughts of the Executive or Legislature. Perry might have the stuff to do this.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(3) DRJ made the following comment | Jun 15, 2011 1:16:25 PM | Permalink

I'm cheering for Rick to run and I'll even cheer for the Aggies at the CWS, but not if they end up playing the Horns. I draw the line there.

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