OK, by way of full disclosure, I want to state that I am not related to Rick Perry, nor do I want to be. I am a native Texan, and way back when Texas Agricultural Commissioner Rick Perry and I were sitting on a friend’s back porch a little north of Ennis, Texas, he did tell me that his Perry line was from Mississippi; so is mine. That is as close as it gets.
My other family lines got here earlier, some in the days of the Texas Revolution and the Republic.
The media and a lot of Americans see Rick Perry as the image of a Texan. Some are hoping he is a Reagan substitute. That is a curious image. I still have a campaign button picturing President Reagan in a cowboy hat. Reagan’s hat fits. I’m not sure about Perry’s.
Let’s take a look at Reagan. Like Perry, he was the politically successful and photogenic governor of a large state. Success in politics is marked by electability. It is not marked by principle. The Alamo’s walls have etched in plaques the names of men with principle. There is a difference.
As Governor of California, Reagan increased taxes. He also narrowed the eligibility for welfare recipients, but he increased the benefits for those in the program. Not exactly conservative, more like managerial. I’m not sure anyone in the executive branch at present understands management, so by itself that would be an improvement.
President Reagan came to office while the U.S. economy was in shambles. Double-digit inflation, rising interest rates and unemployment stalked the land and shrank the middle class. Reagan with a cooperative Congress cut tax rates, while the Federal Reserve under Paul Volcker continued a campaign of squeezing inflation by forcing interest rates up. Unemployment came down as capital was deployed into business and consumer spending rose. Eventually the Fed eased interest rates as inflation fell. Life got better, but it really didn’t take much by comparison with the big government, high tax rate regimes of Carter, Ford and Nixon, not to mention LBJ.
During Reagan’s second term, he allowed taxes to be raised several times in response to budget bills passed by Congress. He also supported raising Social Security and corporate taxes. Many conservatives began to wonder if all of the fight was out of their President. In fact, Reagan was back to his old habits. His actions on domestic policy going back to his time as Governor often did not match his rhetoric. Reagan was, after all, a successful politician, not always a statesman, and he often was more managerial than ideological on domestic issues.