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Sunday
Aug212011

Rick Perry's Texas: Dissecting Governor's Touted Jobs 'Machine'

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(SAN ANTONIO, Tex.) -- One million. That's the number driving Rick Perry to the national stage.

In his 10 years as governor, Perry has created 1 million new jobs in the Lone Star state, 40 percent of all jobs created in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Texas added more than 250,000 jobs from January 2010 to January 2011, more than all other states combined.

"Jobs bring security," he said in an Aug. 10 speech. "They bring pride. They bring opportunity."

Traveling more than 400 miles through the heart of Texas, one will find that an oil boom and natural gas exploration have created a new class of millionaires out of random landowners in places such as Cotulla.

"The past year has been unbelievable," said landowner Bill Cotulla, whose property will soon be home to six new oil wells. "It's gone from a sleepy town to busy intersections."

The town was named after his great-grandfather, who settled there after the Civil War. "We even need more traffic lights," he said.

Outside San Antonio, there is more traditional job creation as Toyota builds Tacoma and Tundra pickups. The absence of unions in Texas and no state income taxes have made the state an attractive environment for new businesses. Toyota employs more than 4,000.

But there is another side to that Texas spirit and it includes statistics that Perry is less likely to tout on the campaign trail: His state leads the country in low-wage jobs.

"There are a lot of people living in very dire straits," Texas Monthly senior editor Paul Burka, who has covered state politics for 30 years, said. "We have the highest percentage of people without health insurance. We do very little to support people who aren't making it."

Texas has the highest rate of uninsured workers in the country at 27.4 percent, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota.

The Perry era has meant a jump in working poor. Almost 10 percent of the employed make the minimum wage, compared with 6 percent nationwide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With a poverty rate of 17 percent, Texas is among the 10 poorest states in the United States, according to 2010 Census data. Although the $4 billion in spending cuts in education helped balance the budget, the state already leads America in dropouts. And the divide between the rich and poor is the fourth widest in the country.

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