Over at Democracy in America, I explore the question of what people mean when they say politicians are "dumb." What are the proxies for intelligence in a candidate, and how important is intelligence, however defined, for a president or a candidate? For what it's worth, as I've said before, I don't think Rick Perry is dumb.
Some new stories from the end of the week.
In this week's issue of The Economist, I have a story about job creation through workforce development and training programmes--which, believe it or not, barely mentions Rick Perry.
At Foreign Policy, a piece about what a President Perry's foreign policy might look like, insofar as we can anticipate that.
At The Atlantic, a piece about Perry's record on immigration, which is more moderate than people might expect, but in keeping with Texans' general attitudes about such matters.
And at Democracy in America, I argue that it is worthwhile to try to compare the records of governors of different states, even given the large caveat that it's difficult to directly compare states because of the extant differences between them.
A new post at Democracy in America, about the efforts to coax more people into the Republican presidential race.
I have an op-ed in today's New York Daily News, on how to tell apart these two Texans.
At Democracy in America, I looked at a couple of campaign gaffes, Mitt Romney's about corporations and Rick Perry's about Ben Bernanke. I also argued that people shouldn't be so alarmed about Perry or any other candidate, because if they really are a train wreck then they won't win.
In the print edition, I have a story about Rick Perry's record as governor of Texas.
Over at Democracy in America, I take a closer look at the "Texas Miracle" and whether Governor Perry deserves any credit for it. The shorter version: he deserves partial credit for job creation, just as he deserves partial blame for areas where the state has suffered or stagnated. Your assessment of Governor Perry's record is ultimately going to depend on your political/economic philosophy, and your priorities. If Perry ends up in a general election, his approach will mark a stark contrast to that of Barack Obama:
In a special All-Texas edition of Bloggingheads, I pair up with Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune to talk about Rick Perry's record and the shape of the 2012 Republican field.
I'll also be on the Martin Bashir show today, talking on the same topic. It's on MSNBC at 3pm ET/2pm TX. If you tune in, I'd ask you to be gentle--television is new to me. (Feel free to be as hard as you want in the comments to what I write, though!)
Just a quick follow-up on Rick Perry, with much more to come over the coming days and weeks, no doubt. One of the ongoing debates over his record is whether the governor can really take credit for the "Texas miracle" of job creation during the recession. Between June 2009 and June 2011, Texas added about 261,000 jobs, according to an August 2011 report from the Dallas Fed. The United States as a whole had net job creation of 524,000, meaning that 49.9% of net job growth came from Texas. (If you set aside the states that lost jobs during time, the states that added jobs added about a million jobs--I don't know why you would look at it in those terms, but the Fed mentions it, so I'll pass it along to you.)
Skeptics point out that Texas benefits from a robust oil and gas sector. It's true that energy remains a key driver of the Texas economy and that other energy-producing states (Wyoming, North Dakota, etc) have been similarly propped up by these industries.
However, oil and gas prices are not sufficient to explain job creation in the state during Perry's tenure. They're capital-intensive industries, and so even when oil and gas is booming, the net employment effect is smaller than you would expect. The Dallas Fed has a good overview of the impact of energy prices on the Texas economy over the past 40 years. The most relevant bit for our purposes:
Although energy price shocks still aid the Texas economy in this period [1997-2010], the effects of a 10 percent oil price increase are smaller than in the first period [1970-1987]. The increase leads to gains of 0.5 percent in GDP, 0.36 percent in employment and 6.2 percent in the rig count.
A 10 percent natural gas price jump leads to gains of 0.3 percent in GDP and 4.9 percent in the rig count. The price increases do not affect employment significantly. In general, these results are consistent with the development of the Barnett Shale and the increase in natural gas production.
Or to put that in different terms, the oil and gas industry added 28,600 jobs between June 2010 and June 2011--nearly 13% of all the jobs created in Texas during that time, according to economist Karr Ingram. So, a lot of jobs, but it's not the whole story.
In general, I think Perry deserves partial credit for the job creation that has happened in Texas during his time in office. He also deserves some criticism for the things that that haven't gone well. I will elaborate more on this later.
In the meantime, since yesterday I've heard critics say that Perry is NOT responsible for having created jobs in Texas, but also that he IS responsible for the state's unemployment rate, which is currently at 8.2%, a point below the national average. On the face of it those claims strike me as slightly contradictory. I suppose the argument is that Perry has been lucky and now his luck's running out. That may be the case. I've argued in The Economist that Texas's budget shortfall and rising unemployment complicate Perry's claims to be a brilliant steward of the economy. There are also some economists who argue that Texas has a tendency to be slow to get into a recession, and slow to get out.
But the response the Perry people give is that no one can be fully immune from the effects of a global economic downturn. I think that's plausible, and even if the accomplishment turns out to be merely that Texas avoided a few years of a brutal recession, that’s not nothing. It means that the state, and more to the point the people in the state, were spared a lot of serious distress. During the worst of the national recession, when we were hearing horror stories from other places, people who were laid off in Texas were able to find new jobs relatively quickly. And I don’t just mean highly skilled people in Austin. Watching that happen made an impression on me.
'A lot of people have said I'd have probably done better in my career if I hadn't looked so cheap and gaudy,' she says in that famously lilting voice. 'But I dress to be comfortable for me, and you shouldn't be blamed because you want to look pretty. My husband likes me to look this way, and he's the one I want to please.'
From a new interview with Dolly Parton. Her mode of being is not my mode of being, but I really admire her. She's smart and scrappy, and she seems to have more self-knowledge and ontological security than most people. And her 1974 album, Jolene, is absolutely brilliant--one of my all-time favorites.