On Perry, Conservatism And Victory

On Saturday, Rick Perry jumped into the 2012 presidential race. On an official basis, at least. He’s been in for a good three months behind the scenes.

And Perry’s entry changes things. Because prior to his entry into the race, the chaotic Republican field simply had not produced a candidate capable of galvanizing enthusiastic support from a wide swath of the GOP’s voting base.

But Perry does.

Unlike every other GOP candidate in the field, Perry doesn’t have limited appeal. He has the ability to satisfy virtually all of the disparate groups within the Republican coalition.

Of these, there are three.

Most important to the Republican Party’s hopes of achieving victory next November is finding a candidate capable of mobilizing voters along economic lines. Perry is the party’s best economic candidate and it’s not close.

Yes, Mitt Romney comes from a business background and yes, Romney can articulate market economics. But Romney’s record as a one-term governor in Massachusetts was wholly unremarkable as to economic performance. The state managed to stay below the national unemployment number while Romney was there, but no sustained economic boom occurred in the Bay State during his tenure.

Perry? Try more than 900,000 new jobs created in Texas during his time in office. Texas has less than 10 percent of the country’s population and yet has created 40 percent of the new jobs in the country since June 2009. He’s kept Texas’ taxes low – property taxes haven’t risen during his time in office, Texas has no state income tax, the regulatory environment is one of the most competitive and business-friendly in America and Perry has made tremendous progress in crafting a legal system which doesn’t punish industry and commerce – with the coup de grace coming earlier this year when the legislature passed and Perry signed a “loser pays” bill on litigation costs.

There is simply no comparison between Romney and Perry on economic performance.

Perry’s detractors, particularly on the Left, have already begun howling about how all those new jobs in Texas are minimum-wage jobs. The numbers don’t bear that out at all – in fact, in real income, adjusted for costs of living (which are lower in Texas than in California, New York or other “rich” states), in Texas is considerably higher than its competitors

While it is true that Texas median household income ($48,259) is less than some states like California, New York, and Connecticut, the state does fare well when the income is adjusted by the Cost of Living (COL). When the COL is factored in, Texas’ median household income ($53,009) exceeds California by $8,550, exceeds New York’s by $10,403, and Connecticut’s by $1,532. These are 2009 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau reported in a U.S. News article.

Note that those figures are based on median income (a midpoint, as many above as below). Please explain: if Texas has been creating only minimum wage jobs, how is the Texas median income still $48,259? A minimum wage job in Texas would only earn $15,080/yr?

Here is a direct comparison illustrating how much the cost of living affects one’s standard of living. Let’s look at two cities, Los Angeles and Dallas. When Dallas is compared to L.A., here is the result: “The cost of living in Dallas is lower than the cost of living in Los Angeles. If you make $100,000.00 in Los Angeles and move to Dallas, you will only need to make $62,862.55 ($37,137.45 less) to maintain the same buying power.” The comparison is from Inflation Data.com where you can compare two selected cities against one another.

And here’s another objective, authoritative comparison:

Texas is ranked third among “Best States to make a living.” The ranking is based on an Adjusted Average Income value which considers taxes, housing, and cost of living. Texas’ average is$41,427. Compared to Massachusetts: $38,665, Minnesota: $37,721, and California: $29,772 just to compare a few. This from CBS MoneyWatch, April, 2011.

And finally, Texas places two metro areas, Houston ($60,634) and Dallas ($59,217) among the top ten metro areas in the nation with the highest real income. Real income is the median household income adjusted by the COL. Compare those figures with a couple of other large metro areas from the bottom ten: New York ($35,370) and Los Angeles ($41,331). The figures are from a June, 2011 analysis by the U.S. News using latest available (2009) data.

And what about wages? Texas has seen wages climb faster than the country overall. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage for employees in Texas rose 7.4% between May 2008 and May 2010 (the latest data available). For the nation as a whole, average wages climbed only 5%. This from Investors.com.

Another attack that will be levied on Perry’s economic performance has to do with his Emerging Technology Fund, a public sector venture capital fund set up in 2005 which has been the subject of some back-and-forth. Many states use a slush fund to attract new business around the country; here in Louisiana, for example, we’ve certainly paid more than our share in corporate bribes to get folks to site facilities within our borders. Perry’s fund has been criticized as a crony-capitalist endeavor by no less an entity than the Wall Street Journal, and of the $200 million it has doled out over the years there are a few lowlights.

