The Agenda

On Job Growth Records and Confounding Variables

Katrina Trinko has compared the job growth records of various Republican governors who are running or who might soon run for president, and she ends with a useful caveat:

To be fair, even looking only at the same time periods ignores various factors (including the fact that Huntsman and Perry governed significantly more right-leaning states than Romney and Pawlenty) that impact job creation. But you’re sure to hear more about these numbers as the campaign progresses.

I’d go further. My guess is that Texas would have had impressive job growth numbers under a wide range of governors of either political party due to a number of factors, e.g.,

(a) the relatively low cost of housing, a legacy of a laissez-faire attitude towards land use that has been in places for decades and is entrenched at the local rather than the state level;

(b) housing market regulations that mitigated the impact of the housing bust that were put in place in the late 1990s;

(c) and the weakness of the governor’s office and, as Trinko suggests, the underlying conservative political character of the state, which would constrain a left-of-center governor and legislature.

This list is not exhaustive. The basic takeaway is that even Rod Blagojevich, perhaps the worst governor in modern American history, would have presided over decent job growth numbers in Texas. What we’d want to do is re-run history and see how Texas, or Massachusetts and Minnesota and Utah, might have fared if we swapped governors. 

Reihan Salam is president of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

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