Does Gov. Rick Perry still stand by his Nov. 2010 meditation on states' rights, Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington? You betcha.
The confusion began after his spokesman, Ray Sullivan, seemed to suggest that Perry was retreating from some of the more controversial elements of Fed Up! The book “is a look back, not a path forward,” Sullivan said, and was written “as a review and critique of 50 years of federal excesses, not in any way as a 2012 campaign blueprint or manifesto.”
Not so, Perry later said. “I haven’t backed off anything in my book, so read the book again and get it right,” Perry told a reporter in Iowa.
We figured not everyone would have time to read the 220-page work. So we read the book again (yes, we did read our governor’s book when it first came out) to produce a (relatively) quick guide to Fed Up! A kind of CliffsNotes, Trib style. And before anyone writes us to complain about what Perry writes, please note: We did not fact-check the book.
Foreword by Newt Gingrich: Gingrich really likes Rick Perry, his book and his leadership in Texas. Many Californians, Gingrich says, became fed up with their state’s “socialist policies” and moved to Texas “where on average, they are safer, freer and more prosperous.” (Californians, no emails please. Remember, we did not fact-check the book.)
“His position as governor of Texas gives him a tremendous platform for helping us change course and return to sound conservative fiscal policies,” Gingrich writes, clearly not thinking Perry would become a rival for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination (we’ll be watching the upcoming Sept. 7 GOP debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library to see if Gingrich has changed his mind).
While praising Perry, Gingrich also finds a way to revisit some of his old battles, just so he can set the record straight. For example, it was Gringrich’s Congress that reformed government, lowered federal spending, cut taxes, balanced budgets and transformed the federal deficit from $107.4 billion in 1996 to a $125.6 billion surplus in 1999. Interestingly, there is no mention of President Bill Clinton.
Chapter 1: America Is Great, Washington is Broken
Here Perry begins to lay out the animating principal of the book, which is that the balance of power between the federal government (and the federal courts) and state governments has tipped dangerously too far in favor of the feds. Wrestling that back is the political battle of our time.
It’s here that he begins to make his 10th Amendment argument, the basis of his attack that the federal government has become a monstrous overlord in the lives of Americans.
Takeaway quote: “Crucial to understanding federalism in modern day America is the concept of mobility, or ‘the ability to vote with your feet.’ If you don’t support the death penalty and citizens packing a pistol — don’t come to Texas. If you don’t like medicinal marijuana and gay marriage, don’t move to California.”
Chapter 2: Why States Matter
The simplest reason why states matter, Perry says, is because “Americans want to live free.” They “do not want to be told how to live their lives,” especially “by some far away bureaucrat, judge or representatives of a different community.” States are laboratories for ideas, good and bad. Case in point: Texas, where folks (particularly from California) move because the state is free “to limit regulations, keep taxes low, leave marriage between a man and a woman, and leave our citizens free to choose their own healthcare plan.” On the flip side there is Massachusetts, a state that sanctions gay marriage and elects Ted Kennedy and John Kerry “repeatedly — even after know what they believe.”
Takeaway quote: “Texans, on the other hand, elect folks like me — you know the type, the kind of guy who goes jogging in the morning packing a Ruger .380 with laser sights, loaded with hollow point bullets, and shoots a coyote that is threatening his daughter’s dog.”
Most novel historical interpretation: The federal government actually helped precipitate the Civil War because northerners were deprived of their states’ rights when Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and the Supreme Court issued its odious Dred Scott decision.
“Thus, while the southern states seceded in the name of ‘states rights,’ in many ways it was the northern states whose sovereignty was violated in the run-up to the Civil War.” Perry allows that "we can never know what would have happened in the absence of federal involvement because we cannot rewrite history. There was a major divide in the nation, and it is possible that war was inevitable.”
Chapter 3: What Happened to the Founders’ Vision?