But as California assemblyman and 2010 Senate candidate Chuck DeVore, who emerged as something of a Tea Party hero last year, noted this weekend in endorsing Perry, the venture capital fund is a tiny sliver of the Texas economic story…

Many states have such programs. A favorable tax and regulatory environment attracts business effectively, but passively. But, for elected officials, under pressure to “create jobs,” the urge to do more is hard to resist. The challenge with these programs is that they can distort the marketplace and they are often subject to political pressure.

The Texas GDP is more than $1.2 trillion. In comparison, the Emerging Technology Fund amounts to about $40 million per year in investments – or, about 0.003 percent of the Texas economy. Clearly, Texas’ economic success is being driven by larger macro-economic forces, not the tiny outlay of $40 million annually directed from Austin.

By contrast, venture capitalists convinced California voters to approve an initiative borrowing $3 billion in bonds to fund stem cell research while California spends and directs millions more on several other programs in a vain effort to boost the Golden State’s ailing economy.

Government-directed investment in corporations is hit and miss and clearly not a proper role of government (Fannie and Freddie come to mind here) – that said, we have to look at scale and results. The Emerging Technology Fund is a tiny minnow to the Texas economic whale – I’m much more interested in Gov. Perry’s stewardship of the latter than his encouragement of the former. Further, Perry understands that Texas has prospered because of the light hand of its state government – not because of [the government itself]. That is a chief distinction setting him apart from the current occupant of the White House.

Perry’s appeal on the question of economics and small government doesn’t just come from his record, as good as it is. He’s also one of the most outspoken defenders of the 10th Amendment and devolution of power out of Washington you’ll find – so much so that he’s been wrongly accused of favoring Texas seceding from the union (he responded to a crowd chanting in favor of secession by expressing sympathy for their frustration given federal overreach on a host of issues). From a Newsweek Magazine interview with Perry after his book Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington came out…

In Fed Up!, you criticize the progressive era and the changes it produced: the 16th and 17th Amendments, Social Security, Medicare, and so on. I understand being against these things in principle—of longing for a world in which they never existed. But now that they’re part of the fabric of our society, do you think we should actually do away with them?

I think every program needs to stand the sunshine of righteous scrutiny. Whether it’s Social Security, whether it’s Medicaid, whether it’s Medicare. You’ve got $115 trillion worth of unfunded liability in those three. They’re bankrupt. They’re a Ponzi scheme. I challenge anybody to stand up and defend the Social Security program that we have today—and particularly defend it to a 27-year-old young man who’s just gotten married and is trying to get his life headed in the right direction economically. I happen to think that the Progressive movement was the beginning of the deterioration of our Constitution from the standpoint of it being abused and misused to do things that Congress wanted to do, and/or the Supreme Court wanted to implement. The New Deal was the launching pad for the Washington largesse as we know it today. And I think we should have a legitimate, honest, national discussion about Washington’s continuing to spend money we don’t have on programs that we don’t need.

Perry’s battles with the EPA and other obnoxious federal regulatory agencies, and his role in participating through Texas attorney general Greg Abbott in fighting a constitutional battle against Obamacare, are legendary by now. In this day and age of runaway trampling by Washington on the livelihoods of Americans, Perry’s promise that “I’ll work every day to make Washington, D.C. as inconsequential in your life as I can” certainly has a welcome ring to it.

As Drew M. at Ace Of Spades puts it

Hey kids! Who’s up for a first principles election? Cause if we run Rick Perry against Barack Obama, that’s what we’re going to get.

Normally, the RINO in me would shy away from this because a lot of what he says is going to scare the hell out of people and make it easier for the Democrats to demonize the GOP (which they’d do anyway).

BUT-If we’re ever going to run a plain speaking, all-in conservative (though Perry has his deviations), this is the year. No red state is in danger of flipping and there are plenty of blue states that are lost to Obama, so if not now, when?

