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Perry's Illusion

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Texas Governor Rick Perry's candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination centers on his admirable job creation record. But employment is only one dimension, and the full picture is hardly a ringing endorsement of his qualifications.

During Perry's tenure, Texas has led all states in mercury, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and benzene air pollution as well as been a runner up in sulfur dioxide emissions. Healthy air has not been the Lone Star State's forte.

Texas has devoted far less money per capita than virtually any other state to maintenance of drinking water supplies. Thus, it comes as no surprise that there has been no real improvement when water quality is at issue. Indeed, Texas is 47th in the discharge of toxic chemicals into waterways and third worst in water quality. Yet Perry is the guy who is challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at every opportunity, claiming regulation stifles economic growth.

In terms of health insurance coverage, Texas ranks first in the number of uninsured. How about education? Only Mississippi exceeds Texas in the percentage of citizens over 25 who lack a high school diploma, and the Lone Star State is 47th out of 50 in English literacy levels, suggesting its large Hispanic population is not getting adequate linguistic training.

Texas' employment statistics may be laudable, but the state's per capita income is lower than the national number and the poverty rate is higher. In fact, despite all the glittering mansions and skyscrapers in Dallas and Houston, Texas under the 61-year-old Perry overall has been the eighth poorest state in the union.

Wind power generation has blossomed during Perry's term in office, but even with that boom, Texas is virtually last in the percentage of total energy use derived from clean, renewable energy.

Perry doesn't believe in man-made global warming, even as his state is buckling under the onslaught of a record breaking drought and heat wave. His solution to the prolonged destructive climatic siege has been an as yet unanswered prayer for a deluge rather than resort to any major government-sponsored emergency relief. That is not a very reassuring strategy for those who believe "God helps those who help themselves."

So let Perry tout his gubernatorial credentials. A closer look at his record should give an awful lot of people pause rather than comfort.

Edward Flattau's fourth book, 'Green Morality,' is now available.