Perry says the tipping point — the period when the federal government began to over-assert its authority — was the dawn of the “so-called Progressive movement.” Ever since, liberals have used every opportunity to “wage a gradual war” on the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court has become a policy maker rather than an interpreter of the Constitution. Passage of the 16th Amendment (allowing Congress to collect an income tax without apportioning it among the states) and 17th Amendment (allowing for the direct election of U.S. senators, rather than by state legislatures) further reduced the power of the states. FDR’s New Deal set the standard for federal power abuse. Congress’ interpretation of the Commerce Clause to allow for a wide variety of federal intrusions, including President Obama’s health care reform, has been the nail in the coffin of the proper balance between the feds and the states.
Takeaway quote: “Who can be against progress, after all? But it’s a fraudulent use of the word — because for the Progressive, progress is marked not be how free you are, but how much government can ‘do’ for you.”
Chapter 4: Washington Is Bankrupting America
Lots of numbers and statistics in this chapter, all big and very scary. Trends of “runaway entitlement spending” and a “culture of reckless spending” receive particular attention. And as bad as it is now, it will get much worse. Our current problems are merely “the tip of a titanic-sized iceberg.” Perry notes that it was under “my friend” George W. Bush that “this big government binge began.” Obama is repeatedly compared to FDR — and Perry doesn’t mean it as a compliment. The now-famous comparison of Social Security to a “Ponzi scheme” can be found on page 61.
Takeaway quote: “In the end, some of the [federal] programs of the last years may ‘work.’ Loans may get repaid. Some companies may get ‘saved.’ But that can’t be the measure.”
Chapter 5: No American Left Alone: Health Care, Education, the Environment, and the Tyranny of the Modern Administrative State
A deep dive in how progressives abused the Founders’ “carefully crafted division of authority” and created a central administrative state that permeates every aspect of the lives of Americans.
A lengthy section on “Obamacare” asserts that it “represents the closest this country has ever come to outright socialism.” He writes, “Nothing is more critical for the defense of freedom and the American way of life than the preservation of our free-market health care system and the total repeal and dismantling” of Obama’s health care program, which he also compares to Massachusetts’ health care effort passed, although he does not say so, by then-Gov. Mitt Romney.
Perry also attacks Bush’s No Child Left Behind as a “bipartisan doubling down of federal involvement in the education of our children.”
He offers a spirited defense of Texas’ environmental policies. Its “commonsense system has been hugely successful in tacking air pollution. Over the last decade, Texas has achieved a 22 percent reduction in ozone and a 46 percent reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions, outpacing the rest of the country…”
“Texas already had established water- and air-pollution programs before Congress inserted itself with the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.” He delves into the state’s increasingly vitriolic legal fight with the federal EPA, which has now disallowed the state’s use of “flexible permitting” even though it was started under Democratic Gov. Ann Richards and allowed by the Clinton administration.
He makes his now well-known case that proponents of tackling the human causes of global climate change are a dangerous cabal. Even some Democrats realize this, he says. “They have seen the headlines in the past year about doctored data related to global warming. They know that we have been experiencing a cooling trend, that the complexities of the global atmosphere have often eluded the most sophisticated scientists. … Quite frankly, when science gets hijacked by the political Left, we should all be concerned.”
He says the financial crisis of 2008 was a result of government involving itself too much in the free market, not, as many believe, because it was too lax in its oversight. “These government interventions in the free market led to a bubble that eventually burst.” Washington has compounded the problem by issuing new rules to help prevent such a financial crisis in the future.
Takeaway quote: “Al Gore is a prophet all right, a false prophet of a secular carbon cult, and now even moderate Democrats aren’t buying it.”
Chapter 6: Nine Unelected Judges Tell Us How To Live
This chapter is easy to summarize. The idea that Americans govern themselves “is today mostly fiction” because of the perfidious Supreme Court. The states know far better than the Supreme Court whether it is best to employ the death penalty, define who is eligible to marry, allow prayer in schools, display the Ten Commandments on public grounds, allow the unfettered possession of guns, prohibit abortion or outlaw sodomy.
