Sunday, September 4, 2011

#65: Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington by Rick Perry

New York: Little, Brown and Co 2010: 220 pages

I picked this up to better understand the Texas governor who is now leading President Obama in the worthless polls that people like Rush Limbaugh cream their pants over and people like Keith Olbermann cite as a sign of the End Times. After reading it, I don't feel as if I learned much of anything.

Perry offers  the usual Beckian reading of American history: Woodrow Wilson is the Devil, Liberals are "statists" (13), "old Guard Republicans" enable and hasten the destruction of the country (14). Perry also makes the comment that Federalism "led to the creation of the Underground Railroad" because citizens could decide to help runaway slaves in violation of Federal Law (34).  I cannot begin to say how silly this idea is.

In between the history lesson and his plans for the country, Perry makes multiple claims. Including:
1. The Federal government stopped Louisiana from deploying oil booms following the Deepwater Horizon blowout.  (36) Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal spent days bitching about BP dragging their feet, but did not directly accuse the federal government of obstruction.

2. In a claim that gets a lot of play right now, Perry calls Social Security "an illegal ponzi scheme".  (60-62). I have made this claim to play devil's advocate with people, but stopped short of calling it illegal. He does not explicitly state that Medicare is unconstitutional, but it "violates the commerce clause" (51)

3. Perry calls the 16th amendment "a milestone of the road to serfdom" as it created "a non stop faucet of cash" for the Federal government. (41) This is not new, it is straight Glen Beck.

There are four tropes in this book, which by now are old to anyone who has been paying attention to the "new" Republican Party over the last 5 years:

1. The Supreme Court now has a role "not envisioned by the Founders" (38). It is interesting that Perry does not bash John Marshall, perhaps the chief architect of that "new" role.

2. The country passed the 16th and 17th Amendments "in a fit of populist rage". (39) True, but so what? Populism for Perry is a bad word; he and his ilk are NOT Populists. They are Calhounites who bear much more resemblance to the irascible old Democrat John Calhoun from South Carolina than Ronald Reagan.

3. The usual FDR as a socialist trope. Want the real reason a lot of people bitch about the stimulus packages? That's it. They are afraid of a new WPA or Social Security program.

4. The Great Society of the 1960s somehow morally bankrupted the country. While Perry says folksy things like "Texans elect folks like me" (26) he neglects to mention the architect of the Great Society was  Lyndon Johnson, a fellow Texan.

How can we free ourselves from Washington's Iron Grip of Fiscal Damnation?

1. Repeal Obamacare, a "misguided and un-American system." (176) God forbid, the Government forcing you to buy insurance. Well, state governments mandate car insurance and home insurance, but that's OK. They are local.

2. Stand up and lead. By this, Perry means states. He makes the statement that "states are not compelled to enforce Federal Laws" (177) He cites Printz v. United States, a 1997 case where the SC decided that the Federal government could not enforce a federal regulatory program, namely the background check demanded by the Brady Handgun Bill. In this, he is correct.

3. Dialogue about limited national government and a restoration of American Federalism.

4. Restrict Federal Spending: "pass an annual budget with across the board non-defense spending cuts" (183). Well, sure thing! That's sounds good.

I could go on, but none of this is new, and only those who have not paid attention over the last five years think it is. At the black heart of the Tea Party is a great paradox. When immigrants "flooded to America in 1900 and produced an ethically diverse workforce" that was OK. (40).  Perry writes that "peace through strength" is good for the United States, but lists Veterans Benefits as an example of "reckless spending". (70). In other words, this is simply policy based upon the twin ideas of "I got mine" and "What have you done for me lately." It is not that Perry is dumb (he is not) or selfish (he may be, but I don't know him). He is jammed and twisted into a paradox of a 1950s past that did not exist with the present that the actual 1950s created. The Civil Rights movement was great, and sorry about that whole Jim Crow thing, but now that you have been heard, go home. We still need a giant military but we can't continue to waste money on educational programs and terrible teachers.

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