- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Austin, Texas, and Washington are a little more than 1,500 miles apart, but the differences in governing philosophy could be measured in light years.

Both towns feature well-intentioned public servants and impressive capitol domes, but they seem to represent the polar opposites in the ongoing debate over the benefits of limited government.

In Texas, we have long based our approach on individual liberty and initiative, believing that families, entrepreneurs and individual citizens deserve the opportunity to strive and succeed — with minimal government interference. After regular, 140-day legislative sessions every two years, Texas lawmakers go home to live under the laws they pass.

Limited time at the Capitol not only requires state leaders to focus on the essentials, it also reduces the mischief unrestrained government can do. Limiting state government in Texas has led to balanced budgets, low taxes, a predictable regulatory climate and a fair legal system.

For example, our just-concluded legislative session yielded a balanced state budget, tax relief for 40,000 small businesses, and it left $9 billion unspent for future state needs.

States that have overspent, overtaxed and overregulated have seen greater deficits, job losses and even population loss. Texas proves that fiscal discipline, lawsuit reforms and prioritizing accountable public education can create huge dividends for citizens, taxpayers, employers and government.

Washington clearly marches to a different drummer, with Congress meeting in seemingly endless session. It seems the majority view inside the Beltway is that a benevolent, all-knowing government can expand, decide and encroach without limit because individual Americans simply cannot be trusted to make right choices. I believe this mind-set is driving the explosive growth of the federal government’s size, spending and intrusiveness.

America’s Founders would be appalled at the way their federal successors are riding roughshod over individual liberties, contemplating even more tax increases and intruding further into private enterprise.

Who among them could have imagined federal appointees calling the shots at banks and manufacturers, a budget deficit topping $1.7 trillion and an army of federal auditors descending on nearly every community in America to rifle through the drawers of anyone using stimulus dollars? Who today thinks that Congress and the Obama administration’s big-government plans are the best choice for our personal health care decisions?

In this era of unprecedented, unfettered government expansion, those of us in “flyover country” have little recourse other than exercising our First Amendment rights by speaking up. That spirit is the guiding force behind the “tea parties” that have sprung up all over America on tax day and on Independence Day, as well as the growing passion for state sovereignty.

That spirit led me to stand with a bipartisan group of Texas legislators earlier this year to support a resolution honoring the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The resolution simply restated the Constitution’s principle of federalism: Powers not granted to the national government nor prohibited to the states are reserved to the states or the people.

Given its traditional passion for the Bill of Rights, I was surprised at the left’s angry reaction when we called to affirm its vital 10th Amendment. Since its founding, our nation and its citizens have been well-served by the principles of federalism, including the premise found on Page 123 of the Federalist Papers: “The State governments will, in all possible contingencies, afford complete security against invasions of the public liberty by the national authority.”

Washington’s current fiscal excesses and unprecedented expansion have placed the protections and powers embodied in the 10th Amendment at risk. As the federal government expands before our very eyes, those of us who value freedom are simply sounding the alarm with every means available. We cannot remain silent while the powers-that-be in Washington methodically dismantle the system that has allowed Americans to determine their own destiny, compete on their own merits and enjoy the fruits of their labors.

I sincerely hope that our nation’s durable principles prevail and keep our states and local communities from becoming mere functionaries of a bloated federal government. Together, citizens across the nation - regardless of political party - can remind this administration and Congress that the Framers of the Constitution deliberately limited the powers of the federal government.

When Washington’s power to tax, regulate, mandate and meddle is restrained, American families are free to enjoy the liberty upon which our nation was founded. Limited government works.

Rick Perry has served as governor of Texas since 2000.

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