As the rest of the Republican field jockeyed for support in Iowa's straw poll Saturday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry made a feisty late entry into the presidential race before hundreds of conservative bloggers in South Carolina, encouraging voters to "give a pink slip to the current residents of the White House."
Perry launched his bid touting his home state's record of job creation as a central reason to elect him, but Texas' economic picture is more complex than what the governor shares on the stump.
"We cannot and must not endure four more years of rising unemployment, rising taxes, rising debt and rising energy dependence on nations that intend us harm," Perry said.
A vocal critic of Washington who denied any interest in running for president until a few months ago, Perry's in-your-face conservatism and leadership during a time when Texas' economy added jobs while the nation's economy lagged, is likely to instantly put him at the front of the Republican field, if not near it.
Taking it straight to President Barack Obama on foreign policy, administration appointees, spending, and the lack of entitlement reform, Perry asked, "How can the wealthiest nation in the history of civilization fail to pay his bills? How does that happen? You cannot win the future by selling America off to foreign creditors. We cannot afford four more years of this rudderless leadership."
"It's time to get America working again," Perry said to rousing applause. The line will be the central theme of his nascent national campaign, which launched a website featuring the same motto earlier in the day.
"Since June of 2009, Texas is home to 40% of all the jobs added in the United States," Perry said.
Texas gained more than one million jobs since 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But what kind of jobs? The state's fiscal picture is far more complex than the one Perry will paint.
Public Sector Jobs Lead The Way
Of the one million jobs created during Perry's decade as governor, nearly one third were in government. Because of the surging population, more than half of those new public sector jobs were at public schools. Those jobs are likely to be lost in coming years.
Lawmakers in the recent session were forced to slash the budget to make up for a shortfall estimated at $27 billion. The cuts will cost at least 100,000 jobs by 2013, according to an independent analysis released early this year. Major cuts in public school funding is expected to force tens of thousands of educators to be laid off.
Minimum Wage Jobs
Further, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows Texas tied with Mississippi when it comes to highest percentage of jobs at or below minimum wage.
"The jobs we have in Texas are not sufficient for families to support themselves," said Dick Lavine, an economist with the progressive Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin. "Therefore, families are reliant on additional support like Medicaid ... which leaders have acknowledged they underfunded by at least $4 billion."
Texas lawmakers did leave $6 billion in the state's "rainy day" fund in the last budget. But if projections hold, that money will likely be needed in 2012 to make up for the state's Medicaid costs that were under-funded, and a $2 billion postponed payment to school districts.
Despite the deferred payments and looming layoffs, the state's larger job picture does give Perry strong talking points on the stump, as he heads into an abbreviated window to win over voters. "Our [Texas] policies, and the results of those policies, are worth having a national dialogue about," Perry told Newsweek last year.