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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Will Rick Perry Enjoy A Free Ride To The White House — Or Did America Learn From Bush Debacle?

Twelve years ago a Texas Republican strode into the presidential arena as an immediate contender. He seemed to be a man of middling intellect at best, yet well equipped with conservative ideology, religious piety, powerful ambition and corporate money, not to mention a certain kind of swagger. Whatever most voters knew of his record as governor of the Lone Star state was what he wanted them to hear, and he escaped the kind of scrutiny (and mockery) applied to his Democratic opponent in the mainstream media.

By the time America learned the truth about George W. Bush, around the beginning of his second term, he had done more damage to this country than any president in the last hundred years.

Now a similar scenario may be playing out as Rick Perry, who succeeded Bush in Austin, opens his campaign for the White House. The question that Perry cannot escape is whether Americans are sufficiently angry to forget the Bush debacle and elect another right-wing Texan. The question that those covering his campaign should not escape is whether they will delve beneath Perry’s image-making and self-promotion to reveal the realities of his record and character – or whether they will repeat the disastrously superficial coverage that marked the 2000 presidential campaign.

There is very little in the descriptions of Perry to be found in mainstream media today that should displease him. By most accounts he has overseen an era of economic growth and increasing employment in Texas, thanks to his penchant for low taxes and minimal regulation. On closer examination, the Texas built by Perry (and Bush and a Republican-dominated legislature) is scarcely a “miracle.” And although Perry has misused his office to posture and preach as a religious figure, it is hardly a paradise of Christian charity either.

It is instead the state with one of the worst levels of family poverty in the nation. It is the state with the largest percentage of families lacking health insurance, and the largest percentage of children in that perilous condition. It is the state where the refusal to regulate industry has led to some of the worst air and water pollution in the nation. And it is a state where government regularly loots funding set aside for poor families (and paid by middle-class families) in order to keep taxes low for millionaires. It is a state where no matter how much wealth is accumulated by the rich, there is never enough to adequately fund Medicaid and WIC, the health and nutrition programs that are supposed to protect the poor (whom Jesus was said to favor).

The specific achievements of Texas during the Perry years surely deserve to be noted by the national press corps. He likes to boast about the “unmatched job creation” that his state has enjoyed in recent years, although the unemployment rate remains around 8 percent. And at least some press accounts have noted that those most of those jobs must not pay very well, since the state has the lowest median income and the highest proportion of minimum-wage jobs in the country.

Yet Texas has troubles that go well beyond its employment statistics.

In education, for instance, where Bush was said to have accomplished great reforms as governor, Texas now lags the nation in Scholatic Aptitude Test scores, ranking 45th overall. It ranks dead last in the percentage of the 25-plus population with a high school diploma, which may account for all those minimum-wage jobs, and seventh from the bottom in its high school graduation rate. Of course, that dismal record could reflect the fact that under Perry, Texas is sixth from the bottom in state and local expenditures per pupil in public schools, and not appreciably better in the percentage of total state revenue spent on elementary and second schools. The result is that Texas schools are highly dependent on federal aid, ranking number three in the percentage of education spending that comes directly from Washington.

All those minimum wage jobs naturally mean that there are a lot of Texans – especially children – living in poverty. The state ranks fourth in the nation for the percentage of children living in poverty. It ranks first in the number of children without health insurance; first in the total percentage of its population that lacks health insurance; and first in the percentage of non-elderly citizens without insurance. Nor does the Perry administration do much to help its citizens cope with this lack of health protection, since Texas ranks 49th in the percentage of low-income families covered by Medicaid, and 49th in per capita state spending on Medicaid.

There is much more data on the Texas miracle, and scores of stories to be written about the underside of Texas politics in the Perry era – including his penchant for giving away hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize businesses, while simultaneously running up enormous state debt and “balancing” the state budget with accounting gimmicks – all because he refused to raise taxes but wanted to keep spending to accommodate business interests.

In that respect, the Perry record in Austin is not so different from the Bush record in Washington – both administrations driving up the public debt by refusing to increase taxes on those who could best afford to pay. Nobody knows what kind of foreign policy he will pursue (probably including Perry himself), but just wait until he gets his hands on the Pentagon.

