Rick Perry’s November 2010 book Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America from Washington is not a typical “campaign book” from a political candidate. For starters, its forward is written by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, nominally one of Perry’s rivals for the nomination. For another thing, it’s overall tone much more closely resembles that of a B-list conservative radio host looking to stir up controversy and sell books than of a cautious politician trying out poll-tested lines. Consequently, while the book is by no means a good one, its certainly a lot more interesting than most comparable works. I read it over the weekend, and thus am proud to produce the following list of the Top Ten Weirdest Ideas in Rick Perry’s Fed Up:
— 10. Social Security Is Evil: According to Perry Social Security is “by far the best example” of a program “violently tossing aside any respect for our founding principles.” (page 48)
— 9. Private Enterprise Blossomed Under Conscription and Wartime Price Controls: Not only does he argue that the New Deal failed to end the Great Depression, but he asserts “recovery did not come until World War II, when FDR was finally persuaded to unleash private enterprise.” (page 48)
— 8. Medicare Is Too Expensive But Must Never Be Cut: Both establishing Medicare in 1965 and expanding it to include prescription drugs in 2003 are examples of “an irresponsible culture of spending in Washington” (page 63), but establishing “’councils of experts’ and panels of various sorts” to assess the cost effectiveness of different Medicare-eligible treatments is a “frightening” “scheme” that “undermines freedom” and can be fairly labeled “death panels” (page 81).
— 7. All Bank Regulation Is Unconstitutional: Criticizing the Security and Exchange Commission’s rulemaking process under the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill, Perry asserts that “if the Constitution were shown the appropriate respect, Washington regulation writers wouldn’t have to worry about underrepresented views, because they wouldn’t have control over them in the first place” (page 94).
— 6. Consumer Financial Protection Is Unconstitutional: Further reiterates his view that all federal financial regulation is illegitimate, listing the SEC on page 44 as part of a “federal alphabet soup” in which “undemocratic unelected Washington bureaucrats” are “now (dubiously) empowered to dictate their own preferences to the American people.”
— 5. Almost Everything Is Unconstitutional: Regrets the existence of jurisprudence construing the Commerce Clause to permit “federal laws regulating the environment, regulating guns, protecting civil rights, establishing the massive programs and Medicare and Medicaid, creating national minimum wage laws, [and] establishing national labor laws.” Perry makes a partial exception for laws barring racial discrimination which he says fulfill “the intent behind the passage of the Reconstruction Era amendments.” (page 51)
— 4. Federal Education Policy Is Unconstitutional: Cites the willingness of Republicans to vote for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as a “perfect example” of “losing sight of the fact that perfectly laudable policy choices at the local level are not appropriate (much less constitutional) at the federal level.” (page 87)
— 3. Al Gore Is Part Of A Conspiracy To Deny The Existence Of Global Cooling: Jokes that the Social Security Trust Fund “must be somewhere in Al Gore’s lockbox, right next to his notes from inventing the Internet and that global cooling data he doesn’t want anyone to see” (page 60). Argues that moderates oppose curbing greenhouse gas emissions because “they know that we have been experiencing a cooling trend” (page 92).
— 2. Not Only Is Everything Unconstitutional, Activist Judges Are A Problem: Having called the majority of the duly enacted modern welfare state and federal regulatory apparatus unconstitutional, Perry pivots to the complaint that “the [Supreme] court too often chooses to take it upon itself to govern and to develop policy” (page 114).
— 1. The Civil War Was Caused By Slaveowners Trampling On Northern States’ Rights: Rather than simply citing chattel slavery as an exemption to his “states’ rights are good” principle, Perry argues that slaveholder activism in the 1850s was an example of big government federal overreach. “In many ways it was was the northern states whose sovereignty was violated in the run-up to the Civil War,” he argues, citing the Fugitive Slave Act and completely ignoring the human rights of the enslaved African-Americans of the south. He says “we can never know what would have happened in the absence of federal involvement,” ignoring again the fact that federalism would have bought peace at the price of continued slavery.
These stances are well to the right of where Republican candidates have traditionally positioned themselves. Indeed, even Michele Bachmann has not, to my knowledge, deemed Social Security unconstitutional. The propriety of a federal role in regulating the banking industry has been the subject of bipartisan agreement since the Madison administration. All in all, the book should give political reporters plenty of questions to ask Governor Perry as he introduces himself to a non-Texas constituency.