Had Mitt Romney Governed Texas His 'Jobs Record' Would Be Tops

If you want to know who'll best tackle unemployment, compare candidates' skill sets, not economic data from their pasts 

perry paying full.jpg

Had Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, or Gary Johnson run Texas for the last 10 years, they'd likely have created just as many jobs as Rick Perry. This is partly because when Perry became governor, "taxes were already low, regulations were light, and test scores were on their way up," as Ross Douthat puts it. "He didn't create the zoning rules that keep Texas real estate affordable, or the strict lending requirements that minimized the state's housing bubble. Over all, the Texas model looks like something he inherited rather than a system he built."

But it's also because Romney, Huntsman, Cain, Paul and Johnson are all earnest advocates for business-friendly jurisdictions. It's one issue where the whole GOP field is in basic agreement with one another.

Had Rick Perry been governor of Massachusetts, his job creation record would look a lot different, even if he did his utmost to implement the same policies. The legislature would've thwarted him. Voters would've opposed him. The culture there is different. The economic climate is different. The natural resources are different. The population density and settlement patterns are different. It makes no sense to compare the Perry and Romney records on job creation.

How should voters whose top issue is jobs distinguish among candidates if their policy preferences are basically the same and the records they amassed in office can't be meaningfully compared? My advice would be to accept that politicians can't reliably impact the employment market. But if voters are determined to vote on jobs, why not stop focusing on what the candidates want to do, since it's so similar, and ponder how they would advance their jobs agendas.

Which candidate would most effectively build public support for legislation they backed? Who would most profitably negotiate with leaders of his or her own party? Who'd do best in a conference room with the leaders of the opposition party? Once a law was passed, whose bureaucracy would execute it most efficiently? Who'd mount the most effective defense to a court challenge?

They're tough questions, and answering them requires a much deeper look into a candidate's past.

But at least they're the right questions.

Image credit: Reuters

Presented by

Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

Why Is Google Making Human Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors at a world-class life sciences lab are trying to change the way people think about their health.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Videos

Why Is Google Making Human Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Politics

Just In