ThinkProgress filed this report from Des Moines, Iowa.
When Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) released his book Fed Up! in late 2010, one of his main critiques was that, over the past 50 years, the federal government has misconstrued the Constitution to establish “the massive programs of Medicare and Medicaid.” Now that he’s running for president, Perry is trying to sing a different tune on Medicare.
In an interview with the Daily Beast’s Andrew Romano, Perry explained why he thinks Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional:
I don’t think our founding fathers when they were putting the term “general welfare” in there were thinking about a federally operated program of pensions nor a federally operated program of health care. What they clearly said was that those were issues that the states need to address. Not the federal government. I stand very clear on that.
Yesterday, at a Polk County GOP fundraiser, the Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs asked Perry to further explain why he believes Medicare is unconstitutional. In a moment of amnesia, the Texas governor declared, “I never said it was unconstitutional.” Perry went on to state, “[t]hose that have said that I said [Medicare and Social Security are] unconstitutional, I’m going to have them read the book.”
JACOBS: You talked about Social Security, can you clarify why you think Medicare is unconstitutional?
PERRY: I never said it was unconstitutional.
JACOBS: Okay, so clarify your position on Medicare.
PERRY: I look at Medicare just like I look at Social Security. They’re programs that aren’t working and we ought to have a national conversation about it. Those that have said that I said they’re unconstitutional, I’m going to have them read the book. That’s not what I said. I said that we need to have a conversation, how are we going to have programs that actually work.
In Fed Up!, Perry explains on page 51 how Medicare is a misreading of the Commerce Clause. On page 48, he calls Social Security “by far the best example” of a program that “violently toss[es] aside any respect for our founding principles.” And on page 50, he says that we have Social Security “at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government.”
For Perry to claim that he “never said” Medicare and Social Security are unconstitutional is either a blatant flip-flop or a significant case of amnesia. In either case, with statements like these, one has to ask: has Rick Perry read his own book?