Last week, Ezra Klein, star liberal blogger for the Washington Post, enthused that “Rick Perry’s book is good. Really.”
Unlike most campaign books, Klein reported, “Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington” is “a book about Rick Perry’s ideas. And his big idea is that most everything the federal government does is unconstitutional.”
That sounded like chicken soup for my frosty libertarian soul, so I got a copy of the Republican Texas governor’s book and dug right in.
“Fed Up!” explains clearly how overbroad interpretations of the Constitution’s Commerce and General Welfare clauses have led to a bloated federal government that’s consuming the nation’s future.
“Fed Up!” also reflects a solid appreciation of how federalism allows people of diverse viewpoints to live under one national government. As Perry puts it, “if you don’t like medicinal marijuana and gay marriage, don’t move to California.”
In “Fed Up!” itself, Perry complains that most of the spending reductions in the ’90s came about because Republicans didn’t fight Clinton’s military cuts hard enough — and makes clear that, as president, not only would he take military spending — over 20 percent of the budget — “off the table,” he’d fight to increase spending.
Perry’s also “fed up” that, under Obamacare, “seniors are expected to see major Medicare cuts,” and appalled that an Obama official suggested that the government could deny access to treatments that are “‘so expensive that our taxpayers have better use for those funds.’” “Shouldn’t your doctor make that decision?” Perry asks.
There are legitimate constitutional and policy-based objections to Obamacare’s mechanisms for cost control. But when the taxpayer has to foot the bill and the cost is bankrupting the country, the answer to Perry’s question can’t be categorically “yes.”
In the book’s closing chapter, Perry envisions America after 15 years of conservative reform: “I see a nation where deficits are a thing of the past” — a pretty utopian goal even if Perry were willing to leave military spending and Grandma’s Medicare “on the table.”
On page 174, we get more utopian still, with what may be one of the least conservative sentiments ever expressed by a self-styled conservative: “We are Americans,” Perry writes, “of course we can have the world we want to live in.”
Public opinion polls suggest that the world most Americans want to live in is one in which we can afford global hegemony, a gold-plated welfare state, and low levels of taxation — in short, a world without scarcity. Of course, we can’t have that world.
It doesn’t look like Perry is willing to tell Americans that hard truth. That’s too bad — America could use a candidate with the conscience of a conservative and the courage of his convictions.
Examiner columnist Gene Healy is a vice president at the Cato Institute and author of “The Cult of the Presidency.”