Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Perry--Not Totally Honored in His Own Texas

In the New Testament there’s the saying, “A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country” (Mark 6:4). I thought of that as I began writing about Governor Rick Perry. He is not hated here in Texas; I’d say he is mostly appreciated. But he is not every conservative’s favorite. We know too much to give a resounding endorsement. (For mostly good words about him, look at yesterday's post. Today is the follow-up.) 

Baby Political Sphere gets to know Governor Perry
It may be that it is necessary for any elected executive leader to be checked by constituents who don’t totally trust him. Maybe that mix makes for the generally conservative principles at play in the Texas economy. 

Lest we make the rest of the US too envious, Texas’s unemployment hangs steady at around 8%. That’s a lot less than the national rate of 9.1%, but it’s not exactly full employment either. There are plenty of us who feel the difficulty of job hunting and underemployment. So, while a lot is going comparatively right, we’re not what I’d call booming right now either. (Not necessarily Texas’s fault—probably more federal policy affecting everyone.) Overall, though, the Texas economy is a plus that Perry, as governor, has not ruined—which is a lot to say for any politician. 

As I said yesterday, every time I hear Perry talk, it’s all conservative. I was excited to have him as governor when he replaced George W. Bush at the end of 2000. I even thought, maybe down the line he will become a viable presidential candidate. Then somewhere around 2003-2005, the VLT issue came up (I wrote about video lottery terminals on March 22nd). It may be that his position was actually just exploring what the people felt about the issue. But it appeared that the lobbying of the gambling industry was persuading him to support this plague. People uprising against the issue took it off the table—which happened again this legislative session as it has every two years since. But that was the first time I felt I couldn’t quite trust Perry. 

The Trans-Texas Corridor is an issue where many people part ways with Perry. This was to be a network of 4000 miles connecting major metro centers of the state (and in some views attempting to make easy access from Mexico to Canada). Lanes were to be extremely wide, including trucking lanes and railway lines. Eminent domain would have seized hundreds of thousands of acres of private land, and rendered within a mile either way uninhabitable because of noise and traffic. Cost was to be partially handled by private investment and partially recouped by making them toll roads. Now, infrastructure does indeed fit into the proper role of government, but the people of Texas did not want this monstrous project. In 2006 both Republican and Democrat party platforms expressed their disapproval of the TTC. Yet Perry still supported it. In 2009 the project was downsized to a simpler road-only network, and in 2011 the project was stopped for good by the legislature—against Perry’s will. He hasn’t said much about it for some time, but this is another example of the people holding Perry to do their will. 

There was a problem with the business franchise tax in 2006. Granted, Texas is a state with no income tax (one of our best features), so that means other means must be used to raise revenue for government use. We understand that, but we’re not going to give in to any tax without a fight. This tax was a change that was intended to stop businesses from forming as various types of limited partnerships that weren’t subject to the tax—it now included LLCs, and also changed the structure. There were dire predictions about the huge burden this placed on some businesses, but since 2007 I have heard very little about it. I was at the state convention the year this was an issue, and there was a huge backlash against the governor and those in the legislature who supported this bill. I would have preferred that it had not passed, or that it had been immediately repealed. Still, it’s hard for someone like me to know just how wrong (or right) this tax change was. But it is one of the items often listed along with accusations that Governor Perry is a RINO. 

The biggest issue marking him as a big-government interferer was the mandate to vaccinate all girls 12 and up with Gardasil, for HPV (human papilloma virus). He had listened to the pharmaceutical lobby. They essentially convinced him this was the way to protect young women from cervical cancer. Making such a vaccine available, maybe with discounts for the indigent, might have been a tolerable approach—mandate was not. The drug only deals with a couple of the various viruses that cause HPV (a couple of the most common ones, but certainly not all of them), so there was no guarantee that the drug would fully protect young women as ads often implied. Also, the drug had been tested on 16-26-year-olds, so there was question about the safety for 12-year-olds. In addition, this is a sexually transmitted disease—so a young woman who is not sexually active is simply not at risk. Plenty of mothers would opt to keep their daughters safe from the disease by teaching them sexual purity before marriage, rather than risking the side effects (which had included a few deaths) of a drug that would only give partial protection and would do nothing about the disease in the males who were spreading it. In addition, the disease is easily prevented with an annual pap smear with follow-up for any positive result. So the state mandate was a huge overreach of intrusive government. The people of Texas spoke up—in loud voice. And the governor removed the mandate pretty quickly. 

Do I think Governor Perry is a RINO? No, I think he believes he is truly conservative. And here in Texas, where we have large numbers of vocal conservatives, we have been able to keep him in check. 

Perry has been a good friend to homeschoolers. He has been a friend of social conservatives—those of us against abortion and in favor of protecting marriage. And he understands states rights enough that nullification of ObamaCare is a possibility here. He has put an anti-groping bill (against TSA intrusive airport screenings) and a freedom of lightbulb choice bill on the agenda for the current special session—where nothing but the budget and anything the governor insists on gets put on the agenda.  

I don’t know yet whether he will run. If he does, he’s still on my list of possibles (the long list all of whom pretty much entirely outshine the Obama/Biden ticket in every way). Perry isn’t perfect, and I have reservations. But the flaws aren’t what I call disqualifying. You can decide for yourself.

1 comment:

  1. The one place I have always disagreed with other conservatives who complain about Governor Perry is his trans-Texas corridor idea. I went to school for urban planning and specialized, where I could, in transportation planning. I admired the well planned idea of using the existing interstate system in Texas, and expanding it to meet Texas' transportation and shipping needs far into the future. The reason it failed was because of the large rancher lobby, because they had money and were able to misinform the urban and suburban public better than Perry was able to market the benefits of the plan. It essentially linked the major urban centers in Texas, through the current highway system, by providing three to four lanes of traffic in each direction. Anyone who has traveled on I-10 between San Antonio and Houston, I-45 between Houston and Dallas, or I-35 between San Antonio and Fort Worth could see the benefit of a couple more lanes in each direction. Then, to provide for more commercial shipping without further straining the vehicular capacity of the roads the plan was to provide two to four mid to high speed rail lines in the center median of the freeway. The only downside to this plan was that it would essentially double the right of way necessary compared to doing nothing to combat the traffic problems currently plaguing the corridors.