FED UP! OUR FIGHT TO SAVE AMERICA FROM WASHINGTON
By Rick Perry
Little, Brown and Company, $21.99, 220 pages
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the longest-serving governor in state history, is a constitutional scholar, a defender of free enterprise, a champion of states’ rights and the 10th Amendment and a polemicist of the first order - all qualities evident in this strongly written and persuasively argued book.
“We are fed up with being overtaxed and overregulated. We are tired of being told how much salt we can put on our food, what windows we can buy for our house, what kind of cars we can drive, what kind of guns we can own, what kind of prayers we can say and where we can say them, what political speech we are allowed to use to elect candidates, what kind of energy we can use, what kind of food we can grow, what doctor we can see, and countless other restrictions on our right to live as we see fit.”
What went wrong? Government expansion, long running out of control, continues to gain momentum. “When the great William F. Buckley founded the National Review, he said famously in the first issue that the magazine ‘stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so.’ “
The result? “For all the great efforts of Buckley and those conservatives who followed in his footsteps, from Barry Goldwater to President Ronald Reagan, where do we stand today? Is government any smaller? Are markets freer? Are states more empowered … in actual terms the answer is a resounding ‘no.’ “
Who’s to blame? “While the modern Democrat is unabashedly committed to expanding the federal government and willing to wake up every day fighting to do it, the average Republican too often shows up to the fight seeking something ‘less bad’ than what the Democrat wants. That’s not a fight, it’s a concession.”
Mr. Perry pulls no punches. He credits the Republican revolution of 1994, led by Newt Gingrich, who provides an eloquent foreword to this book, with “changes to a few rules, welfare reform, and some slowdown in the growth of spending.” George W. Bush, “a friend and a great American patriot … did not fight for fiscal conservatism with the same fervor with which he pursued the freedom agenda in his foreign policy.”
In fact, writes Mr. Perry, the history of Republican opposition to encroaching federal government is the history of concession. “Who, pray tell, is yelling ‘Stop’ today? It sure isn’t Washington Republicans.”
That may change. If the new Congress has a mandate, it can be summed up in that one word, “Stop.” And in attempting to carry out that mandate, Congress might well take a lesson from the state of Texas, where Mr. Perry has been conducting a laboratory in the efficacy of fiscal conservatism. Its low-tax and no-state-income-tax environment has led to unprecedented prosperity during a period of national economic stress. The legislature meets for just 90 days a year, public employee unions exercise minimal influence, education scores are high and superior services are consistently delivered.
The Obama administration will soon accelerate new greenhouse gas regulation in Texas, in pursuit of its eccentric climate-change agenda, to which Mr. Perry does not subscribe. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it intends to take over aspects of clean-air enforcement because of state officials’ “unwillingness” to work with EPA bureaucrats - an “unwillingness” no doubt springing from the determination of officials like Mr. Perry to prevent their economically healthy state from turning into another California or Illinois.
In today’s politics, being blue means being broke.
In Texas, the model red state, Mr. Perry is shouting “Stop” at those agencies armed with executive orders, intent on accelerating the drive toward total federal control.
The new Congress would do well to emulate him. And a good place to start would be to begin again to exercise real oversight over agencies like EPA. One suspects Mr. Perry would be glad to show them how.
John R. Coyne Jr., a former White House speechwriter, is co-author of “Strictly Right: William F. Buckley Jr. and the American Conservative Movement” (Wiley, 2007).