As you may already know (or predicted long ago), Rick Perry is running for President, again. Rebranded with hipster glasses and a campaign logo that might make Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen cry plagiarism, Perry is hoping to correct the mistakes of his failed 2012 campaign. Separating himself from the current field of Senators, Perry’s announcement speech emphasized the need for governor that has led, rather than those who have given “a speech on the Senate floor”. His campaign website touts the Texas economy under his leadership, claiming he “he championed conservative principles that helped Texas become America’s economic engine.” So, is Rick Perry the conservative champion sought by Americans? Does his rhetoric match the record?
I think it goes without saying that Rick Perry has championed socially conservative issues. He called a highly watched special session in 2013 to deal with right to life issues. He and then-Attorney General Greg Abbott also appealed the decision overturning the state’s constitutional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.
Being socially conservative is only half of what it means to be conservative. After all, there are plenty of social conservatives who have a record of supporting big government (e.g. Jeb Bush & Rick Santorum). Thus, we must ask ourselves; did Perry limit the size and scope of government?
Using a previous study from last year, we showed how, during Perry’s tenure, state spending outpaced Federal spending 87.2% to 85.4%. It also outpaced population growth and inflation, as per person spending increased 50% from $2,684/person in 2001 to $4,018/person in 2013. The number of full-time employees increased 14% from an average of 271,258 in 2001 to 308,800 in 2013. State debt nearly doubled under Perry, going from $24 billion in 2001 to $43 billion in 2013. Despite a growing economy, the state continuously dipped into the Economic Stabilization Fund, which was intended for economic downtowns. If job creation and growth is one of Perry’s trophy achievements, he certainly did it within government.
Free Market Capitalism
In Perry’s announcement speech, he slammed insiders as getting rich, while “the middle class pays the tab.” Yesterday on CBS, Perry stated that he wanted to make sure Wall Street didn’t receive any more bailouts. However, study after study has shown Perry’s open defense of programs that do the exact opposite. Billions of tax dollars were funneled through the Texas Enterprise Fund, CPRIT, Texas Events Fund, and Emerging Technology Fund to major donors of Perry’s campaign account, including companies that went bust and Fortune 500 companies that clearly didn’t need the money. While a free market means a system of fair play for all involved, Perry tilted the scales of the market in favor of his friends and donors at taxpayer expense.
Personal & Private Property Rights
Does Gardasil or the Trans-Texas Corridor ring a bell? Well, these were two issues that Rick Perry vigorously fought for, despite their unpopularity. Gardasil being the HPV vaccine that Perry mandated all girls receive with or without the parent’s or parents’ consent. The Trans-Texas Corridor being a 4,000 mile road network that would have required hundreds of thousands of private land to be taken from property owners through eminent domain. Perry defended these programs until they became politically untenable.
Educating Illegal Aliens
Rick Perry also signed into law Texas’ version of the DREAM Act in 2001, giving in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens. At the time, he said, “We must say to every child learning in a Texas classroom, ‘We don’t care where you come from, but where you are going, and we are going to do everything we can to help you get there.’” During his first Presidential bid in 2012, Perry doubled down on his support of educating illegal aliens, going so far as to say that opponents of those programs “don’t have a heart.”
Or, you may remember when Rick Perry stood with Democrats on border security in 2006.
It can be concluded that, while Rick Perry is socially conservative, he has done very little to advance the cause of fiscal conservatism. Rather, he has done the opposite in terms of the state government’s growth and influence in our lives. This would put Rick Perry in the category of a statist. If you believe that government is the solution to job creation and economic growth, then Rick Perry is probably your man. If you believe that government is a hindrance to those things, then you might want to look elsewhere.