Texas Gov. Rick Perry might run for president.
What a terrifying thought.
He says no, no, no, but his actions — such as trekking to both coasts for national face time — speak louder than words.
I have my own reasons for dreading the image of Perry trading his fancy $10,000-a-month-at-taxpayers’-expense digs in Austin for a move into the taxpayer-funded White House.
But I’d expect Republicans to worry, too, and for a whole different set of reasons.
Even though Perry apparently played fabulously at the Conservative Political Action Conference recently, real conservatives shouldn’t be fooled by the aw-shucks sidling up to his good buddies Jimmy Don Madison and the founding boys.
Americans, Perry is fond of saying, are fed up and want government to be “leaner, more efficient, less intrusive into their personal lives.” That’s not a bad message at all. Lots of folks feel that way about state and local government, not just the feds he usually is referring to.
But, again, actions speak louder than words.
For instance, during Perry’s decade as governor, with Republicans controlling both chambers of the legislature the last eight years, Texas’ budget has grown from $114.1 billion for the 2002-03 biennium to $182 billion for 2010-11. He has championed some mighty expensive projects, most prominently the Texas Enterprise Fund, which since 2003 has allocated $426 million to companies that include the likes of Raytheon, Tyson Foods, JPMorganChase, Lockheed Martin, Facebook and Nationwide Insurance. His Emerging Technology Fund has made more than $340 million in grants.
And, oh yes, The Dallas Morning News reported in October that more than $16 million from the Emerging Technology Fund went to companies with officers or investors who gave Perry thousands in campaign funds.
There’s a debate to be had over whether those funds are needed to attract business to Texas. But you can’t with a straight face call it small government or a traditionally essential government function.
But how about that business of getting government out of private lives?
In 2007, Perry decreed that all sixth-grade girls had to get vaccinated with an expensive new Merck & Co. drug designed to prevent cervical cancer. Besides the fact that Perry intruded into people’s intimate concerns, usurped parental authority and bypassed the Legislature, some folks found mighty suspicious the timing of his decision and a campaign contribution from Merck. He backed down when the lawmakers overturned his order.
Perry also talks big on getting government off your property. But it was his pet Trans-Texas Corridor that stirred some of the most vehement protests ever against overbearing government.
The $184 billion system of toll roads and rail lines, intended to provide better, faster ways of traversing the state, would have gobbled up vast acres of farms and ranches through eminent domain. It didn’t help popularity that a foreign-owned company was involved in developing the first planned tollway — before the whole thing died, that is.
Now Perry’s favorite shtick is blaming Washington for all life’s woes.
He told the CPAC crowd it was “awesome” that voters threw out the bums who supported the “so-called stimulus programs.”
As though he didn’t quietly pocket about $14 billion from the “so-called stimulus” so Texas could close a big budget gap in 2009 and keep intact the precious rainy-day fund, which is expected to contain $9.4 billion in 2013. Trouble with that was it diverted about $3.8 billion in federal tax dollars intended for schools to other uses.
That sleight of hand so irked U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Austin that he got Congress to put special strings on Texas’ $830 million share of funds dedicated to teachers’ jobs. Doggett wants Perry to guarantee the funds will “supplement, not supplant,” state education spending. Texas has responded by suing.
Must not be one of those frivolous suits Perry wants to abolish.
Surely Republicans who want results instead of rhetoric realize they could do a lot better than Rick Perry.
• Campbell is a columnist and editorial writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
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