Rick Perry has pole-vaulted over Willard Mitt Romney in the race to become the top Republican to face President Obama on Election Day 2012. Texas’s governor beat Massachusetts’s former governor 29 percent to 17 percent, Gallup reported Wednesday, in the second national survey to find Perry leading by double digits among Republicans. Perry deserves this distinction. While he lacks the pro-market purity of Milton Friedman, Perry’s record should satisfy limited-government conservatives far more than Romney’s.
• As “America’s jobs governor,” Perry is a one-man antidote to Obama’s venomous policies, which have held unemployment above 9 percent for 25 of the last 27 months. Across all 50 states, between June 2009 and June 2011, the Dallas Federal Reserve calculates that 49.9 percent of America’s net new jobs arose in Texas. July was its eleventh straight month of payroll expansion, with 29,300 Texans finding work. Nearly eleven years into Perry’s governorship, Texas inarguably is No. 1 in job growth.
During Romney’s single four-year term, however, the U.S. Labor Department ranked Massachusetts No. 47 in job growth. Employment increased just 0.9 percent between January 2003 and January 2007. At that time, U.S. job growth was roughly 5 percent, reports WSJ.com’s Brett Arends. Romney did keep Massachusetts ahead of Ohio and Michigan — two Rust Belt job sieves — and Louisiana, crushed by Katrina.
New Yorkers and Californians must be stampeding into Texas for something beyond triple-digit summer temperatures.
• The libertarian Cato Institute’s Report Card on America’s Governors gives Perry straight Bs and Romney consistent Cs.
Cato praised Perry for introducing “a zero-based budget to force the state agencies to justify their continued existence and funding levels” and noted that “he has presided over moderate increases in the Texas general fund budget.” Cato applauded Perry’s “substantial achievement”: a $6 billion property tax cut in 2004 — including a first-year, $1.5 billion net tax reduction. However, Cato criticized Perry for partially offsetting this tax relief with a $1-per-pack cigarette tax hike and a gross receipts tax on business.
Cato observed that Romney’s “first budget, presented under the cloud of a $2 billion deficit, balanced the budget with some spending cuts, but a $500 million increase in various fees was the largest component of the budget fix.” Cato also saw that Romney “proposed modest increases to the budget and line-item vetoed millions of dollars each year, only to have most of those vetoes overridden.” In October 2006, Cato’s Stephen Slivinski predicted Romney’s current migraine: “If you consider the massive costs to taxpayers that his universal health care plan will inflict once he’s left office, Romney’s tenure is clearly not a triumph of small-government activism.”
• On health care, the free-market Club for Growth (where I twice have spoken) lauds Perry for expanding managed care within Medicaid. Among other recent modernizations, a CFG White Paper on Perry explains, “this bill could save Texas nearly $468 million over two years.” After Perry’s extensive lawsuit reforms, “the number of insurance companies offering medical malpractice insurance soared 650 percent,” along with a massive influx of doctors eager to perform diagnoses rather than depositions.