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Posted at 10:05 PM ET, 02/25/2011

Gov. Rick Perry's dream: Make the federal government as innocuous as possible

By Jennifer Rubin

The nation's governors are in Washington for the National Governors' Association meeting. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, head of the Republican Governors' Association, sat down with a small group of bloggers to talk about his accomplishments and his view of federalism.

In a small conference room at a D.C. hotel he opens up his laptop, telling the group he's been tweeting words of support for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. He's got nothing but praise for Walker. "We just got an audio message from Scott," he explains. Perry observes that "the unions are spending a huge amount of money to denigrate him and build up the union brand," but that Walker and other governors "should be allowed to make decisions that best suit their states." He calls the state senators who've walked off the job "juvenile" and "immature." He says, "You have fourteen senators who have walked away from their responsibilities. Listen, I understand in fighting for what you believe in, but in the end we vote." He analogizes the walkout to a kid going home with his basketball when he thinks he can't win the game. He warns that "if this is the only way they are going to be able to succeed, running out of the legislature," the voters will not look upon them kindly. As for Walker, Perry says, "This young man has only been on the job 60 days." He said he can scarcely "imagine a very young governor" under all that pressure, but he thinks Walker has "handled it magnificently." As for the Democrats and their union allies, Perry observes, "obviously the status quo is not working."

For the remainder of the time Perry speaks passionately about his state and his firm belief in the 10th Amendment. I ask him what accounts for the difference in economic performance between Texas and California, both large Sunbelt states and both with large illegal immigration problems. He responds, "It's about taxation. It's about regulation. It's about a legal system. It's funding an accountable school system." He adds that Texas doesn't have a personal income tax while California has "an onerous one." He notes that Illinois just raised its income tax 66 percent. "So we will be reaching out" to lure Illinois businesses, he says, just as he did with Washington state businesses.

Still, he comes back to his passion for federalism, explaining that he would vigorously defend "California's right to make its own decisions. It "gets down to the core of the Tenth Amendment," he says. He doesn't want the federal government "creating 50 mini-me's."

That Tenth Amendment perspective guides his views on most topics, even when the outcome conflicts with core conservative positions. "I sat with [Maryland's Democratic Gov.] Martin O'Malley. He raised taxes and increased regulation and was all for taking stimulus dollars." Perry says, "I respect that right, but don't force it on me." He continues, "Here's a great juxtaposition. Martin is deciding in his state if men can marry men. I don't agree with that, but listen, if the governor of Maryland wants to stand up and say that, then that's okay."

The respect for state control also governs his views on tort reform. Perry says, "I don't want national tort reform." He explains that Texas passed its own stringent tort reform and now is a "haven" for doctors. He explains that "26,000 doctors have applied [to practice] since we passed tort reform in 2003." He says, "I bet you dollars to donuts that if Congress passed tort reform it would be weaker than what we have in Texas."

It's for this reason that he says he's not running for president. Perry says, "I am a true believer that the Tenth Amendment is being disregarded." He continues, "I'm impassioned about states competing against each other." He wants the federal government to be "as inconsequential as possible." He says with admiration that when he met New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, she said, "I'm going to steal your jobs!" Perry exclaims, "Now, you're talking." He thinks states are where the action is and says he wants to keep Texas as the "most successful state." He says he therefore is "going to work on making the federal government as innocuous as possible."

This includes suing the federal government to repeal ObamaCare and to limit EPA's regulation of Texas emissions. On education he says, "I'm not only against Race to the Top. I'm against No Child Left Behind." He doesn't see how a "one-size fits all" education policy is going to meet each state's needs. He asks rhetorically how "Washington D.C.,1,500 miles away from us" is going to direct all the Texas schools.

This doesn't mean he wants the federal government to do nothing. In fact, if the federal government, in his view, would stop "meddling" in the states' businesses it would be able to fulfill its core responsibilities. "We'd love to have the federal government more involved in defending our borders," he says. And he likewise reasons that once the federal government stopped "doing too many things" it could focus on "building relations internationally."