Perry should also be a solid national-security conservative, though he will be tested on that issue. As an Air Force veteran who flew C-130’s over Europe and the Middle East in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, retiring as a captain, he has the military pedigree. And though Perry’s record in Texas is a relatively permissive one where it comes to immigration and the treatment of illegals – he signed into law the Texas DREAM Act in 2006, which allows for in-state tuition to Texas public colleges for the children of illegals and he has been criticized as an open-borders guy by hardliners like the Minutemen and the firebrand Tom Tancredo because of his stances – in the past three years since Mexican drug cartel activity has brought border security to a prominent place in the immigration debate  Perry has been quite good.

At least, the Left certainly doesn’t like Perry on border security

Under Perry’s mandate, Texas has reinforced security along the border with Mexico, adding more agents, and he has argued for the use of the National Guard, military-style special ops and unmanned aircraft outfitted with high-tech cameras to further monitor and control the border region.

This intensified vigilance has not come cheaply. In a report released by his own administration, the government reported having spent over $400 million since 2005 on border security programs.

Perry has also been a vocal supporter of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s program to request valid residency documents from driver’s license applicants who are not U.S. citizens.

At the beginning this year, Perry presented an emergency package of initiatives to the Texas state legislature that included the elimination of so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ in the state, a requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls, and a mandate that local police comply with federal immigration laws.

These proposals were met with criticism by civic leaders and Hispanic groups, who argued they would create an escalating environment of intimidation of voters and racial discrimination against Latinos. The Mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro, called the initiatives “easily the most anti-Latino agenda in more than a generation, without shame.”

…and that means he’s somewhere between Tancredo and the Democrats on the border and dealing with illegals – which is a pretty good place to be. Perry’s vocal stance after President Obama’s declaration in El Paso that the border is secure was pretty good stuff as well.

It has to be understood that Perry’s rather supportive stance on illegals until recently didn’t come out of thin air. With the booming economy in that state over the course of his tenure as governor Texas has had what could fairly be described as a labor shortage, and the business community in that state has been adamantly in favor of a permissive policy. What’s more, the entire Republican Party in Texas is dead-set in favor of competing for the Hispanic vote, which is 30 percent of the state’s electorate and growing – and a Tancredo-esque stance on illegals simply isn’t good politics there.

One of the best things Newt Gingrich has said in this campaign cycle is that it’s illegitimate for Republicans to be forced into a choice between full-on amnesty and a pogrom-like deportation of some 10 million illegals. A sensible middle ground can certainly be found on illegal immigration, though that middle ground must depend on a reassertion of American control of our Mexican border. Perry’s record indicates he is a candidate who might produce that middle ground.

On more global national-security issues, Perry appears to understand America’s role – though because he’s a supporter of Israel the Alex Jones/Ron Paul camp says he’s a “neocon” just like his predecessor as Texas governor, George W. Bush.

America’s standing in the world is in peril, not only because of disastrous economic policies, but from the incoherent muddle that they call foreign policy. Our president has insulted our friends and he’s encouraged our enemies, thumbing his nose at traditional allies like Israel. He seeks to dictate new borders for the Middle East and the oldest democracy there, Israel, while he is an abject failure in his constitutional duty to protect our borders in the United States.

His foreign policy seems to be based on alienating our traditional allies, while basing our domestic agenda on importing those failed Western European social values. We don’t need a president who apologizes for America. We need a president who protects and projects those values.

Look, it’s pretty simple: we’re going to stand with those who stand with us, and we will vigorously defend our interests. And those who threaten our interests, harm our citizens – we will simply not be scolding you, we will defeat you.

To be fair, there’s a little more evidence on the “neocon” front than just Israel…

We hear that he recently met with top national-security experts Doug Feith and William Luti.

Feith, who served in the George W. Bush administration as under secretary of defense, confirmed to National Review Online that he had met with Perry in Austin Wednesday. He would not divulge the details of the conversation, but said it centered on “national security” matters.

Luti, who also served in the Bush administration as special assistant to the president and senior director for defense policy and strategy for the National Security Council, also reportedly attended the meeting.

What did Perry get out of the conversation with his interlocutors? Well, Feith penned an analysis of Obama’s foreign policy in the July issue of Commentary Magazine which was quite illuminating…

Two large ideas animate the Obama Doctrine. The  first is that America’s role in world affairs for more  than a century has been, more often than not, aggressive rather than constrained, wasteful rather  than communal, and arrogant  in promoting democracy, despite our own democratic shortcomings. Accordingly, America has much to apologize for, including failure to understand others, refusal to defer sufficiently to others, selfishness in pursuing U.S. interests as opposed to global interests, and showing far too much concern for U.S. sovereignty, independence, and freedom of  action. The  second idea is that  multilateral institutions offer the  best hope for restraining U.S. power and moderating our national assertiveness.