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Copyright 2011 The National Memo
  • bonktx

    It came out last month that a number of Texas counties, usually the poor rural ones, are experiencing declining longevity rates. When asked to comment, a Perry spokesperson said, “Governor Perry believes in personal accountability”. When delving further into the statistics, the author of the report noted that there was a strong correlation between the closing of state funded health facilities and the decline in longevity.

  • jarhead gene

    Just what we need another Hero wannabe. Next you’ll say, “If elected, he’ll dig up more Nixon administration “Fossils” to run the white house for him while he “Aw Shucks” his way through to re-election” G.W.’s best appointment [Colin Powell] was lied to about WMD’s and was smart enough to say “Enough” at the end of 4 years. Just wish our country had said the same thing.

  • Theodora30

    They were so busy in 2000 excoriating Gore for being a boring wonk, as if being knowledgeable about policy is a bad thing for a president. They gleefully jumped onto the right’s dishonest portrayal of Gore as a “serial liar”, passing on their talking points without giving the public the facts. For example the canard that Gore had claimed to have invented the internet was a blatant lie that the media repeated even when many knew it was not true. At least some of them knew that Gore had been a major force behind the creating of the internet, pressuring Congress with his “information superhighway” idea until it was funded. Even Newt called the claim a lie and gave Gore credit for his role. Dispite these facts I once saw Chris Matthews repeat the smear, then quickly add that of course he knew it wasn’t true. Unfortunately that was not the last time he repeated it – without the disclaimer.

    Only political junkies knew Bush’s history as governor because the MSM ignored it, repeating that he was a successful, popular governor whose ed reform created a “miracle”. They did not bother to explain that even then, Texas was rejecting federal funds for things like health care for the poor because the state did not want to pony up its share.

    The media also did not bother to tell people that far from being a successful businessman as they claimed, he was an abysmal failure and worse. So-called liberal journalists overlooked the fact that both businesses Bush started went bankrupt but that Bush had walked away with money thanks to his daddy’s wealthy friends while his investors lost all theirs. Nor did they tell us about Bush’s clearly illegal insider trading while on the board of Harken energy. They virtually ignored the fact that he had been investigated by the SEC with no conclusion (Daddy was VP, after all). At the time of the investigation the evidence may not have been clear, but by time of the campaign a lawsuit had brought the facts to light. Bush was guilty of selling his Harken stock for a healthy profit knowing that the company was failing but hiding that fact from the public with Enron-style accounting gimmicks. Bush could not use the “I did not pay attention” excuse because he was also on Harken’s audit and restructuring boards. Even he could not have ignored the facts. Bush’s excuse was that the stock came back up after a few months as if that made his actions legal. Bush used his illegal profit to buy his partnership in the Texas Rangers at a much lower price than the other partners paid something else that was spun as evidence that he was a great businessman.

    Now the mainstream media is ignoring the evidence that Michelle Bachmann is a Christian fanatic. I have heard pundits say she that since she went to law school she must be smart, instead of telling us that her law school was at faith healer Oral Roberts’ university and was committed to teaching biblically-based law. They are not talking about her being thrown off the board of the charter school she helped create for trying to have it illegally teach Christian fundamentalist ideas like creationism. So far even the fact that she has said she studied tax law, which she hated, only because her husband told her to. Clearly she takes her “obedience” vow very seriously making examination of her husband’s beliefs fair game, too. Odds are the media won’t bother. They would rather talk about the picture Newsweek put on their cover rather than the substance of what is known about her.

    I think some may be justifying their focus on the who is winning/losing rather than their records by telling themselves this scrutiny will come later. Unfortunately by then too many people may have committed to the candidate and will not be open to changing their minds. Also by the time this commitment is made there will be tremendous pressure on the media if they challenge it. People need to know early on who is and who isn’t a credible candidate.

    This is not just a phenomenon with conservative candidates. The same thing happened with Obama. Very few people were aware of just how thin his record was because the media liked him and were willing to overlook his weaknesses. Obama had made it clear that he hated being in the Senate and had no patience with the dealings of politics. It would come as no surprise now that he is not good at it if people had been given this info before they had committed to supporting his candidacy. This is no way to run a democracy.