He's also distressed by the federal government's approach to energy. He says this and past administrations have gotten energy policy wrong. He tells the group that with new technology, domestic oil and gas production is an "ever-changing landscape" and that we are able to explore "huge new reserves" of oil and gas. He rattles off a list of new fields. He explains, "I share those with you to say that the U.S. has oil and gas reserves to take us years in the future without being held captive by these countries that don't like us at all." He contends that "this administration is limiting our options," and that a ban on deep-sea drilling was "absolutely NOT" the right decision. He cautions, "Oil is $100 a barrel today, but that's today. It could go to $200 or $300." He's in favor of the full array of energy sources, saying he's an "all of the above guy." The exception, he says, is corn-based ethanol, which he contends is a rip-off.

Perry is an accomplished, experienced governor who is driven by conservative principles. But those principles lead to him to think of federal public policy purely in the negative. It's hard to conceive of a campaign in which opponents have many ideas and Perry's response would be for the federal government to "stop meddling." His disavowal of interest in the presidency, therefore, seems entirely logical as well as heartfelt. Still, he remains a very successful chief executive and a force within the party. If not the king, perhaps he can be a kingmaker in 2012.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 25, 2011; 10:05 PM ET
Categories:  Governors  
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Will Governor Perry allow thousands of Texas teachers to lose their jobs, health insurance, and homes when he has the capability in his power to prevent the devastation? What is he waiting for? How can he sleep at night?

Posted by: rc2501 | February 25, 2011 10:17 PM | Report abuse

I think this is what is politely called a "puff piece."

It's odd. Jennifer certainly has approached other topics and interviews with caution and skepticism. However, here she essentially just repeats Gov. Perry's talking points and portrays him in such a flattering light to the point where this column could have been written by his press people.

Posted by: mustangs79 | February 25, 2011 10:40 PM | Report abuse

SOMEBODY has a crush on Ricky! How cute.

Seriously -- this is more flagrant gushing than most of the journalists at HP did over Obama.

Posted by: curtisjasper | February 26, 2011 12:04 AM | Report abuse

Texas has a huge budget deficit, and this is what you sit around and talk to him about. And then you wonder why few read this blog. Too funny. I can't imagine Ezra not bringing up the deficits with Obama.

Posted by: eerock | February 26, 2011 7:58 AM | Report abuse

I find it amusing that you lambast Beck and his followers, telling them to do their own homework, but that you praise Perry. Look up "road to nowhere". It's been canceled, but people still basically lost their land. I guess it's only republicans that dont' make the party look bad in the national press that you don't need to do your homework on.

Posted by: messy1972 | February 26, 2011 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Right wing hatred of federal government is directly proportional to the degree to which federal government inhibits red state governments -- beloved of right wingers -- from abusing minorities and disadvantaged. Everyone knows that this is the truth behind what Rubin describes as "Gov. Rick Perry's dream: Make the federal government as innocuous as possible." Right wing hypocrisy abounds.

Posted by: J_B_A | February 26, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

...from abusing minorities and disadvantaged

We're 4 vouchers and charters, to stop the abusing.

Especially since it seems that some of those red-state government dems r starting to flip to the pubbie side. But that doesn't fit the narrative, does it?

Posted by: gopthestupidparty | February 26, 2011 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Wrong. You're for vouchers and charters because they are another means by which to privatize government functions. BTW, how's that government-to-private-enterprise-changy thing workin' out fer ya? Oh never mind.

ABC News (Fed 21, 2011): Prosecutors say former Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, Judge Mark Ciavarella used children as pawns, locking them up unjustly in a plot to get rich. Ciavarella is accused of taking nearly $1 million in kickbacks from owners of private detention centers in exchange for placing juvenile defendants at their facilities, often for minor crimes. Ciavarella was found guilty of 12 out of 39 charges on Friday, including racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy, in connection with the nearly $1 million payment from Robert Mericle, the developer of the PA Child Care center.