A reading of Feith’s article, and Perry’s having him down to Austin about a week after it was published, indicates that rather than Perry getting an education in Bushite neoconservatism from one of its high priests in Feith what’s more likely is that Perry picked the brain of a knowledgeable analyst of foreign policy in order to gain perspective on his ultimate political opponent’s practice of geopolitics. If on the stump we hear more from Perry about Obama’s appeasement, apologies and managed American decline on the world stage, it will be an indication that he’s getting many of his talking points from Feith’s analysis of the current president. It’s also an interesting question whether Feith’s assessment of the Wilsonian foreign policy of the Bush era remains as sanguine as it used to be; in a radio interview on the Bill Bennett show last month he indicated something of a more reserved posture on Libya than he did several years ago.

In any event, DeVore contends that Perry’s “neoconservatism” would come in a decidedly different flavor than that of Bush…

Perry understands that, while the urge to liberty is innate in humankind, not all societies have the prerequisites for restrained self-governance, rule of law, and protection of minority rights. In that sense, Perry is more “Burke” than “Bush.” When Perry wins, look for less American troops abroad, less concern for being loved and more emphasis on being respected. In other words, threaten us and we’ll remove the threat and go home.

It must also be remembered that Perry is no Bush protege’. Kevin Williamson of National Review, in an extremely well-worth-reading piece on Perry from a few months back, notes the strained, at best, relationship between the Perry and Bush camps…

Speaking of presidents: Rick Perry has a complicated relationship with the Bushes, which is to say that he’s hesitant to criticize them and they hate his guts. W. stayed well away from Perry’s gubernatorial-primary melee against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, whose oatmeal-mushy Republicanism has a distinctly Bushian savor to it. But the mark of W. was all over the campaign against Perry. Former president George H. W. Bush endorsed Senator Hutchison, an unusual step for the habitually reserved retiree, who usually stays well removed from the dirty business of vote-grubbing, surveying the groundlings from the heights of his eminence. Bush père was joined in his support by former vice president Dick Cheney, who offered an endorsement and called Hutchison “the real deal.” Hutchison was further fortified by the Bush clan’s in-house Machiavelli, former secretary of state James Baker, who led the Florida recount fight in 2000 and remains their go-to fixer. W. mouthpiece Karen Hughes came out of the political woodwork to support the insurgency, along with W.’s secretary of education Margaret Spellings. Karl Rove advised Team Hutchison. The gang was all there: All this in a primary challenge to unseat an incumbent Republican governor with one of the most conservative — and most successful — records to be found: Que paso, Bushes?

Part of that was payback. Perry, generally circumlocutious on the subject of W., gave himself a little time off the leash during the 2008 Republican presidential primaries. Often caricatured as yet another snake-handling southern social conservative, Governor Perry backed thrice-married dress-wearing pro-choice lapsed Catholic Rudy Giuliani, on the theory that Rudy would be a badass commander-in-chief abroad and a reliable constitutionalist at home. Politics being politics, the Texan and the New Yorker met up in Iowa, where more than a few Hawkeye conservatives were already getting restive about out-of-control federal spending on the Republicans’ watch. Governor Perry let loose the observation that “George” — and the Bushies hate it when Perry calls him “George” in public — “has never been a fiscal conservative.” Never? “Wasn’t when he was in Texas . . . ’95, ’97, ’99, George Bush was spending money.” He also criticized Bush as being limp on immigration.

But the source of a large measure of criticism Perry will receive is for his social conservatism.

Perry took part in The Response, a prayer event in Houston a week ago which drew 30,000 people. He gave a 12-minute speech at that event which was neither divisive nor judgmental nor political – in fact, Perry offered a prayer for Obama and said he believes God takes no part in petty political arguments. Nevertheless, his involvement in the event was the source of a major assault by leftist groups who protested it while going so far as to file an unsuccessful suit to bar him from attending.

It’s our understanding that Perry’s involvement in the prayer event was the source of a good deal of debate within his camp; in fact, his political aides suggested that he beg out of it given that his involvement would be risky given the declaration to come. But Perry had committed a year in advance to the event, well before he had made a decision to run for president, and he wanted to honor the commitment regardless of the cost.

