Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s “tax and spending plan,” published in The Wall Street Journal, contained no surprises: giant tax breaks for big corporations and millionaires and hurtful cuts to critical healthcare and education spending and Social Security.
Perry’s 10 years in the Texas state house might feel like an “economic miracle” to corporate CEOs and millionaires, but it’s been more like a curse to Enis Domio and most Texans.
Enis is a nursing assistant in Houston who’s been looking for work for more than a year. Even if Enis found a job tomorrow providing critical care to our loved ones, Perry believes the pride she has in her work is only worth a poverty-level wage with no access to affordable healthcare for herself and her family.
The truth is that Enis is not alone — and Perry’s miracle claims simply don’t add up.
Texas has a higher unemployment rate than nearly half the country. And most of the new jobs being created in the state are public service jobs Perry and other Republicans are on a national crusade to cut.
The rest of the jobs in Texas aren’t exactly the kind of good jobs you can raise a family on and earn your own part of the American Dream. The miracle jobs the state created are the type that require workers to take on three or four and still barely be able to put food on the table, pay the mortgage and keep the lights on.
Take one look at Houston and you’ll see the Perry economic playbook in action. Houston is now America’s fourth-largest city and home to more Fortune 500 corporations than any other city outside of New York.
Houston is also home to a staggering wealth disparity. Just 12 individual Houstonians own $33 billion in wealth, equal to two-thirds of the income of all of Harris County’s residents combined. And all those corporations calling Houston home take in billions in profits without paying a dime in corporate income taxes and contributing their fair share to the city and the state they call home.
There is something wrong with an economic model that showers corporations with tax breaks while increasing the minimum-wage workforce by 150 percent in just three years.
And there’s something horribly wrong with an economic model that allows Perry’s appointees on a state environmental commission to conspire with Texas oil companies to rob Texas schools of millions. Right now, Valero Energy Corp. is quietly trying to push through a tax loophole that would take away $135 million from Texas classrooms and deny our children a decent education. That’s just a drop in an oil barrel compared to the $4 billion Perry cut from an already poorly performing school system.
These cuts to Texas schools have left Houston’s hard-working Latino families struggling to pass on the American Dream to their children. Forty-one percent of Latino students in Houston drop out of high school, sending them back into the poverty-wage, no-benefit economy where their parents worked so hard to build them a better future. Houston’s Latinos are falling behind in education and healthcare while they fuel an economy that has delivered record profits to Houston’s most powerful corporations.
Perry’s economic miracle simply says “no” to any job that pays more than poverty-level wages, “no” to affordable healthcare, “no” to a secure retirement, “no” to protections for clean air; it denies workers their freedom to form a union, and made Texas the only state in the country that allows corporations to get away with not providing workers’ compensation insurance to employees who get hurt on the job.
Perry says “no” to a path to the middle class for most Texans and “no” to opportunities for our children to achieve their dreams.
That’s the truth about Perry’s economic miracle. It’s the same radical economic model that every Republican presidential candidate wants to inflict on our country.
With 25 million Americans already looking for full-time work and a Congress focused more on painful cuts than putting our country back to work in good jobs, the last thing we need is for Rick Perry’s miracle to curse the rest of our country.
Ackerman is the international executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union.