by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Congressman Alcee Hastings, a Florida Democrat, started the rumble during a House committee meeting by saying that Texas’s refusal to join Obamacare’s exchanges made it “a crazy state.” He then refused to apologize to Representative Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican who challenged him.
Those became fighting words. Former governor Rick Perry, a likely 2016 presidential candidate, responded during a speech at the American Principles Project: “He is right! We are crazy!” he enthused. “We’re crazy about jobs, we’re crazy about opportunity, we’re crazy about liberty, we’re crazy about the Constitution!” Charles Murray, the libertarian American Enterprise Institute scholar who hails from Iowa, weighed in by saying, “I’ve always thought of Texas as the place that is still most like America,” pointing to the self-reliant, can-do spirit the state still represents. Florida governor Rick Scott also joined in, noting that he has often cited Texas as a tax-cutting role model; then he joked about out-dueling Perry as a jobs generator.
While the recent 50 percent drop in oil prices has taken some of the bluster out of Texas’s bragging, the state’s stats are still beyond impressive. Last month, it created 45,700 new jobs. Most of them were in parts of the diversified economy that aren’t related to energy. Texas continues to see solid job growth in trade and professional services as well as in the hospitality industry.
Indeed, between 2007 and 2014 — the period covering the recession and the slow recovery that followed — Texas created 1.4 million net new jobs. During the same period, the rest of the nation wound up losing 400,000 jobs. The falling nationwide unemployment rate is largely the function of people’s exiting the work force entirely.