The Candidates: Rick Perry

Fun fact:  Rick Perry used to be a Democrat.  That’s hard to tell now given his hard-line, or even fringe Republican mantra, but his political career began in the Texas House of Representatives in 1984 as a Democrat.  He switched parties in 1989, but has never lost a race, becoming the longest continually serving Governor in the nation.

Perry wins not because of ideology per say, but through shrewd political maneuvering.  This much is clear: he is not very intellectual.  In this regard he provides a very clear contrast to President Obama, and this defines his political story.  He came from a humble background and went to Texas A&M.  What drives him is not policy, but winning.

When Perry entered the race people were quick to label him George Bush redux, but this is not entirely true.  Perry has always been a bit of a political outsider, winning despite the political establishment, not because of it.  He carries prototypical conservative credentials and wears his evangelical faith on his sleeve, but his occasionally radical rhetoric is now scaring that part of the Republican party that actually wants to win in a national election.

Lacking a clear vision beyond claims at job creation, it’s hard to tell exactly what Perry would do as President.   His campaign website is exceedingly sparse, consisting of a few generic platitudes.  Rick Perry appears to be a true libertarian, worried only about eliminating every part of the government except the Army (which is needed on the Mexican border!).

Economy

The number one campaign issue is the economy and job creation, to which Perry trumpets the “Texas Miracle.”  His economic agenda is nothing new for the Republican party; cut taxes, remove regulations, and cut spending.  According to his campaign website:

Rick Perry’s leadership has helped build the nation’s top economy. Since June 2009, more than 40 percent of all net new jobs in America have been created in Texas.

Perry’s pro-growth agenda, combined with real spending reductions, will lead to a new era of economic growth and the creation of millions of American jobs.

If only it were true.  Less miraculously, what has propelled Texas growth is a race to the bottom.  Perry will continue to make broad claims about his success at job creation, but they are primarily low-wage, non-benefit jobs that define desperation, not prosperity.

Rick Perry also doesn’t seem to grasp the role of the Federal Reserve, an independent arm of the government meant to stabilize the economy and oversee monetary policy.  He inexplicably declared Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke treasonous for trying to stimulate the economy by printing money.  Apparently in Perry’s world the government shouldn’t actually do anything to help create jobs, even when unemployment is 9%.

Culture War

On social issues Perry has stayed mainly silent, but unsurprisingly he’s no fan of gay marriage, signing a pledge to pursue a constitutional amendment banning the act.

He’s also a big proponent of the death penalty.  He has executed 234 people  while granting only 31 commutations (28 because of the Supreme Court decision banning capital punishment for minors).

Finally, worth mentioning is the HPV vaccine controversy.  Given the political climate in Texas and the strong abstinence movement I’m surprised he issued the Executive Order mandating girls to get vaccinated.  Lobbyist influenced or not, overall I think it was good thing given just how prevalent HPV is.  That being said, it was inappropriate to be mandated by an Executive Order.  There are plenty of other ways that Gov. Perry could have pursued this public health mission without causing controversy or alienating parents by eliminating any choice in the matter.

Ultimately however,  lobbyist influenced or not, it’s a good thing.  Public schools already require vaccinations to protect public health and this a natural next step.

Education

Texas schools have faced broad budget cuts, but other than that education policy is MIA.  However, he has had the humanity to defend In-State tuition for the children of illegal immigrants.  Perry has been roundly assaulted for this in the Republican debates, so in a small token of support I like this policy.  Rich white kids can afford to pay Out-of-State tuition, not poor immigrants.  It’s unfortunate that most Republicans can’t understand that education is universally a good thing, that will help integrate these innocent kids as productive and responsible members of society.

Welfare

This is where the cracks in Rick Perry’s armor really start to show.  He has declared Social Security a Ponzi scheme, immediately alienating a large swath of the public.  Social Security may have its problems, but to call for its dismantling or return to the States is out of the question considering its position as the corner stone of the safety net.

He also subscribes to the Republican mantra that Obamacare is evil.  The absurd logical flaws should be immediately obvious.

Rick Perry believes the best way for the federal government to improve healthcare is to stimulate job creation so more Americans are covered by employer-sponsored health plans. Creating jobs will also reduce the strain on public safety net programs like Medicaid, saving taxpayer dollars.

If elected, Perry will repeal Obamacare – a misguided, unconstitutional and unsustainable government takeover of our health care that will undermine patient quality, increase red tape and send costs skyrocketing for taxpayers, patients and healthcare providers.

The growing problem with health-care is the exponential rise in costs, which is leading employers to drop coverage.  Regardless, the crisis is with Medicare, not Medicaid.  Government is going to have to do something to rein in costs and healthcare spending, a situation not solved by praying for more jobs (which doesn’t help those retired).  And apparently offering millions of new customers to private insurance companies constitutes a government takeover of healthcare.  Go figure.

Final Verdict

It’s hard to nail down Rick Perry’s beliefs, but his Presidential candidacy is hedged on Tea Party ideals.  In general he has always been about State’s rights and he’s betting on anti-government rhetoric to get him through the primaries.  For his record he is unapologetic and it will be interesting to see how Republican voters respond.

My blunt assessment:  Perry is a thoughtless conservative evangelical who doesn’t understand the role of government. The problems facing this country are vast and I find it unlikely that Perry has the ability to lead America forward.  I can respect his ability to appeal to the base and win elections, but at the end of the day I want a President with a vision, not just a politician who has run out of elections to win.

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