Appearing yesterday on Glenn Beck’s show, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) embraced a truly radical vision of the 10th Amendment, suggesting that everything from Medicaid to pollution controls violates the Constitution:
It’s really that competition [among states] that’s going to make America strong again. It’s the federal government kinda getting out of our hair. The idea that they’re telling us how to educate our children or how to deliver health care or how to, for that matter, clean our air is really nonsense. If you really want to get America back to this vibrant economy then respect the Tenth Amendment allow the states to be the laboratories of innovation.
If anyone is an expert at nonsense, it is Perry. For starters, The federal government has never, ever told states how to educate their children — nor could it do so if it tried. The federal government does give Texas some extremely generous grants, which Texas is allowed to keep so long as it spends the money according to certain instructions, but Perry is perfectly free to give the money back if he doesn’t like these instructions. Perry’s suggestion that he should get all the money without the strings doesn’t make him a hero of the 10th Amendment, it just makes him a mooch.
Similarly, the federal government provides a very generous program called Medicaid that allows Texas to provide health care to millions of Texans. Rick Perry is perfectly free to give this money back if he doesn’t want the federal government in his business. Indeed, Perry even flirted with doing just that before he realized that Medicaid is actually a really great deal for Texas that he didn’t want to turn down.
Lest there be any doubt, both federal education funding and federal health spending are clearly constitutional, as the Constitution gives Congress power to “to lay and collect taxes” and to “provide for the . . . general welfare of the United States.” Likewise, Perry’s strange suggestion that Texans should be immune from federal clean air laws is also nonsense. The Constitution gives national leaders sweeping power to regulate “commerce…among the several states,” and that includes the power to regulate polluting industries and polluting products such as automobiles.
Amusingly, Perry spouted his nonsense vision of the Constitution during an interview intended to tout how his massively deregulatory governance has made Texas a wonderful place to live — but it turns out that even this claim is nonsense. Texas has the highest percentage of minimum wage jobs in the nation and the worst health insurance rate in the country. Moreover, despite incessant right-wing claims that Texas is a Mecca for new jobs, its unemployment rate ranks 24th in the country — slightly worse than New York’s.
So Rick Perry’s Texas is a really terrible place to live, and that’s in spite of the fact that, as a major oil producer, Texas should be doing unusually well in an era of sky-high gas prices. “The Dallas Fed has found that, every time oil prices rise 10 percent, Texas gets a 0.5 percent GDP bump.” Take away Texas’ oil money, and all that is left is a crumbling economy and a governor spouting nonsense.