Rick Perry has been governor of Texas for a long time. Now he’s the darling of some GOP boosters who think he’s the man to become president in 2012. Having lived under Mr. Perry for so long, my gut reaction is a Perry presidency would be worse than George Bush II. But are my emotions getting in the way of the facts? Could it be that Perry would be a better man for the job than anyone else?
Perry supported Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 1988, but went Republican in 1989, around a time when it seemed like being Democrat was the kiss of death in Texas politics. I call that opportunism. In 2002, Perry increased Texas health funding by $6 billion, and he’s been hacking away at that amount ever since. He did cap malpractice damages, lowering Texas malpractice insurance rates. Perry also denied that Texas was in a recession in 2009 – which I find to be particularly cruel, as that was the year we started to notice people using termination notices as proof of residency when they enrolled children in school.
Perry claims that Texas created a lot of jobs: Well, Texas has the second largest population of any state and California’s in the toilet, so, yeah, it’s going to create a lot of jobs. The state’s unemployment rate is around the median for the 50 states, and its rate of minimum-wage jobs is 9.5%, compared to the national rate of 6%. Texas’ rate is the highest in the nation, as well. Over a fourth of Texas’ population does not have health insurance, while the national average is 17%. That’s a poverty issue: Perry has essentially presided over the deepening poverty of the people of his state, much as other governors have done. Perry’s nothing special as a governor. He certainly doesn’t have some kind of magic bullet that needs to be used on a national level. He is, at best, unremarkable.
Like other politicians, Perry has been venal in promoting his donors over other candidates for jobs and contracts. On average, paying Perry $25,000 per year is enough to secure some very juicy benefits and state contracts. As president, I’m sure his rate would increase. I don’t think he’d be better than Obama’s promotion of friends and big donors: at best, he’d be the same. Pretending that being a venal Republican is better than being a venal Democrat is an exercise in lying to one’s self, and should not be done.
Perry did get in bed with Countrywide, showing how he’s ready to ride closely with the people responsible for the looting of America, kind of like the oil industry. That’s why Perry says global climate change isn’t proven. If Perry was getting huge money from the insurance industry, he’d be a staunch believer in the solid science behind climate change.
As a governor, Perry slashed taxes and increased government spending on both health and education. He rode a general boom in land and property prices to provide the funds for his programs. When the economy headed south, he chose to slash both of those budgets, costing the state around 100,000 teachers – which shows how good he is at not creating jobs. Texan public schools under Perry are worse than ever: they rank at or near the bottom in national accountability standards.
Meanwhile, Perry was more than happy to use Texas state funds to pay for his tour of the Far East. He suppressed the news in Texas, claiming that access to his travel expenses would constitute a security risk. This shows that he’s ready to lie to cover his butt. At best, that’s just like every other average politico in the USA. Again, Perry’s nobody special.
Perry has not only criticized the 16th Amendment – Income Tax – but also the 17th – Direct Election of Senators. The 17th Amendment places election of senators in the hands of easily bribable state legislatures. OK, so doing away with it would make for cheaper Senate elections, but somehow that doesn’t seem like a step in the right direction.
For those hoping for Perry to have a streak of nativism, oddly Mr. Perry supports providing education and other benefits to the children of undocumented workers. While I find a ray of sunshine there, I’m sure this is a black mark against Perry in the minds of his core supporters.
Perry recently saw fit to make veiled threats against the Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, which serves to make Fed policy more politicized than before. A politicized central bank makes poor monetary policy, so Perry’s comments make for poor governance.
While Perry wants to have reduced federal involvement in some aspects of our lives, he’s very much in favor of using federal power to limit other aspects of our lives. To me, it’s as twisted as the Southerners before the Civil War demanding that federal laws be nullified when it came to tariffs, but that the federal government should have super-authority to return fugitive slaves. Again, this sort of thing smacks of opportunism. When it came to using the government to interfere in the lives of teenage girls, a nice donation from Merck got Mr. Perry to demand that every teenage girl in the state get inoculated with Merck’s HPV vaccine.
What seems dangerous to me was his willingness to ignore the Supreme Court ruling banning state-sponsored prayer in schools. That sort of Jacksonian disregard for the court smacks of authoritarianism, not freedom. Sure, it’s fun for all the people who believe his way. What about the people who don’t? I’m one of those, and I have to confess a discomfort for the way he’s used the state to essentially favor one religion over my own.
Speaking of injustice, Mr. Perry refused to pardon or even commute the sentence of a man scheduled to be executed, who was convicted on the basis of a severely flawed forensic report. Worse, while a Texas forensics board was reviewing the case, Perry changed the membership of the board and packed it with his supporters, so they would ignore the evidence that proved Texas was going to execute an innocent man on Perry’s watch. This sort of government oppression is supposed to be what Perry is against, yet it’s what he’s bringing to the party.
Mr. Perry is unremarkable and as venal as the rest of the crooks in politics at best, and is a populist that brooks no rival to his own power, a real Willie Stark, at worst. He’s Christian until the money shows up, kinda like Judas.