I have two items for my write-up today on Rick Perry's Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington.
Rick Perry does not like for the federal government to bribe states to
do its will, as when it threatens to withhold federal highway funds if
the states do not pass laws making 21 the minimum drinking age. But, as
critics of Perry have noted, Texas under Governor Rick Perry still
receives federal funds. Is Rick Perry a hypocrite? After all, Rick
Perry probably could choose not to receive federal money and thereby to
allow his state to be independent, but he does not always go that route. What impressed me, however, was Perry's humble acknowledgement of this dilemma on page 54:
we, as states, complicit in this? I suppose so, in that from time to
time we have valued the money more than our sovereignty. But it is a
no-win situation: ignore the tremendous transportation needs of a
growing state like Texas and you get painted as an impractical
ideologue; take the money and you no longer care about principle.
Politically, it is hard for state politicians to refuse such
funds----particularly when it came right out of the pockets of their
constituents in the first place. You can see the box Washington puts us
in. This is something I know a little about."
Perry's dilemma, but my question is this: If Perry acknowledges that
Texas needs federal money, then why is he so insistent on the federal
government having a very limited role while the states pick up most of
the slack? Hasn't he essentially conceded that the states are
inadequate for the task? I do not want to put words into
Perry's mouth, but I think I know how he would respond: He would say
that Texas is dependent on the federal government under the current
system, in which the federal government takes the hard-earned tax
dollars of Texans. But suppose that the federal government got
out of the way and did not tax Texans so much? Then Texans would have
the money to pay for their own highway construction, and they would not
have to run to the federal government for help. That is my hunch about how he'd respond.
thing is, though, if the states are left with the vast bulk of the
tasks that the federal government currently performs, wouldn't that
require the states to raise taxes or to impose new taxes? My
impression is that Rick Perry would not care for that, for Newt Gingrich
in his introduction to Perry's book argues that Texas' economy is good
in part because of its low taxes. And if there is a threat that
businesses could leave a state due to higher taxes, wouldn't that
discourage the state governments from raising the taxes that are so
necessary for programs? Wouldn't the result be the erosion of the
social safety net, among other things? For reasons such as these, I prefer to leave certain powers in the hands of the federal government.
On a related note, check out the Bartlet-Richie interaction on this issue.
A friend of mine once sought to dispel economic doom-and-gloom by
pointing out that, during World War II, the national debt was a huge
part of America's GDP, but that the economy of the 1950's wiped that
debt out. I think that my friend's point was that we should not be
paranoid about how high our current national debt is, for the economy
can get better and that would take care of the debt.
essentially acknowledges this point of history on pages 57-58, only he
says that during World War II "the national debt surpassed 100 percent
of our economy, or GDP", and that the "strong economic growth [during
the 1950's] allowed us to move beyond our debt (that is, we grew our
economy faster than debt to get to a point where it was manageable)."
But Perry believes that times are different now than they were then. In
the 1950's, the welfare state was "in its infancy", whereas today the
government spends a lot domestically, which results in more debt and
higher taxes (which will increase in the future to keep up with
entitlement spending, unless something is done).
Perry may have a
point. Borrowing a lot of money, printing a lot of money, and raising
taxes for more government spending can be deleterious to the economy. At
the same time, liberals such as Michael Moore and Robert Reich appeal
to the 1950's as a time when liberal policies worked----when higher tax
rates on the rich, government development of highways, and strong unions
coincided with higher productivity and a strong middle class, which was
good for the economy. Moreover, is there a way for the
federal government to have an active role while being fiscally
responsible? I agree with Perry that earmarks are bad, for example.
And when one observes that the cost of health care is lower in Canada
than it is in the United States, could that mean that there is a way to
have a national health insurance program without as much of a cost?