Posted by: J_B_A | February 26, 2011 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Gov. Perry is a hypocrite. Every run for the governorship he goes down to the border and pledges he will stop illegal immigration. After elected her encourages illegal immigration for his good friends in the construction industry and other industries throughout Texas. The governor loves cheat labor and the money that follows to his pockets. He also thinks Texas can legally secede from the union under the Treaty that made Texas a state. the treaty never said anything about secession and the Civil War should have settled that issue. May he should consult with Sam Houston.
Another thing, when will the right wing allow a token liberal to say anything? Rick Perry is a true politician in the worst since of the word. God save Texas.

Posted by: willin46 | February 26, 2011 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Yes, the Texas miracle is in meltdown having burned through all that terrible federal stimulus money.

In any case we now have a race. California versus Texas. We could not be more divided. We in California have voted to elect Democrats across the board. We are betting on creating more high paying information jobs and green tech. Texas has voted in conservative Republicans. It's hoping to poach jobs from other states and amputate it's social safety net and regulatory structure to avoid raising taxes at all costs.

Who will come out of the downturn better? A state lead by a Democrat willing to make hard rational choices or a Republican state which flirts with secession talk and is lead by those with a rigid ideology?

Tune in four years from now and may the wisest voters win!

Posted by: melbaker1 | February 26, 2011 12:38 PM | Report abuse


Speaking as a proud Californian, that is one of the best posts ever.

Posted by: J_B_A | February 26, 2011 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Rich Perry - A blow dried Louie Ghomert.

Please, after Bush43 no more right wing Texas psuedo-cowboys allowed on the national political scene.

Posted by: Lazarus40 | February 26, 2011 1:45 PM | Report abuse


Considering that people are voting with their feet as far as which state to reside in is concerned I for one wouldn't be that optimistic about California. Also let me observe that budget wise Texas is in a far better state than California which is so far in the red that it ain't a joke than a tragic farce.

As for the Green jobs speaking as somebody who's familiar with Environmental issues so far any of the current programs pushed by the political powers that be have failed to pass my does this actually do anything to improve things test.

Windpower's effects endangered species when birds who run into the blades of windmills which are a danger they literally have not evolved to deal with.

Then there the current utterly idiotic fad for bio-fuels such as ethanol from corn and biodiesel from palm oil. Ethanol from corn is one of the most wasteful enterprises out there both in the fact that it's production has driven up food prices as well as in the sheer inefficiency of producing ethanol from a mere fraction of the plants biomass. As for the palm oil issue one only has to take a look at the clearance of tropical forests to plant oil palm in Indonesia and elsewhere to get an idea as to how senseless that particular policy is.

Posted by: werehawk | February 26, 2011 5:34 PM | Report abuse

In our Federal System, the states are supposed to balance the power of the Federal Government. Some people like Ms. Rubin seem to think that consolidated government is preferable. She disdains Perry --and I must say I am not a fan of him personally--but he has simply reminded us that the states are NOT administrative subdivisions of the central government but partners. This is why the Congress is designed to represent the peoples of the States, not federal citizens separate from the States. The national parties are themselves coalitions of state parties, and government power comes from the bottom up, district by district, state by state. If may be annoying that Delaware has the same representation in the Senate as California, but that is what we have. The states are not like English counties and boroughs; not like the German Laender; certainly not at all like French Departments. The French Revolutionaries ought to bury the medieval past when they broke up the ancient provinces. In American, on the other hand, we embraced American past even as we rejected the English monarchy. I don't think that Ms. Rubin understands this.

Posted by: RobbyS | February 26, 2011 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Unemployment Rates
-- California: 12.5
-- Texas: 8.3

Posted by: paco33 | February 26, 2011 11:16 PM | Report abuse

All you folks banging on Rick Perry don't understand ... it's not Perry. It's the Texans who elected him. We love him.

Unions don't come to Texas. You'll be the stylistic equivalent of an accent piece: pointless.

Posted by: pabarge | February 27, 2011 8:58 AM | Report abuse

"It's hoping to poach jobs from other states..."