Perry is unquestionably of the Christian Right. And that will certainly help him against Romney, whose social conservatism isn’t considered to be particularly staunch. But Perry also doesn’t place the kind of emphasis on social issues that Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum, for example, do.

A good indication of Perry’s emphasis was his comment last month on New York’s legalization of gay marriage…

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has told a group of Republicans that New York’s same-sex marriage law is “fine” with him because it is a state’s right to legislate on the issue.

“Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me,” he said at forum last Friday sponsored by the Aspen Institute.

“That is their call,’’ he said. “If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business.”

Now, the comment stirred up a good bit of controversy, and Perry did walk it back a little in an interview with the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins…

“I probably needed to add a few words after that ‘it’s fine with me,’” Perry admitted to Perkins Thursday.

And he repeated his commitment to the 10th amendment as well as his conviction that marriage should be between a man and a woman. “It’s fine with me that a state is using their sovereign rights to decide an issue. Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me. My stance hasn’t changed.”

“My comments reflect my recognition that marriage and most issues of the family have historically been decided by the people at the state and local level. And that is absolutely the state of law under our Constitution,” Perry continued.

Two things on this, though – first, it does not constitute inconsistency to say that if New York wants to legalize gay marriage New York should under the 10th Amendment have the right to do so, but there should nevertheless be federal law on marriage to insure that New York or other states instituting gay marriage don’t impose it on states like Texas who reject such a practice. Social conservatives like Santorum make the valid point that marriage is a status that transcends state lines; for example, a gay couple from Alabama who travel to New York and are married there could conceivably return to Alabama and demand under the full faith and credit doctrine that their home state recognize the union. Federal law has to resolve that issue, and so a 10th Amendment application in its regard would have to protect Alabama’s policy decision.

Perry’s interview with Perkins was a bit confusing, and it’s entirely possible the two were talking about different things. Perkins is pushing the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would define marriage on a national basis as between a man and a woman, while Perry could be talking about the Defense of Marriage Amendment, which would reject full faith and credit to gay marriage in states which reject it. DOMA is consistent with Perry’s statements while the FMA is not. Perry, of course, was pilloried as having sold out the 10th Amendment in his conversation with Perkins; perhaps more inquiry should be made.

Second, in the event Perry’s walk-back was more comprehensive in his colloquy with Perkins that can be written off as a crass political maneuver – something a politician at a high level will have to engage in at some point. It’s the original statement which carries the most weight as a reflection of philosophy, and that statement indicated Perry’s constitutionalism trumps his social conservatism. Even in the walk-back he reiterates that social policy is best left to the states and his major concern is that gay marriage advocates will be the ones violating that principle.

Perry’s statements in the runup to Saturday’s campaign announcement indicate that while he recognizes his base will come in large measure from social conservatives his emphasis, given the current state of the country, will likely come from elsewhere. And that positions him well for 2012.

We at the Hayride don’t as a rule endorse candidates, though we’ve done so in the past. We do so now. At the end of the day Perry has the best record of governance, the best perspective on the 2012 race and most importantly the best positioning to take down Obama.

We endorse Perry. We find the other candidates in the GOP field acceptable, with the exception of Ron Paul whom we find irresponsibly weak on foreign policy, and could support any of them should they achieve the nomination. But while he’s not an immaculate candidate – even Ronald Reagan, the best conservative president in modern times, couldn’t qualify by that standard – Perry is the best combination of the elements we look for in a Republican president. We believe a President Perry would be resolute in bringing the size and scope of government in line with our best traditions before our debt destroys us, would bring real economic growth according to free market strategies he’s pursued in Texas and would restore a sense of American exceptionalism on the world stage.

Those qualities echo Reagan’s legacy, at least in the aspirational sense. The GOP hasn’t presented the public with a candidate who could articulate Reagan conservatism since he left the stage. Perry presents us with our best opportunity to recapture that legacy – and he comes along at a time, as Drew M. notes, when the electorate will embrace a sharp break from the flaccid, irresponsible European socialism of the Obama administration.

We’re joining Perry’s team, and we encourage those of our readers who agree to join with us in doing what it takes to help this man retake the White House from Obama.

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