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.
Rick Perry has presided over a large increase in government hiring in the state of Texas. Our bureaucracy is on the march. Perry’s sweetheart deals with corporate buddies from foreign contractors for toll roads to sordid domestic ilk like Countrywide Home Loans are legendary. The legislature has provided him his own slush fund that he sometimes doles out to buddies for special projects.
Perry’s attempt to rule by decree in regard to his mandate of the Gardasil vaccine, where Merck made the expected and customary monetary contributions, fortunately failed. Most legal scholars doubted whether the Governor had the legal power to mandate the vaccine. The legislature in a rare fit of wisdom concurred.
Where the worst side of Reagan for a conservative was managerial, Perry’s dark side harkens back to the days of slick good ol’ boys and clumsy favoritism.
The Cold War and what most regard as a very real threat to our very existence helped to minimize the political effect of Reagan’s domestic policy foibles. Ronald Reagan faced an enemy worthy of central casting. The Soviet Union – the Gulag was a constant reminder of who it was – was Mordorlike, playing every angle in its efforts to gain victory over the West.
Atheistic values and what passed for morality lived to serve the state. Communism was playing every card in its attempt overcome the huge shortcomings of a state-directed economy in an attempt at global dominance. Guerilla fighters were trained by instructors in the Soviet Union in everything from terrorism and torture to firing an RPG.
Those students of mayhem were exported worldwide. Sometimes they just taught others. An American General was even kidnapped in Italy by the Red Brigade. Meanwhile, the tortured Soviet economic system was strained into overdrive to provide high-tech weapons to contest the West.
Where moderate Republicans and then floundering Democrats such as Jimmy Carter had practiced a strategy of give and take with the Soviets, Reagan decided to face them head on. Accelerating a build-up of defense forces that was actually initiated under Carter after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Reagan all but dared the Soviets to try to match it.
Suffice to say, the Soviet economy was never even as strong as the American intelligence community told our public that it was. Documents released since that time indicate that the Soviets were simply not able to keep up with the West’s and especially the United States’ defense build-up under Reagan. Non-Ivy Leaguer and former actor Ronald Reagan was right, and much of official Ivy League-trained Washington had been wrong. The Soviet system collapsed under the weight of its own imperial ambition, paranoia and hubris.
If he is able to navigate the national Republican primary process and then go on to defeat the incumbent, what kind of President will Rick Perry make? I suspect, like Reagan, his days in the Governor’s mansion are a clue. Where Reagan could be accommodating with the Democrats and yet managerial, Perry has a coarser side. Perry is a crony capitalist.
Sometimes this side of him is almost cartoonish, it is so in your face. At times he reminds me of Mel Brooks as the Guv in “Blazing Saddles” (1974), a tool for those trying to make money off connections, and way too big a fan of crony no-bid projects like the Trans-Texas Corridor and other sweetheart deals. Of the insider deals with corporations, some are not even domestic – Cintra-Zachry comes to mind, that one is legendary.
The question is, What is it about a 2012 presidency that will bring out the best in Perry? No question the Soviet Union, a truly evil empire, made Reagan, Reagan. It covered him for failing to rein in the ever-increasing federal government that is now threatening to choke out our entrepreneurial energy and our Bill of Rights.
Candidate Reagan saw the problem. He talked about it, but in the end, the Departments of No-Energy and No-Education, among many others, still stand as monuments to mal-employment, federal overreach and adipose. As President Reagan, there was little follow through.
In the movie “Idiocracy” (2006), a firm that makes a sports drink ultimately buys out its federal regulators. The drink is then mandated by the regulators to replace water for everything from crop irrigation to public water fountains.
Something like that seems to be going on in both D.C. and Austin. Regulators are too numerous have too much power and seem to be for sale.
The problem didn’t start with the current administration, although they aren’t doing anything about it. My biggest concern with Perry is that he will try to govern like a Pasha distributing favors here and there through government agencies while engaging in an avalanche of conservative rhetoric, much of it empty. Such a man could do a lot of damage to conservatism as well as the core values the Republican Party. He has in Texas.
I will not be voting for tricky Ricky in the primary, but because of my fear of what four more years of Obama could do to the remains of our Republic, I will vote for any of the present Republican primary candidates in the general election.