It’s been only nine months since Texas Gov. Rick Perry released Fed Up! Our Fight To Save America From Washington, but his presidential campaign is already distancing the candidate from his fiery 191-page manifesto.Facing the heightened scrutiny of a presidential campaign, Perry’s fledgling team has disavowed some of the more provocative federalist arguments espoused in Fed Up!, including the claim that Social Security is an unconstitutional “Ponzi scheme.” Perry communications director Ray Sullivan told the Wall Street Journal last week that Fed Up! represents “a look back, not a path forward.” The book, Sullivan said, was written “as a review and critique of 50 years of federal excesses, not in any way as a 2012 campaign blueprint or manifesto.”
But the Perry 2012 camp may find it difficult to disown the book, which lays bare the candidate’s ideas on the dangers of federal overreach, the benefits of small government, the primacy of the 10th Amendment, which gives to the states all powers not granted to the federal government in the U.S. Constitution.
Fed Up! is not your ordinary (re: mind-numbingly boring) campaign book, nor is it a 20-year-old masters’ thesis. Published in November 2010, the book gives a rare, unadulterated insight into how the presidential candidate, Perry, views the size and role of the federal government he now wants to lead.
We have already taken a look at some of the key themes in Fed Up! Now, before Perry’s arguments get twisted around in campaign doubletalk, here’s a breakdown of why the Texas Republican is (was?) fed up with Washington.
A major target of Perry's anti-Washington vitriol in Fed Up! is the federal debt, which he calls the 'biggest national security threat our country faces.' The federal government, he concludes, has become 'too big to save.'
Perry argues that the root of country's debt problems comes, in part, from Congress's abuse of its spending power, enumerated in a Constitutional clause that grants Congress the power 'to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.'
He writes that politicians and the federal court system have used the clause to get around the 10th Amendment and force states to go along with entitlement spending and the 'Progressive' economic policies of every Democratic president from Roosevelt to Obama. He suggests that states, rather than the federal government, should decide how the U.S. spends--and borrows--its money.
Perry has echoed these themes on the campaign trail. He railed against the debt ceiling deal in the weeks leading up to his entry into the race, while coming out in favour of the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act proposed by House Republicans. The Texas Governor also captivated national media attention last week when he railed against Ben Bernanke, suggesting frontier justice would be in story for the Fed Chair if he made the 'almost treasonous' decision to print more money before the election.
In Fed Up!, Perry delivers a sharp critique of entitlement spending, particularly Social Security, which he dubs 'a crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal.' The program, he suggests, is unconstitutional, a 'bad disease' created 'at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government.'
'Ponzi schemes--like the one that sent Bernard Madoff to prison--are illegal in this country for a reason. They are fraudulent systems designed to take in a lot of money and pay no one in the end. This unsustainable fiscal insanity is the true legacy of Social Security and the New Deal. Deceptive accounting has hoodwinked the American public into thinking that Social Security is a retirement system and financially sound, when clearly it is not.'
Fed Up! goes on to explain that politicians have done Americans a disservice by skirting around Social Security's financial problems. Those who do try to tackle entitlement reform, Perry writes, 'inherit the wind of political scorn'--a lesson he has since learned first-hand.
In the week following his entry into the 2012 presidential race, Perry faced intense criticism over his opposition to the beloved retirement program. In an apparent effort to satisfy older voters, Perry's campaign has disavowed Fed Up's Social Security arguments, telling the WSJ that 'the governor wants to see the benefits for existing retirees and those close to Social Security be strongly protected.'
Echoing an oft-repeated GOP lament, Perry criticises Congressional earmarks as a symbol of Washington's out-of-control spending. Although the $29 billion cost of earmarks is marginal compared to the $1.5 trillion federal debt, Perry argues that pork-barrel spending is a 'gateway drug' that 'corrupt the process and divert attention from the real process of governing.'
To illustrate his point, Perry compiles a rather alarming list of stats relating to federal appropriations*, including:
- 22% of all federal programs--costing a combined $123 billion annually--fail to show any positive impact, according to a 5-year study by government auditors.
- Washington spent $615,175 on a Grateful Dead archive.
- Taxpayers pay $40,000/month for the office space, cell phones, staff and SUV of former House Speaker Dennis Hassert, now a corporate lobbyist.
- Taxpayers pay $146 million annually for federal employee upgrades.
- The state of Washington sent $1 food-stamp checks to 250,000 households to trigger $45 million in additional federal aid.
- The defence Department failed to get refunds for $100 million in unused airline tickets.
The problem with criticising earmarks, however, is that most politicians, at one point or another, have benefited from Congressional earmarks. Even as Perry railed against federal spending in Fed Up!, Texas lobbyists--some of whom were intimately tied to the Tom Delay/Jack Abramoff lobbying scandals--helped bring billions of dollars of federal aid to the state, some of it through earmarks.