Poach. An interesting choice of terms. Exactly what is it that you claim that Texas is "poaching"? People? Businesses? Taxpayers? Normally, people use the term "poaching" in relation to prey, or a natural resource to be exploited. Interesting that you seem to view the citizens and businesses of the rest of the country that way.

Posted by: BillDalasio | February 27, 2011 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Here in California we have the union set up that other states pine for; we're broke because of it. We've got great pensions and medical for the state employee's but no one else but that seem all right with the Democrats. In just the last 2 years we've lost over 300,000 college graduates and the years before that was about the same, they've been replaced with 5 million mostly illiterate, none english speaking and soon to be mooches on the state. As our taxes go up, our businesses leave, we've shut down the agricultural wonder of the world and it's a desert once more and 100's upon thousands of farmers have lost their homes, land and even the Mexican illegals can't find farm jobs. We have a Democrat controlled state government, California has gone from the 7th largest economy in the world to a pauper state. It only takes less than 10 years for this to happen to a state or country, with Obama we are well on our way as a country.

Posted by: rnord | February 27, 2011 10:24 AM | Report abuse


You seem to think a state which is both bankrupt now and faces pension and health care promises it can never fulfill, will do better than a state that is dedicated to living within it means. I wonder how you think that will work. Why do you think what will not work for an individual, will for a state?

You also probably ought to revisit who it actually is who has a "rigid ideology".

Posted by: RickCaird | February 27, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Just how does Ms Rubin suppose that Rick Perry balanced the Texas budget the last time? Answer: Those evil federal stimulus funds. And this year he's balancing it on the backs of Texas' already bottom-level education system and gutting services that help people precisely at the moment when demand for those services is way up. He's a corporate shill bent on destroying Texas while lining his own pockets.

Posted by: mblockhart | February 27, 2011 12:42 PM | Report abuse

BillDalasio -

I think “poach” here is used to convey irony. The elites in some states think they own successful businesses and people therein, treating them quite shabbily. For example, Washington state thought it owned Boeing and was a bit surprised when the headquarters moved to the Windy City some years ago and quite shocked when Boeing announced its intention of building a second Dreamliner production line in the Palmetto State. Did South Carolina poach Boeing jobs? The machinists’ union and Evergreen State ruling class sure think so.

Did Perry poach the docs by going to other states and kidnapping physicians in the dead of night to get them into Texas? No, he simply led the legislature to pass tort reform and the rest is hysteria.

Does Florida poach millionaires (and the odd billionaire or two) from high-tax northeastern states? Nope, they sober up and wonder why paying $13K per day to New York is not enough, why they must pay more.

Some folks in this forum here question Perry’s motives in order to tarnish his results. While there are great challenges ahead for both large states, Texas is in a much better position to thrive than California is.

Posted by: SCMike1 | February 27, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

rc2501 asks: Will Governor Perry allow thousands of Texas teachers to lose their jobs, health insurance, and homes when he has the capability in his power to prevent the devastation?

my answer: Hell yes! These teachers are nothing but extortionists who organize against AMERICAN TAXPAYERS who pay the overly generous salaries/benefits/pensions, that we don't get ourselves! They don't cry for us when so many of US have lost our jobs. But they demand compassion from us if they are asked to contribute more to their own healthcare? What a bunch of self-serving, greedy cretins! Most of them do a lousy job, which is evident by our kids' ever-decreasing test scores, and the ever-increasing drop out rate. So let them get a REAL job and advance on MERIT like the rest of us....or shut up and take what we, their employers) decide they are worth.

Posted by: fubaglady | February 27, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Will Luke play Rick when they make the TV movie?

Posted by: aardunza | February 27, 2011 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Gov. Perry's position on tort reform is wrong. A very small percentage of victims will ever be compensated for the damages they suffer from medical negligence. links to an article describing the challenges that medical negligence victims face when they seek justice.

Posted by: hungryflamingo | March 4, 2011 11:34 PM | Report abuse

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