Even the fact that it is now considered a conservative court does not appease Perry. “What we really have are four justices who believe in the Constitution … four justices who are committed to making policy from the bench regardless of the Constitution … and one justice who wakes up each day basking in the glow of his power to swing the Court.”
Takeaway quote: “The Supreme Court — filled with nine unelected and unaccountable judges appointed to the bench for life — long ago wrested away from the people the power to decide what is right and what is wrong and, at the most fundamental level, how we should live our lives.”
Chapter 7: The Federal Government Fiddles: Ignoring National Security, Immigration, and the Enumerated Powers
The federal government often fails at the one “solemn responsibility” given it by the Constitution: “keeping our nation, and our citizens, safe from threats foreign and domestic.” This is most obvious, he says, in its failure to protect the integrity of the U.S.-Mexico border.
On international threats such as those presented by Iraq, Afghanistan, China, Russia and North Korea, Perry is vague, offering, “It is clear that after decades of ignoring the constitutional division of authority, our bloated national government is distracted and running thin on resources to perform its central mission.” He worries that defense spending “is now being squeezed out of the budget” by the explosive growth of entitlement programs.
Takeaway quote: "While spending countless hours taking over banks, automakers, and health care, managing charity, bickering over the philosophical aspects of immigration, inserting itself into education, and so on, the federal government is stretched thin, so thin that it is proving itself incapable of handling even those narrow functions that it is constitutional required to perform.”
Chapter 8: Standing Athwart History Not Doing a Damned Thing
Here Perry posits that establishment Republicans are, in essence, spineless. Democrats are unabashedly naked in their ambitions to acquire more power for the federal state. Republicans are too accommodating. “Tomorrow will come and the Democrat will be on the battlefield again, expecting the Republican to once again capitulate — and, unfortunately, he would be correct.”
Perry says there have been three moments in recent history when a “general retreat” from the federal government was clear. The nation failed each time: Under Reagan, federal spending doubled and several federal agencies expanded. The “Republican Revolution of 1994” accomplished a few things but generally failed to keep its promises. Finally, in 2000, the government had the chance to finally get itself under control and fix the problems caused by the New Deal and Great Society. Clearly, that didn’t happen, Perry says.
Still, as Perry ends the chapter, he says there is a “movement afoot” to send to Washington “people who represent the people.” And he notes approvingly that the Republican Party is now “the place where the real debate is happening.”
Takeaway quote: “The branding of the ‘Compassionate Conservative’ meant that the GOP was sending the wrong signal that conservatism alone wasn’t enough. For the first time we were acting like Liberals who call themselves progressives, running away to some degree from who we were, and what we stood for.”
Chapter 9: States Do the Work of the People
More on why states are superior laboratories for innovation and are more effective at delivering services to citizens and often victimized by federal overreach. Of the federal government’s role in coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, “some of it worked, some of it didn’t.”
Takeaway quote: “It is through states that the American people get the job done every day, often in spite of a deeply flawed bureaucratic federal government.”
Chapter 10: Retaking the Reins of Government: Freedom and Federalism for the Future
Perry’s final call to arms, for Americans to reclaim the “spirit of 1776.” He predicts that a new embrace of federalism and smaller government will produce an “ascendant” America by 2026. It would be a country in which the country’s entitlement system is “totally and honestly revamped,” adding, “There will be a retirement safety net that is no longer set up like an illegal Ponzi scheme, but rather will allow individuals to own and control their own retirement.”
Perry’s America would be a nation that “allows people, and not the courts, to define marriage according to their wishes and morals.” A place where people can pray in their schools as they wish and one in which “the unborn are allowed a chance at life, unfettered by an activist court telling them what is right and what is wrong.” A country that has the strongest economy in the world, an education system that “is the envy of the world,” and a place with “clean air, clean water, ample green space, and an environment filled with abundant wildlife.”
Most importantly, perhaps, “I see a world where all things that can be done by the individual are done by him and no one else.”
Takeaway quote: “We simply want the federal government’s involvement in our lives to be constitutional, paid for, effective, and as minimal as possible.”