  • JohnMack

    Perry right wing? Hardly, after all he has gone on record as saying that Social Security is unconstitutional.

  • Dik

    He would be an improvement over Pres. Obama.

  • historyfan

    Only if you like theocracy.

  • jwozniak

    Mr. Perry’s cronies include fundamentalist preachers whose dogma consists of, “I hate you!” and bizarre conspiracy theories. Either he, too, is a right-wing loon, or a calculating opportunist. I would consider voting for a mainstream Republican, if any still exist, but not this guy. I had enough of Bush, Jr.

  • universe22

    What a sorry field of candidates the GOP has come up with!! Now made even worse by the entry of Rick Perry. Who will be next to enter – Ronald McDonald or Alfred E. Neumann (Mad magazine’s icon)?

    If the American people didn’t learn anything from the Bush era, they will deserve what they get if a Perry or Bachman is elected.

    Maybe it comes down to a lack of education? Or is religion too influential in GOP politics? I think that if more of the people were better educated and less blinded by religions dogma, then people like Bush, Perry, Bachman and their ilk would not even be considered serious candidates, much less have a chance to occupy the White House. As Obama said, the Republicans drove the car (the economy)into the ditch and now want us to give them the keys again.

  • Jael Lis

    One can’t help but wonder if you are suggesting Perry might receive the same “free ride” that candidate Obama enjoyed.

    Obama was a man of (less than) middling experience. Sure he had a good command of the english language and was said to have a good education. Yet, he was well equipped with a liberal idealogy, a sense of self-importance and union money, not to mention a certain kind of arrogance.

    Whatever voters knew of his record was what he wanted them to hear. [Access to collegiate and IL statehouse papers was denied and very little effort was made to make this presidential candidate’s background known to the public.] He escaped the scrutiny and mockery applied to his Republican opponent in the mainstream media.

    By the time America began to learn the truth about Barrack H. Obama, around the end of his first year, he had done more damage to this country than any president … and so it goes.

    Your article with only the names changed …
    Am I the only person who is amazed at the hypocrisy of this article or is it that the National Memo and many of its readers are so biased you don’t even see it?

    Has America learned anything from the past 2-1/2 years?

  • Galan76

    Texas governors in the White House like one’s first college mega-hangover are a once-in-a-lifetime event!

  • thebetty

    Bush was bad in some areas, and he allowed the deficit to increase by spending too much. BUT…He was not the worst in the last hundred years. We have Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama ahead of him in line. I am 56 years old. I left America and went to Japan because the economy was so bad, jobs were hard to find. I had two jobs, but thought I would take a stab at international living and working. Loved it, and it was lucrative. AND it gave me a chance to see my country from the outside. What is going on now is the clear result of living beyond our means – and that includes the government, which not only participated, but encouraged such behavior, and is now considering doing it again. I read today that the Obama administration is thinking about bailing out MORE people who are behind on mortgages.
    As an adult who has experienced failure along with success, and as a parent who is teaching my children to fend for themselves (and to do so you must go to school, and work hard – both have two part-time jobs -)I am determined to let my government know that I am sick and tired of other people living on my wages. Jobs?? People need jobs?? Guess what? There are plenty of jobs out there today – it is just that many people don’t want to do them. Yard work is very lucrative – but is being done in my neighborhood by mostly Hispanic crews. Legal or not, they are reaping the benefits of hard work, taken where it is available.

  • thebetty

    Who had the bigger swagger? Bush or Obama?? Who has put us in the worse situation??
    Hindsight is so easy – wars that look bad now, but that were voted on by CONGRESS,(check those who voted FOR the wars) unlike the war in Libya, which Mr Obama decided by HIMSELF> And who had the least experience? Wouldn’t that also be Mr Obama?? So isn’t it apparent that we have to stop electing people who have no credible experience? And perhaps it’s time that the media start doing their job, and checking candidates out whether or not they support the party from which the candidate arises? arise?
    President Obama has experience now, but does bad experience count???