*All numbers are from the 2010 fiscal year.
For Perry, the son of dryland cotton tenant farmers, agricultural subsidies are another example of Washington's 'reckless spending.' To make matters worse, Perry writes, the subsidies 'put Washington bureaucrats smack in the middle of the business of farming,' and come dangerously close to wealth redistribution.
It's worth noting, however, that Perry has not always opposed agricultural subsidies--The Austin American Statesman reports that, as a farmer, Perry personally benefited from $80,000 in federal farm assistance
But it's Perry's staunch opposition to all federal subsidies that could come back to haunt him during his 2012 White House bid. The Texas Governor has come out strongly against federal support for the ethanol industry--a third rail for presidential candidates looking to pick up support from Iowa farmers in the first-in-nation caucus.
In Fed Up!, Perry has some harsh words for President Obama's healthcare reform, which he argues is unconstitutional.
'No issue is more critical for the defence of freedom and the American way of life than the preservation of our free-market health care system and the total repeal and dismantling of so-called Obamacare... It is an example of everything that is wrong with the modern administrative state, only on steroids... At its core, Obamacare is the closest this country has ever come to outright socialism.'
The law, Perry argues, raises taxes, empowers the IRS, funds abortion, and expands Washington bureaucracy and spending--in short, it's a conservative's nightmare. Perry then lambastes 2012 rival Mitt Romney's Massachusetts healthcare reform law as an example of the failure of universal healthcare and the individual mandate.
Fed Up! goes on to argue that Obamacare empowers the federal government to ration healthcare and make decisions on 'matters of life and death'--the widely-discredited 'death panel' claim that is popular among the Tea Party, but could make Perry seem extreme in a general election.
In Fed Up! Perry offers a clear outline of his views on Washington's education policy, coming out as a fierce critic of what he sees as unconstitutional federal overreach into state and local education systems.
The Texas Governor offers a particularly harsh critique of No Child Left Behind and Obama's Race to the Top program, railing against their requirement that states follow federal testing and performance standards or risk losing federal aid.
'The federal government reaches into our pockets, takes out wads of tax dollars, and then says that we can have them back only when we comply with federal instructions... Worse, the Department of Education is now unfettered in its ability to interfere in the affairs of local government.'
Perry's battle with the Department of Education has followed him on the presidential campaign trail. Obama's Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had harsh words for Perry's schools record, telling Bloomberg's Al Hunt he feels 'very, very badly for the children' in Texas.
While Duncan's claims are at best half-true--Texas students perform relatively well compared to the national average--Perry's fairly extreme ideas about the role of federal government in education are likely to continue to call attention to his Texas record.
Another significant target of Fed Up!'s ire is the Environmental Protection Agency, which Perry argues is 'destroying federalism and individuals' ability to make their own economic decisions.'
As Governor of Texas, Perry has been a longtime foe of the EPA, leading a group of states in a lawsuit to block the agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and refineries. He has maintained his staunch anti-EPA stance on the campaign trail, where he has tied the Obama administration's environmental policies to jobs and the economy. Last week, Perry called for a moratorium on environmental regulations because they are 'killing jobs all across America.'
Perry has also remained a vocal sceptic of climate change science, a position he outlines in Fed Up!, in which he writes that 'doctored data' is behind the theory of global warming and accuses former Vice President Al Gore of being a 'false prophet of a secular carbon cult.'
'They know that we have been experiencing a cooling trend, that the complexities of the global atmosphere have often eluded the most sophisticated scientists, and that draconian policies with dire economic effects based on so-called science may not stand the test of time. Quite frankly, when science gets hijacked by the political Left, we should all be concerned.'
Although the majority of Fed Up! is focused on federal overreach and the unconstitutionality of the modern welfare state, Perry devotes a whole chapter to criticism of the Supreme Court, noting that several Founding Fathers were sceptical of the power granted to the judiciary.
'The Supreme Court--filled with nine unelected and unaccountable judges appointed to the bench for life--long ago wrested away from the people the power to decide what is right and what is wrong and, at the most fundamental level, how we should live our lives. Nothing could be more offensive to the concept of liberty and the principle of federalism.'
Perry goes on to highlight several instances of 'judicial activism' that he sees as emblematic of the 'provocative arrogance of the Court' and 'why the Court's intervention prevents states from being able to govern according to the wishes of the people.' In fact, the chapter offers a fairly comprehensive guide to Perry's positions on a variety of social issues, including:
- Support for capital punishment
- The right to 'faith in the public square' (i.e. school prayer, displaying the 10 Commandments outside the Capitol Building)
- The right to bear arms--and limit federal firearms regulation
- Opposition to abortion
- Opposition to same-sex marriage (and the right of state's to uphold a ban on sodomy)
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