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Guest Submission by Mark America
I’ve lived in Texas throughout the entirety of the Perry administration. He hasn’t been the most awful governor we might have had, but in truth, he’s been mediocre. It is true to say that Perry deserves a little credit for the better economic conditions in the state, insofar as he’s done no particular harm. On the other hand, it’s fair to say that part of the reason Perry’s done no particular harm, and perhaps the sole reason he hasn’t damaged the economy, is because the Texas people, through their legislature, won’t let him. The governor’s real shortcomings are not to be seen so much in the matter of economics, but in his unceasing drive to tamper with the freedoms and lives of Texans for the sake of his corporate cronies.
One of the issues in which Perry first ran afoul of conservatives was in signing an executive order requiring all sixth-grade girls to receive the three-shot series of vaccines known as Gardasil. The vaccine is intended to prevent contraction of Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV. In an effort that was pushed by a group funded by Merck, the whole situation took on the stink of official corruption in the name of Big Pharma.
The problem is that the drug was of questionable efficacy, but more importantly, given the fact that the disease is spread through intimate contact, many Texans wanted immediately to know why the governor of Texas was assuming all their daughters needed this shot, and how the Governor dared to try to push this on them. This began a minor revolt, and the relatively conservative Texas legislature acted to set aside his executive order by a vote of 119-21 in the House, and 30-1 in the Senate. In Texas politics, that’s as stunning a rebuke of a governor as you’re likely ever to see, but it points out the problem with Rick Perry: Business-friendly administrations are what we need for the sake of economy, but leaping into bed with business to the detriment of voters and tax-payers is to take the notion much too far. It could be said that Perry himself needs a form of inoculation, but rather than HPV, instead against his tendency to leap from one corporate bed to the next.
On to the next question of his poor judgment and his tendency to view the people of his state as means to his own ends, Perry was the driving political force behind the Trans Texas Corridor project. This ridiculous project proposed creating a system of toll roads that would have consumed a portion of the Texas land-mass that would have effectively killed agriculture in the state. Worse, the primary contractor, Cintra, a Spanish conglomerate, was to have a virtual monopoly on the construction and concessions on what promised to be a closed system. Still more infuriating to the people of Texas was that the deal would have mandated that there be no free alternative competing roads, meaning such vital arteries as I-35 and I-45 along with I-10, I-20, and I-30 would have been required to become toll roads as well. This, combined with the projected $0.26-$0.40 per mile they intended to charge made it an unconscionable bit of corporate predation that would have crippled the Texas economy.
These things, together with the expanded use of eminent domain by the state on behalf of a corporate contract made this project much too bitter a pill for Texans to swallow. It actually spawned an independent gubernatorial campaign by former Texas comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn. It generated much ill will between Perry and his conservative voters, so that at present, while they think he’s better than a Democrat, the difference is only slight, and he should bear just as much attentive watching. Perry hasn’t given up his Trans Texas Corridor plans, but they’ve been scaled back and re-named. Once again, the Governor of Texas has shown his willingness to climb into bed with corporate masters, and more importantly, just as with the Gardasil issue, former staff members seem to be part of a constant recycling through a revolving door between his corporate cronies and his own office. This is precisely the sort of governance the country does not need, Washington already being thoroughly polluted with such schemes.
Governor Perry’s appeal to conservatives seems to hinge on his Christian values, but the problem is that his proclaimed Christian values are in distinct and thorough opposition to some of his actions as governor. At the same time he seeks to share the stage at TEA Party events, always ready to throw out more red meat for the crowd, but seems much less than sincere in his stance by the time he arrives back at his office. This sort of schizophrenic, unprincipled and insincere conservatism is already thoroughly represented in DC, and while Mr. Perry would certainly feel at home there, the politicos in DC being his kind of people, I’m strongly convinced that while he might do well in such a role, it’s not clear that the country would fare any better.
When you examine his record in its totality, what you find is not that Governor Perry has been such a capable steward of the Texas economy, but that surprisingly, the Texas Legislature has fulfilled that role, bouncing egregious Perry initiatives in a number of cases. The Trans Texas Corridor project would have crippled commerce in this state, and contrary to the billing, would have achieved little but to make Texas just another link in the NAFTA chain, bypassed by most of the commerce, its people tasked with the duty to pay for a system of toll roads from which they would see little benefit, but would bring substantial costs.
For these reasons, and a lengthy list of similar problems, I cannot recommend the governor of my state, Texas, to the people of America. It’s not so much that he’s presided over an economy of his creation, so much as the fact that the people of Texas have managed to succeed in spite of him. Given his embellished relation to the relatively good performance of the Texas economy in admittedly hard times, and acknowledging that the damage he might have done, had he been unopposed by a conservative legislature, it’s clear that while Rick Perry might be good for corporatist Washington, he’s not the right choice for America.
Cross-posted at Mark America.