Just How Wrong Was Rick Perry About Income Inequality In Texas?

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As part of Rick Perry’s transition from longest-serving governor of Texas to future twice-failed presidential candidate, the outgoing officeholder has been doing his fair share of press.

One story in the Washington Post detailed Perry’s cram sessions on issues ranging from health care to the environment to economics. Anyone who has watched him govern for the last decade-plus might agree that a certain level of knowledge was lacking, but I digress.

The line from the interview that has gotten the most press is Perry’s claim that Texas doesn’t have a problem with income inequality. The Post reports that Perry “dismissed the notion that income inequality is a problem in the state, saying, ‘We don’t grapple with that here.'”

Unfortunately for a substantial share of Texans, Perry’s assertion is not true. Texas ranks 5th in terms of income inequality in the United States.

The Dallas News pulled together the numbers:

  • Texans earning at least $116,500 in 2011 made up 10 percent of tax filers but took home almost 50 percent of the income.
  • The top 1 percent, whose income starts at $414,500, hauled in almost 21 percent of Texas’ total income in 2011.

The job growth in Texas isn’t all due to Perry — data shows that the economy here has been strong for four decades. And as the Houston Chronicle reported today that for many populous counties in Texas, their highest earning days are behind them — back in 1999, and even 1979. And many of the jobs that Rick Perry brags about — that is, the ones he didn’t steal from other states — are low-wage service sector jobs that offer little in terms of professional advancement, benefits, or financial stability.

So basically if you’re Rick Perry, or one of the people he pals around with, income inequality isn’t something you personally grapple with, because you’re incredibly well off. And if you’re everyone else in Texas it’s a part of your daily life, whether you realize it or not.

Overlooked in the discussion of his comments on inequality was Perry’s pre-meal prayer during the interview:

Before food was served, Perry said a prayer that included a nod to Obama: “Be with the president, give him wisdom and open his eyes.”

It’s not the President that needs to open his eyes, Governor.

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About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Central Texas. She is also a fan of UCONN women's basketball and breakfast tacos.

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